First Edition: June 20, 2014
Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including reports about a new poll of showing a majority of those signing up for marketplace plans had been uninsured before and the Obama administration's decision to extend marriage benefits, including family leave, to same-sex couples:
Kaiser Health News: Review Finds Flawed Management Of Nursing Home Inspections In Los Angeles County
Kaiser Health News' staff writer Anna Gorman, working in collaboration with the Los Angeles Daily News, reports: "Los Angeles County public health staff repeatedly failed to follow state policies on nursing home inspections, leading to improper closure of cases and incomplete and delayed investigations, according to a report issued by the California Department of Public Health. After reviewing a sampling of 136 cases received since 2009, the state health department found that LA. County officials did not properly prioritize or track investigations. The county faces a backlog of hundreds of nursing home safety complaints" (Gorman, 6/20).
Kaiser Health News: Survey: Most People Buying On Insurance Exchanges Weren’t Previously Covered
Kaiser Health News' staff writer Julie Appleby reports: "Nearly six in 10 Americans who bought insurance for this year through the health law’s online marketplaces were previously uninsured—most for at least two years, according to a new survey that looks at the experiences of those most affected by the law. That finding is higher than some earlier estimates, and counters arguments made by critics of the law that most of those who purchased the new policies were previously insured" (Appleby, 6/19).
Kaiser Health News: A Reader Asks: Can Our Plan Kick Off Our Daughter Because Her Job Offers Coverage?
KHN’s consumer columnist Michelle Andrews says the health law initially allowed some plans to do that, but that provision is no longer valid (Andrews, 6/20).
Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Senators Offer Bill To Ease Readmission Penalties On Some Hospitals; Consumer Group Urges Hospitals To Stop Promoting Questionable Screenings
Now on Kaiser Health News’ blog, Jordan Rau reports on new congressional legislation: "A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation on Thursday to make Medicare take the financial status of hospital patients into account when deciding whether to punish a hospital for too many readmissions. The bill attempts to address one of the main complaints about the readmissions program: that hospitals serving large numbers of low-income patients are more likely be penalized" (Rau, 6/19).
Also on Capsules, Julie Appleby reports about new criticism of a screening program offered by some hospitals: "Consumer advocacy group Public Citizen on Thursday called on 20 hospital systems to stop partnering with companies that offer low-cost screenings for heart disease and stroke risk, saying the promotions are 'unethical' and the exams are more likely to do harm than good" (Appleby, 6/19). Check out what else is on the blog.
The Wall Street Journal: Poll: Nearly 60% Of Exchange Enrollees Were Uninsured
Almost six in 10 people who bought health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s online exchanges had been uninsured just before they went shopping for a health plan, according to a new survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The finding offers another glimpse at whether the 2010 law achieved its main goal: to reduce the number of uninsured people in the U.S., which was around 45 million before the law’s passage (Radnofsky, 6/19).
The New York Times: Health Exchange Enrollees Had Mostly Been Uninsured
Four in 10 people enrolling in health plans through the new insurance exchanges already had insurance, but six in 10 were previously uninsured, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey released Thursday. Most of the uninsured had been without coverage for two years or more, and 45 percent said they had been without coverage for at least five years, the foundation said in a report about people in the individual insurance market (Pear, 6/19).
Los Angeles Times: Most With Obamacare Were Previously Uninsured, New Survey Finds
About 4.5 million of the 8 million Americans who signed up for health insurance on marketplaces created by the new federal healthcare law did not previously have insurance, according to a national survey that provides the most detailed look to date at who enrolled for coverage under the Affordable Care Act this year (Levey, 6/19).
The Washington Post: Most Obamacare Exchange Enrollees Were Previously Uninsured, Survey Finds
About six in 10 people who bought their own health insurance through Affordable Care Act exchanges were previously uninsured, according to a new survey providing one of the first comprehensive looks at the insurance landscape after the health care law's first open enrollment period (Millman, 6/19).
The Washington Post: In Southwest Va., Health Needs And Poverty Collide With Antipathy To Affordable Care Act
Carolyn Underwood remembers her dad coming home covered in black coal dust from the mines. ... In old age, he suffered from black-lung disease and wore an oxygen supply constantly. But unlike his daughter, he never worried about how he would pay his medical bills. The union took care of it. That doesn’t make Carolyn Underwood, 63, a supporter of expanded government health coverage, even though she would benefit from it. In a region where the decline of the coal industry has sent poverty and health-care needs soaring, another force has grown at least by equal measures: antipathy to President Obama and the Affordable Care Act (Portnoy, 6/19).
The Wall Street Journal: Carney: Obamacare Rollout Was Toughest Period As Spokesman
As White House press secretary Jay Carney prepares to head for the exits, he’s reflecting on the highs and the lows of the job …. Mr. Carney’s time at the White House has included plenty of political victories and setbacks for the president, but he said the most difficult period was dealing with the “pretty awful rollout” of the HealthCare.gov website. The technical problems that thwarted enrollment efforts for several weeks last fall created a sustained bad news story, he said, noting that this was a problem of the administration’s own making (McCain Nelson, 6/19).
Los Angeles Times: Ballot Measure Won't Disrupt Obamacare In California, Backers Say
In response to concerns raised by California's health exchange, backers of a statewide ballot measure on health insurance rate regulation insisted Thursday that the measure would not disrupt how Obamacare works in the state. Consumer groups and California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones are pushing for more authority over health premiums for consumers and small businesses. In November, voters will decide whether to give the insurance commissioner veto power over rate increases (Terhune, 6/19).
The Wall Street Journal: Cancer Doctors Ring Up Big Medicare Bills For Tarnished Drug Procrit
Many cancer doctors now use a drug called Procrit sparingly. It was approved in 1989 for anemia and became a popular treatment for that side effect of chemotherapy. But regulators later learned Procrit can speed tumor growth and hasten death in cancer patients. … Medicare paid U.S. oncologists $128 million in 2012 to administer Procrit, federal data show. One-sixth of that money went to oncologists in the group, Florida Cancer Specialists. Of the 20 oncologists whom Medicare paid most for Procrit, 11 belonged to the Florida group (Weaver, Wilde Mathews and McGinty, 6/20).
The New York Times: House Ways And Means Committee Subpoenaed In Insider Trading Case
Federal prosecutors and financial regulators have subpoenaed Congress in an investigation that could test the limits of federal insider trading laws. The investigation focuses on a Washington research company, Height Securities. Last year, it correctly predicted a change in government health care policy, prompting a surge in the stock prices of health insurance companies. … The authorities want to know if someone in the government improperly revealed the forthcoming policy change (Apuzzo, 6/19).
The New York Times: Obama To Extend Array Of Marriage Benefits To Gay Couples
The federal government on Friday will extend a wide range of marriage benefits to same-sex couples, making good on a promise by President Obama after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act last year. ... The spouses of gay federal employees will get health insurance, life insurance and flexible spending accounts. In addition, federal employees will be able to take leave to care for a same-sex spouse, something that has long been limited to heterosexual married couples (Shear, 6/20).
The Wall Street Journal: Same-Sex Couples To Get More Benefits
The Obama administration will announce Friday the extension of more benefits and obligations to same-sex married couples, including plans to allow workers nationwide to take leave from their jobs to care for same-sex spouses. The White House also is expected to press Congress to pass legislation needed to change some provisions, such as Social Security benefits, to apply to same-sex married couples (McCain Nelson and Bravin, 6/20).
Los Angeles Times: Same-Sex Couples Eligible For Family Leave, Administration Says
The Obama administration will announce Friday that it plans to make same-sex spouses eligible for emergency family leave to care for their partners regardless of whether the state in which they live recognizes their marriages. The Department of Labor will issue a proposed rule making clear that the right to time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act is valid for all legally married couples, according to a White House official who asked for anonymity because the news was not yet official (Phelps, 6/19).
The New York Times: C.D.C. Details Anthrax Scare For Scientists At Facilities
As many as 75 scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may have been exposed to live anthrax bacteria after potentially infectious samples were sent to laboratories unequipped to handle dangerous pathogens, a spokesman for the federal health agency said Thursday. The agency was testing a new way to kill anthrax, which it discovered did not work as well as expected (Tavernise and McNeil, 6/19).
Los Angeles Times: Anthrax: 75 CDC Workers Might Have Been Exposed To Pathogen
About 75 staff members at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta are being monitored or given antibiotics after they were potentially exposed to anthrax, the CDC announced. A failure to follow established safety practices caused the possible exposure, the agency said Thursday in a statement, adding that it believed the risk of infection was very low and that nobody else was at risk of exposure (Raab, 6/19).
The Wall Street Journal: CDC Lab Scientists May Have Been Exposed To Live Anthrax
Potentially exposed staff are being given antibiotics and monitored for symptoms of infection, the CDC said in a statement. "Based on most of the potential exposure scenarios, the risk of infection is very low," it said. It said there is no risk to other CDC staff or the general public (McKay, 6/19).
The Washington Post: CDC Says About 75 Scientists May Have Been Exposed To Anthrax
The potential exposure took place after researchers failed to follow adequate protection procedures to inactivate anthrax samples at one CDC lab in Atlanta before transferring them to three other CDC labs not equipped to handle live anthrax bacteria, the statement said. Workers at those three labs, believing the samples were inactivated, were not wearing adequate personal protective equipment while handling the material (Sun, 6/19).
Politico: CDC Reports Anthrax Exposure At Lab, No Known Illness
Dozens of scientists at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laboratories in Atlanta may have been exposed this month to live anthrax bacteria, the agency announced Thursday. As many as seven researchers in a high-level biosecurity lab at the CDC campus may have been put at risk after failing to follow procedures to inactivate the bacteria. Their error was compounded when the samples were sent to three lower-security labs not equipped to handle live anthrax, where unknowing workers didn’t wear adequate protective gear while handling the material (Levine, 6/19).
The New York Times: New York Leaders Reach Deal On Medical Marijuana
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders announced an agreement on Thursday for a pilot program to provide access to marijuana to sick New Yorkers, making the state one of the largest to embrace the drug’s use as medicine (McKinley, 6/19).
The Wall Street Journal: New York State Reaches Multiple Last-Minute Deals
After days of intense negotiations, the medical pot bill was more limited than many lawmakers wanted, after the governor warned he would sign it only with strict requirements. It would permit only doctors to prescribe marijuana, in forms including oil-based and vapor, to individuals with any of about a half-dozen conditions, including cancer, AIDS, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis (Orden, 6/19).
Los Angeles Times: Audit Questions Whether 39 Female Inmates Consented To Sterilization
At least 39 female inmates at California prisons underwent sterilizations in which the women's informed consent was in question, according to a state audit released Thursday. The inquiry by the California state auditor found no evidence that doctors documented that the women had consented to the procedure in 27 cases. In 18 cases there were "potential violations" of the required waiting period between consent and the sterilization procedure, the report stated. Both violations may have occurred in some of the cases (Willon, 6/19).
The Associated Press: Audit Seeks Investigation Of Inmate Sterilizations
State auditors found 39 cases where female state prison inmates may not have understood they were submitting to medical procedures that would leave them sterile, according to a report released Thursday that recommended authorities investigate the doctors and hospitals involved. State law prohibits inmates from elective sterilizations as methods of birth control. However, prison officials allow sterilizations in cases deemed medically necessary (Thompson, 6/19).
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