KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: June 3, 2013

Today's early morning highlights from major news organizations, including a number of stories detail health law implementation developments.

Kaiser Health News: Will Consumers Sign On For Health Law's Co-Ops?
Reporting for Kaiser Health News in collaboration with The Washington Post, Roni Caryn Rabin reports: "People in the market for health insurance in Oregon want to know what their out-of-pocket expenses will be -- down to the dollar. They want doctors who reply to email. They want the option to see alternative practitioners" (Rabin, 6/2). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: PSA Screening: New Round Of Guidelines Emphasizes Importance Of Weighing Harms And Benefits
Reporting for Kaiser Health News in collaboration with The Baltimore Sun, Rita Rubin reports: "For nearly a quarter century, doctors have ordered annual PSA tests for men of a certain age to screen for prostate cancer, despite a lack of evidence that the benefits outweighed the risks -- especially when tiny, slow-growing tumors were detected" (Rubin, 6/2). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Boston Marathon Survivor Has Long Road Ahead
WBUR’s Martha Bebinger, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "Marc Fucarile reached a huge milestone this week: He was one of the last two Boston Marathon survivors to be released from the hospital. Fucarile spent 45 days in Massachusetts General Hospital, and he hopes someday to return to work with a roofing company" (Bebinger, 5/31). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Slowdown In Medicare Spending Extends Trust Fund; D.C. Approves Two New Proton Therapy Centers
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Mary Agnes Carey reports on the latest Medicare Trustees report: "Slower growth in spending is helping extend the life of Medicare’s hospital trust fund to 2026, two years beyond last year's estimate, officials said Friday" (Carey, 5/31).

Also on the blog, Jenny Gold reports on D.C.'s approval of two new proton therapy centers: "After months of heated debate, two of Washington's biggest hospital systems won approval Friday to build proton treatment facilities that will cost a total of $153 million despite questions about whether the treatment is any more effective than less expensive options" (Gold, 5/31). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Wall Street Journal: Deficit Deal Even Less Likely
Shrinking near-term federal deficits, slowing health-care cost increases and partisan gridlock have all but wiped out the likelihood for a deal this year to reduce long-term U.S. deficits, perhaps delaying a compromise until after the 2014 midterm elections, White House officials and congressional lawmakers said (Nicholas, Hook and Paletta, 6/2).

The Wall Street Journal: Number Of The Week: Disability Fund Three Years From Insolvency
Medicare may be in better shape than it was last year, but the program that pays nearly 11 million people who receive disability benefits will be insolvent within three years unless action is taken (Izzo, 6/1).

Los Angeles Times: Affordable Care Act's Challenge: Getting Young Adults Enrolled
The success of the healthcare law "depends on reaching everyone who is uninsured, but particularly young people who may feel like they don't need insurance," said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. Convincing them to spend money on insurance, he said, will be a "marketing challenge" (Gorman, 6/2).

The Washington Post: Health Exchange Options For Small Businesses Will Be Limited Until 2015
The Obama administration confirmed Friday that a piece of the 2010 health-care law aimed at helping small businesses provide insurance to their workers will be delayed by a year. The office in charge of Medicaid and Medicare announced that it was on track for an Oct. 1 launch of the federal SHOP Exchange, an online marketplace where companies with fewer than 50 employees would be able to buy insurance for their workers and get a tax credit. But employees will not be able to choose from a variety of plans, as was initially expected (Somashekhar, 5/31).

Politico: Innovation Director Of CMS Is Moving On
The innovation center charged by the health reform law with finding solutions to the toughest questions in health care — how to reduce costs and change the way health care is delivered — is losing its first leader (Haberkorn, 6/3).

Politico: Obamacare's California Dreamin'
The best news for Obamacare these days is coming out of California — but it's a best-case scenario that might not work everywhere else in the country. The state surprised many when it announced that there won’t be any big price hikes for the health plans available through its insurance exchange — the marketplace that will serve people who don't have another place to get health coverage. ... But even as advocates trumpet California, the state's aggressive promotion and implementation of Obamacare isn't the perfect comparison for other states. And some analysts say the state is playing games with the numbers to make the law look good (Nather, 5/31).

The Washington Post: GOP Governors' Endorsements Of Medicaid Expansion Deepen Rifts Within Party
Republican fissures over the expansion of Medicaid, a critical piece of the 2010 health-care law designed to provide coverage to millions of uninsured Americans, continue to deepen, with battles in Arizona and elsewhere showing just how bitter the divisions have become (Somashekhar, 6/2).

The Associated Press: Republican Vs. Republican On Covering Uninsured
It's Republican versus Republican in the latest round of political battles over health care. Conservative Republican legislators in major states are trying to block efforts by more pragmatic governors of their own party to accept health insurance for more low-income residents under President Barack Obama's health care law. Unlike their congressional counterparts, who've misfired in repeated attempts to torpedo the law, state Republicans may well sink the expansion of Medicaid in populous states such as Florida and Michigan (Alonso-Zaldivar and Christie, 6/1).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Officials Say State-Aided Call Center Will Answer Questions Beyond Federal Health Overhaul
Mississippi officials emphasize that a 1,000-employee Hattiesburg call center will answer questions regarding not only subsidized insurance through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace, but Medicare and other subjects. Gov. Phil Bryant announced plans Thursday for the General Dynamics Corp. center. Mississippi is giving the Falls Church, Va., company a $1 million incentive to aid setup (5/31).

Politico: How Well Do You Know Kathleen Sebelius?
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has spent much of her career in politics, and has been in the headlines as the next stages of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act are implemented. But how well do you know her? Take POLITICO'’s quiz to find out (Cirilli and Gold, 6/3).

The New York Times: The $2.7 Trillion Medical Bill
Deirdre Yapalater’s recent colonoscopy at a surgical center near her home here on Long Island went smoothly: she was whisked from pre-op to an operating room where a gastroenterologist, assisted by an anesthesiologist and a nurse, performed the routine cancer screening procedure in less than an hour. The test, which found nothing worrisome, racked up what is likely her most expensive medical bill of the year: $6,385. ... In many other developed countries, a basic colonoscopy costs just a few hundred dollars and certainly well under $1,000. That chasm in price helps explain why the United States is far and away the world leader in medical spending, even though numerous studies have concluded that Americans do not get better care (Rosenthal, 6/1).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: From Disasters To Health Care, Pressing Needs Are Testing GOP’s Stand On Smaller Government
President Barack Obama says a government that works properly can be best-equipped to help and protect the public. Republican believers in a less-is-more government generally disagree. Yet on a variety of policy fronts, pressing financial and other needs are forcing Republicans to concede more publicly than usual that minimalist government isn’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all solution (6/1).

The Wall Street Journal: Judge Ends 33-Year Injunction That Shielded Medicare Data On Doctors
A federal judge vacated a 33-year-old injunction that had barred the government from releasing Medicare information on individual doctors to the public. Dow Jones & Co., The Wall Street Journal's parent company, challenged the injunction in 2011 after the Journal published a series of articles showing how the information could be used to expose fraud and abuse in the $549 billion health-care program for the elderly and disabled (Carreyrou, 5/31).

Politico: With Mental Health Legislation Stalled In Congress, States Act
States looking to address gun violence are overhauling mental health laws — and sometimes exposing rifts over how to best address the small but serious threat of violence. There's not much controversy among advocates when it comes to restoring funding that states had slashed during the economic lean years. But changing policies on involuntary commitment, or requiring therapists to report potentially dangerous patients, are stirring fears that well-intentioned policies could increase stigma and deter the very people who most need treatment from getting it (Smith, 6/2).

Los Angeles Times: California Bill Would Fine Big Firms Whose Workers Get Medi-Cal
For years, politicians and labor unions have pilloried Wal-Mart and other large employers for paying workers so little that many qualify for government health insurance at taxpayers' expense. Now critics fear the public will get stuck with an even bigger tab as California and other states expand Medicaid as part of the federal healthcare law. That has California lawmakers taking aim at the world's largest retailer and other big firms. Legislators, backed by unions, consumer groups and doctors, are calling for fines that could reach about $6,000 per full-time employee who ends up on Medi-Cal, the state Medicaid program for the poor and others (Terhune, 5/31).

The New York Times: Pressure Grows To Create Drugs For 'Superbugs'
Government officials, drug companies and medical experts, faced with outbreaks of antibiotic-resistant "superbugs," are pushing to speed up the approval of new antibiotics, a move that is raising safety concerns among some critics (Meier, 6/2).

The Wall Street Journal: Abortion Bill Sets Up Fight In N.Y. Senate
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to introduce contentious abortion legislation on Tuesday, and his aides and women's rights groups have identified Republican state senators whom they will pressure to support it, according to people familiar with the matter (Orden, 6/2).

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