Viewpoints: ‘Big Risks’ Of Buying Private Insurance With Medicaid Dollars; One Month Of Sequestration


US residents with employer-based private healt...

US residents with employer-based private health insurance, with self insurance, with Medicare or Medicaid or military health care and uninsured in Million; U.S. Census bureau: Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Topics: Medicaid, Medicare, Health Reform, States, Health Costs, Women’s Health, Uninsured

Apr 01, 2013

The New York Times: Using Medicaid Dollars For Private Insurance
The Obama administration and Republican officials in several states are exploring ways to redirect federal money intended to expand Medicaid, the main public insurance program for the poor, and use it instead to buy private health insurance for Medicaid recipients. The approach could have important benefits for beneficiaries and for the future of health care reform. But the idea also carries big risks. Federal officials will need to enforce strict conditions before agreeing to any redirection of Medicaid dollars that were originally intended to enlarge the Medicaid rolls (3/31).

Forbes: The Arkansas-Obamacare Medicaid Deal: Far Less Than It First Appeared
When Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe (D.) first announced that he had reached a deal with the Obama administration to use the Affordable Care Act‘s private insurance exchanges to expand coverage to poor Arkansans, it seemed like an important, and potentially transformative, development. … A Good Friday memo from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, however, splashes cold water on that aspiration. It’s now clear that the Beebe-HHS deal applies a kind of private-sector window dressing on the dysfunctional Medicaid program, and it’s not obvious that the Arkansas legislature should go along (Avik Roy, 4/1).

USA Today: ‘Sequester’ Still Looks Stupid, As Planned: Our View
Congress and the White House exempted some programs when they finalized the original deal, and the spending bill they agreed to last month to keep the government open to Sept. 30 spared some vital functions — food inspections, for example. But not enough. Nor does the sequester seriously address the major spending driver: health care costs. The best outcome would be for the sort of anger that forced Congress and the White House to re-open the government in 1996 to push Congress and the White House back to the table on a realistic budget deal this year. The outlines of that deal have been obvious for too long: Trim entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security, overhaul the hopelessly inefficient and corrupt tax code to bring in more money, and cut defense and domestic programs with a scalpel instead of an ax (3/31).

USA Today: ‘Sequester’ Needed To Rein In Spending: Another View
Let’s get real on the “sequester.” One month in, not much has changed. Nor is it likely to. Rather than devastating the federal government, the sequester is necessary to rein in the unbridled growth of federal spending. The sequester is certainly flawed. It’s a blunt instrument leaving the biggest spending drivers, entitlements, virtually untouched (Alison Fraser, 3/31).

The Wall Street Journal: The Liberal Medicare Advantage Revolt
A big political story this year is likely to be Democrats turning on their White House minders as the harmful and unpopular parts of the Affordable Care Act ramp up. On the heels of the recent 79-20 Senate uprising against the 2.3% medical device tax, now comes the surge of Democrats pleading on behalf of Medicare Advantage. Liberals have claimed for years to hate this program, but by now Advantage provides private insurance coverage to more than one of four seniors. And those seniors like it (3/29).

The Chicago Tribune: Scrubbing Medicaid
In January, Illinois launched an effort to scrub ineligible people from the state’s Medicaid rolls. … The initial results of this audit are … astonishing: Of the first 20,500 recipients screened by an outside contractor, the auditors recommend that 13,709 be removed from the rolls. Yes, that’s two-thirds of the first group screened, flagged as ineligible to receive their current Medicaid benefits. How so? In some cases, the recipients make too much money to qualify. In other cases, they don’t live in Illinois (3/31).

The New York Times: The Campaign to Outlaw Abortion
Anti-abortion groups have been trying to re-impose restrictions on abortion rights for 40 years, but the Legislature and governor of North Dakota have taken this attack on women’s reproductive health and freedom to a shocking new low … The clear message is the need for a stepped-up effort to hold state officials electorally accountable for policies that harm women in states where right-wing Republicans control the machinery of government (3/29).

The Seattle Times: State Senate Health Care Committee Should Vote On Abortion Measure
After the Senate Health Care Committee hearing on the Reproductive Parity Act Monday, members should vote for it before a key deadline Wednesday. State lawmakers do not need to complicate this issue. House Bill 1044 would maintain insurance coverage for women seeking abortions after federal health reforms take effect (3/31).

Los Angeles Times: The Starbucks Syndrome In Healthcare
Medicare statistics, for example, reveal that Los Angeles leads the nation in the amount of medical services provided during the last six months of a person’s life. Healthy seniors here are also big consumers of healthcare, getting about 65% more MRI studies and utilizing ambulances three times as often as seniors elsewhere. Commercial insurance data point to similar patterns in the healthcare of the younger population in Southern California. What explains such avid use of medical services. … Part of the problem is that Angelenos approach healthcare as they do other kinds of consumption. They expect their CT scans, when they want them, in much the same way they expect their decaf caramel extra hot low-fat macchiatos. (Daniel J. Stone, 3/31).

Los Angeles Times: Bump In The Road For Healthcare Law
One figure in a new report neatly summarizes the potential pitfalls for Obamacare: 30.1%. That’s how much premiums could rise next year, on average, for the roughly 1.3 million moderate- and upper-income Californians who buy individual health insurance policies. Most of that increase is attributable to the insurance reforms in the 2010 law, also known as the Affordable Care Act. The bill’s title is not ironic — its provisions will slow the growth of healthcare costs and lead over time to a more rational and efficient system. But the transition will have some rough patches, and we’re about to hit one (3/29).

Houston Chronicle: The Affordable Care Act Is A Poor Solution
Senator Orrin Hatch has speculated that the Affordable Care Act was designed to fail. A close look at the Act’s contents and history suggests he may be right. The Affordable Care Act is nothing more than a political stopgap, a waypoint on the road to something that might work. Republicans could stand around complaining or we could seize this opportunity to determine what comes next (Chris Ladd, 4/1).

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Moving Forward On Medicaid: More Important Than Ever
As a community physician for more than eight years, I’ve seen how medical care helps keep families strong and secure. When parents and their kids can access health care — and have a way to pay for it — they are much less likely to face unpaid bills or have to put off doctor visits. Instead of worrying about how their family is going to survive, they can focus on how their family is going to thrive. Unfortunately, too many Virginians — more than a million, in fact — find that getting health care is a real challenge because they don’t have insurance (Dr. Christopher Lillis, 4/1).

The Wall Street Journal: The Skinny On Anti-Obesity Soda Laws
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s anti-obesity campaign to ban the sale of certain sugary drinks in large servings, especially sodas, was struck down last month in state court. A proposal for a penny-per-ounce excise tax on sweetened beverages also floundered in Vermont’s House of Representatives in February. … As an economist, I have two big gripes with such paternalistic public-health initiatives: The proposals aren’t grounded in data or compelling economic models, and soda taxes might catalyze a dismal chain reaction, with escalating government intrusions on personal freedom (Michael L. Marlow, 3/31).

Oregonian: Don’t Take Portland’s Sick-Leave Mistake Statewide: Agenda 2013
By voting to mandate paid sick leave last month, Amanda Fritz and her city council colleagues furthered Portland’s reputation as a place where businesses fear to tread. One way to protect city employers burdened by this mandate is to adopt a similar requirement statewide, erasing a competitive advantage a restaurant in, say, Beaverton might have over one in Portland. In other words, bail out Portland by making things tougher all over (3/31).

USA Today: ER Key To Curb Painkiller Abuse
Most opioids are prescribed in the doctor’s office, which has prompted some states to restrict primary care physicians like myself from prescribing them and to encourage referrals to pain specialists. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has taken these curbs a step further by focusing on emergency departments. In January, he announced a voluntary initiative to limit prescription of opioid painkillers in the emergency rooms of the city’s 11 public hospitals. This approach should be expanded across the nation. From 2004 to 2009, the number of emergency visits in New York City hospitals related to opioid abuse or misuse more than doubled (Dr. Kevin Pho, 3/31).

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.

Roundup: D.C. Sued Over Medicaid Reimbursement; Vt. To Post Health Care Rates


English: Depiction of the House vote on H.R. 3...

English: Depiction of the House vote on H.R. 3590 (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) on March 21, 2010, by congressional district. Democratic yea Democratic nay Republican nay No representative seated (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Topics: States, Medicaid, Politics, Health Reform, Insurance, Marketplace, Hospitals, Health Costs, Delivery of Care, Public Health

Apr 01, 2013

The Washington Post: Specialty Hospital Centers Sue D.C. For Reimbursement Of Medicaid Costs
Two facilities that treat severely ill poor patients could be forced to curtail services if the District does not fully reimburse them for Medicaid costs, according to a lawsuit filed this week. In the suit, Specialty Hospital of Washington Capitol Hill and Specialty Hospital of Washington Hadley claim the city has failed to reimburse them $24.7 million over the past four years (Craig, 3/29).

The Texas Tribune/New York Times: Texas Senate Bill Would Revise the State’s End-of-Life Procedure
Texas lawmakers have grappled year after year over whether families or medical professionals should decide when to end a terminally ill patient’s life-sustaining care. This year, they seem closer to a compromise (Aaronson, 3/30).

The Associated Press: Vt. To Be First State To Post Health Care Rates
Vermont is poised to become the first state in the country to let people without health insurance see how much they will have to pay to get coverage through the federal Affordable Care Act next year. On Monday, the state is going to post the proposed rates to be offered through the state’s health insurance marketplace for various levels of coverage (Ring, 4/1).

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Your Health: Virginia Graded “B” On Health Price Transparency
A recent report gave Virginia a grade of B on health care price transparency. What does that mean? The report graded states on whether consumers had access to public information that would allow them to compare prices of health care services. States’ grades were based on whether there were state laws or policies requiring price information to be made available to consumers upon request or disseminated in a report or posted to a public website (4/1).

MPR News: ‘Urgency Center’ Clinic To Open In Blaine
A new facility opening soon in Blaine (Minnesota) will serve people with medical conditions that are not serious enough for an emergency room but still require care unavailable in most medical clinics. The new facility, called an urgency center, will open in partnership with a clinic in Blaine, said Dr. Amy Kolar, the director of the emergency room at North Memorial Hospital, which is opening the center. The urgency center will be ideal for people who break a bone or dislocate a shoulder but do not need to be admitted to a hospital, Kolar said (Williams, 3/31).

MPR News: $50K Grant Targets Overused Medical Tests
The Minnesota Medical Association, the state’s largest doctor group, has received a $50,000 grant to educate physicians and patients about overused medical tests and procedures. The grant, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is one of nearly two dozen awarded to health organizations around the United States. The medical association’s CEO, Dr. Robert Meiches, said that the initiative, called Choosing Wisely, encourages doctors and patients to select care that is supported by evidence; does not duplicate previous tests; and is free from harm (Stawicki, 3/30).

The Associated Press: Gov. Fallin Releases Health Care Documents, Withholds Others
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin’s office refused Friday to release dozens of documents surrounding decisions she made connected to the federal health care law, citing exemptions to the state’s Open Records Act that media experts say do not exist. In response to a request from several media outlets, including The Associated Press, the governor’s office released in digital form more than 50,000 pages of documents relating to the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (3/30).

EdSource: Schools Struggle To Provide Dental Health Safety Net
As California educators grapple with boosting student achievement across economic lines, the teeth of poor children are holding them back. Hundreds of thousands of low-income children suffering from dental disease, some with teeth rotted to the gum line, are presenting California school districts with a widespread public health problem. Increasingly, dental health advocates are looking to school districts to help solve the crisis (Adams, 3/31).

HealthyCal: School Clinics Put Emphasis On Wellness
Just in time for the advent of national health care reform next year, Los Angeles-area schools are opening their first campus-based wellness centers, offering services not just to students and their families, but to entire neighborhoods. On a recent day in Compton, the Dominguez High School Marching Band played and drill team dancers whirled and pranced to celebrate the opening of their new center (Richard, 4/1).

California Healthline: New Survey Offers First Data On Managed Care Shift
A survey released yesterday revealed strengths and weaknesses in the state’s 2011 transition of about 172,000 seniors and persons with disabilities into Medi-Cal managed care plans. Two-thirds of the responding beneficiaries said their care was the same or better than it had been before the transition but the survey raised concerns on several fronts, most notably a lower level of notification and communication, according to Carrie Graham, assistant director of research at Health Research for Action at UC-Berkeley School of Public Health. Health Research for Action conducted the survey in partnership with the California HealthCare Foundation, which publishes California Healthline (Gorn, 3/29).

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.

As Hyperactivity Diagnoses Rise, Concerns Grow About Overmedication Of Children


Topics: Public Health, Quality, Health Disparities

Apr 01, 2013

New CDC data shows that nearly one in five boys have a medical diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Other public health issues highlighted by news outlets include stroke risks in younger people, prescription-drug deaths and OSHA policies.

The New York Times: More Diagnoses Of Hyperactivity In New C.D.C. Data
Nearly one in five high school age boys in the United States and 11 percent of school-age children over all have received a medical diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to new data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These rates reflect a marked rise over the last decade and could fuel growing concern among many doctors that the A.D.H.D. diagnosis and its medication are overused in American children (Schwarz and Cohen, 3/31).

NPR: As Stroke Risk Rises Among Younger Adults, So Does Early Death
Most people (including a lot of doctors) think of a stroke as something that happens to old people. But the rate is increasing among those in their 50s, 40s and even younger (Knox, 4/1).

Los Angeles Times: Prescription Drug-Related Deaths Continue To Rise In U.S.
Despite efforts by law enforcement and public health officials to curb prescription drug abuse, drug-related deaths in the United States have continued to rise, the latest data show. Figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that drug fatalities increased 3% in 2010, the most recent year for which complete data are available. Preliminary data for 2011 indicate the trend has continued (Glover and Girion, 3/29).

The New York Times: As OSHA Emphasizes Safety, Long-Term Health Risks Fester
OSHA, the watchdog agency that many Americans love to hate and industry often faults as overzealous, has largely ignored long-term threats. Partly out of pragmatism, the agency created by President Richard M. Nixon to give greater attention to health issues has largely done the opposite. OSHA devotes most of its budget and attention to responding to here-and-now dangers rather than preventing the silent, slow killers that, in the end, take far more lives. Over the past four decades, the agency has written new standards with exposure limits for 16 of the most deadly workplace hazards, including lead, asbestos and arsenic. But for the tens of thousands of other dangerous substances American workers handle each day, employers are largely left to decide what exposure level is safe (Urbina, 3/30).

English: Percent of Youth 4-17 ever diagnosed ...

English: Percent of Youth 4-17 ever diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: National Survey of Children’s Health, 2003 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

GOP Opposition To Health Law Hurts Efforts To Court Hispanics


Obamacare Protest at Supreme Court

Obamacare Protest at Supreme Court (Photo credit: southerntabitha)

Topics: Health Costs, Insurance, Medicaid, Politics, Health Reform, States

Apr 01, 2013

The Los Angeles Times reports that Latinos, who have the lowest rates of health coverage in the country, are among the strongest supporters of the health law. Meanwhile, AP examines the hard opposition to the overhaul in the South, led by Republican governors representing some of the poorest and least healthy states.

Los Angeles Times: Healthcare An Obstacle As Republicans Court Latinos
As Republican leaders try to woo Latino voters with a new openness to legal status for the nation’s illegal immigrants, the party remains at odds with America‘s fastest-growing ethnic community on another key issue: healthcare. Latinos, who have the lowest rates of health coverage in the country, are among the strongest backers of President Obama’s healthcare law (Levey, 3/31).

The Associated Press: The South: A Near-Solid Block Against ‘Obamacare’
As more Republicans give in to President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul, an opposition bloc remains across the South, including from governors who lead some of the nation’s poorest and unhealthiest states…So why are these states holding out? The short-term calculus seems heavily influenced by politics (Barrow, 3/31).

The Hill: GOP Seeks To Benefit From Sebelius Admission On Healthcare Cost Hikes
Republican campaign officials are claiming new momentum for 2014 after the Obama administration admitted that some consumers could see their health insurance premiums rise under healthcare reform. This week’s surprise concession from federal Health secretary Kathleen Sebelius played into the GOP’s No. 1 message against the Affordable Care Act — that it will raise healthcare costs. The remark triggered a rush of campaign messaging against vulnerable Democrats who supported healthcare reform (Viebeck, 3/31).

Federal Officials Look To Mass Marketing To Sell Health Law


Pete Souza, Official White House Photographer

Pete Souza, Official White House Photographer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Topics: Insurance, Medicaid, Politics, Health Reform, States

Apr 01, 2013

The administration faces a tough challenge to get the public to understand and accept the health law — and, then, to sign up the millions without coverage.

The Associated Press: Can Mass Marketing Heal The Splits On ‘Obamacare’?
How do you convince millions of average Americans that one of the most complex and controversial programs devised by government may actually be a good deal for them? With the nation still split over President Barack Obama’s health care law, the administration has turned to the science of mass marketing for help in understanding the lives of uninsured people, hoping to craft winning pitches for a surprisingly varied group in society (Alonso-Zaldivar, 4/1).

Kaiser Health News: Why Uninsured Might Not Flock To Health Law‘s Marketplaces
With almost one in five of its residents lacking health insurance, officials in Palm Beach County thought they had hit on a smart solution. The county launched a program that offered subsidized coverage to residents who couldn’t afford private insurance, but made too much to qualify for Medicaid, the state-federal program for the poor. Enrollees would be able to buy policies for about $52 a month — far cheaper than what private insurers were offering. But a year after the program began, fewer than 500 people had signed up — less than a third of the number expected (Galewitz, 4/1).

NPR: Three Years On, States Still Struggle With Health Care Law Messaging
It is hard to imagine that after three years of acrimony and debate we could still be so confused about President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. … There are essentially three big pieces to the Affordable Care Act: the insurance reforms (also known as the patients’ bill of rights), quality and cost measures, and the health care mandate. …. For consumers, however, it doesn’t matter if you’re in Texas or California or anywhere else in the country, the law is clear: The uninsured are expected to get coverage by January. Whether those folks will be informed and ready by then is not so clear (Sullivan, 3/30).

The Medicare NewsGroup: Obama’s 2014 Budget Could Mean Significant Change For Medicare
On April 10, President Obama will enter the ongoing 2014 budget battle when the White House releases its budget blueprint, joining Senate Democrats and both parties in the House in a partisan scuffle over the nation’s fiscal future. If it’s anything like what the president put forth last year, the Medicare-related parts of the White House budget will focus on containing costs by reforming the Medicare payment system and reducing fraud and waste while maintaining the Traditional Medicare structure (Adamopoulos, 3/31).

Meanwhile, federal officials released rules Friday reiterating their plans for expanded Medicaid funding under the health law –

Modern Healthcare: CMS Considering Waivers For Private Coverage Medicaid Alternative
The Obama administration is showing willingness to let some states steer new Medicaid funding to private coverage in the new individual insurance marketplaces in order meet the coverage goals of the healthcare reform law. The CMS will consider granting a “limited number” of state waivers for demonstration that test what happens when states give Medicaid enrollees the option of taking a subsidy to buy a private plan, according to new guidance issued Friday (Blesch, 3/31).

Bloomberg: Some U.S. States Can Shift Medicaid Funds To Exchanges
Low-income people may get Medicaid money to buy health insurance from private plans such as UnitedHealth Group Inc. (UNH) or Humana Inc. (HUM) in a “limited number” of states, U.S. officials said. Arkansas and Ohio have asked President Barack Obama’s administration to allow them to adjust how Medicaid dollars are used (Wayne, 3/30).

The Hill: Obama Administration Finalizes Key Affordable Care Act Rule
The federal government will reimburse states for 100 percent of the costs for some newly eligible Medicaid patients, under new regulations finalized Friday as part of the Obama administration’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The healthcare law authorizes states to expand Medicaid to adults under 65 with incomes up to 135 percent of the federal poverty level — roughly $15,000 for a single adult in 2012 (Goad, 3/29).

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.

No Rate Shock Seen In Proposed 2014 Premiums In Vermont


English: Barack Obama speech "Fighting fo...

English: Barack Obama speech “Fighting for Health Insurance Reform” delivered 8 March 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Phil Galewitz

April 1st, 2013, 12:55 PM

After years of anticipation, Vermont became the first state Monday to publish proposed 2014 individual health insurance rates under the federal health law. Despite Republican and insurers’ predictions, there was no “rate shock” in the new premiums, according to the Vermont governor’s office and insurance representatives.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont and MVP Health Care submitted plans with monthly premiums that range from an average of $265 for catastrophic coverage for young adults to $609 for platinum coverage, which has the lowest cost-sharing among four categories of plans.

“We think this is a positive development for folks who were worried about what rates would look like in 2014,” said Kevin Goddard, spokesman for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont, which is the state’s dominant commercial carrier, controlling about two-thirds of the market. He confirmed rates are similar to what the company now offers.

“These rates are comparable to what’s on the market today and that’s good news,” said Robin Lunge, director of health reform in the Vermont governor’s office. She said it’s difficult to do an apples-to-apples comparison because of the many benefit changes required under President Barack Obama’s health overhaul.  These changes, which take effect Jan. 1, include an end to annual lifetime limits in policies and a prohibition on denying coverage to people with medical problems.

Vermont may not be the best barometer of the impact of the heath overhaul on premiums, however,  because the state already prohibits insurers from using health status to determine an individual’s premiums. It is one of only seven states in the country which have so-called community rating regulations.

Vermont also requires prices to be the same regardless of person’s age. Two of the health law’s biggest changes include prohibiting insurers from using health status to determine premiums and prohibiting insurers from charging older people more than three times the rates of younger people.

Insurance industry predictions of rate shock are more likely in the majority of states that currently allow insurers to set premiums based on an individual’s health status, Goddard said.

Starting Oct. 1, individual and small group coverage in the state will be sold on a new online health insurance marketplace as required under the Affordable Care Act. Health insurers nationwide have just begun submitting their pricing and benefit information to states and the federal government for policies which will be sold in the marketplaces, or exchanges. Most people who buy on the new marketplaces are expected to be eligible for government subsidies.

Vermont insurance regulators still must approve the insurers’ proposed rates. In January 2013, the state approved about a 10 percent rate increase on the individual market after carriers asked for about a 13 percent increase, Lunge said.

All the health plans in the new marketplaces are standardized into platinum, gold, silver and bronze categories depending on their actuarial value so consumers have an easier time comparing.

The Vermont 2014 annual premiums for bronze plans range from $4,200 to $4,440, compared to a Congressional Budget Office estimate of $4,500 for an individual, according to Carolyn Pearson of consulting firm Avalere Health.

Mary Eversole, executive director of the Vermont Insurance Agents Association, said she was surprised the rate increases were not higher. At first blush, she said the 2014 proposed rates appear to be about 10 percent higher than this year. Premiums for the gold and platinum  policies appear lower than similar products, but silver and bronze policies are higher.

Officials from MVP were not available for immediate comment.

North Dakota Governor Signs Nation’s Most Restrictive Abortion Law


English: Lynn Frazier, US Senator from North D...

English: Lynn Frazier, US Senator from North Dakota and Governor of that state (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Topics: States, Politics, Women’s Health

Mar 27, 2013

Gov. Jack Dalrymple, a Republican, signed three anti-abortion bills Tuesday, one of which bans abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detectable, which could be as early as six weeks into pregnancy.

The New York Times: New Laws Ban Most Abortions In North Dakota
Gov. Jack Dalrymple of North Dakota approved the nation’s toughest abortion restrictions on Tuesday, signing into law a measure that would ban nearly all abortions and inviting a legal showdown over just how much states can limit access to the procedure (Eligon and Eckholm, 3/26).

Reuters: North Dakota Governor Signs ‘Heartbeat’ Abortion Ban
North Dakota on Tuesday adopted the most restrictive abortion law in the United States, as the governor signed a bill that bans the procedure in most cases once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, as early as six weeks. Supporters of abortion rights said they would challenge the measure in court (Thompson, 3/26).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: North Dakota GOP Governor Signs Bill Banning Most Abortions As Early As 6 Weeks Into Pregnancy
The Republican governor signed three anti-abortion measures on Tuesday — including one banning abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, or when a heartbeat can be detected. By doing so, Dalrymple positioned his oil-rich state as a primary battleground in the decades-old fight over abortion rights (3/27).

The Wall Street Journal: North Dakota Adopts Strict Abortion Law
The law, which prohibits an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, is expected to face a court challenge from abortion-rights advocates who say it conflicts with U.S. Supreme Court rulings. Gov. Jack Dalrymple, a Republican, said it is unclear whether the law would survive a court challenge, but that it stands as “a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries” of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s 40-year-old abortion rights ruling (Peters, 3/26).

Politico: Activists Push Abortion Issue Forward
Anti-abortion activists are pushing earlier and earlier bans on abortion, with at least one state outlawing the procedure at the first sign of a detectable heartbeat. Arkansas’s new law limits most abortions at 12 weeks, and a North Dakota law signed by the governor Tuesday bans most after six weeks (Smith, 3/26).

CNN: North Dakota Governor Signs Law Banning Most Abortions
What is being called the nation’s toughest anti-abortion measure — a law that bans most abortions after six weeks, when a fetal heartbeat can be first detected — was signed into law on Tuesday by North Dakota’s governor. The law sets the stage for an almost guaranteed legal showdown, with proponents saying the law is intended to test the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made abortion legal. … The governor directed the legislature to set aside funds to cover the cost of the expected legal battle, which opponents vowed to mount if the governor signed the measure into law (Carter and Hassan, 3/27).

Meanwhile, in other states —

Georgia Health News: Senate Limits Abortion Coverage In State Health Plan
A bill that would allow the Georgia World Congress Center Authority to provide its own insurance plan added a surprise amendment Monday that would restrict abortion coverage for state employees. The amended legislation passed on a 34-15 vote in the Republican-dominated Senate. It would bar coverage for abortion in the 650,000-plus-member State Health Benefit Plan. The only exception would be for situations in which the life of the mother is in danger or it’s needed “due to the mother’s medical necessity.” The bill still must be reconciled with the House version of the legislation, which does not address abortion. The Georgia World Congress Center recently left the state health plan, which covers teachers, other school personnel and state employees, along with dependents and retirees (Miller, 3/26).

Los Angeles Times: Following In Dr. George Tiller’s Footsteps
The [Wichita, Kan.] clinic had been closed for nearly four years. Two weeks before the clinic’s reopening, Burkhart pushes open the silver double doors to the empty surgical room. Her pace slows. A sadness flickers across her eyes. This room has been a symbol for decades of a fierce national fight over abortion, and that battle is about to return to her city, her doorstep. But then, just as quickly, she shakes it off. The political activist in her takes over. There is work to be done (Deam, 3/26).