First Edition: August 1, 2013

Today's headlines include a number of reports about the political positioning surrounding the health law. 

Kaiser Health News: Does My Insurance Have To Cover Pregnancy Benefits For My Dependents? (Video)
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews answers a question from a reader about if the health law requires employer-sponsored insurance to cover maternity benefits for an employee’s dependents (8/1). Watch the video.

Los Angeles Times: White House, GOP Lawmakers Looking At 'Grand Bargain' On Spending
The president was eager to remind lawmakers, as they head out after this week for their August recess, that much work remains to improve the economy and repair the federal budget. When Congress returns to work, it will be in session just nine days before the Sept. 30 deadline to pass legislation to fund the government. … Republicans have proposed trimming Medicare for the next generation of seniors, as well as the cost-of-living adjustment for recipients of Social Security and other government programs. But Democrats and the White House are willing to consider such cuts only if Republicans also agree to new tax revenue, which could come from changing the corporate tax code and doing away from some individual tax deductions for wealthier households (Mascaro and Hennessey, 7/31).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: 'Right Side Of History' – Obama Seeks To Calm Jittery Democrats On Health Care, Immigration
President Barack Obama sought to calm jittery Democrats Wednesday as they prepared to head home to face voters, assuring them they're "on the right side of history" despite problems with the launch of his massive health care overhaul and an immigration fight with Republicans. In back-to-back closed sessions with House and Senate Democrats, Obama delivered his broad message about economic prosperity and expanding the middle class. But in return he was confronted with questions from Democrats who are nervous about implementation of the health care law as they look ahead to town hall meetings during the August recess — and to midterm elections next year (7/31).

Politico: McDonough Calms House Freshmen On Obamacare Rollout
White House chief of staff Denis McDonough has tried to calm yet another group on congressional Democrats on the Obamacare rollout: House freshmen. McDonough continued his confidence-building tour of Capitol Hill by meeting Tuesday with several dozen first-term members at Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's urging, according to a House Democratic aide (Budoff Brown and Bresnahan, 7/31).

The Washington Post: House Republicans Pull Spending Measure To Focus On Bills to Embarrass White House
The collapse of the transportation bill, meanwhile, diverted attention from the primary goal House GOP leaders hoped to accomplish before heading home for five weeks: embarrassing the Obama administration and scoring political points. Eager to call fresh attention to the troubled Internal Revenue Service and lingering doubts about Obama's health-care law, Republican leaders dubbed this "Stop Government Abuse Week" and had scheduled votes on a collection of partisan measures intended to curb the power of government (O'Keefe and Montgomery, 7/31).

Politico: John Boehner Outlines New House Obamacare Votes
Speaker John Boehner is planning for a number of votes to continue to chip away at Obamacare, an attempt to dissuade Republicans from urging a government shutdown if the law is funded. Over the next few months, the House will vote to require verification for health care subsidies, stop the Independent Payment Advisory Board and eliminate funding streams, according to a source in the closed House Republican Conference meeting where he announced the strategy (Sherman, 7/31).

Politico: Liberal Groups Aim To Put GOP On Defense On Obamacare
Obamacare supporters are launching a new war room operation to stick up for the law, mobilizing liberal groups to talk up its benefits and pound Republicans for trying to cut off its funding. The new effort — to be headed by Americans United for Change, an all-purpose liberal advocacy group, and Protect Your Care, which focused on Obamacare — will include rapid-response messaging and town halls to try to change the conversation over the health care law, its organizers tell POLITICO. They'll start next week, during the August recess, but they're promising to stick around during the massive effort to sign people up for Obamacare this fall (Nather, 7/31).

The Washington Post: Health-Care Issue Triggers Hold On OPM Nominee Katherine Archuleta
An issue involving coverage of Capitol Hill staff members under the Affordable Care Act resulted in the ranking Republican on a Senate oversight committee saying Wednesday that he would put a hold on the nominee for federal personnel dire (Yoder, 7/31).

Politico: President Obama On Hill's ACA Mess: I'm On It
President Barack Obama privately told Democratic senators Wednesday he is now personally involved in resolving a heated dispute over how Obamacare treats Capitol Hill aides and lawmakers, according to senators in the meeting. The president’s commitment was delivered at the beginning of Obama’s remarks to Senate Democrats during a closed-door session (Bresnahan and Sherman, 8/1).

Politico: DSCC Chair Michael Bennet: Obamacare Will Boost, Not Bite, Dems In 2014
The head of the Senate Democrats’ campaign committee says Republicans have miscalculated if they think Obamacare will be their ticket to a Senate takeover in 2014. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) told reporters at the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee's headquarters Wednesday that a year from now the health law probably won't tip tight races — and is more likely to be a boon to Democrats on the November 2014 ballot (Cheney, 8/1).

The New York Times: Songs And Sunscreen Spread The Health Insurance Message
The part of President Obama's Affordable Care Act that requires Americans to obtain health insurance has been a contentious issue politically, but new advertising from the 17 states setting up marketplaces where residents will buy insurance tends to be buoyant. New commercials for the Oregon exchange, called Cover Oregon, for example, resemble something from a tourism bureau. In one commercial, the singer Matt Sheehy performs an anthemic song, “Long Live Oregonians,” that is reminiscent of “This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie (Newman, 7/31).

Politico: Schools Keep Distance From Obamacare Enrollment
When children return to school a few weeks from now, don’t expect to find Obamacare forms stuffed inside their backpacks. Supporters of the health law see back-to-school season as a natural time for Obamacare outreach, a chance to find young families who could benefit from new health coverage options. But weeks before the school bells start ringing in parts of the country, there’s no concerted effort to reach parents at the schoolhouse door. It’s yet another sign of how the undying controversy could overshadow attempts to get people enrolled (Cheney, 8/1).

The Wall Street Journal: Pivoting From Insurance
Many small businesses are eyeing expansion—at least temporarily—now that penalties under the Affordable Care Act's employer mandate have been delayed for a year. Nearly a quarter, or 24.4%, of small-business owners affected by the delay said they will invest in equipment or facilities with money that would otherwise have gone into complying with the health-care law, according to July's Wall Street Journal/Vistage Small Business CEO Survey. An additional 16% of small companies plan to hire new employees, 15% expect to provide raises or other benefits for their workers and 3% are planning to lower prices to gain a competitive edge (Janofsky, 7/31).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Whistleblower Suit Says Hospitals Defraud Medicaid, Paid Kickbacks To Clinics For Referrals
Two large hospital operators paid kickbacks to clinics that directed expectant mothers living in the country illegally to their hospitals and filed fraudulent Medicaid claims on those patients, a federal whistleblower lawsuit unsealed Wednesday said (7/31).

The New York Times: Interfaith Medical Center Plans To Close
Giving up the fight to stay open, Interfaith Medical Center, one of Brooklyn’s most financially troubled hospitals, asked a bankruptcy court on Tuesday to approve its closing and sent layoff warning notices to its 1,544 employees (Bernstein, 7/31).

The New York Times: Abortion Law Is Blocked In North Dakota
A state judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked enforcement of a law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The law is similar to measures promoted by anti-abortion groups and upheld by courts in other states including Mississippi and Alabama (Eckholm, 7/31).

Check out all of Kaiser Health News' e-mail options including First Edition and Breaking News alerts on our Subscriptions page.

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.