First Edition: July 19, 2013

Today's headlines include coverage of President Barack Obama's Thursday speech pitching the positives of the health law. 

Kaiser Health News: Obama Says Health Law Is Saving Consumers Money
Kaiser Health News staff writers Phil Galewitz and Julie Appleby report: "Ratcheting up the campaign to sell the health law, President Barack Obama delivered a speech Thursday touting how millions of individuals are already benefiting from its insurance rebates, and others who buy coverage online in states such as California, New York and Oregon will pay lower-than-projected premiums next year because of increased competition" (Galewitz and Appleby, 7/18). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Obama On Health Law: 'Working The Way It's Supposed To' (Video)
This video clip includes remarks by the president at the White House Thursday in which he touted lower-than-projected premiums that have been announced for health insurance marketplaces in several states (7/18). Watch it or read the transcript.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Survey: Latino Groups Worry About Money For ACA Enrollment
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Jenny Gold reports: "The Obama administration is counting on Latinos to help make the Affordable Care Act a success, but there may be troubles ahead: Hispanic health centers and community organizations say they don't have the funding or resources to carry out the complicated sign up process for the 10 million Latinos who will be eligible for new public and subsidized health coverage options" (Gold, 7/18). Check out what else is new on the blog.

The New York Times: Speaking Out for Health Care Act, Obama Says Millions Will Get Rebates
President Obama, slipping back into his episodic role as a vigorous campaigner for his new health care act, said Thursday that thanks to the law, more than 8.5 million Americans are getting rebates this summer from their insurance providers. Mr. Obama was joined by families who have benefited from a provision in the law, which requires health insurers to spend at least 80 percent of the revenue from premiums on medical care rather than on administrative costs (Landler, 7/18).

Los Angeles Times: Obama Touts Savings From Healthcare Law
President Obama, facing a new Republican push to dismantle his healthcare law, redoubled his efforts to sell his signature achievement Thursday at a White House event with Americans who have benefited from the law. The president pledged to "blow through" GOP attacks on the law and continue working to implement it (Levey, 7/18).

The Washington Post: With Legacy On The Line, Obama Touts Health-Care Implementation
Transforming the nation's health-care system stands as Barack Obama's most crucial piece of unfinished business, with much of his presidential legacy riding on whether it is deemed to have succeeded or failed. While other presidents have managed to overcome intense opposition to major new social initiatives, Obama faces a degree of difficulty with health care that has no historic parallel. So there was a certain urgency in the speech that Obama gave Thursday, the morning after the Republican-led House voted for the 38th and 39th times to dismantle all or part of the Affordable Care Act (Tumulty, 7/18).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Obama Touts Insurance Rebates Under Health Care Law, While GOP Vows To Keep Trying For Repeal
Facing public doubts and embarrassing setbacks to his signature health care law, President Barack Obama stepped forward Thursday to extol the program’s benefits, emphasizing that some Americans already are receiving insurance rebates and lower premiums. Obama said the program is working the way it was supposed to with "better benefits, stronger protections, more bang for your buck." The assertion was ridiculed by Republicans, with House Speaker John Boehner calling the Affordable Care Act "a train wreck" that he will keep working to repeal (7/18).

Politico: Barack Obama Defends Health Care law, 'Glitches' And All
Obama said he was confident that, despite resistance, even hardened foes will come to like the law. There were plenty of opponents of Medicare and Social Security when those programs became law, "but once it got set up, people started saying 'it's a pretty good deal, it gives me more security,'" said the president (Epstein, 7/18).

Politico: One Health Law, Obama Sells Big By Talking Small
President Barack Obama’s got a strategy for Obamacare: make the big sell by talking small. In a speech on Thursday, Obama got deep into the specifics of the sweeping health care law, from a rule that forces insurers to send rebate checks to some consumers to the price competition in its new health insurance marketplaces— all provisions designed to save Americans money (Nather, 7/18).

Politico: The Fine Print Of Obama's Health Care Pitch
President Barack Obama said Thursday that his health care law is already providing real savings and is working as planned — despite some expected glitches and unrelenting political opposition. He painted an optimistic picture of how Obamacare is putting money back into the pockets of consumers. … And all that political opposition? Just noise, Obama said. Of course, that picture isn’t complete. The massive health care overhaul comes with enough moving parts and political baggage to make it difficult to sort through what’s actually happening (Norman and Millman, 7/18).

NPR: White House Muddles Obamacare Messaging — Again
This summer was supposed to be a time to reintroduce the public to the Affordable Care Act and teach people how to sign up for benefits this fall. But that's not what's happening. Instead, earlier this month, the Obama administration decided to delay some key pieces of the law, most notably the requirement for larger employers to provide coverage or risk fines, because they couldn't have reporting regulations ready in time for next year's rollout. Then this week, the Republican-led House voted to delay the so-called individual mandate for a year to match. … And now some are starting to worry that the White House is getting dangerously off-message (Rovner, 7/19).

USA Today: Public Relations Battle Over Health Care Heats Up
The public relations battle over President Obama's signature health care law has simmered long past the point when it became law more than three years ago. But in the days and weeks ahead, a critical deadline looms for implementation of the law, and the battle for public opinion is heating to a boil (Madhani, 7/18).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Fact Check: Obama Injects Misleading Advertising In Claims About Health Insurance Rebates
Another year, another round of exaggeration from President Barack Obama and his administration about health insurance rebates. In his speech defending his health care law Thursday, Obama said rebates averaging $100 are coming from insurance companies to 8.5 million Americans. In fact, most of the money is going straight to employers who provide health insurance, not to their workers, who benefit indirectly (7/19).

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Tries To Woo Health-Law Skeptics
Speaking from the White House, Mr. Obama said people across the country have gotten rebates from their health-insurance companies that they can use to pay other bills and support their families (Favole and Dooren, 7/18).

The Washington Post's The Fact Checker: President Obama's Claim That Americans Saved $3.4 Billion In Health-Care Premiums
With the House of Representatives yet again voting to scale back President Obama’s signature health-care law, the president made a case for the law in an East Room ceremony. The rebates the president refers to stem from the "80/20 rule" or "Medical Loss Ratio rule" in the law, in which insurance companies must rebate a portion of the premiums if they spent less than 80 percent of the premium on medical care and efforts to improve care. In 2012, insurance companies shipped about $500 million in rebates to American families, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (Kessler, 7/19).

The Washington Post's The Fix: The Health-Care Law Isn't All That Popular. And That's Not Changing
Of the opposition to the law — particularly within House Republican circles — Obama said: "We're just going to blow through that stuff and keep on doing the right thing for the American people." Judging from polls, Obama shouldn’t expect to blow through much of anything when it comes to health-care law, however. The Kaiser Family Foundation has been tracking the popularity — or, perhaps better put, unpopularity of the bill-now-law for quite some time (Cilizza, 7/18).

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: HHS Analysis Finds Lower Health Insurance Premiums
An analysis by the Department of Health and Human Services looked at proposed, preliminary premiums of insurance plans in 11 states that would be sold under health law in 2014, and found they were less expensive than previously projected by the administration (Dooren, 7/18).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Hatch to Unions: Join GOP In Calling For Health Law Delay
The Affordable Care Act is upsetting some political alliances and inspiring a flurry of letter-writing among politicians. Last week, three union presidents wrote a letter to Congress’s top Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Minority leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, sharply criticizing the Obama administration and the law’s impact on union-run health plans. Today, the unions got a response of sorts — from Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch (Maher, 7/18).

The Texas Tribune/New York Times: Promoting Health Insurance Exchange, With No Help From State
Texas officials have declined to establish a state-based health insurance marketplace, a major provision of the federal Affordable Care Act. So private organizations are working to educate Texans about coverage options through the federal health insurance exchange, which opens on Oct. 1 (Luthra, 7/18).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Md. Official Urges Businesses To Take Part In Program For Tax Credits In Health Care Reform
The comptroller of Maryland is urging small businesses to take advantage of tax credit they could be eligible for relating to health care reform. Comptroller Peter Franchot is scheduled on Monday to talk about a pilot program to see how well mailings to more than 5,000 small businesses in Howard County will boost interest (7/18).

The Wall Street Journal: UnitedHealth Earnings: Company Raises Outlook As Profit Rises 7.4%
The nation's biggest managed-care company by revenue and membership posted a quarterly profit well above Wall Street expectations, and it raised the lower end of its forecast for full-year 2013 earnings. Solid membership growth and lower-than-expected medical costs are fueling the positive results. But UnitedHealth continued to be cautious about its outlook for next year, citing planned reductions in government funding of Medicare Advantage health plans for the elderly, as well as the implementation of certain provisions of the U.S. health-care overhaul law (Loftus, 7/18).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: UnitedHealth 2Q Profit Rises As Enrollment Improves, But Executives Caution On Medicare Cuts
UnitedHealth Group Inc.’s second-quarter net income rose almost 8 percent, buoyed by steady enrollment growth and slower-than-expected use of health care services. The nation’s largest health insurer’s earnings topped Wall Street estimates on Thursday, and it raised the low end of its full-year earnings forecast. The company’s stock jumped nearly 6 percent (7/18).

The Wall Street Journal: Community Health Slashes Outlook, Gets Another Subpoena
Hospital operator Community Health Systems Inc. CYH +0.13%slashed its second-quarter earnings forecast and said it was served with an additional subpoena from the government as part of an investigation into Medicare admissions. The double dose of bad news sent shares of Community Health and its peers sharply lower in after-hours trading (Tadena, 7/18).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: St. Louis Drug Maker Mallinckrodt To Pay Feds $3.5M To Settle Lawsuit Over Doctor Kickbacks
A St. Louis-based drug maker will pay $3.5 million to settle allegations that it paid doctors to prescribe "outdated, third rate" antidepressants and sleep aids, the U.S. attorney's office in San Francisco announced Thursday. A former employee of Mallinckrodt LLC originally filed the lawsuit in 2008 under the federal False Claims Act. The employee alleged that between 2005 and 2010, the company paid doctors consulting and speaking fees and other inducements in exchange for prescribing drugs that otherwise would not have been prescribed (7/18).

The New York Times: Abortion Restrictions Become Law In Texas, But Opponents Will Press Fight
Six months after declaring his goal to make abortion at any stage "a thing of the past," Gov. Rick Perry signed a bill into law Thursday giving Texas some of the toughest restrictions on abortion in the country, even as women's rights advocates vowed to challenge the law's legality in court (Fernandez, 7/18).

Los Angeles Times: Texas Gov. Rick Perry Signs Bill To Curb Abortions; Challenges Likely
The bill passed over the strong protests of Democrats and abortion-rights supporters. Abortion-rights activists and clinic operators say the measure will force the closure of all but five of the state's 42 abortion providers. In a signing ceremony at the state Capitol in Austin attended by more than 100 Republican lawmakers, the Republican governor praised the measure as a landmark in protecting unborn children and women's health (Kelly, 7/18).

The New York Times: Heroin In New England, More Abundant And Deadly
Heroin, which has long flourished in the nation’s big urban centers, has been making an alarming comeback in the smaller cities and towns of New England (Seelye, 7/18). 

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