KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Health Law’s Latest Day In Court; Obama’s “Abdication” On Medicare; Blue Shield Profits Vs. Premiums

Atlanta Journal Constitution: ObamaCare Gets Put Through Judicial Wringer
Provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, "may violate the constitution of Ayn Rand, but they do not violate the Constitution of the United States," acting solicitor general Neal Kumar Katyal told a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday.  Conversely, attorney Paul Clement, representing Georgia and 25 other states, framed the issue of mandated purchase of health insurance as an issue of liberty (Jay Bookman, 6/8).

Atlanta Journal Constitution: Judges Don't Tip Hand In Obamacare Hearing
Anyone expecting to get a hint as to which way three appellate judges will rule on the Obamacare lawsuit brought by Georgia and 25 other states was surely disappointed today. The two hours scheduled for arguments stretched into two and a half hours as the judges grilled both sides but didn't tip their hands (Kyle Wingfield, 6/8).

Kaiser Health News: Another Day In Court For The Individual Mandate (Guest Opinion)
Opponents of the Affordable Care Act had another day in court on Wednesday, this time before federal judges in Georgia, representing the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. These opponents want the judges to uphold a ruling, made by a lower federal judge in Florida, that the law is unconstitutional. It's the third such appeal to go before a Circuit Court -- and perhaps a prelude to consideration before the Supreme Court (Jonathan Cohn, 6/8).

The Wall Street Journal: The President's Medicare Abdication
Barack Obama told his staff the day after he was inaugurated that "transparency and the rule of law" would be his presidency's "touchstones." In the case of Medicare, they haven't been (Karl Rove, 6/9). 

San Francisco Chronicle: Limit Insurance Premiums, Not Profits
The CEO of Blue Shield of California announced in the Tuesday Open Forum that because of these trying times he was willing to limit his company's profits to 2 percent. For a not-for-profit health insurance company like Blue Shield, which has more than $3.6 billion in reserves, that's 2 percent too much.  The real intent of CEO Bruce Bodaken's announcement was to show the company is no longer the poster child for fast-moving legislation that would require every health insurance company in California to request permission from the elected insurance commissioner before raising rates (Jamie Court, 6/8). 

Des Moines Register: Questions About Medicaid Deserve Answers
A few weeks ago this newspaper reported on Franklin Nwankpa, convicted of defrauding taxpayers of nearly $140,000. He went door to door to find children, then "diagnosed" them as having mental health problems, worked with them and billed Medicaid for his time. Among the services he provided: taking kids to movies and billing the state hundreds of dollars an hour. Last week came another story about the state suspending Medicaid payments to Families First Inc., a private human services company. The state alleges it has a "credible" allegation of fraud against the company that provides counseling and mental health services to Iowans. Register reporter Clark Kauffman uncovered information -- ranging from a youth counselor being paid $157,000 annually to parents saying their children weren't seen by counselors -- that raise questions about an entity that collected $1.5 million Medicaid money last year (6/9). 

New England Journal of Medicine : Survivors - Dialysis, Immigration, And U.S. Law
More than 11 million undocumented residents live in the United States, and 6000 of them have end-stage renal disease (ESRD). This number seems small in the context of the 400,000-plus Americans currently undergoing dialysis, but the direct and indirect costs are not small. ... dialysis coverage for this patient population must be standardized throughout the country (Drs. Rajeev Raghavan and Ricardo Nuila, 6/9). 

Minneapolis Star Tribune: AIDS: The 30th Anniversary Of The Epidemic
Thirty years ago, on June 5, 1981, the Centers for Disease Control published a notice of a strange illness affecting five Los Angeles gay men, two of whom died before the report could be published. ... for the sake of those living with HIV as well as the millions dead worldwide, let us honor those activists who defied silence and hostility and the law to insist that we take action. Because of those in-your-face activists -- many dead before they saw the results of their courage -- we know that HIV existed decades before its discovery, and that its spread can be prevented through simple, cheap measures, most notably condoms (Fenton Johnson, 6/8).

CNN: Don't Let Up On AIDS Research
The societal ills and behavioral patterns that drive such disparities are not easily redressed. They can, however, be partly circumvented -- at least for the purposes of HIV prevention -- if we're willing to invest in the development of biomedical tools to that end. Fortunately, the latest U.S. National Vaccine Plan is in sync with that view. But a slash-and-burn approach to budget-cutting, in vogue in Washington these days, could strip this plan of its profound long-term promise (Seth Berkeley and Phil Wilson, 6/8).

Capitol Weekly: Health Care Issues Often Ignored For LGBT Population
LGBT patients, according to a March report by the Institute of Medicine, have unique healthcare needs and concerns – just like other minorities. The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research also revealed in March that older LGBT adults in California have higher rates of chronic disease, mental distress and isolation than heterosexuals. Why? Because too often LGBT patients receive substandard treatment from medical staff – or skip care altogether, fearing judgment, ignorant questions, blank stares and irrelevant recommendations (Sue LaVaccre, 6/9). 

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