KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: April 29, 2013

Today's headlines include a report that hospitals are questioning Medicare's rules on readmissions.

Kaiser Health News: Obama Administration Mulls Rule To Give Home Health Aides Better Wages
Kaiser Health News staff writer Alvin Tran reports: "Working for a District of Columbia-based company, she earns more than the minimum wage and is paid time-and-a-half for every hour she works beyond her usual 40 per week. But unlike Fletcher, close to 2 million in-home care workers and personal care aides in the United States don't always get paid for overtime work or receive minimum wage, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. They are explicitly excluded from a key federal wage law that carved out exceptions for causal babysitters and companions for people who are sick or disabled" (Tran, 4/29). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Oregon's Dilemma: How To Measure Health?
Oregon Public Broadcasting's Kristian Foden-Vencil, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "There are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways to track the health of a population: the average blood pressure of a large group of people, the rate of mental illness, the average weight. Epidemiologists have been collecting this kind of data for years, but now, in Oregon, there is cold, hard cash riding on these metrics" (Foden-Vencil, 4/26). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Vangent Gets $28 Million Contract For Health Marketplace Call Center
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Phil Galewitz reports: "The federal government has awarded a $28.2 million contract to a General Dynamics subsidiary to run a call center to handle consumer questions about the new online insurance marketplaces that are slated to begin selling insurance policies Oct. 1" (Galewitz, 4/26). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Washington Post: GOP Moves Away From Entitlements And Toward Tax Reform In Budget Deal
With another fight over the national debt brewing this summer, congressional Republicans are de-emphasizing their demand for politically painful cuts to retirement programs and focusing on a more popular prize: a thorough rewrite of the U.S. tax code. Reining in spending on Social Security and Medicare remains an important policy goal for the GOP. But House leaders launched a series of meetings last week aimed at convincing rank-and-file lawmakers that tax reform is both wise policy and good politics and should be their top priority (Montgomery, 4/27).

The Washington Post: The Solution Medicare Is Shutting Down
Health Quality Partners is all about going there. The program enrolls Medicare patients with at least one chronic illness and one hospitalization in the past year. It then sends a trained nurse to see them every week, or every month, whether they’re healthy or sick. It sounds simple and, in a way, it is. But simple things can be revolutionary. Most care-management systems rely on nurses sitting in call centers, checking up on patients over the phone. That model has mostly been a failure. And while many health systems send a nurse regularly in the weeks or months after a serious hospitalization, few send one regularly to even seemingly healthy patients. This a radical redefinition of the health-care system’s role in the lives of the elderly. It redefines being old and chronically ill as a condition requiring professional medical management (Klein, 4/27).

Los Angeles Times: Feds Take Action Over Alleged Patient Dumping At Nevada Hospital
Following state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's call for an investigation, federal authorities have taken disciplinary action against a Nevada hospital in an alleged case of "patient dumping" in California. In a letter dated Thursday, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services gave Nevada 10 days to correct problems at Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital following reports it may have improperly discharged patients and bused them out of state (Romney, 4/26).

The Wall Street Journal: Nevada Told To Fix Mental-Health Facility
Federal officials have ordered the state of Nevada to correct a mental-health facility in Las Vegas that they claim discharged patients improperly. A regional director for the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which oversees facilities that participate in the federal health programs, sent a letter Wednesday to Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas, stating that a survey last month showed that the hospital was "out of compliance" with requirements for patient discharge planning and governance (Phillips, 4/26).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Federal Government Demands Answers From Nevada Psychiatric Hospital Accused Of Busing Patients
The federal agency that oversees Medicaid and Medicare compliance has put Nevada on notice of “serious deficiencies” at a Las Vegas psychiatric hospital following reports of patients being improperly discharged. A letter Thursday from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, first reported by The Sacramento Bee and obtained Friday by The Associated Press, gave Nevada 10 days to correct problems in its mental health discharge policies at Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital or risk the loss of federal funding, potentially tens of millions of dollars (4/26).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Jindal Administration: Greenstein Had Improper Contact With Medicaid Contractor In Bid Process
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration said Friday that his former health secretary, Bruce Greenstein, improperly exchanged repeated phone calls and text messages with a company bidding for a lucrative Medicaid contract, creating an “unfair advantage” for the firm (4/26).

The New York Times: Group Shows Covert Video of a Bronx Abortion Clinic
An anti-abortion group that previously released several videotapes of undercover visits to abortion clinics released another video on Sunday of a staff member at a Bronx clinic describing late-term abortion procedures. The group likened the practices to those at the clinic of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia doctor charged with killing viable fetuses (Yee, 4/28).

The Washington Post: Antiabortion Group Releases Videos Of Clinic Workers Discussing Live Births
One video features a D.C. doctor, Cesare Santangelo, who said that in the unlikely event that an abortion resulted in a live birth, “we would not help it.” Santangelo was answering repeated questions from an undercover operative about what would happen, hypothetically, if she gave birth after an unsuccessful abortion (Somashekhar and Sun, 4/29).

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