First Edition: May 28, 2013

Today's headlines include stories about the strategies of some businesses -- small and large -- to blunt the health law's impact. 

Kaiser Health News: Obamacare Insurance Won't Cover Weight-Loss Surgery In Many States
Kaiser Health News staff writer Sarah Varney, working in collaboration with NPR, reports: "Uninsured Americans who are hoping the new health insurance law will give them access to weight loss treatments are likely to be disappointed. That's especially the case in the Deep South where obesity rates are some of the highest in the nation, and states will not require health plans sold on the new online insurance marketplaces to cover medical weight loss treatments, whether prescription drugs or bariatric surgery" (Varney, 5/27). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Coverage Gaps Can Hamper Access To Some Breast Cancer Screening, Care
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews reports: "Breast cancer or the threat of it is a reality in too many women’s lives, including that of the actress Angelina Jolie as we learned earlier this month. As women mull their options for genetic testing, screening and treatment for the disease, one factor that can loom large is the extent to which their health insurance will cover whatever choices they make" (Andrews, 5/27). Read the column.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: In Case Of Tornado, EHRs Can Be Just The Prescription
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Jenny Gold reports on electronic health records: "Everyone expects a hospital to be ready to jump into action when disaster strikes. But what about when the disaster devastates the hospital itself? Turns out, it helps a lot to have an electronic medical record system in place. At least that was the case at Moore Medical Center in Oklahoma, a small hospital right in the path of the tornado that ripped through the suburbs of Oklahoma City on Monday. Three-hundred people — staff, patients and community members — hunkered down in the cafeteria, stairwells and chapel as 200-miles-per-hour winds demolished the building around them" (Gold, 5/24). Check out what else is on the blog.

Kaiser Health News also covered weekend health policy coverage including reports about how partisan fights continue to impact public opinion about the health law and aspects of the overhaul’s implementation (5/27).

The New York Times: Partisan Gridlock Thwarts Effort to Alter Health Law
Republicans simply want to see the entire law go away and will not take part in adjusting it. Democrats are petrified of reopening a politically charged law that threatens to derail careers as the Republicans once again seize on it before an election year. As a result, a landmark law that almost everyone agrees has flaws is likely to take effect unchanged (Weisman and Pear, 5/26).

NPR: Obama's Next Big Campaign: Selling Health Care To The Public
President Obama often tells audiences that he has waged his last campaign. But that's not exactly true. The White House is gearing up for a massive campaign this summer that will cover all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C. And the president's legacy may hinge on whether it succeeds or fails (Shapiro, 5/28).

Politico: Poll: 54 Percent Against Obamacare
Fifty-four percent of Americans oppose President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy achievement, according to a CNN poll released Monday, while 43 percent support the law.
Majorities have consistently opposed the law, which subsidizes and expands coverage while making it mandatory for Americans to buy health insurance, since its passage in 2010 (Robillard, 5/27).

The New York Times: High-End Health Plans Scale Back To Avoid 'Cadillac Tax'
While most of the attention on the Obama administration’s health care law has been on providing coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans by 2014, workers with employer-paid health insurance are also beginning to feel the effects. Companies hoping to avoid the tax are beginning to scale back the more generous health benefits they have traditionally offered and to look harder for ways to bring down the overall cost of care (Abelson, 5/27).

The Wall Street Journal: Some Small Firms Try Early Insurance Renewal To Blunt Health Law
Small businesses seeking to ward off key health-law provisions—at least for a while—are weighing offers by some large insurers to hit the reset button on their yearlong health plan contracts in December. Many contracts normally restart at the beginning of January. But, pushing the date to December could allow small firms to delay the impact of key health-law provisions that broadly kick in once plans renew after Jan. 1 (Mathews and Weaver, 5/27).

The Wall Street Journal: One Strategy For Health-Law Costs: Self Insure
As businesses cast about for ways to minimize new costs related to the federal health law, health insurers are stepping up. Among their latest offerings: allowing ever-smaller companies to switch to a riskier form of coverage traditionally favored by big employers (Weaver and Mathews, 5/27).

The Washington Post: Political Intelligence Firms Set Up Investor Meetings A White House
Wall Street investors hungry for advance information on upcoming federal health-care decisions repeatedly held private discussions with Obama administration officials, including a top White House adviser helping to implement the Affordable Care Act. The private conversations show that the increasingly urgent race to acquire "political intelligence" goes beyond the communications with congressional staffers that have become the focus of heightened scrutiny in recent weeks (Hamburger, 5/26).

The Wall Street Journal’s CIO Report: As Budget Cuts Strike, HHS Looks To The Cloud
The U.S. Health and Human Services Department is looking for cost savings in the cloud as it weathers painful budget cuts. HHS, a sprawling department that includes both Medicare and the Food and Drug Administration, is facing a 5% reduction across its budget from the mandated cost cuts called sequestration. Although officials are unsure how the cuts will be applied to the department’s $7 billion IT budget, the tech staff is under pressure to find cost savings measures, like those enabled through cloud (Schectman, 5/27).

Los Angeles Times: Insurers Limit Doctors, Hospitals In State-Run Exchange Plans
California's health insurance rates for a new state-run marketplace came in lower than expected this week, but one downside for many consumers will be far fewer doctors and hospitals to choose from. People who want UCLA Medical Center and its doctors in their health plan network next year, for instance, may have only one choice in California's exchange: Anthem Blue Cross. Another major insurer in the state-run market, Blue Shield of California, said its exchange customers will be restricted to 36% of its regular physician network statewide (Terhune, 5/24).

The Washington Post: Maryland Already Sets Hospitals’ Prices. Now It Wants To Cap Their Spending.
In a world of constantly rising health-care costs, Maryland has long stood alone. Through a novel system that gave regulators unusual leverage to set prices, the state delivered care at a price that grew more slowly than elsewhere in the country — even at some of the nation’s most renowned hospitals. But after saving an estimated $45 billion for consumers over four decades, the system is in danger of running aground. Hospital expenses have risen so relentlessly in recent years that the original price controls now appear unsustainable (Sun and Kliff, 5/25).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Ariz. Dept. Of Public Safety Investigating Threatening Email Sent To 9 Lawmakers Over Medicaid
Arizona's bitter debate over a signature part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul has sparked an investigation into lawmakers' safety after at least nine legislators received a threatening email over Gov. Jan Brewer's push to expand Medicaid access. The message asked the lawmakers to "kill" the plan and referred to Second Amendment rights, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety (5/24).

Los Angeles Times: Patients Who Helped With Medical Choices Had Higher Bills: Study
Many patients like having a say in their medical care.  But according to a new survey, the people who say they want to take a relatively aggressive, hands-on approach may also wind up with longer hospital stays and higher bills than their peers who leave the decision making up to their doctors. A team of researchers from the University of Chicago School of Medicine reported on the survey’s findings Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine (Brown, 5/27).

The Washington Post: D.C.'s Medicaid Upheaval Puts Health-Care Providers In A Tight Spot
Until this month, Chartered Health Plan was the city’s dominant Medicaid contractor, managing the health care of more than 100,000 low-income city residents. The company's collapse has raised questions about its politically connected owner, its precarious finances and government oversight of a key component of the city's health-care system. But for small medical providers, Chartered’s demise has presented a more urgent question: How to make ends meet? (DeBonis, 5/25).

The New York Times: Archdiocese Pays for Health Plan That Covers Birth Control
As the nation’s leading Roman Catholic bishop, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York has been spearheading the fight against a provision of the new health care law that requires employers, including some that are religiously affiliated, to cover birth control in employee health plans (Otterman, 5/26).

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This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 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.