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HHS Awards Contract To British Company To Run Obamacare Exchanges; Challenges For Health Law Implementation Persist

09:17 EDT 8 Jul 2013 | Kaiser Health News

The New York Times: British Company Is Awarded Contract To Administer Health Rollout
Racing to meet an October deadline, Obama administration officials said Thursday that they had awarded a contract worth as much as $1.2 billion to a British company to help them sift applications for health insurance and tax credits under the new health care law. The company, Serco, has extensive experience as a government contractor with the Defense Department and intelligence agencies ... [b]ut it has little experience with the Department of Health and Human Services or the insurance marketplaces, known as exchanges, where individuals and small businesses are supposed to be able to shop for insurance (Pear, 7/4).

Kaiser Health News: National Health Plans, Designed To Spur Competition, May Be Unavailable In Some States Next Year
National health insurance plans aimed at giving consumers more choice might be unavailable in some states next year, leaving residents with fewer options and potentially higher premiums. Such "multi-state" plans were included in the federal health law to boost competition among insurers, particularly in states with few carriers. They were also seen as a consolation to supporters of the failed effort to require a government-run "public option" (Appleby, 7/5).

The Associated Press: Obamacare: Health Insurers Fear Young People Will Opt Out
Dan Lopez rarely gets sick and hasn't been to a doctor in 10 years, so buying health insurance feels like a waste of money. … Persuading young, healthy adults such as Lopez to buy insurance under the Affordable Care Act is becoming a major concern for insurance companies as they scramble to comply with the law, which prohibits them from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions and limits what they can charge to older policy holders (Kennedy, 7/8).

Chicago Tribune: Health Care Void Fills Immigration Debate
It has been nearly two years since a car hit Jesus Arroyo as he crossed a Chicago street on his way home from work, an accident that crushed his left side, fractured his skull in multiple places and left him in a coma for six months. Today, Arroyo, 38, remains partially paralyzed and in constant pain, his plight an illustration of a health care problem that Congress sees as politically toxic and that area hospitals and other medical facilities are struggling to address: Who will pick up the health care tab for millions of immigrants who could become citizens under new immigration reform legislation? (Olivo, 7/6).

Kaiser Health News: Video: New AMA President On Health Law
KHN's Mary Agnes Carey and The Washington Post's Sarah Kliff interviewed Dr. Ardis Hoven, the new American Medical Association president, for an episode of the C-SPAN program "Newsmakers" that aired Sunday. The three talked about implementation of the health care law, a shortage of primary care practitioners, as well as the AMA's decision to classify obesity as a disease and what to expect from her tenure as president (7/8).

USA Today: Obamacare Requires Most Insurers To Tackle Obesity
There's new hope for heavy people desperate to lose weight. Many insurers are stepping up their coverage of obesity. Some insurance companies have helped obese patients fight fat for years. They've offered weight-loss and wellness programs at businesses, schools and in communities. Some have paid for prescription obesity medications and even covered expensive bariatric surgeries, including gastric bypass (Hellmich, 7/4).

The Associated Press: Newly Insured To Deepen Primary Care Doctor Gap
Getting face time with the family doctor could soon become even harder. A shortage of primary care physicians in some parts of the country is expected to worsen as millions of newly insured Americans gain coverage under the federal health care law (Sanner, 7/7).

And finally --

Politico: Tax Talk Third Rail: The Health Care Exemption
The tax break on employer-sponsored health plans is one of the government's largest tax expenditures, costing the feds $200 billion to $300 billion a year, depending on who's doing the estimating. But it's also proved to be one of the hardest to undo -- arguably even more so now that the Affordable Care Act is full steam ahead. ... [L]awmakers are wary of any policy changes that could contribute to higher health care costs for businesses, which already fear the health law will hurt their bottom line (Cunningham, 7/8).

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