First Edition: August 22, 2014
Today's headlines include coverage of issues related to hospice care.
Kaiser Health News: Some Insurers Refuse To Cover Contraceptives, Despite Health Law Requirement
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: “How much leeway do employers and insurers have in deciding whether they’ll cover contraceptives without charge and in determining which methods make the cut? Not much, as it turns out, but that hasn’t stopped some from trying. Kaiser Health News readers still write in regularly describing battles they’re waging to get the birth control coverage they’re entitled to” (Andrews, 8/22). Read the article.
Politico: Only 4 Anti-Obamacare House Dems Left For Fall Elections
Thirty-four House Democrats bucked their party to vote against Obamacare when it passed in 2010. Today, only four of those lawmakers are still in office and running for reelection this fall. The dramatic downsize underscores not only how consequential the health care law vote was but how quickly moderate Democrats have been eliminated on Capitol Hill. Even those who opposed the law had trouble surviving the highly partisan atmosphere it helped to create (Haberkorn, 8/22).
The Washington Post: As More Hospices Enroll Patients Who Aren’t Dying, Questions About Lethal Doses Arise
The hospice industry in the United States is booming and for good reason, many experts say. Hospice care can offer terminally ill patients a far better way to live out their dying days, and many vouch for its value. But the boom has been accompanied by what appears to be a surge in hospices enrolling patients who aren’t close to death, and at least in some cases, this practice can expose the patients to the more powerful pain-killers that are routinely used by hospice providers. Hospices see higher revenues by recruiting new patients and profit more when they are not near death (Whoriskey, 8/21).
The Washington Post: End-Of-Life Care: An Industry With Soaring Profits, Funded By Taxpayers
But what happens when hospices, in part to improve profits, attempt to care for people who aren’t terminally ill? Whoriskey wrote about a 77-year-old North Carolina man, Clinard “Bud” Coffey, who entered hospice care for pain management — and died two weeks later (Paquette, 8/21).
The Wall Street Journal’s CFO Journal: A Patient-Focused Health Care CFO
In the health care industry, CFOs have to preserve or improve patient care while meeting financial goals. Robert Glenning, chief financial officer for Hackensack University Health Network, which runs the largest hospital in New Jersey with 10,000 employees, spoke to CFO Journal’s John Kester about how the he prioritizes saving patients over saving money and how the Affordable Care Act is affecting the hospital business (Kester, 8/22).
The Washington Post’s Wonkblog: A Drug Naming Dispute, With Billions On The Line
In health care, even how you name something can become a debate with billions of dollars on the line. With a new wave of cheaper versions of biologic drugs expected to soon become available in the United States, the health-care industry is still fighting over key ground rules for these drugs — more than four years after the Affordable Care Act cleared a pathway for this new drug classification. That includes what names these copy-cat version of biologic drugs should actually go by (Millman, 8/21).
The New York Times’ The New Old Age: Part D Gains May Be Eroding
But in its first few years, national data shows, Part D did help elderly Medicare beneficiaries make modest progress. Out-of-pocket costs decreased. Better able to afford their medications, seniors were less likely to stop taking them for financial reasons. And they were less likely to do without other basic needs — like food and heat — in order to pay for drugs. “I expected that to keep going,” said Jeanne Madden, a health policy analyst at Harvard Medical School. Instead, as she and a team researchers from Harvard and the University of Massachusetts report in the most recent issue of Health Affairs, those downward trends took a U-turn in 2009. “Things improved after Part D, continued to improve for a few years, and then reversed,” she said in an interview (Span, 8/21).
The Wall Street Journal: DEA Restricts Narcotic Pain Drug Prescriptions
The Obama administration moved Thursday to restrict prescriptions of the most commonly used narcotic painkillers in the U.S. in an attempt to curb widespread abuse. The Drug Enforcement Administration said it would reclassify hydrocodone combination drugs such as Vicodin and put them in the category reserved for medical substances with the highest potential for harm. The "rescheduling" means people will be able to receive the drugs for only up to 90 days without obtaining a new prescription. The opioid pills are taken by millions of Americans, including after dental surgery, for back problems and broken bone (Radnofsky and Walker, 8/21).
The Washington Post: One Of The Nation’s Most Expensive Ballot Campaigns Is Heating Up
California is the location of what will may become the two most expensive ballot campaigns of this election cycle and one of them is heating up this week. Proposition 46 pits doctors against trial lawyers in a battle over raising the limit on malpractice payouts, a fight that has already raised $61.5 million on both sides. The vast majority of the money—roughly $56 million, according to Ballotpedia—has been raised by groups opposed to the measure, financed by professional associations and large insurance companies. This week, the group that has raised more than 99 percent of that money is launching its first TV and radio ads in English and Spanish (Chokshi, 8/21).
The Associated Press: NY City Council Passes Bill On Rikers Transparency
The City Council on Thursday passed a bill that would force correction officials to publish information about Rikers Island jail inmates in solitary confinement, including any injuries suffered behind bars and the state of their mental health. The legislation awaits the signature of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who supports it (8/21).
Reuters: Researchers Reverse Autism Symptoms In Mice By Paring Extra Synapses
Although many things have gone wrong in the autistic brain, scientists recently have been focusing on one of the most glaring: a surplus of connections, or synapses. Neuroscientists reported Thursday that, at least in lab mice, a drug that restores the healthy “synaptic pruning” that normally occurs during brain development also reverses autistic-like behaviors such as avoiding social interaction (8/21).
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