Daily Health Policy Report

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Last updated: Tue, Jan 28

KHN Original Reporting & Guest Opinion

Administration News

Capitol Hill Watch

Health Reform

Coverage & Access

State Watch

Editorials and Opinions

KHN Original Reporting & Guest Opinion

Readers Ask How Divorce, Student Status Will Affect Marketplace Applications

Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews continues to have questions from readers about buying coverage on the state health insurance marketplaces as the open enrollment period continues (Andrews, 1/28). Read her responses.

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Capsules: GOP Senators’ New Health Overhaul Plan Would Tax Some Workers’ Benefits

Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Mary Agnes Carey reports: "A health care overhaul plan released Monday by three Senate Republicans may reveal how the party will handle the issue for the 2014 elections and beyond. Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Richard Burr of North Carolina unveiled a legislative framework that would scrap much of the 2010 health law, replacing those provisions with ones the lawmakers say will increase consumer choice and reduce health care costs" (Carey, 1/28). Check out what else is on the blog.

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Political Cartoon: 'Think Or Swim?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Think Or Swim?" by Lisa Benson.

And here's today's health policy haiku:


Three senators float
health law "alternative."
What's new? What would change?

If you have a health policy haiku to share, please send it to us at http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/ContactUs.aspx and let us know if you want to include your name. Keep in mind that we give extra points if you link back to a KHN original story.

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Administration News

Health Law Launch Frustrations Set Scene For State Of Union

News outlets analyze the challenges and opportunities in the president's annual address to Congress while assessing his record on fulfilling past proposals.

The New York Times: Obama's Puzzle: Economy Rarely Better, Approval Rarely Worse
Mr. Obama and his speechwriter could not phrase it better, or simpler. Yet taking credit is complicated, given the clear evidence in national polls that most Americans are not in a mood to give him any. Mr. Obama’s ratings for his handling of the economy, never high since his first months in office, slipped throughout 2013 in national polls. As he began this year, nearly six in 10 Americans disapproved, nearly matching his lowest marks in 2011, a year of repeated and damaging fiscal fights with the new Republican House majority. Advisers said the decline was a reflection of Mr. Obama’s diminished standing more broadly after months of public attention to issues that have dominated news coverage: the administration’s bungled introduction of the website for the insurance marketplaces created by his signature Affordable Care Act, and the controversy over intelligence gathering by the National Security Agency (Calmes, 1/27).

The Wall Street Journal: Poll Finds Americans Anxious Over Future, Obama's Performance
Mr. Obama's congressional address may offer him the best chance of the year "to try to achieve a reset with a focus on the economy after last year's glitches with Obamacare," said Fred Yang, a Democratic pollster who helped conduct the survey. Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who also helped craft the poll, said Mr. Obama's personal standing has taken such a hit over the past year that "re-establishing his approval rating will be very difficult" (King Jr. and O’Connor, 1/28).

The Washington Post’s The Fact Checker: Obama’s 2013 State Of The Union Proposals: What Flopped And What Succeeded
Every president announces a slew of initiatives in his State of the Union address. Here, in order of delivery, is a summary of the key proposals, pledges or priorities announced by President Obama a year ago — and what happened to them. In general, Obama’s success rate has been relatively poor since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in 2011. In 2013, Obama had only four wins out of 23 proposals checked. … Obama: “On Medicare, I’m prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of health-care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission.” No action has been taken. The two sides did not even begin a negotiation on reductions on entitlements, which was fine with many Democrats (Kessler, 1/28).

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Capitol Hill Watch

Three GOP Senators Offer Plan To Replace Obamacare

The measure, dubbed the Patient Choice, Affordability, Responsibility and Empowerment Act, is being advanced by Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. It may provide a window into how Republicans plan to handle health reform issues in the upcoming election cycle and beyond. 

NPR: Key Senate Republicans Offer Their Plan To Replace Obamacare
Republicans have offered a wide array of proposals to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act since it became law in 2010. But few have come with the pedigree of the plan just unveiled by a trio of senior Senate Republicans. The Patient Choice, Affordability, Responsibility and Empowerment Act, or CARE for short, is a proposal being floated by Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Tom Coburn, R-Okla. (Rovner, 1/27).

The Wall Street Journal: 3 GOP Senators Propose Obamacare Alternative
Three Republican senators are floating an alternative to the Affordable Care Act in what they hope will be the basis of a GOP plan to replace the health law so many vehemently oppose. Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah, Richard Burr of North Carolina and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma say their blueprint – which you can see here – is intended to start a debate among their colleagues about the kind of health policy they can agree on (Radnofsky, 1/27).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: GOP Senators' New Health Overhaul Plan Would Tax Some Workers' Benefits
A health care overhaul plan released Monday by three Senate Republicans may reveal how the party will handle the issue for the 2014 elections and beyond. ... The proposal would not change the long-standing practice of allowing employers to fully deduct the cost of providing health insurance. However, some employees getting very generous coverage would have to pay taxes on the value of some benefits. The proposal would cap the tax exclusion for an employee’s health coverage at 65 percent of an average plan's cost (Carey, 1/28).

The Washington Post's WonkBlog: Republicans Have An Obamacare Replacement. Economists Will Love It, Real People Won't.
One leg is expanding access to coverage. Obamacare does this by ending medical underwriting -- the part of the individual market where, prior to 2014, health plans used individuals' pre-existing conditions to set the price of the premium they pay. Under Obamacare, insurance companies cannot use medical histories to set prices. The Republican proposal would do this in a more limited way: It would end pre-existing conditions limitations for those who remain continuously insured. That means if you lost your job and health insurance, and immediately purchased a plan on the individual market, your insurance company could not use your medical history to set prices. If your coverage did lapse, however, there would be the possibility of facing underwriting fees when purchasing an individual plan (Kliff, 1/27).

The Associated Press: 3 Republicans Back Health Care Alternative
The plan is a rarity among congressional Republicans, who vowed more than three years to "repeal and replace" President Barack Obama's health care law, also known as 'Obamacare,' but since then have focused almost exclusively on trying to repeal it without advancing a comprehensive alternative. As described by aides, the size of the tax credits envisioned in the alternative would be determined by age and income, and be available to the unemployed as well as those seeking individual coverage or working for smaller companies. Those with incomes up to three times the federal poverty level — generally $70,650 for a family of four — would be eligible (Espo, 1/27).

Fox News: Senate Republicans Pitch ObamaCare Alternative On Eve Of Presidential Address
Under the plan, insurances companies would not be able to impose lifetime limits on patients and would be required to allow dependent coverage up to the age of 26, as ObamaCare currently does. The Republican proposal would address the issue of pre-existing conditions by creating a new "continuous coverage" standard that would prevent any individual moving from one insurance plan to another from being denied on the basis of a pre-existing condition so long as that individual was continuously enrolled in a health plan. The requirements on individuals to buy insurance, and on mid-sized and large businesses to provide it, would be repealed (Rowland, 1/27).

McClatchy: Three Senate Republicans Offer Alternative To Obamacare
On the eve of the president's State of the Union speech, Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina on Monday offered a plan to repeal Barack Obama’s signature accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act, and replace it with a plan he says would lower costs and expand access to coverage. His proposal would keep popular elements of Obamacare: the ban on limits on lifetime insurance benefits and the option for people to keep adult children on their plans until age 26. But the rest is different, and its rollout the day before the president’s annual report to Congress helped put Republican ideas on how to replace the law into public debate, though it has virtually no chance of passing as long as the Senate is controlled by Democrats (Schoof, 1/27).

CQ HealthBeat: Republican Senators Roll Out Their Health Care Law Alternative Plan
A trio of Republican senators released their framework Monday for an alternative to the health care law that would offer a tax credit to help low-income people buy health insurance, using revenue gained by capping the tax exclusion that employees now receive for their group health coverage (Attias, 1/27).

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Health Reform

Study Finds Health Law Offers Income Boost To Poorest People; Insurers' Experiences Are Mixed

News coverage offers different looks at how the health law is impacting consumers and insurers.

USA Today: Obamacare Increases Incomes Of Poorest, Study Finds
The Affordable Care Act will "significantly" increase the incomes of Americans who fall in the bottom one-fifth of the income levels, while slightly decreasing — by .8% — the incomes of senior citizens, a new study finds. Those in the bottom one-fifth will see income measurements rise 6%; those in the bottom one-tenth will see an increase of more than 7%, according to researchers at the Brookings Institution, a non-partisan think tank (Kennedy, 1/27).

Politico Pro:  Brookings Study Sees ACA Affecting Income Distribution
The Obama administration never billed the Affordable Care Act as tool for redistributing income, but that’s one effect it will have, according to a new study from The Brookings Institute. Americans with incomes in the bottom fifth of the distribution will see an average increase of 6 percent because of expanded access to Medicaid and tax subsidies for private coverage, while higher taxes, lower Medicare Advantage payments and changes to the insurance market will somewhat reduce incomes for the rest of the population, the study reports. The analysis, by Brookings Institute scholars Henry Aaron and Gary Burtless, uses a definition of income that is expanded to include the value of government and employer contributions to health insurance (Norman, 1/27).

The Huffington Post: These Health Insurance Companies Are Winning At Obamacare
A central promise of Obamacare was to spur competition between insurance companies to drive down health care costs and give consumers more choices. The results are mixed so far. Months after the launch of the Affordable Care Act's health insurance exchanges, large insurance companies such as WellPoint still dominate many local markets -- although smaller insurers are challenging some of the biggest players in some markets, according to data from nine states analyzed by The Huffington Post (Young, 1/27).

Meanwhile, sign-up deadline confusion continues -

Marketplace: Court Ruling Could Clear Up Some Obamacare Confusion
The deadline to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act -- or face penalties -- is a little more than two months away now: March 31. A survey out today says lots of people don't know that, highlighting just how much confusion there still is about the health care law. More than half of Americans don't know when the deadline is to sign up for health insurance, according to a report from Bankrate.com. Granted, many of those people already have insurance (Scott, 1/27).

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Contractor Got Extra $8.7M Days Before Healthcare.gov Launch

Politico reports that federal officials made the emergency payment to Verizon Terremark after discovering the federal website was unable to handle sufficient traffic. Also in the news, the Maryland House is scheduled to vote on legislation to provide insurance to people who tried unsuccessfully to buy coverage through the state website. The state will also push back the launch of a website for small businesses.

Politico Pro: Document Details Healthcare.Gov Emergency, $8.7 Million Payment
Federal health officials awarded a prominent Obamacare contractor an additional $8.7 million just days before the website’s launch because they discovered it couldn’t handle nearly enough simultaneous visitors, according to a newly released government document. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said it made the emergency award to Verizon Terremark for cloud computing services after learning on Sept. 26 that HealthCare.gov could only take 10,000 concurrent users. Officials expected the site to handle 50,000 during its busiest times. CMS decided earlier that year it wouldn’t extend Terremark’s contract (Millman and Meyers, 1/27).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: House Set To Vote On Health Exchange Bill
The Maryland House of Delegates is on track to vote for a measure to provide health insurance to people who tried to enroll on the state’s online health exchange but couldn’t get through due to computer problems. The House is scheduled to vote on Tuesday (1/28).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Health Exchange Website For Businesses Delayed
Maryland’s health exchange board approved a plan Monday to allow eligible small businesses to begin offering employees small group health plans and to access federal tax credits in April, but the state is pushing back the launch of a website for the program until Jan. 1, 2015. The delay puts Maryland’s Small Business Health Options Program Exchange on the same timeline as the federal government. It was initially set to open in October, but was delayed until January to fix technical problems. Still, state officials said certified plans and access to tax credits worth up to 50 percent of the employer’s contribution toward employee premium costs, will be available directly through carriers, third party administrators and brokers starting on April 1 (1/27).

Media outlets also follow developments with California's insurance exchange -

The Sacramento Bee: California Health Exchange Locks Down Six-Figure Consultants
The state's health insurance exchange is handing out six-figure contracts to a pair of consultants and a new marketing director that officials say will enhance the sustainability and help expand the program. Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said the consulting contracts would give the agency the "the exceptional staff and resources we need to make history." Jeffrey Rideout will stay on as senior medical adviser on a one-year contract worth more than $411,000. A consultant in the areas of clinical quality, network management, delivery system reform and clinical and network analytics, Rideout previously served in senior executive and chief medical officer positions with Cisco Systems and Blue Shield of California.

ProPublica: Consumers With Canceled Insurance Plans Shifted To New Ones Without Their Permission
When California pharmacist Kevin Kingma received a letter last fall notifying him that his high-deductible health plan was being canceled because of the Affordable Care Act, he logged into his state’s health insurance exchange and chose another plan beginning Jan. 1 (Ornstein, 1/27).

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Virginia Legislators Harden Line Against Medicaid Expansion

And in Georgia, protesters are arrested after conducting a "sit in" at Gov. Nathan Deal's office to press him to accept a letter urging expansion of the state's Medicaid program.

The Washington Post: Va. House Members Say No To Medicaid Expansion
Senior members of Virginia’s House of Delegates declared Monday that eligibility for Medicaid will not be expanded this year, hardening their opposition to one of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s top priorities for the legislative session. “I believe Medicaid expansion is not going to happen this year,” House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) said (Lars, 1/27).

Georgia Health News: Capitol Sit-In Over Medicaid Brings Arrests
State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) and nine other Moral Monday Georgia supporters were arrested inside Gov. Nathan Deal’s office Monday after refusing repeated police orders to leave. The demonstrators wanted Deal to accept their letter urging him to expand the state’s Medicaid program, as called for under the 2010 federal health reform law. Fort and the other protesters, who included members of the clergy, sat in the reception area of the governor’s office Monday afternoon while they waited for Deal, who never emerged. Outside, on the Capitol steps, about 50 people shouted their support for the protest group in Deal’s office (Craig, 1/27).

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Coverage & Access

CDC Survey: One In Four American Families Struggles With Health Care Bills; Lack Of Insurance Adds To Medical Debt Burden

The survey, released by the National Center for Health Statistics, also found that one in 10 families face medical costs they can't pay at all. Meanwhile, in another development related to the cost of coverage, SunTrust cancels its health plan for Medicare-eligible retirees and is offering them an alternative.     

Bloomberg: One In Four U.S. Families Struggles To Pay Medical Bills
One in four U.S. families struggled to pay medical bills in 2012, and 1 in 10 said they had costs they couldn’t pay at all, according to a government survey. The survey released today from the National Center for Health Statistics at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also found the lack of health insurance increased the burden of medical debt (Chen, 1/28).

The Richmond Times-Dispatch: SunTrust Cancels Its Health Care Plan For Medicare-Eligible Retirees, Offers Option
SunTrust Banks Inc., one of the largest employers in the Richmond area, will cancel its health care plan for retirees 65 and older, joining the ranks of other companies that are modifying retiree benefits. The bank is offering a replacement program through a private health exchange that the company says will give retirees more value, flexibility and choices. Retirees have until the end of March to sign up for the replacement plan to ensure continuous coverage. The new program is effective April 1 (Hazard, 1/28).

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State Watch

State Highlights: N.Y. Mayors, Governor Press Federal Gov't On Medicaid Waiver, State Gov't For More Aid

A selection of health policy stories from New York, Texas, South Carolina, Virginia, Kansas, Florida, Rhode Island and Georgia.

The New York Times: Mayor And Governor Teaming Up To Save Brooklyn Hospitals
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, at odds over how to pay for prekindergarten, showed a unified front on Monday on helping distressed Brooklyn hospitals and said that without immediate federal support, “there will be closures.” The mayor and the governor seemed to be escalating a dispute with the Obama administration over who was responsible for the fate of floundering hospitals like Interfaith Medical Center and Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn (Hartocollis, 1/27).

The Wall Street Journal’s Metropolis: Cuomo, de Blasio Push Plan To Save Brooklyn Health-Care
Once at odds over the fate of Brooklyn’s hospitals, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo were unified on Monday in calling for the federal government to help save the borough’s health-care system. At their first joint press event since Mr. de Blasio was inaugurated, the leaders called on the federal government to approve a $10 billion Medicaid waiver that would help the state improve its outpatient care services and rely less on pricier hospital-based care (Kusisto, 1/27).

The Associated Press: NY Cities’ Mayors Make Pitch For More State Aid
The mayors of New York's biggest cities are looking to state lawmakers for more financial help as they struggle with skyrocketing public pension and health care costs, crumbling infrastructure and expanding school budgets. In an annual rite nicknamed the Tin Cup Brigade, mayors from across the state were in Albany on Monday for a joint legislative hearing on local government aid, the first of 13 hearings on various areas of the 2014-15 state budget (Esch, 1/28).

The Dallas Morning News: State Regulators Handed Most – And Biggest – Fines To Dallas-Area Hospitals In 2013
Dallas-area hospitals drew the most fines from Texas state health enforcers last year. The most frequent bullseye: Parkland Memorial Hospital. The taxpayer-funded institution paid three of the 12 fines levied statewide, totaling $20,000. Parkland was cited for deficiencies in nursing, patient care assessments, and for failing to pay a previous penalty, among other issues. The fines aren’t necessarily a reliable snapshot of a hospital’s recent performance (Moffeit, 1/27).

The Associated Press: SC Medicaid Agency Posts Hospitals’ Financial Data
The state's Medicaid agency on Monday introduced an easy-to-navigate website showing the financial data of South Carolina's 60 hospitals that will eventually allow patients to comparison shop for health care. The agency's multi-stage project is aimed at bringing transparency to health care costs, ultimately driving costs down, by posting data online so that it's easy to access and interpret, said Director Tony Keck (Adcox, 1/27).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Va. Republicans Call For Medicaid Audit
Republican lawmakers are proposing a new audit of the state’s Medicaid program, which Gov. Terry McAuliffe wants to expand. GOP leaders reiterated their stance at a Capitol news conference Monday that they don’t think Medicaid is going to expand this year (1/27).

The Richmond Times-Dispatch: House GOP Leaders Urge Audit Of Medicaid Program
Republican leaders in the House of Delegates want to wait two years for the results of an audit of Virginia’s Medicaid program before deciding whether to extend coverage to hundreds of thousands of uninsured Virginians. But Virginia hospitals face a different deadline in mid-2016 -- a “cliff” that will mean a sharp drop-off in federal support for the care of indigent patients, especially at Virginia Commonwealth University Health System and the University of Virginia Health System. A top state Medicaid official told a Senate subcommittee Monday that once that happens, Virginia will have two alternatives -- stop fully funding indigent care at the two academic medical centers and more than 30 private hospitals, or “begin to pay more with state funds than federal dollars” (Martz, 1/28).

Kansas Health Institute: Kansas Nurses To Push For More Independence From Doctors
Kansas’ growing doctor shortage could be addressed by allowing nurses with advanced skills to work more independently of physicians, say those advocating a change in state law that would allow that to happen. Currently under Kansas law, advanced practice registered nurses (or APRNs) must work under a so-called "collaborative practice agreement" with a supervising doctor before providing health care services within the nurse’s certified level of training (Cauthon, 1/27).

Miami Herald: Jackson Health Trust Votes To Phase Out Unpopular Health Care Contribution
A tentative labor deal with Jackson Health System employees lost some luster Monday when the board that runs Miami-Dade’s public hospital network agreed to phase out an unpopular pay concession but held off voting on performance bonuses for workers (Chang, 1/27).

The Texas Tribune: “Undue Burden” At Issue In Texas Abortion Case
As provisions of Texas' new abortion law await their fate at a federal appeals court, judges will have to decide whether the restrictions present an "undue burden" on women seeking the procedure (Zaragovia, 1/27).

Reuters: Florida’s Top Court Puts Medical Marijuana Initiative On November Ballot
Florida voters will decide in November whether to legalize medical marijuana after the state Supreme Court on Monday approved an initiative to put the measure on the ballot. Florida's Republican Party leadership had opposed the wording of the ballot measure, saying it was too vague and misleading and that it would allow almost anyone to obtain marijuana for the slightest medical complaint (Cotterell, 1/27).

NPR: More Cities Mandate Paid Sick Leave
This month, Rhode Island became the third state to offer workers paid family leave. That's time off to care for a new baby or a loved one. Portland, Oregon, and Jersey City, New Jersey, are the latest in a small wave of cities mandating paid sick leave (Ludden, 1/28). 

Georgia Health News: State Moves Swiftly To Adjust Employee Plan
A state agency offered some financial relief to state employees and teachers Monday by approving changes in their health plan at a specially called board meeting. The sudden action by the Department of Community Health board follows a deluge of complaints from members of the State Health Benefit Plan, which also covers other school personnel, state retirees and dependents. The special meeting and new changes also came in the wake of Gov. Nathan Deal’s comments last week about the uproar. He said then that the 650,000 members of the health plan could see more choice of insurance providers for 2015 (Miller, 1/27).

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Editorials and Opinions

Viewpoints: Health Law And The State Of The Union; Court Ruling On Contraceptive Rule 'Disappointing;' Medicaid 'Myth' In Virginia

The Washington Post: Obamacare Breeds Distrust Of Liberalism
For President Obama, the state of the political union ... could be better. It is not only that the president's political support is diminished; it is diminished, in large part, because of his main political achievement, the Affordable Care Act. Because of the way the law was sold -- "you can keep your plan" -- Americans have questions about Obama's credibility. Because of the way it has been implemented -- "the system is down at the moment" -- they have questions about his competence. In a recent Quinnipiac University poll, a plurality of American voters doubts that Obama is "honest and trustworthy," and a majority believes the Obama administration is not competent at running the government (Michael Gerson, 1/27). 

The Washington Post’s Post Partisan: How Obama's SOTU Speech Can Be Memorable
Second, own the "mistake" on health care (again) and then pivot to a strong defense of the new law’s benefits. (All the president's guests in the audience should be living examples of how the new law saved a life or avoided a bankruptcy). The president must offer the game plan for the counterattack on the Republicans' plan to make the mid-term a referendum on Obamacare. The president may yet make this a winning issue for Democrats next November; interestingly, despite the horrible rollout, American are almost evenly divided on whether they support the new law, according to the most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll (Carter Eskew, 1/27). 

USA Today: Obama's State Of The Union Opportunity
Prominent in his last State of the Union Address was the president's plea for tax reform. That is now bogged down in the usual congressional morass. The corollary of tax reform is entitlement reform -- likewise a non-starter. ... Remarkably, the marquee policy of the Obama administration was barely mentioned last year. And after the calamitous rollout of the Obamacare website and his ill-considered promise that those with insurance could keep their plans, expect his remarks to be brief again (Ross K. Baker, 1/27).

The New York Times: Contraception Before The Court
In a disappointing order on Friday, the Supreme Court extended a temporary injunction barring the Obama administration from enforcing paperwork rules against a Colorado nuns' group in connection with a federal law that requires employer health plans to cover birth control without a co-payment (1/27).

The Richmond Times-Dispatch: Today's Top Opinion: A Medicaid Myth
Few things have done more lately to prove the adage that a lie can get halfway around the world before the truth has got its boots on than debate over Medicaid expansion in Virginia. The discussion often has been complex and arcane, but one argument -- a false one -- has been repeated almost ad nauseam: the claim that if Virginia does not expand Medicaid, Virginia's share of federal expansion funds will simply go to other states. Since the money will get spent no matter what, the argument implies, Virginia might as well expand Medicaid and keep the money here (1/27).

WBUR: Patient Safety Scandal: Company Paid Doctor $11M In Kickback Case
Here's an example of a recent headline, from Reuters: Carefusion to Pay $40 Million In U.S. Kickbacks Lawsuit. And on MassDevice.com: Influential Patient Safety Board Cut Ties With Doc Before Carefusion Kickbacks Case. What's the story? And is it, as it seems, an extraordinarily outrageous case of financial conflict of interest at the highest levels of medicine? I asked Brian Johnson, publisher of Massdevice.com, who wrote the safety board story above. Our conversation, edited (Carey Goldberg, 1/27).

WBUR: Project Louise: The Dirty Word That Starts With 'D'
So far in Project Louise, we've been talking mostly about setting goals and developing new exercise habits. But of course there is that one word that always comes up in any discussion of health and fitness, a word that strikes fear into the heart, a word that evokes countless memories of hope and failure and shame, a word that so far I have avoided saying because I hate it at least as much as you do. That word is "diet." But Dr. Thomas J. Moore says we shouldn't be so scared of this word -- and we should learn what it really means (Louise Kennedy, 1/27).

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The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published by Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation. (c) 2014 Kaiser Health News. All rights reserved.