First Edition: July 11, 2013

Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations including reports from Capitol Hill about GOP efforts to repeal or delay the health law.

Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill: GOP Has 'Really Busy Month' Ahead On Health Care
Kaiser Health News' Mary Agnes Carey talks with Politico Pro's Paige Winfield Cunningham about the latest Republican efforts to delay or repeal Obamacare provisions, including postponing a mandate on individuals to carry health insurance. Watch the video or read the transcript.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Some States Are Pushing "Employee Choice" For Small Business Insurance; Tax Break Can Help With Health Coverage, But There’s A Catch
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Julie Appleby reports on a choice some workers will have on a few online health insurance marketplaces: "Small business workers in at least 15 states and the District of Columbia may have a menu of health insurance choices next year, something that didn’t seem likely a few months ago. Back in April, federal officials concerned about the potential for major glitches put off until 2015 a provision that would offer small businesses owners a way to allow their employees to choose from among a variety of competing plans in the new online marketplace being overseen by the Obama administration" (Appleby, 7/11).

Also, insurance columnist Michelle Andrews examines a key distinction between the premium subsidy and the cost-sharing subsidies offered to lower income people on the new  marketplaces: "There are two kinds of financial help for people planning to enroll in the online health insurance marketplaces that will open this fall. One could put people at risk of having to pay some of the money back, while the other won’t. That’s one big difference between tax credits and subsidies, both of which are intended to help people with lower incomes pay for health insurance through the new health care law" (Andrews, 7/10). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Miami Herald: Educating Florida About Health Care Reform Starts With Conversation
The Miami Herald's Patricia Borns, in partnership with Kaiser Health News, reports: "Enroll America, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit whose mission is to educate Americans about their healthcare options under the Affordable Care Act, kicked off its Florida campaign Wednesday in Miami with a training session for more than 25 newly hired organizers who will be reaching out to residents statewide" (Borns, 7/10).

The New York Times: Democrats Shrug Off Delays And Affirm Support For Health Law
Congressional Democrats said Wednesday that they expected to see more delays and snags in President Obama’s efforts to carry out the new health care law, but they affirmed their strong support for the overarching goal of expanded coverage. The comments came in a hearing of a House Ways and Means subcommittee held to investigate the president’s decision last week to delay until 2015 a major provision of the law. It requires employers with more than 50 full-time workers to offer health coverage to them (Pear, 7/10).

NPR: GOP Says, Why Not Delay That Health Care Law, Like, Forever?
Sensing that recent delays in key portions of the Affordable Care Act have caught the Obama administration at a weak point in its rollout of the law, Republicans in Congress are doubling down on their efforts to cripple the measure, at least in the eyes of the public if not in fact. "Rather than a partial delay for some, America needs a permanent delay for all," said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., at a news conference Wednesday on Capitol Hill. Thune got 45 other GOP senators to sign onto a letter to the president urging him to shelve the law entirely. ... Across the Capitol, where GOP leaders have already vowed to hold a vote to delay that very individual mandate, the House Ways and Means health subcommittee held a hearing, allegedly to explore what it called the administration's "strangely timed announcement" that it was delaying the employer mandate (Rovner, 7/11).

Politico: Role Reversal: GOP Members Dispense Obamacare Advice
Republican lawmakers have spent the past three years blasting Obamacare, but now they have a new role: helping people sign up for it. It’s a role reversal that puts party politics at odds with constituent service. Even Obamacare’s most strident opponents say that if people call their offices looking for help when enrollment starts in October, they’ll direct their staff to assist (Haberkorn, 7/10).

Politico: Congressional Black Caucus To Launch Obamacare Tour
Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius won’t be alone when she’s on the road pitching Obamacare this summer. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are planning an eight-city tour of their own to “ensure communities are equipped with the information they need” to access health insurance exchanges and understand the impact of the health law. It’s not about the politics but about getting community members the facts they need, they say (Cheney, 7/11).

USA Today: Health Care Law Opponents Dominate Advertising Wars
Opponents of the 2010 health care law have out-spent supporters by nearly 5-1 on the airwaves — as conservatives seek to cast doubts about its effects and pledge to keep it at the forefront of federal, state and local races, an analysis shows. Critics of the Affordable Care Act spent at least $385 million from March 2010, when Congress enacted the sweeping health care measure, through the end of last month, according to an analysis of TV advertising nationwide by Kantar Media. The biggest spender among opponents: Crossroads GPS, a political advocacy group affiliated with Republican strategist Karl Rove (Schouten, 7/10).

The Washington Post: Q: What Do Porta-Potties, Coffee Cups And Airplanes Have In Common? A: Obamacare.
In Connecticut, selling Obamacare involves renting an airplane. Oregon might try to reel in hipsters with branded coffee cups for their lattes. And in neighboring Washington, the effort could get quite intimate: The state is interested in sponsoring portable toilets at concerts in an effort to reach uninsured young adults. With 83 days left until the health law’s insurance marketplaces open for business, public awareness remains low. Most polling data suggest that few Americans are aware of how the Affordable Care Act works – or that it even exists (Kliff, 7/10).

The New York Times: Maryland's Path To An Accord In Abortion Fight
The 18-year-old woman arrived at Johns Hopkins Hospital by medevac helicopter in critical condition. Her uterus and bowel had been pierced during a late-term abortion that had started in New Jersey and ended at an unmarked, unregulated clinic in Elkton, in northeastern Maryland. ... The near disaster in an Elkton mall led to something rare in this era of polarized abortion politics — sharply tightened oversight of Maryland abortion clinics that came into full force this year and won praise from both sides of the political divide (Eckholm, 7/10).

The Washington Post: Four Decades After Roe V. Wade, Views Of Most Americans Still Complex, Conditional
The absolutist voices have always dominated the abortion debate. But as it flares again in Congress and in legislatures across the country, the fight this time is heading into complicated political terrain, stirring the ambivalence that most Americans feel about the issue. ... Fine lines are not something activists on either side often recognize. But four decades after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, the views of most of Americans on abortion remain complex and conditional (Tumulty, 7/10).

Politico: Marco Rubio: Abortion Bill A 'Work In Progress'
Sen. Marco Rubio is "very supportive" of the effort to introduce a bill banning abortion after 20 weeks, and is working with other senators on the bill, he told POLITICO. The Florida Republican wouldn't say whether he will be a lead sponsor of the proposed legislation (Everett, 7/10).

Politico: Democrats Say GOP Playing Politics With Abortion
Senate Democrats on Wednesday sharply criticized a House-passed bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, disparaging it as an "extreme and dangerous" attack on women’s health. The bill stands no chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate but has nonetheless incensed abortion rights activists and others on the left (Delreal, 7/10).

The New York Times: Texas House Passes Measure Tightening Clinic Rules And Restricting Access To Abortion
The Texas House of Representatives passed a vigorously contested bill on Wednesday restricting access to abortion. ... The bill, like its predecessor, would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and hold abortion clinics to the same standards as hospital-style surgical centers, among other requirements. Its supporters argue that the heightened requirements will protect women’s health; opponents counter that the restrictions are intended solely as a burden on the clinics that perform abortions and will impose expenses that will force many of them to close (Schwartz, 7/10).

Los Angeles Times: Texas Abortion Bill Headed To Senate After House Votes
A restrictive abortion bill is heading to the floor of the Texas Senate after the state's House of Representatives approved the legislation Wednesday on a 96-49 vote. The Republican-dominated House voted mostly along party lines, a day after more than 10 hours of debate. Lawmakers rejected all proposed amendments to the bill. ... The Senate is expected to take up the bill Thursday and could vote on it as early as Friday (Kelly, 7/10).

The New York Times: In Health-Conscious Denver, Limits On Group Exercise
In Denver, one of the healthiest cities in America, fitness fans are fuming over rules from the city and private officials that restrict group exercise in parks and open spaces. “You can smoke pot, but you can’t exercise,” Mr. Lindley said, as the scent of a newly legalized substance drifted past. “This is Colorado.” A skirmish over exercise in the public square seems fitting in a place where people spend more on road bikes than on their cars, and Lycra attire is the unofficial uniform of the weekend (Healy, 7/10).

The Wall Street Journal: Americans Are Living Longer, But Not Necessarily Healthier, Study Shows
Americans are living longer than they did two decades ago, but they are losing ground on key measures of health to people in other developed nations, a new study shows. The findings, from the most comprehensive analysis of the health of the U.S. population in more than 15 years, show progress in reducing death rates, adjusted for age, across a variety of diseases. But death rates from illnesses associated with obesity, such as diabetes and kidney disease, as well as neurological conditions like Alzheimer's disease, are on the rise (Winslow, 7/10).

Los Angeles Times: We're Exercising More But Still Fighting Obesity, Study Shows
Americans are exercising more, but that has not done much to slim their waistlines, underscoring the immense challenge confronting doctors and health advocates fighting the nation's obesity crisis. In more than two-thirds of the nation's counties — including some of the unhealthiest — men and women became more physically active over the last decade, according to data published Wednesday in the online journal Population Health Metrics. Three-quarters of California's counties saw gains in physical fitness for both men and women (Levey and Gorman, 7/10).

The Wall Street Journal: CMS Steps In To Settle Gamma Knife-Varian Fight
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has proposed a new rule that would effectively put to rest a provision inserted into last year’s fiscal cliff bill by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) to help a U.S. company. The original provision threatened to slash payments to the Swedish maker of a radiosurgical device called the Gamma Knife, thereby helping its competitor, a U.S. company that makes Linac – short for linear accelerator — machines (Mundy, 7/10).

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