First Edition: August 28, 2013

Today's headlines include reports about the vote by Michigan lawmakers to expand Medicaid.  

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Administration Releases New Rules On Individual Mandate; Americans Hear More About Health Law, But Not From Most-Trusted Sources; ACOs' Coordinated Care Savings May Be Contagious; CDC: Schools Are Getting Healthier; Many Breast-Feeding Moms Unaware Of Health Law Help
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Mary Agnes Carey reports on the administration's new individual mandate rules: "As congressional Republicans push for a delay in the 2010 health law's individual mandate, the Obama administration Tuesday announced final regulations implementing the requirement that most Americans have health insurance coverage by Jan. 1 or pay a fine. The document from the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service is in addition to regulations the Department of Health and Human Services published in late June" (Carey, 8/27).

Jordan Rau reports on poll findings indicating that Americans are hearing more about the health law: "The public's awareness of new marketplaces is growing, but potential customers are getting much of their information about the health law from sources they don't trust very much,  according to a poll released Wednesday. … Supporters of the law and insurance companies have begun mobilizing to educate people about new insurance offerings. … The most common source of that information was the news media" (Rau, 8/28). 

Also on Capsules, Jenny Gold reports on accountable care organizations and savings: "An early cost-sharing program in Massachusetts designed to cut costs for private Blue Cross Blue Shield patients also lowered costs for Medicare patients who were seen by the same providers, according to a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association" (Gold, 8/28).

Meanwhile, Marissa Evans reports on a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey about schools' health policies: "Nowadays, the hub for developing healthy habits isn’t just the gym or home. For kids, at least, it's increasingly their schools, according to a study released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. School districts across the country are demonstrating a range of improvements in terms of nutrition, exercise and tobacco policies" (Evans, 8/27).

In addition, the Seattle Times' Lisa Stiffler, working in partnership with KHN, reports on a health law provision that helps breast-feeding moms: "New moms crave information, whether it's car-seat safety ratings, the pros and cons of pacifiers or how best to sooth a colicky infant. So it's a little surprising that many moms aren't up to speed on how the Affordable Care Act could benefit them. The law has specific requirements targeting moms, including coverage for breast pumps and consultants to help breast-feeding mothers" (8/27). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Final Rules Released On Obamacare's Individual Mandate
The Obama administration released final rules Tuesday involving the controversial so-called individual mandate that requires most individuals to carry health insurance starting in 2014 or pay fines. The rules from  the Treasury Department codify the amount of penalties called for under the 2010 Affordable Care Act as well who might be exempt from the penalties (Dooren, 8/27).

The Wall Street Journal: Michigan Senate Votes To Expand Medicaid
Michigan lawmakers voted to extend Medicaid eligibility to hundreds of thousands of low-income adults in the state after a late legislative session Tuesday, in a boost for the Obama administration as it seeks to roll out its health law this fall. The vote was a victory for Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who had struggled to persuade GOP legislators in his state to implement a major provision of the health law, which faced strong opposition from his party. The GOP-led state Senate voted 20-18 to expand the Medicaid program in line with the provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act (Radnofsky and Kesling, 8/27).

The New York Times: Medicaid Expansion Battle In Michigan Ends In Passage
The fierce struggle among Republicans over whether to make Medicaid available to more low-income people played out in Michigan on Tuesday as the Republican governor, Rick Snyder, narrowly succeeded in swaying enough conservative senators in the State Legislature to accept the expansion, which was part of President Obama’s health care law (Davey, 8/27).

Politico: Michigan Moves Toward Medicaid Change
Michigan took a big step Tuesday toward signing up for Obamacare’s massive Medicaid expansion, giving GOP Gov. Rick Snyder a long-sought victory to bring billions of federal dollars to implement a major part of the president's health care law. The measure passed after last-minute legislative maneuvering. The Republican-led state Senate initially rejected it by one vote, and then huddled privately for several hours before returning to vote 20-18 to support it with a few significant caveats. The narrow approval sends the Medicaid expansion back to the House, which has already backed a similar bill (Millman and Cheney, 8/27).

Detroit Free Press/USA Today: Michigan Lawmakers OK Medicaid Expansion
It took two votes and eight hours of mostly closed-door politicking and vote wrangling, but Michigan lawmakers approved a plan late Tuesday to expand Medicaid health care coverage to 470,000 low-income residents. The historic 20-18 vote in the state Senate makes Michigan the 25th state in the nation to go ahead with the Medicaid expansion as part of the federal Affordable Care Act, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (Gray, 8/27).

Politico: Sarah Palin Backs Defunding Obamacare
Sarah Palin on Tuesday announced she has signed onto the effort to defund Obamacare, calling it a "beast" that must be stopped. "Forced enrollment in Obama's 'Unaffordable Care Act' is weeks away," the former Alaska governor and GOP vice presidential nominee said in a statement. "This beast must be stopped — by not funding it. Today, Todd and I joined with many of our fellow citizens to urge those in the U.S. Senate to not fund Obamacare. We the people must continue to make our voices heard and hold those elected to serve this great nation accountable" (Weinger, 8/27).

The New York Times: Lessons in Maryland for Costs at Hospitals
Yet Western Maryland Health Systems, the major hospital serving this poor and isolated region, is carrying out an experiment that could leave a more profound imprint on the delivery of health care than President Obama’s reforms. Over the last three years, the hospital has taken its services outside its walls. It has opened a diabetes clinic, a wound center and a behavioral health clinic. It has hired people to follow up with older, sicker patients once they are discharged. It has added primary care practices in some neighborhoods. The goal, seemingly so simple, has so far proved elusive elsewhere: as much as possible, keep people out of hospitals, where the cost of health care is highest. Here, the experiment seems to be working (Porter, 8/27).

Los Angeles Times: Wal-Mart Extends Health Insurance To Workers' Same-Sex Partners
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the largest private employer in the country, plans to start offering health coverage next year to domestic partners of full-time employees – including those in same-sex relationships. The extension, outlined in a postcard sent to workers this week, follows a series of recent court rulings in favor of gay marriage around the country (Hsu, 8/27).

The Associated Press/New York Times: Wal-Mart To Offer Health Benefits To Domestic Partners
Wal-Mart Stores will extend its health care benefits to its American workers' domestic partners, including those of the same sex, starting Jan. 1. The company, the nation’s largest private employer, has been a target of attacks by labor groups for what they call substandard wages and benefits. It said Tuesday that the changes were made so it could have a uniform policy for all 50 states at a time when some states have their own definitions of what constitutes domestic partnerships and civil unions (8/27).

The Wall Street Journal: Wal-Mart To Offer Health Benefits To Domestic Partners Of U.S. Workers
The extension of health benefits marks a major change for the country's largest private employer of 1.3 million U.S. workers, which has been targeted by gay-rights advocacy groups for failing to do so. Previously, Wal-Mart had offered benefits to the domestic partners of employees in states that required the retailer to do so by law (Banjo, 8/27).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: VA Secretary Says Law Governing Veterans Benefits Contained Similar Language To DOMA
Congress or the courts may still have more work to do before the VA can start providing federal benefits to married, same-sex couples, according to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. The Supreme Court ruled in June that a law, the federal Defense of Marriage Act, denying federal tax, health and pension benefits to married, same-sex couples was unconstitutional. The law governing veteran’s benefits contained similar provisions, Shinseki said (8/27).

The Wall Street Journal's Risk & Compliance Journal: Q&A With John Bandy, Memorial Health System
John Bandy was the first information security officer at the 500-bed Memorial Health System, based in Springfield, Ill. Prior to his appointment in 2010, no one in the system had primary responsibility for cyber security.  He told Risk & Compliance Journal how he went about building a security program from scratch (Millman, 8/27).

The Washington Post: Ken Cuccinelli Vows Not To Support Restrictions On Birth Controls
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II got in a sharp exchange over his past support for "personhood" legislation Tuesday while bringing his campaign pitch for governor to a bipartisan audience of senior citizens in Loudoun County. Cuccinelli (R) faces businessman Terry McAuliffe (D) in the contest to run the commonwealth, and both are focused on wooing vote-rich Northern Virginia (Pershing, 8/27).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: NY Doctors Now Required To Check Drug Database
New York doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners are now required to check the new statewide drug database before prescribing painkillers, with pharmacists responsible for recording the related prescriptions they fill. The law was enacted last year and took effect Tuesday (8/28).

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