States, Feds Confront Health Law P.R. Challenges, Exchange Implementation

States are dealing with the ramifications of the health law's federally or state-run health insurance exchanges and the essential health benefits. Also, officials confront the challenge of educating the public on the health law's provisions.

The Washington Post: Small Businesses Push Back On DC Insurance-Exchange Mandate
The District's small businesses may have to buy their employee health insurance through a city-run exchange come 2014, following a controversial vote by a city board. The D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority, charged with implementing the federal health care overhaul, voted Wednesday evening to accept a recommendation that all health-insurance plans sold in the city for 50 members or fewer must be purchased through the exchange (DeBonis, 10/4).

Politico Pro: Louisiana May Try To Stop EHB In Its Tracks
Plenty of states, almost exclusively Republican-led, say they don’t have enough guidance from the feds to select an essential health benefits benchmark plan. But they seem willing to accept the federal default plan taking effect in their states. Louisiana, however, is taking it one step further. The state -- at the front lines of opposing the Affordable Care Act -- is looking to stop the EHB from taking effect within its borders (Millman, 10/4).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Berwick: Debate Underscores Challenge Explaining Health Law
More than two and a half years after he signed the most far reaching health care legislation into law, President Barack Obama showed in his Wednesday debate with Mitt Romney that explaining the law is still no easy job (Galewitz, 10/5).

Politico Pro: Panelists Agree: ACO Push Likely To Survive
The political winds are at the back of accountable care organizations, no matter who wins the election, and economic pressure to make "integrated care" work will continue to push the health care system away from fee-for-service, panelists agreed at a Politico Pro briefing Thursday. Bruce Fried of SNR Denton compared the health care system to a "battleship" that may not be able to turn around in time to achieve the savings Medicare needs -- making it that much more urgent to double down on ACO-like reforms (Norman, 10/4).

In the meantime, the Department of Health and Human Services has hired a PR firm to educate the public about the federal health insurance exchanges --

CQ HealthBeat: Federally-Paid PR Firm To Help Market Federal Exchanges
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has hired public relations firm Weber Shandwick to help promote the health insurance exchanges the administration will operate in states in 2014. With the $3.1 million contract, the New York City-based firm will help with a strategic plan to raise awareness about the exchanges, educate consumers and conduct outreach. "This will help our educational effort to ensure more Americans have access to quality, affordable health insurance," said a CMS spokesperson. States have until Nov. 16 to tell the administration about whether they will operate the insurance exchanges on their own, run a hybrid model with federal assistance, or rely on the federal government to operate the exchange (Ethridge, 10/4).

The Hill: HHS Signs $3 million PR Contract To Promote Federal Exchange
The new $3.1 million award is tied to the fallback exchange that the Health and Human Services Department will operate in states that don't set up their own exchanges. Only a handful of states have taken concrete steps to set up an exchange, and some states that want to handle the task themselves won't be ready by the Jan. 1, 2014, deadline (Baker, 10/4).

And in other health law news --

St. Louis Beacon: Appeals Court Affirms Decision To Dismiss Kinder Suit Against Health Care Law
The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court decision to dismiss Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder’s challenge to the Affordable Care Act.The Republican officeholder, who is seeking re-election Nov. 6, filed a federal suit against President Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement in 2010, taking particular aim at the mandate requiring most Americans to buy health insurance. A lower federal court earlier threw out the suit, stating that Kinder didn't have standing because he has health insurance (Rosenbaum, 10/4).

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