First Edition: June 18, 2013

Today's headlines include reports about a new publicity push in support of the health law. 

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Finding Answers About Health Coverage
In her latest Kaiser Health News consumer column, Michelle Andrews writes: "About half of Americans say they don't know how the Affordable Care Act will affect them. Four in 10 think it has been repealed or overturned, or they are unsure where it stands. So chances are good that when the major provisions kick in next year, including online health insurance marketplaces and new standards for health plan costs and coverage, people are going to have questions. Lots of questions. When they do, the biggest one of all may be where to turn for answers" (Andrews, 6/18). Read the column.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Facebook Raises The Status Of Organ Donation, Study Shows; Feds Seek Broad Payment Options For Exchanges
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Ankita Rao reports on a study tracking how Facebook raised the status of organ donation: "In May 2012, Facebook introduced an option that lets users add 'Organ Donor" to their profiles. … It also provided users a quick link to sign up for the national registry of organ, eye and tissue donors through Donate Life. … The results, as chronicled in a report released on Tuesday, were immediate. On the first day alone, more than 57,000 people added the label to their profiles, and 13,054 people registered to be donors online. A year later, 30,818 people had registered to be donors, about five times more than pre-Facebook rates" (Rao, 6/18).

Also on Capsules, Sarah Varney reports on feds' ideas about payment options for Obamacare customers: "Federal health officials have proposed that all health plans selling insurance on the new online marketplaces must allow for easy payment options for households without bank accounts or credit cards. The government's decision to mandate a menu of payment options including cashier's checks, money orders and re-loadable pre-paid debit cards comes amid increasing pressure from consumer advocates and business groups that are concerned low-income working families would be required to purchase health coverage under the Affordable Care Act but would have no way to pay their monthly bill (Varney, 6/18). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Report: Slowdown In US Health Care Costs May Turn Into A Trend, Not A Pause
There's good news for most companies that provide health benefits for their employees: America's slowdown in medical costs may be turning into a trend, rather than a mere pause. A report Tuesday from accounting and consulting giant PwC projects lower overall growth in medical costs for next year, even as the economy gains strength and millions of uninsured people receive coverage under President Barack Obama’s health care law (6/17).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Outside Group Backing Obama Airing Health Care Reform Ads This Summer
An outside group supporting President Barack Obama's agenda plans to air a series of ads this summer promoting Obama's health care overhaul. Organizing for Action intends to spend at least $1 million this summer on ads to draw attention to the implementation of the health care law, including its quality of care and coverage of uninsured Americans (6/17).

Politico: Launching The Obamacare Campaign
President Barack Obama brought a campaigner's mindset to the White House — but the roll-out of Obamacare marks the first time he's adapted his campaign's groundbreaking grassroots tactics to the task of turning policy into reality. A trio of Obama's most experienced campaign operatives — one in the West Wing, two others in outside groups closely allied with Obama — are overseeing an effort to ensure that the Affordable Care Act, the president's biggest legacy project, doesn't turn into the failure the GOP predicts it will be (Thrush and Nather, 6/18).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: 'Obamacare' Backers Ready Publicity Push
Supporters of the health-care law are set this week to reveal long-awaited details of their campaign to persuade millions of Americans to sign up for coverage. … The first ad highlights provisions in the law that are currently in place such as preventive visits without out-of-pocket costs for seniors, tax credits for small businesses and rebates for consumers,  telling viewers that "the truth is, Americans are already seeing the benefits." The ad finishes by promising: "Better coverage and lower costs, that’s what Obamacare means for them" (Radnofsky, 6/17).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Outside Group Backing Obama Airing Health Care Reform Ads This Summer
An outside group supporting President Barack Obama's agenda plans to air a series of ads this summer promoting Obama's health care overhaul. Organizing for Action intends to spend at least $1 million this summer on ads to draw attention to the implementation of the health care law, including its quality of care and coverage of uninsured Americans (6/17).

Politico: OFA To Launch Obamacare Campaign
Organizing for Action is launching a seven-figure ad buy championing President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, as POLITICO's Playbook reported on Monday. "The truth is, Americans are already seeing the benefits" of Obamacare, says a spot posted on YouTube, citing benefits including rebates from health insurance companies and tax credits for small businesses (Glueck, 6/17).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Va. Panel Established To Certify Medicaid Reforms And Approve Expansion Meets For First Time
How do you expand Medicaid under the federal health overhaul law without provoking the wrath of conservatives dead set against it under any circumstances? A Virginia panel attempting that high-wire act took its first good look at the daunting challenge of modernizing the federal-state program, making it more like a commercial service, simplifying it and cutting billions of dollars in the process Monday and learned from a noisy contingent of protesters that there’s no way to please both sides (6/17).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Arizona Gov. Brewer Signs Medicaid Expansion Law After Bruising Fight With GOP Conservatives
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has signed a law expanding the state's Medicaid program following her victory over conservatives in her own party opposed to embracing a key part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul (6/17).

The New York Times: G.O.P. Pushes New Abortion Limits To Appease Vocal Base
After Republicans lost the presidential election and seats in both the House and the Senate last year, many in the party offered a stern admonishment: If we want to broaden our appeal, steer clear of divisive social and cultural issues. Yet after the high-profile murder trial of an abortion doctor in Philadelphia this spring, many Republicans in Washington and in state capitals across the country seem eager to reopen the emotional fight over a woman's right to end a pregnancy. Their efforts will move to the forefront on Tuesday when House Republicans plan to bring to the floor a measure that would prohibit the procedure after 22 weeks of pregnancy — the most restrictive abortion bill to come to a vote in either chamber in a decade (Peters, 6/17).

The New York Times: Supreme Court Lets Regulators Sue Over Generic Drug Deals
Pharmaceutical companies that pay rivals to keep less-expensive generic versions of best-selling drugs off the market can expect greater federal scrutiny after a Supreme Court ruling on Monday. In a 5-to-3 vote, the justices effectively said that the Federal Trade Commission can sue pharmaceutical companies for potential antitrust violations, a decision that is likely to increase the number of generic drugs in the marketplace and benefit consumers (Wyatt, 6/17).

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Don Berwick Formally Enters Mass. Governor Race
Don Berwick, who has served as administrator of U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs, formally announced his plans to run for governor of Massachusetts Monday. … A Harvard pediatrician and health policy expert, Mr. Berwick was temporarily appointed by President Barack Obama during congressional recess in 2010. He was never confirmed by the Senate, hindered by comments he made praising the British government-run health care system and some health spending cuts that proved overly controversial, and he left the position in late 2011. Mr. Berwick was administrator in the first stages of health-care reform, which has significantly impacted Medicare and Medicaid. He has been a firm supporter of federal coordination of patient care and of moving away from "fee for service" payment structures (Ballhaus, 6/17).

The Washington Post: Former Obama Administration Official Berwick Announces Run For Governor
Former Obama administration official Donald Berwick will run for governor of Massachusetts in 2014, he announced Monday. "As a doctor, an educator, an innovator and someone who has dedicated his professional career to making things work better and to helping people – I am ready to lead," said Berwick, the former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (Sullivan, 6/17).

USA Today: Obama's Ex-Medicare Chief Running For Mass. Governor
It's too early to tell, however, if Berwick's role in advocating for the health care law known as Obamacare will help or hurt him in predominantly blue Massachusetts. The Bay State has its own health care law that mandates insurance coverage — which Obama said during his 2012 campaign was a model for Obamacare (Camia, 6/17).

Politico: Don Berwick Announces Run For Massachusetts Governor
Berwick, who has spent his career practicing medicine and running a leading health care improvement organization, has never held or even sought elected office. But he told POLITICO earlier this year that his time in Washington had made him want to stay in the public arena and try to enact policy ideas statewide. Massachusetts, the first state in the nation to expand health coverage, is now trying to address its high health costs (Kenen, 6/17).

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.