Archive for June, 2012

Grassley Worries Ruling Hurts ‘Poorest Of The Poor’

In a floor statement that threads the needle very carefully, Iowa’s senior Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican, blasted the Supreme Court’s decision that makes the Medicaid expansion optional for the states. Grassley laments that the ruling leaves the “poorest of the poor” with “all or nothing,” depending on which state they live in. But, he doesn’t call out the states that have begun to talk about turning down the expansion. Instead, he lays the blame on the Obama administration for any state that might turn down the expansion money eventually.

From the speech:

With this decision, states now have the option to expand Medicaid to cover people below poverty. Mr. President, the states had that option before the Affordable Care Act was passed.  So what does this decision mean in real terms?

It will be up to the states to determine if they will cover the poorest of the poor.  The federal government cannot guarantee coverage. So now people with jobs will have to purchase insurance under the tax mandate.  People without an income, people who are below poverty are dependent upon the state in which they reside.

Now I know some people will believe that the choice is perfunctory, that Medicaid expansion will move forward because the federal government has offered to pay for more than 90 percent of the expansion.

But if you were a state, would you really trust a promise from a federal government that is $15 trillion in debt?

Read the whole statement here.

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Native American Rehab Facility Helps Families In Ore.

Every week, KHN reporter Shefali S. Kulkarni selects interesting reading from around the Web.

The Oregonian: Native Americans Strive For Health Against Alcohol, Chaos And Trauma
Pearl Scott lifts the baby from the crib and balances the child on her hip, just as someone did with her when she was a baby 20 years ago. Her mom went through addiction treatment here in the Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest’s residential center. Now Scott works for NARA, operated by and for Native Americans. She helps care for the 10 children, all 5 years old and younger, of parents in treatment. … NARA opened in 1970 solely to address alcoholism, but today provides an array of mental, social and medical services. Residents cite the cultural connection more often than any other factor as the service that helped them most in their recovery (Bill Graves, 6/26).

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Friday, June 29th, 2012

Today’s Headlines — June 29, 2012

It’s been a tumultuous 24 hours at Kaiser Health News, here are some of the major headlines from yesterday’s big day:

The New York Times: Supreme Court Lets Health Law Largely Stand, In Victory For Obama
The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld President Obama’s health care overhaul law, saying its requirement that most Americans obtain insurance or pay a penalty was authorized by Congress’s power to levy taxes. The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s four more liberal members (Liptak, 6/28).

The Wall Street Journal: Court Backs Obama On Health Law
The ruling clears the way for the biggest revamp of America’s health-care system since the 1960s—and sets the stage for a renewed political fight over its merits. By a 5-4 vote, the court held the law’s mandate requiring Americans to carry health insurance or pay a penalty valid under Congress’s constitutional authority to levy taxes. The financial penalty for failing to carry insurance possesses “the essential feature of any tax,” producing revenue for the government, Chief Justice Roberts wrote (Bravin and Radnofsky, 6/29).

For more headlines … (more…)

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Hospital Stocks Soar As Court Upholds Health Act

Updated at 2:40 p.m. on June 28.

Hospitals were the businesses with the most to lose from a negative Supreme Court opinion on the 2010 health law. Sure, insurers would have lost millions of potential customers. But if the act were struck down, they would have also been freed from restrictions on their profits, leading Wall Street analysts to predict mixed results for them in the event that the law failed.

For hospitals, on the other hand, such an outcome would have represented almost pure pain. While the act puts pressure on future Medicare payments, and the court gave states the choice to opt out of Medicaid expansion, analysts still anticipate substantial new revenue streams for hospitals via Medicaid and through the private market.

A decision to strike down the act would have maintained hospitals’ responsibility of caring for the uninsured while removing the means for patients to gain coverage, resulting in a severe financial pinch, analysts said. So stocks of for-profit hospital companies soared on Wall Street today even as the overall market fell.

HCA Holdings, for example, which owns more than 100 hospitals, was up 10 percent in early afternoon trading. Competitors Tenet Healthcare and Community Health Systems were also surging.

Most health insurance stocks, on the other hand, fell. UnitedHealth Group, which offers a variety of health services in addition to insurance, was down less than 1 percent. WellPoint was down 5 percent.

The Supreme Court ruling would have “minimal earnings impact” on insurers, Bernstein Research analyst Ana Gupte wrote in a note to clients this morning. Because the court ruled that penalties for not buying coverage are a tax, she said, the “mandate” to buy insurance might be more enforceable — and hence beneficial for insurers.

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Today’s Headlines — June 28, 2012

Today’s the big day. Stay with us throughout the morning for reaction and a host of coverage on the Supreme Court’s Decision on the health law.

In the meantime, here are some headlines to read as you wait:

The New York Times: Awaiting Ruling On Fairly Simple Questions About A Complex Health Law
The Supreme Court is expected to announce on Thursday morning its decision on the health care overhaul that President Obama signed into law in 2010 — an act of Congress thousands of pages long, containing hundreds of changes costing hundreds of billions of dollars and affecting nearly every American from cradle to grave (Cushman, 6/27).

Reuters/Chicago Tribune: Supreme Court To Deliver Obama Healthcare Law Ruling
The nine justices are scheduled to take the bench at 10 a.m. (1400 GMT) on the last day of the high court’s term to read their final opinions, including their decision in the epic legal battle over the healthcare law (Vicini, 6/28).

For more headlines … (more…)

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Decision Day: Live Blog

6:11 p.m.: It’s been a long long day, and Atticus Finch, Esq., the Affordable Care Cat, is pooped. We’re going to wrap up for the day, but thanks so much for joining us here on the KHN live blog. It’s been swell.

6:04 p.m.: Governors from all sorts of states respond to the health law decision in this cool infographic from Statereforum.

5:48 p.m.: Don’t miss our KHN story on what the Medicaid ruling means for states.

“The Supreme Court has given states a way out of expanding the Medicaid program under the health law, but governors will be under strong pressure to take the federal money that would pay for coverage for millions of low-income people,” KHN’s Phil Galewitz and Marilyn Werber Serafini report.

5:40 p.m.: Missouri won’t take the federal money for expanding Medicaid, Missouri House Budget Chairman Ryan Silvey told KHN’s Phil Galewitz in a phone interview. “I don’t see any chance of that happening,” he said.

According to Silvey, Missouri can’t afford to pay more than $100 million a year starting in 2017 to pay its portion of the coverage expansion. “Its just not a sustainable option,” he explained. He expects that most states will opt out.

The expansion would result in cuts in state spending on education and public safety, he added.

Asked how turning down the expansion money would play, Silvey told KHN, “My job is to balance the state budget.”

5:32 p.m.: NPR has a useful interactive look at the Supreme Court’s written decision that allows you to navigate to key portions. Check it out here.

5:13 p.m.: In a strange and mysterious way, “Obamacare comes full circle.” Check out this circle chart from ABC News.

4:51 p.m.: On the blog Just Enrichment, Adam Chandler has some fodder on what internal deliberations in the court brought about this decision, suggesting that Roberts may have changed sides at the last minute.

Jeffrey Toobin tweeted that ‘Roberts was red-eyed and unhappy as he read’ his opinion in Court this morning, which might be grist for speculation that he came to his position late and grudgingly. One wonders why we didn’t hear Justice’s Scalia’s voice on this. He would have been the senior Justice in the coalition of four, giving him assigning power on an issue that animated him a great deal during oral argument. Was it too late for him to whip out his poison pen after Roberts decided to uphold the Act? The only conservative dissenter to write separately was Justice Thomas, and his separate dissent was just a paragraph. Did Roberts act so late in the day that none of them had time to write a full dissent from scratch?”

In an update, Chandler adds that “Justice Ginsburg’s opinion uses strongly critical language throughout, directed almost exclusively at the Chief Justice rather than the other four conservatives. It does not read as someone trying to woo him to her side, but rather as a stinging dissent from a decision striking down the individual mandate.”

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Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Decision Day: How It’s Playing On Twitter

We’re watching Twitter so you don’t have to. We will update this page throughout the day with the most interesting and provocative reactions from social media.

6:25 p.m. update:

5:45 p.m. update:

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Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Health Policy Groups Prepare For Day Of Spin

Updated at 9:15 a.m. on June 28.

The anticipation over the Supreme Court’s health law ruling has the health policy world busy with activity.

Photo by miuenski miuenski via Flickr

Interest groups, advocates and other stakeholders are not only awaiting for the Court’s decision, they are strategizing and agonizing over the best ways to get their reactions out to the public — just as soon as they figure out what to say.

“I’ve been telling everyone that I don’t have butterflies in my stomach, I feel like I have a pack of elephants in my stomach,” said FamiliesUSA executive director Ron Pollack. Pollack’s organization, like many others, has multiple press releases ready to go, depending on how the court rules.

The good news is that it is nearly certain the health care law will be decided by the Supreme Court on Thursday. So while the date appears to have been set, the details of the decision remain up in the air.

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Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Today’s Headlines — June 27, 2012

Good morning! Tomorrow’s the big day, here are your headlines.

Reuters/Chicago Tribune: The Immigration Ruling: A Hint On Healthcare?
The Supreme Court’s decision in the Arizona immigration case on Monday showed a conciliatory streak within a divided court that could emerge again when the justices issue their climactic healthcare decision on Thursday (Biskupic, 6/26).

The Wall Street Journal: Americans Divided On Health Law
With the court’s decision on the law set for Thursday, nearly four in 10 Americans told a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll that they would have “mixed feelings” if the justices struck down the whole law. Just over a quarter said they would be very pleased, while 17% said they would be very disappointed by that outcome (King and Lippman, 6/26).

For more headlines … (more…)

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Today’s Headlines – June 26, 2012

Good morning! Thursday is the day for the big decision, but it’s only Tuesday, so here are some headlines to digest:

Politico: John Roberts’ Big Moment
Justices are expected to rule Thursday — during their final public sitting of the term — on the fate of President Barack Obama’s signature health law. While much of the early attention focused on swing-vote Justice Anthony Kennedy, many court watchers predict Roberts will be the architect of the ruling (Gerstein, 6/26).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Supreme Court: Thursday Will Be Last Day, With Health Care Among Undecided Cases
The Supreme Court will issue its last opinions on Thursday, with its decision on President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul expected to come down that day. The court will begin its summer recess after announcing its decisions, with health care topping the list of undecided cases. The court also still has to decide cases on lying about military medals and real estate kickbacks (6/25).

For more headlines … (more…)

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

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