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Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

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Political Cartoon: 'Wouldn't Want To Be Ya?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Wouldn't Want To Be Ya?'" by Chris Browne.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

STATUS UPDATE

Hey, hey LBJ!
How many insured today?
More than sixty mil.

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Health Law Issues And Implementation

More Competition, Less Inflation: Cost Of Insurance Curbed On Exchanges With More Consumer Choice

A new report finds that more people who enrolled in health insurance on the federally run marketplaces in 2015 had a greater number of plans to pick from than the previous year. That increased competition helped keep down premium increases.

The New York Times: Increased Competition Kept Lid On Health Insurance Inflation, U.S. Says
The Obama administration said on Thursday that many consumers were benefiting from increased competition among insurers under the Affordable Care Act. Most people who bought insurance through the federal marketplace had a greater choice of health plans this year than in 2014, the administration said, and premiums rose less in counties where more insurers were competing for business. (Pear, 7/30)

The Washington Post: HHS: More Competition On Insurance Exchanges Curbed Premium Rise
Most Americans who signed up for coverage on the federally run health insurance marketplaces had more choice of health plans in 2015 compared with the previous year, and the increased competition helped hold down the growth in premiums, according to a report released Thursday by federal officials. In 2015, 86 percent of consumers could choose from plans offered by at least three insurers, up from 70 percent in 2014. Premiums increased an average of just 2 percent for one of the most popular types of plans between 2014 and 2015. (Sun, 7/30)

USA Today: Report: Competition On ACA Federal Exchange Rose Between 2014 And 2015
Competition among insurers offering plans on the federal health care exchange rose between last year and this year, tamping down growth in premiums, says a federal report released Thursday. Meena Seshamani, director of the Office of Health Reform in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, calls that good news. "We want to promote competition and choice for consumers," she says. (Ungar, 7/30)

CQ Healthbeat: HHS: Cost Of Health Law Coverage Fell With More Competition
Increased competition among insurers vying for customers on the health law’s insurance exchanges helped drive down premiums in 2015, the Health and Human Services Department said in a report Thursday. During the 2015 open enrollment period, 86 percent of consumers shopping on the exchanges established by the overhaul could choose from at least three issuers, up from 70 percent in 2014, according to the report on competition and choice. (Zanona, 7/30)

Republican Governors Press Medicaid Expansion Proposals, Despite Continued Opposition In Party

In states like Utah, Wyoming and Georgia, Republican governors are still trying to find a path forward to broadening the health care program for the poor. Virginia's governor, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, is bracing for another round with his Republican-majority legislature which has previously blocked such efforts.

Bloomberg: Republican Governors Buck Party Tenets To Seek Expanded Medicaid
Republican governors are pressing forward to expand Medicaid even after being stymied by lawmakers in their own party. As the Obama administration vows to help develop plans that will pass muster with conservatives, the governors of Utah and Wyoming said they still want the health care program for the poor broadened. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, who declined to act in 2013, may seek a federal waiver to make insurance available to more residents. Louisiana's Republican legislature also opened a legal door. (Niquette and Newkirk, 7/30)

The Associated Press: McAuliffe Set For Renewed Push For Medicaid Expansion
Virginia Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe says he'll make a renewed push to expand Medicaid now that Republican primaries are over and the U.S. Supreme Court recently issued a decision upholding the Affordable Care Act. McAuliffe said Thursday in a conference call with reporters that the Republican lawmakers who have previously blocked Medicaid expansion will be more open to compromise during next year's legislative session. (Suderman, 7/30)

In Arizona, a court case could impact a funding source for the state's Medicaid expansion -

The Associated Press: Judge Mulls Challenge To Arizona Medicaid Plan Hospital Fee
A lawyer representing 36 Republican lawmakers told a judge Thursday that keeping a hospital assessment in effect to help fund the state's Medicaid expansion would gut a voter-approved law requiring a two-thirds vote for tax increases. Christine Sandefur, of the Goldwater Institute, urged Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Douglas Gerlach to rule that the hospital assessment that became law in 2013 was unconstitutional because it passed with only a bare majority. A 1998 constitutional amendment called Proposition 108 requires tax increases to be passed by a supermajority. "The voters passed Prop 108 specifically to have it apply across the board, even in emergency situations, even programs for the poor," Sandefur told Gerlach. "And to exempt the provider tax here really creates a serious loophole. It leads the court to read two provisions contrary to each other and allows the Legislature to give ultimate discretion to an unelected, appointed administrator." (Christie, 7/30)

The Arizona Republic: Key Question In Arizona Medicaid Fight: Is Fee A Tax?
When is a fee a tax? That question is at the heart of a case argued Thursday in Maricopa County Superior Court that will ultimately land before the state Supreme Court and could profoundly influence state policy. Depending on the outcome, it could also put the health coverage of nearly 350,000 Arizonans in peril. (Pitzl, 7/30)

Health Law Takes Bite Out Of California's Uninsured Population, Survey Finds

The Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that more than two-thirds of Californians who didn't have health insurance before the Affordable Care Act have since gained coverage. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Foundation.)

Los Angeles Times: Two-Thirds Of Uninsured Californians Gain Coverage After Obamacare Rollout
More than two-thirds of Californians uninsured before the Affordable Care Act now have coverage, a new report finds. “For people that didn’t have health insurance, California has been very successful in enrolling two-thirds of that group,” said Mollyann Brodie, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, which released the survey's findings Thursday. “But the group that is left is a harder-to-reach group.” (Karlamangla, 7/30)

San Francisco Chronicle: Two-Thirds Of State’s Uninsured Before Health Law Are Now Covered
Two-thirds of Californians who were uninsured before the Affordable Care Act went into effect now have health coverage, according to a study released Thursday. The nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation has followed more than 1,100 Californians who lacked health insurance as of September 2013 through the first two coverage enrollment periods, the latest of which ended in February. (Colliver, 7/30)

Capitol Hill Watch

Senate Could Vote As Soon As Monday On Bill To Defund Planned Parenthood

The continuing controversy over the organization's involvement in fetal tissue research and the release of covert videos by anti-abortion activists is stirring abortion-related politics on Capitol Hill. News outlets report that the backlash could lead to threats of a government shutdown and a presidential veto.

The New York Times: Taking Aim At Planned Parenthood, Conservatives Use Familiar Tactic
The vow by ardently conservative Republicans to reject any spending bill that does not cut off federal funds for Planned Parenthood is their latest attempt to force through policies by threatening to shut down the government. It is a tactic they employed after taking control of the House in 2011, when the government was nearly shuttered in a fight over money for abortions, and one they used again in 2013, when they tried to compel significant rollbacks to the Affordable Care Act, leading to a costly shutdown. (Steinhauer, 7/30)

Politico: GOP Support Grows For Hardline Planned Parenthood Strategy
Republicans are rallying behind a bare-knuckle strategy to strip Planned Parenthood’s government support via a must-pass fall spending bill, a momentum shift that dramatically increases the chances of a government shutdown fight this fall. What started out as a push from socially conservative firebrands like Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and 18 House members on Wednesday, is spreading to include more centrist members of the Senate GOP. On Thursday, Arizona Republican John McCain, who often tacks to the middle in the Senate, not only backed a plan to link Planned Parenthood defunding with spending legislation, he suggested the move was inevitable. (Everett and Haberkorn, 7/30)

USA Today: Family Planning Budgets In Crisis Before Planned Parenthood Controversy
Abortion opponents, outraged by a series of hidden-camera videos that depict Planned Parenthood employees discussing fetal tissue donation, have called for Congress to investigate Planned Parenthood and strip the organization of the more than $500 million in federal funding it receives each year. But the controversy over federal funding for Planned Parenthood surfaced long before the videos emerged. The group's critics in Congress, in an attempt to block any taxpayer money from going to Planned Parenthood, have sought for years to eliminate a federal family planning program. (Szabo and Ungar, 7/31)

Politico: Pelosi: Dems 'Overwhelmingly' Against Defunding Planned Parenthood
House Democrats will “overwhelmingly” oppose any government spending bill that defunds Planned Parenthood, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday. The California Democrat’s comments add to the risk that the government will shut down in October if Congress is unable to pass a stopgap measure because of objections from GOP lawmakers to Planned Parenthood’s federal funding. (French,7/30)

Reuters: White House Says Would Oppose Congress Defunding Planned Parenthood
The White House said on Thursday that U.S. President Barack Obama would oppose any efforts by Congress to divert money from Planned Parenthood, a health organization that performs abortions at its clinics. Republicans in Congress have threatened to pull $500 million in federal funding a year from Planned Parenthood after a group that opposes abortions released videos that suggest the organization profits from supplying aborted fetal tissue for medical research. (Edwards and Rampton, 7/30)

And a fourth video has been released -

The Chicago Sun-Times: Anti-Abortion Group Releases Fourth Planned Parenthood Video
The Center for Medical Progress has released a fourth surreptitiously filmed video of Planned Parenthood doctors discussing payment for fetal tissue Thursday. The video from the anti-abortion group — which some may find to be graphic — shows two people posing as fetal tissue buyers talking to a woman identified as Savita Ginde, medical director of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. The faux buyers and Ginde discuss how to pay for fetal tissue without giving off a look of impropriety by classifying the exchange “in the research vein” instead of as a “business venture.” (Sutton, 7/30)

Politico: Fourth Video On Planned Parenthood Released
Opponents of Planned Parenthood on Thursday released the fourth in their series of undercover videos against the organization, this time with recordings of a doctor discussing how to avoid the perception of “selling fetal parts across states.” (Haberkorn, 7/30)

Meanwhile, in Indiana -

The Associated Press: Indiana Clears Planned Parenthood Of Wrongdoing After Videos
Indiana on Thursday cleared Planned Parenthood facilities that perform abortions in the state of any wrongdoing in the handling of fetal tissue. Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, on July 16 ordered an investigation of Planned Parenthood facilities in Indianapolis, Bloomington and Merrillville to see if organs from aborted fetuses were being sold. He was among a number of conservative lawmakers around the country who have called for investigations after an anti-abortion group circulated a video it made secretly showing some of its national officials discussing how they obtain organs from aborted fetuses for research. Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest provider of abortions, has said its donations of fetal tissue for research are legal. (7/30)

VA Clinics Get $3 Billion In Highway Bill

The Department of Veteran Affairs warned that some VA hospitals would have to close next month if they don't get the additional funding. President Barack Obama is likely to sign the bill.

CQ Healthbeat: Veterans Budget Patch Cleared In Highway Bill
The Senate cleared legislation freeing up money for the Veterans Affairs Department's medical services, likely averting a shutdown of VA hospitals the department had warned would start next month without flexibility to cover a multi-billion dollar budget shortfall. Senators approved the transfer of VA funds as part of a three-month extension of highway programs (HR 3236) by a 91-4 vote, one day after the House overwhelmingly passed the hybrid transportation and veterans measure. The legislation now heads to the White House, where it is likely to be signed by the president. (O'Brien, 7/30)

Marketplace

Cigna's 2Q Profits Exceed Expectations Ahead Of Anthem Sale

In other marketplace news, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield says its program tying doctor and hospital payments to improvement in patient care is saving money. And Assurant Health reported a $124 million net loss in the second quarter of this year as the insurer continues to wind down operations.

Reuters: Health Insurer Cigna Says Second-Quarter Medical Costs Stay Low; Profit Beats
Health insurer Cigna Corp, which agreed last week to be bought by Anthem Inc for $47 billion, said on Thursday that medical services use was low in the second quarter, helping to keep costs in check and beat Wall Street profit estimates. Cigna's report of a continued low utilization trend backs up a growing industry view of this closely watched component of insurer profitability. Anthem made similar comments on Wednesday, when it reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings. (Humer, 7/30)

The Wall Street Journal: Cigna Profit Tops Expectations
Cigna Corp., which last week agreed to sell itself to Anthem Inc. for $48 billion, logged better-than-expected profit in its second quarter amid medical cost management and customer growth. The Bloomfield, Conn., insurer said it had 14.77 million total medical customers at the end of the quarter, compared with 14.25 million a year earlier and 14.65 million in the previous quarter. (Dulaney, 7/30)

Reuters: CareFirst Doubles Cost Savings By Sharing Rewards With U.S. Doctors
Insurer CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield said on Thursday its cost savings on providing healthcare rose sharply last year in a program that rewards U.S. doctors for keeping patients out of the hospital. The non-profit health insurer emphasizes coordination among providers, led by a patient's primary care physician. The model is part of an industry trend to pay more to doctors and hospitals who show measurable improvement in patient care. President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law has helped fuel adoption of these arrangements. (Kelly, 7/30)

Modern Healthcare: Assurant Health Faces Costs, Fines As It Shuts Down
Assurant Health absorbed a $124 million net loss in the second quarter this year as the financially troubled health insurer continues to wind down its operations. The Milwaukee-based company, which will shut down by the end of 2016, also had to settle a complaint in Montana that it illegally charged sicker enrollees more than healthier ones. The $124 million loss in the second quarter means Assurant Health, which has about 1 million members, lost about $272 million in the past 18 months. A significant portion of the second-quarter deficit, about $107 million, was tied to a lack of premium revenue to cover medical costs and other “exit-related charges,” Assurant said. (Herman, 7/30)

Medical Device Maker Agrees To $13.5M Settlement Over False Claim Allegations

NuVasive was accused of promoting a spine surgery device for uses the Food and Drug Administration did not approve. In other news, medical device profits rise, and a lawsuit accuses CVS of overcharging for generic drugs.

The Associated Press: Medical Device Manufacturer Agrees To $13.5M Settlement
Federal prosecutors say a medical device manufacturer has agreed to pay the U.S. $13.5 million over allegations of false claims for the company's devices. Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in a news release Thursday that California-based NuVasive Inc. agreed this week to the settlement, which also resolves allegations that the company paid kickbacks to physicians to use its devices. (7/30)

Reuters: NuVasive Inc Agrees To Pay $13.5M To Resolve False Claims Probe
California-based medical device manufacturer NuVasive Inc. has agreed to pay $13.5 million to resolve allegations that it caused healthcare providers to submit false claims to Medicare and other federal health programs for spine surgeries, the Justice Department said on Thursday. The company had marketed its CoRoent System to the providers for surgical uses that were not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the department said. NuVasive also paid kickbacks to physicians for using the CoRoent System, the department said. (Dunsmuir, 7/30)

The Hill: GAO: Medical Device Profits Increasing
Medical device companies have seen their profits continue to increase, even after a new tax from ObamaCare, according to a federal watchdog. The Government Accountability Office looked at 102 medical device companies, and found a roughly 44 percent increase in profits from 2005 to 2014 – from $11.4 billion to $16.5 billion. (Becker, 7/30)

The Associated Press: Lawsuit Accuses CVS Of Overcharging For Generic Drugs
CVS deliberately overcharged some pharmacy customers for generic drugs by submitting claims to their insurance companies at inflated prices, according to a lawsuit filed on Thursday in federal court in San Francisco. The suit says those inflated prices led to higher co-pays for customers that exceeded what they would have paid for the drugs if they had no insurance and participated in a CVS discount program. (Thanawala, 7/30)

Medicare

Obama Marks Medicare's Big 5-0

In observing the fiftieth anniversary of Medicare, President Barack Obama said more should be done in the United States to build on this landmark program -- as well as the Affordable Care Act -- and expand health coverage for all Americans. Meanwhile, news outlets examine various notable Medicare policy points.

USA Today: Obama Marks 50th Anniversary Of Medicare, Medicaid
President Obama marked the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid Thursday by saying the U.S. should do more to expand and improve health care for all Americans, including the law he signed in 2010. "We must recognize that this work, though begun a half-century ago and continued over the decades that have followed, is not yet complete," Obama said in a proclamation. "For too many, quality, affordable health care is still out of reach -- and we must recommit to finishing this important task." (Jackson, 7/30)

USA Today: Medicare Turns 50 But Americans Still Have A Lot To Learn
Medicare, the landmark health insurance program for those 65 and older, turned 50 on Thursday. Some 55.2 million Americans are enrolled in the program and 91% of them, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released this month, say their experiences with the insurance have been positive. But anecdotal evidence suggests that many are nonetheless perplexed by what it does — and doesn't — provide. (Jones, 7/30)

Kaiser Health News: Meet The California Family That Has Made Health Policy Its Business
If there’s such a thing as the first family of health care, the Lees may be it. Five decades ago, two brothers helped start Medicare. Their father inspired them and they, in turn, have inspired the next generation. To mark the anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson signing Medicare into law on July 30, 1965, three Lees sat down to reflect on the U.S. health care system." It can be hard now to imagine a time when Medicare met serious opposition. But 92-year-old Dr. Peter Lee, a founder of the family medicine department at the University of Southern California, remembers that time well. (O'Neill, 7/30)

Campaign 2016

Sanders Advocates Single-Payer System As He Celebrates Medicare's Anniversary

The Democratic presidential hopeful reiterated his support for a single-payer health care system and promised to introduce "Medicare-for-all" legislation in the near future.

The Hill: Sanders Plots Another Universal Health Care Push
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Thursday that he will introduce a single-payer, Medicare-for-all bill “in the very near future.” The presidential candidate spoke at a rally in a park across the street from the Capitol, in front of cheering union members celebrating the 50th anniversary of Medicare. He pushed for a universal system, in which the government provides health insurance for all. (Sullivan, 7/30)

Quality

Who Sets The Price Of Your Health Care?

Minnesota Public Radio talks with an expert to unravel who sets prices and how. In the meantime, everyone involved in the health care sector is busy trying to figure out how best to measure quality in the system.

Politico Pro: Health Care Tries To Solve The ‘Quality’ Riddle
There’s emerging agreement among government officials, providers, insurers and academics that the growing demand for providers to report quality measures — which now number in the thousands across Medicare, Medicaid, private payers and other government programs — is making it harder, not easier, to tell whether patients are actually receiving better care. (Mershon, 7/30)

Administration News

Hospitals Get Behind Bill Notifying Patients About Medicare 'Observation Care'

In the meantime, a rift between advocates and insurers and states opens over a Medicaid managed-care rule on long-term care, and the Justice Department hires a compliance expert to more closely monitor health care fraud.

Modern Healthcare: Providers Back Bill Notifying Medicare About Observation Stays
Healthcare providers are expressing support for legislation overwhelmingly approved by Congress requiring hospitals to notify Medicare patients when they are receiving observation care but have not been admitted. The bill is a partial response to the problem of beneficiaries facing sticker shock when they go to a skilled nursing or rehab facility after leaving the hospital and finding that Medicare won't cover the tab. That's because to qualify for skilled-nursing facility coverage, beneficiaries must first spend three consecutive midnights as an admitted patient in a hospital; observation days don't count. Another common issue is beneficiaries facing unexpected Medicare Part B co-pays for drugs received during hospital care, since they were never actually admitted into the hospital and the drugs therefore are not covered under Part A. (Dickson, 7/30)

Modern Healthcare: Advocates Split With Health Plans, States Over Medicaid Long-Term Care Rules
Patient advocates are praising a section of the CMS' proposed Medicaid managed-care rule related to long-term care. But health plans and states are sharply critical of provisions imposing new credentialing requirements on long-term care providers and allowing beneficiaries to opt out of managed care if their provider is not in a health plan's network. The CMS included in the proposed rules a provision requested by patient advocates that allows beneficiaries enrolled in managed long-term care services and supports to switch plans or switch to fee-for-service Medicaid if their provider is out of network. Health plans blasted that provision. (Dickson, 7/30)

Reuters: U.S. Justice Department Hiring Compliance Expert
The U.S. Department of Justice is in the process of hiring a compliance expert to help evaluate whether to charge corporations that fail to detect and prevent wrongdoing by employees, a top department official said on Thursday. Weissman said the fraud section will increasingly focus on compliance in health care, noting that companies need the tools to spot illegal transactions such as Medicaid referral payments disguised to get around anti-kickback statutes. (Freifeld, 7/30)

Public Health And Education

Feds Update Strategy, Set New Goals In Fight Against AIDS

The plan, which President Barack Obama spoke about Thursday, sets the year 2020 as a goal to slash the HIV/AIDS death rate by one-third. Elsewhere, slightly more teens are getting HPV vaccinations, including those in families with lower incomes.

The Associated Press: Feds Release Updated Strategy Against AIDS In America
U.S. health officials have updated their strategic plan for fighting AIDS, setting new goals for reducing infections and deaths. The new document "seizes on the rapid shifts in science as we've learned more about this disease," said President Barack Obama, in a statement. The plan unveiled Thursday updates one issued five years ago. Developments since then include new diagnostic tests, a daily pill for infection prevention and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act — increasing the number of people with health insurance. (Stobbe, 7/30)

Reuters: HPV Vaccinations For U.S. Teens Rise Slightly - CDC
The percentage of U.S. teenagers vaccinated against the human papillomavirus increased slightly in 2014, but the rate lags behind other immunizations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday. The HPV vaccine, sold as Gardasil by Merck & Co and Cervarix by GlaxoSmithKline, protects against the most common sexually transmitted infection. Each year, 27,000 people nationwide are diagnosed with a cancer caused by the virus, including cancers of the cervix, penis, anus and throat. (Gumpert, 7/30)

NPR: Low-Income Teens Are Better At Getting The HPV Vaccine
When it comes to getting the HPV vaccine to protect against cervical cancer, teens below the poverty line are doing better than the rest. Among teenage girls ages 13 to 17 whose total family income was less than the federal poverty level for their family size, 67.2 percent have received the first dose of the human papillomavirus vaccine, compared to 57.7 percent for those at or above the poverty line. For teen boys, it's 51.6 percent compared to 39.5 percent. (Yang, 7/30)

State Watch

State Highlights: St. Louis Health System Disrupted By Computer Outage; Iowa Advocates Push State To Keep Mental Health Hospitals Open

Health care stories are reported from Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Florida, California and Illinois.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch: St. Louis Area Health System Endures 20-Hour Computer Outage
An executive with the St. Louis area's biggest hospital provider say the network is rebounding from a 20-hour computer outage that disrupted its operations system-wide. BJC HealthCare's executive vice president, Rich LIekweg, tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the system lost computer services from 3 p.m. Tuesday to about 11 a.m. Wednesday. It blocked functions that included email, electronic medical records, registration and scheduling systems at all of BJC's 13 hospitals. Those sites included St. Louis' Barnes-Jewish Hospital, which on Wednesday also had to deal with a water main break that flooded a nearby street and forced about 130 patients to be moved to different rooms. (Liss, 7/30)

The Des Moines Register: Advocates: Keep Remaining Iowa Mental Health Hospitals Open
Advocates delivered a petition with more than 5,100 signatures to Gov. Terry Branstad’s office Thursday, urging him to keep the two remaining state mental health hospitals open. Aubreeanna Dolan, a West Des Moines resident, started the petition on MoveOn.org after Branstad suggested earlier in July he’s open to closing the mental hospitals in Independence and Cherokee. Branstad this year shuttered state-run hospitals in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda, a move that sparked a lawsuit from Democratic legislators and the state’s largest public employees union. (Rodgers, 7/30)

The Associated Press: New State Budget Comes With Higher Costs For MinnesotaCare
Minnesota lawmakers kept MinnesotaCare intact but not without a cost that will trickle down to some of the more than 100,000 low-income residents on the program in the form of higher monthly premiums starting in August. The increases kicking in Saturday vary based on income, and those making less than 150 percent of federal poverty level — roughly $17,600 for a single adult — will escape the increases altogether. But others will see bill increases from as low as an extra $8 a month to as much as an additional $30, according to a letter from the Department of Human Services sent to lawmakers earlier this month. (Potter, 7/30)

Health News Florida: Miami Activists Push For Needle Exchange Program To Fight Region's Growing HIV Rate
For the past three years, public health activists have been trying to convince Florida lawmakers to support a needle-exchange program to fight the HIV epidemic in South Florida, and for the past three years they’ve been turned down. One Miami activist refuses to wait for lawmakers. George Gibson is an ordained minister. Nearly everyone calls him Elder as in a church elder. He says his needle-exchange program is related to his religious work. (Hinton, 7/30)

McClatchy: Audit Cites California VA Hospital’s ‘Confusion’ In Patient’s Death
An erroneous wristband placed on a 65-year-old Vietnam veteran caused a “delay in life-saving intervention” at the Mather VA facility in Sacramento, federal investigators say in a new report prompted by the patient’s death under questionable circumstances last October. The wristband incorrectly identified patient Roland Mayo as having given a “Do Not Resuscitate” order, also known as a DNR. (Doyle, 7/30)

The Chicago Tribune: United Healthcare Offers Savings For Shopping Healthy At The Grocery
When Terry Frett goes to Pick 'n Save in suburban Milwaukee for his weekly groceries, he gives the cashier his loyalty card to take advantage of in-store discounts. He then pulls out another card that can cut his grocery bill by an extra $10 to $15. The second card, for a program called Healthy Savings, is an unusual perk offered by UnitedHealthcare. Starting in August, the insurer will begin offering the same benefit to some Chicago-area participants. (Sachdev, 7/30)

Editorials And Opinions

Viewpoints: Examining Medicare And Medicaid At 50; The Push To Defund Planned Parenthood And The Abortion Debate

A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.

Los Angeles Times: Medicare And Medicaid At 50: Successful, Expensive
In the 50 years since they were signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson, Medicare and Medicaid have grown into health insurance behemoths, covering one-third of all Americans and accounting for $4 of every $10 spent on healthcare here. Widely supported by beneficiaries, the programs have been dramatically successful on many fronts: Medicare has extended health insurance to nearly all the elderly, and Medicaid provides vital prenatal and maternity care for almost half of U.S. births. Both programs have helped narrow the healthcare gap between rich and poor, and between whites and minorities. But the programs' size is also their biggest challenge. (7/30)

The Wall Street Journal: Democrats Roll Out ‘Mediscare’ Again
This week marks the 50th anniversary of Medicare. Democrats celebrated by dusting off their traditional “Mediscare” tactic for the presidential-campaign season. The first GOP debate hasn’t even taken place, but one of the Republican candidates is already under attack on Medicare. In New Hampshire on July 22, Jeb Bush said he wanted to “phase out” traditional Medicare to build a more efficient, market-based system, focused on patients. It didn’t take long for Democrats to pounce. MSNBC and the liberal blogs sensationalized the comment. The Democratic National Committee’s press secretary, Holly Shulman, claimed that under a Bush presidency working Americans “won’t have the same health benefits that seniors rely on.” (Tevi Troy, 7/30)

NJ Spotlight: Half A Century After Its Inception, What Can Medicaid Teach Us?
What Medicaid is beginning to discover, much of the world has already learned: Health is complex and encompasses more than just medicine Today, we honor an innovator. She has transformed the American healthcare delivery system in many states, especially for our most vulnerable citizens. She has mitigated healthcare disparities and promoted gender equality. In part, because of her, we are coming to embrace a new idea that all Americans are entitled to basic health insurance. She has saved and improved millions of lives. She, of course, is Medicaid. And today she turns 50. (Cantor, Brenner and Rozario, 7/30)

The Washington Post's Plum Line: Morning Plum: GOP Push To Defund Planned Parenthood Heats Up
Amid the furor over the undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue prices, the battle is intensifying in the Senate over the Republican push to defund the organization. Democrats charge that the GOP campaign would defund women’s health services more broadly. Republicans claim the money would be re-distributed to other groups that provide such services. (Greg Sargent, 7/30)

The Detroit Free Press: What The Push To Defund Planned Parenthood Is Really About
For 80 years Planned Parenthood has offered basic reproductive health care, information about family planning and contraception to women who had no other options. But because a small percentage of Planned Parenthood’s business involves terminating pregnancies — without using federal dollars, a fact that’s often misreported — it’s become a lightning rod for some social conservatives, who simply cannot stand that anyone, anywhere, provides abortion services. So it’s the frequent target of campaigns in and out of the U.S. Congress to strip its funding; the organization receives about $500 million a year in state and federal dollars. Its foes are seemingly insensible, were they successful, to the health-care disaster they’d inflict on American women. (7/30)

USA Today: Brutal Abortion Reality Key To Debate: Column
A third undercover video of activity within Planned Parenthood related to financial transactions between the non-profit group and potential buyers of baby body parts became public this week. In it, a former "procurement" worker discusses how she was shown the body parts Planned Parenthood was making available. And the viewer also sees these body parts. (Frank Pavone, 7/30)

Los Angeles Times: Outraged Over Cecil The Lion? It May Help You Understand The Rage Over Planned Parenthood
This week brought with it a strange convergence. The story of surreptitious Planned Parenthood videos that appeared to show a doctor haggling with potential buyers over prices for fetal body parts and the story of an American dentist killing Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe collided in an Internet frenzy of charges and countercharges over moral priorities. Animal rights activists and anti-abortion advocates started criticizing each other for their misplaced outrage on social media. Then the debate moved onto a wider media stage. (Charles Camosy, 7/30)

Los Angeles Times: Anthem's Good Intentions Get Lost In Aggressive Telemarketing
Joseph Goldstein received a call the other day at his West Los Angeles home from someone claiming to represent his insurer, Anthem Blue Cross. The caller said he knew that one of Goldstein's family members had been seriously injured in a fall and wanted to make sure that Goldstein knew about Anthem's wellness and home-care programs. (David Lazarus, 7/31)

The New York Times' The Conscience Of A Liberal: Dentists And Skin In The Game
Wonkblog has a post inspired by the dentist who paid a lot of money to shoot Cecil the lion, asking why he — and dentists in general — make so much money. Interesting stuff; I’ve never really thought about the economics of dental care. But once you do focus on that issue, it turns out to have an important implication — namely, that the ruling theory behind conservative notions of health reform is completely wrong. (Paul Krugman, 7/30)

Los Angeles Times: How The American Psychological Assn. Lost Its Way
The American Psychological Assn. is in crisis. Last December, a Senate Intelligence Committee report laid bare the extensive involvement of individual psychologists in the CIA's black-site torture program. Then, in early July, a devastating independent report by a former federal prosecutor determined that more than a decade ago APA leaders — including the director of ethics — began working secretly with military representatives. Together they crafted deceptively permissive ethics policies for psychologists that effectively enabled abusive interrogation of war-on-terror prisoners to continue. (Roy Eidelson and Jean Maria Arrigo, 7/30)

news@JAMA: Public Health Vs Personal Liberty: Reflections On The California Vaccination Law
On June 30, when California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law new legislation that requires most children in the state to be vaccinated, public health was pitted once again against personal liberty. “The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases,” Gov Brown said in a prepared statement. “While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.” The new law does away with vaccination exemptions based upon religious or personal beliefs. Exemptions from immunization on medical grounds will remain in effect, but with few exceptions, children enrolled in classroom-based education will be subject to mandatory immunization schedules. (Eli Adashi, 7/30)

The Denver Post: Colorado Ground Zero For Vet's Health
The political battle swirling around the Veterans Affairs medical center in Aurora is about much more than cost overruns and poor management, as troubling as they are. It's made Colorado ground zero in a national fight over the future of the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system. When it comes to meeting the health care needs of veterans, as Colorado goes so goes the nation. The VA and Congress remain at odds. Congress has authorized enough money to keep construction going only through September. To keep going beyond that and complete the medical center will cost $625 million more, according to the VA. In the meantime, many of the 400,000 veterans in Colorado, including 90,000 disabled veterans, wait for the health care they've been promised. (Garry J. Augustine, 7/30)

The Washington Post: Don’t Plunder Aid For Disabled People To Help Seniors
Social Security’s disability program, which sends a small bit of cash to 9 million former workers who now face serious disabilities, will be insolvent next year. This has as much to do with Social Security’s accounting structure as anything else, but if Congress doesn’t do something about it, beneficiaries would face a devastating 19 percent benefit cut. (Gene Sperling, 7/31)

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Next For ADA: Expand Community-Based Care
On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) into law, declaring that the statute "takes a sledgehammer to . . . a shameful wall of exclusion . . . which has for too many generations separated Americans with disabilities from the freedom they could glimpse but not grasp." Since then, we have seen significant change for people with disabilities. Most city streets have curb cuts, stores have accessible bathrooms, and even some playgrounds are disability-friendly. Progress has also been solidified into law. The 1999 Supreme Court decision in Olmstead v. L.C. held that public agencies are required to provide services "in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities" under Title II of the ADA. (Stephen F. Gold and Evie Cai, 7/30)