First Edition: August 23, 2013

Today's headlines include reports on what's becoming of the potential for a deficit deal, as well as the political posturing related to the House GOP efforts to block health law funding even if it means shutting down the government.  

Kaiser Health News: FAQ On ACOs: Accountable Care Organizations, Explained
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jenny Gold reports: "One of the main ways the Affordable Care Act seeks to reduce health care costs is by encouraging doctors, hospitals and other health care providers to form networks to coordinate care better, which could keep costs down. To do that, the law is trying a carrot-and-stick approach in the Medicare program: Accountable Care Organizations" (Gold, 8/23). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Letters To The Editor: The Health Law And Alternative Medicine; Understanding Premium Rates; More On Hospital Readmissions
Letters to the Editor is a periodic KHN feature that details readers responses to recent KHN stories (8/22). Read the comments.

The New York Times: Clock Is Ticking For Recess, And For A Deficit Deal
Given the lack of progress, those involved say Speaker John A. Boehner will need to play a crucial role in finding an agreement. House Republican leaders consulted with their rank and file via a conference call Thursday night to sound out their ideas to avoid a fiscal crisis as early as Oct. 1. Mr. Boehner pressed gingerly for a straight short-term extension of funds to avoid an immediate government shutdown in October, but faced immediate opposition from conservatives demanding that funds be stripped from the health care law. One thought is to use a short-term spending bill to keep the government running into November. … That way, with both a debt default and government shutdown looming, Republicans could apply maximum pressure on the White House to either agree to scuttle President Obama’s health care law or accept significant changes in programs like Medicare and Social Security (Weisman, 8/22).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: 80 House Republicans Urge Boehner To Block ‘Obamacare,’ Even If It Shuts Down The Government
More than a third of House Republicans urged their leader Thursday to trigger a government shutdown rather than fund the implementation of the health care overhaul they call “Obamacare.” A letter from 80 Republicans asked Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to resist any spending bills that would accommodate the new health care law, which is nearing a critical stage of signing up millions of Americans for health coverage (8/23).

Politico: 80 House GOPers Urge John Boehner To Defund Obamacare
A North Carolina Republican and 79 colleagues sent a letter Wednesday to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) urging them to defund Obamacare as part of a government funding bill. Rep. Mark Meadows, who has spearheaded the effort, said in the letter that he and his colleagues “urge” the House GOP leadership to “affirmatively de-fund the implementation and enforcement of Obamacare in any relevant appropriations bill brought to the House floor in the 113th Congress, including any continuing appropriations bill” (Sherman, 8/22).

The Wall Street Journal: GOP Plans Spending Bill To Avoid Shutdown
Mr. Boehner met objections from several conservatives who want the spending bill to include a measure blocking funding for President Barack Obama's signature health-care law—a conservative demand that many lawmakers have heard at town hall meetings this summer (Boles and Hook, 8/22).

Politico: Mike Lee: Shutdown Talk A 'False Narrative'
Pushing back against the Democratic line that his drive to defund Obamacare could lead to a government shutdown, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) told supporters it was a “false narrative based on an absolute lie” and vowed to continue his efforts. “I need you to help communicate a message, a message to defeat a false narrative based on an absolute lie that has been perpetuated by the political ruling class elite in Washington, D.C., that’s been dutifully reported by an all-too-willing-to-comply media, and that lie that the effort to avoid funding Obamacare is an effort to shut down the government,” Lee said during a town hall meeting on Thursday night. “It’s a darned lie and I reject it” (Bresnahan, 8/22).

The Washington Post’s GovBeat: Local Governments Cutting Hours Over Obamacare Costs
The decisions to cut employee hours come 16 months before employers — including state and local governments — will be required to offer health care coverage to employees who work at least 30 hours a week. Some local officials said the cuts are happening now either because of labor contracts that must be negotiated in advance, or because the local governments worry that employees who work at least 30 hours in the months leading up to the January 2015 implementation date would need to be included in their health-care plans (Reid, 8/22).

The Wall Street Journal: California Health Exchange Might Face Online-Enrollment Delay
California's new health-insurance exchange, the biggest of the state marketplaces emerging under the federal health overhaul law, has started telling insurers that there's a possibility it won't be ready to sign up consumers for coverage online when it launches on Oct. 1 (Mathews, 8/22).

NPR: Say What? Jargon Busters Tackle Health Insurance
Scared you'll have no idea how to choose the best health plan come fall? Dr. Ruth Parker feels your pain, and she offers a handy solution that may help. One of America's savviest busters of medical jargon, Parker recently worked with several colleagues to create a guide to getting and using health insurance in 2014. It's a guide that you, your grandmother and the seventh-grader next door can understand. And it only takes a few minutes to read (Franklin, 8/22).

Los Angeles Times: Sen. Boxer Promotes Health Care Reform During Visit To Los Angles
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) attacked Republicans on Thursday for their repeated attempts to repeal Obamacare, saying threats to shut down the government or limit the debt ceiling are irresponsible and ineffective. … Despite the continued discussions about repeal, Boxer said the states and federal government are moving forward with the Affordable Care Act and plan to begin enrolling people in new coverage options in October (Gorman, 8/22).

The Wall Street Journal: Doctors Face New Scrutiny Over Gifts
U.S. doctors are bracing for increased public scrutiny of the payments and gifts they receive from pharmaceutical and medical-device companies as a result of the new health law. Starting this month, companies must record nearly every transaction with doctors—from sales reps bearing pizza to compensation for expert advice on research—to comply with the so-called Sunshine Act provision of the U.S. health-care overhaul (Loftus, 8/22).

Reuters/The New York Times: Indiana: State Sued Over Abortion Clinic Rules
Planned Parenthood sued on Thursday over a new state law requiring clinics that administer the so-called abortion pill to have full surgical facilities, a requirement it says would halt abortion services at a central Indiana clinic. Planned Parenthood would have to upgrade its clinic in Lafayette to surgical standards or stop administering RU-486, commonly called the abortion pill, it said in a lawsuit filed in Indianapolis federal court (8/22).

Los Angeles Times: 9th Circuit Rejects Arizona Law Banning Care By Abortion Providers
An Arizona law barring Medicaid patients from obtaining routine care from medical providers who perform elective abortions violates federal requirements and may not be enforced, a federal appeals court decided unanimously Thursday (Dolan, 8/22).

Los Angeles Times: Prison Pharmacist Wins Judgment Against Firms Tied To Senator
An Orange County pharmacist has won a $20,000 judgment against two companies he said stiffed him on pay for work he did on a state contract while the firms were co-owned by the husband of state Sen. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine). The state labor commissioner found that pharmacist Larry Drechsler of Orange County had not been paid more than $4,000 that was owed him for services provided to the companies, American Healthcare Recruiting and Drug Consultants Inc. The rest of the award was for interest and penalties (McGreevy, 8/22).

Los Angeles Times: Harassment Allegations Against California Hospital Probed
The executive recruited two years ago to correct deep-seated problems at the state's mental hospitals is the subject of a sexual harassment investigation that was launched within a week of her state Senate confirmation, according to two independent sources with firsthand knowledge of the matter (Romney, 8/22).

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