KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: August 2, 2012

Today's headlines include stories detailing the latest news on various issues involved in the health law's implementation, as well as reports about Medicare and Medicaid.

Kaiser Health News: Group Health Teams With Hospital System In Pacific Northwest
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Harris Meyer writes: "In an unusual partnership, a nonprofit health plan that employs its own doctors is joining with a major Catholic hospital system in the Pacific Northwest to provide more efficient health care services to members of all health plans in the Spokane, Wash., area" (Meyer, 8/1). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Mitt Romney On Health Care
Kaiser Health News reporters Matthew Fleming and David Schultz assembled this resource to provide details on Mitt Romney’s health policy record and positions (Fleming and Schultz, 8/1). Read the resource page.

Kaiser Health News: Analysis: App-Happy Health Care Full Of Optimism, Money
In this Kaiser Health News analysis, Michael L. Millenson writes: "There is a corner of the health care industry where rancor is rare, the chance to banish illness beckons just a few mouse clicks away and talk revolves around venture deals, not voluminous budget deficits. Welcome to the realm of Internet-enabled health apps" (Millenson, 8/1). Read the analysis.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Doctors Will Have to Figure Out Who Gets 'No-Cost' Birth Control
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Colorado Public Radio’s Eric Whitney, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports on the birth control coverage mandate: "The new provision of the federal health law that waives cost sharing for women's preventive health services may be a mandate on insurance companies, but it's providers who are complaining about its burden" (Whitney, 8/2).

Also on the blog, Julie Appleby reports on a new plan to reduce health spending: "The proposals include state spending targets; competitive bidding for medical devices, laboratory tests and other Medicare services; and a dramatic move away from the traditional way doctors and hospitals are paid" (Appleby, 8/1).

In addition, Sarah Barr offers details on Israel's health system after GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's comments about it: "Mitt Romney caused quite a stir earlier this week when he applauded Israel for spending far less on health care than the United States but neglected to mention that the Israeli system depends on the kind of government regulation he has decried at home" (Barr, 8/1). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Wall Street Journal: Small Firms See Pain In Health Law
Restaurants and retailers face some of the toughest changes now that the Supreme Court has kept the overhaul in place. These industries historically are among the least likely to provide insurance to workers. Many franchisees of big chains hover around the threshold at which they will be required to start insuring workers or pay the penalty. With high turnover and a large percentage of part-time and seasonal workers, restaurant and retail operators must juggle several variables in figuring out whether they will cross the threshold (Radnofsky, 8/1).

The Associated Press/New York Times: Medicare Wants More Time To Study Cost Of Security Fix
Five years after being told to look at taking Social Security numbers off Medicare cards, Medicare officials say they need six more months to figure out how much it will cost. At a tense House hearing on Wednesday, Medicare's chief information officer, Tony Trenkle, said that he could not offer a timetable for making the change. Congressional auditors said that an earlier estimate of $800 million to $845 million was faulty, partly because of insufficient and inconsistent data (8/1).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Gov’t Report: No Clear Way For IRS To Block Medicaid Payments To Providers Who Cheat On Taxes
Thousands of Medicaid health care service providers still got paid by the government even though they owed hundreds of millions of dollars in federal taxes, congressional investigators say. A legal technicality is making it harder for the IRS to collect (8/2).

The Washington Post: Five Facts About The Health Law's Contraceptive Mandate
Remember that part of the health reform law, that requires insurance companies to provide contraceptives at no cost to subscribers? After surviving a heated debate earlier this year, the regulation went into effect. … Here are five things to know about it (Kliff, 8/1).

The Wall Street Journals's Venture Capital Dispatch: Hospitals Investigate Start-Up Technologies For Superbug Disinfection
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has said 2012 will be the year that hospitals should start paying to treat infections contracted on their premises. Many investors have the issue pegged as a janitorial concern, and not necessarily the purview of high-tech gadgets. But others see an enormous unmet need, where several small companies are vying to unseat giants like Johnson & Johnson in a potentially lucrative field. Hospitals are now turning to esoteric technologies–including robots that use xenon ultraviolet light technology–to combat the germs (Hay, 8/1).

The Wall Street Journal: Maine Seeks To Make Medicaid Cuts
Maine moved to strip about 30,000 low-income Medicaid patients from the state-run health program Wednesday, formally challenging federal officials on a key provision of the health law (Weaver, 8/1).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: New Law Includes Coverage For Partial Mastectomy
New York's newest laws include one that will require health insurance to cover reconstructive surgery after partial mastectomies. Health insurers in New York must already cover the cost of reconstructive surgery after a full mastectomy (8/2).

Politico: Court Blocks Arizona 20-Week Abortion Ban From Taking Effect
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday issued a preliminary injunction that will block an Arizona law banning abortion after 20 weeks from going into effect this week. Responding to an emergency appeal filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights and the ACLU after a federal district court judge upheld the law on Monday, the circuit court Wednesday temporarily blocked the law from being implemented on Aug. 2 while the court considers the case against it (Smith, 8/1).

The Associated Press/USA Today: US Appeals Court Blocks Arizona's 20-Week Abortion Ban
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued its order two days after a trial judge ruled that the ban could take effect Thursday as scheduled (Davenport, 8/1).

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