First Edition: May 23, 2013

Today's headlines include various status updates about state activity regarding the health law's online insurance marketplaces.  

Kaiser Health News: Can My Insurer Deny Coverage For Care At An Out-Of-Network Hospital? (Video)
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews answers a reader question about emergency room and out-of-network hospital cost changes under the health law (5/23). Watch the video or read the transcript.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: 11 Insurers Want To Play Ball In Colorado’s Marketplace
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Phil Galewitz reports: "Colorado became the latest state Wednesday to post proposed health insurance plans for its new online marketplace, which is slated begin enrolling people in coverage Oct. 1. What stands out is the number of plans being proposed. A total of 11 insurers are seeking approval to market about 250 health plans to individuals and small groups  in the state's online marketplace under the federal health care overhaul" (Galewitz, 5/22). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Wall Street Journal: Two States Seek Help With Health Exchanges
Two states that had planned to run their own health-insurance exchanges this fall are asking the federal government for help in the first year, a sign of the obstacles states face in carrying out a centerpiece of the health-care overhaul. Idaho and New Mexico had been among a few Republican-led states that had agreed to operate their own health exchanges, which will offer a variety of insurance plans for people who don't have coverage otherwise (Dooren, 5/22).

Los Angeles Times: UnitedHealth, Aetna And Cigna Opt Out Of California Exchange
Some prominent health insurers, including industry giant UnitedHealth Group Inc., are not participating in California's new state-run health insurance market, possibly limiting the number of choices for millions of consumers. UnitedHealth, the nation's largest private insurer, Aetna Inc. and Cigna Corp. are sitting out the first year of Covered California, the state's insurance exchange and a key testing ground nationally for a massive coverage expansion under the federal healthcare law (Terhune, 5/22).

Politico: Clock Ticking On Full Medicaid Expansion Funds
States still mired in the fight over the Obamacare Medicaid expansion are starting to give up on their first year of full funding — and it's unclear whether they would be able to tap into the money before 2015. Expansion remains an open question in about a dozen states after months of legislative fights. As more states continue to wrap up their budgets, some are already looking to next year's legislative sessions as their next shot at the expansion, even amid calls for state legislatures to return for special sessions (Millman, 5/23).

The Wall Street Journal: Contraception Violates Beliefs, Firms Tell Court
Two small-business owners challenging contraception-coverage mandates in the federal health-care law told a federal appellate court Wednesday the law would force them to violate their beliefs because they run their businesses in accordance with their religious faith. The Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago is the first federal appellate court to hear arguments in cases challenging the mandate that took effect last August for most employers to cover contraception, including the morning-after pill, in workers' insurance plans without out-of-pocket costs (Kesling and Radnofsky, 5/22).

The Washington Post: Some Business Owners Resist Providing Employees With Contraceptive Coverage
Religiously devout business owners are waging a broad rebellion against providing their employees with contraceptive coverage, bringing dozens of lawsuits that seem certain to land the issue before the Supreme Court. The company owners say their religious beliefs take precedence over a new federal requirement, contained in President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, that they give employees insurance that covers contraceptives (Barnes, 5/22).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Hobby Lobby Appeal Tests Limits Of Federal Birth-Control Coverage Mandate
In the most prominent challenge of its kind, Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. is asking a federal appeals court Thursday for an exemption from part of the federal health care law that requires it to offer employees health coverage that includes access to the morning-after pill. The Oklahoma City-based arts-and-crafts chain argues that businesses — not just the currently exempted religious groups — should be allowed to seek exception from that part of the health law if it violates their religious beliefs (5/23).

USA Today: Incentives Push Doctors To Electronic Medical Records
More than half of doctors' offices and 80% of hospitals that provide Medicare or Medicaid will have electronic health records by the end of the year, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday (Kennedy, 5/22).

The New York Times’ Bucks Blog: Family Medical Costs Still Rising
The good news is health care costs are going up more slowly. The bad news is that families continue to see larger medical bills. The typical cost to cover a family of four now exceeds $22,000, including the amount paid in insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs, according to the latest Milliman Medical Index for 2013. Milliman, an actuarial and benefits consultant, puts the cost at slightly less than the amount a family might pay to send a child to an in-state public college for a year (Abelson, 5/22).

Los Angeles Times: Geography Has A Role In Elective Surgery Decisions, Study Finds
Geography plays a role in whether patients in California have elective operations such as joint replacement, weight loss surgery and gallbladder removal, according to a new study. The California HealthCare Foundation study showed wide variations in patient surgeries across the state (Gorman, 5/22).

Los Angeles Times: Most Unionized UC Hospital Workers Go To Jobs Despite Strike
As University of California patient care workers returned to the picket lines Wednesday, hospital administrators said they were gratified that so many others chose to come to work. More than three-quarters of union members who had been scheduled to work Tuesday did so, said Dianne Klein, spokeswoman for the UC office of the president. Hospital officials said they expected a similar turnout Wednesday (Gorman, 5/22).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: American Samoa To Keep Frequent Flier Miles Of Government Travelers; Use For Sick, Students
American Samoa plans to take away frequent flier miles from government workers who travel on behalf of the U.S. territory and use the loyalty points to help medical patients and students travel off the islands when necessary (5/22). 

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