KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: February 7, 2013

Today's headlines includes a report that Michigan's Republican Gov. Rick Snyder backs the health law's  Medicaid expansion for his state. 

Kaiser Health News: Q&A: How Does Marriage Affect Health Coverage For The Young? (Video)
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews answers a reader question about under-26 insurance coverage for newlyweds (2/7). Watch the video.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: HHS Delays Basic Health Plan Option Until 2015; Study: Premium Increases To Be Offset By subsidies, Better Coverage
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Phil Galewitz reports on developments related to the basic health plan options: "The Obama administration has delayed by one year the rollout of a health program aimed at low to moderate-income people who won’t qualify for the expanded Medicaid program under the federal health law" (Galewitz, 2/7).

Also on Capsules, Julie Appleby reports on a white paper out Wednesday that finds premium increases will be offset by subsidies and better coverage: "How the federal health law will affect premiums is among the most asked – and most controversial – questions in the final months before new rules kick in requiring most Americans to carry coverage" (Appleby, 2/6). Check out what else is on the blog.

Los Angeles Times: House Republicans Remain Torn Over Automatic Budget Cuts
Democrats appear to have embraced [Obama's] call for a balanced approach, believing Americans prefer that to the austerity measures proposed by Republicans, according to Senate aides who asked not to be identified so they could talk about the internal discussions. But Republicans remain torn over whether to stick with the automatic cuts as a trophy in their deficit busting crusade, or seek another approach that would avoid the deep hits to the military by shifting the burden onto Medicare and other domestic accounts (Mascaro, 2/6).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Republican Gov. Rick Snyder Backs Expanding Medicaid To Michigan’s Uninsured In US Health Plan
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder on Wednesday backed the extension of Medicaid coverage to 470,000 residents under the Obama administration’s health care overhaul, saying it is the right thing to do despite resistance from his own party that controls the Legislature. He is the sixth GOP governor to propose expanding the taxpayer-funded health insurance program, joining the leaders of Ohio, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and North Dakota. Snyder has criticized the federal health care law in the past but to a lesser extent than other Republican governors (2/6).

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Utah Offers To Split Health Insurance Exchange
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said Wednesday that he's made a new offer to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius: His state will run half of a health insurance exchange, and let the federal government run the other half (Radnofsky, 2/6).

Politico: Medicare Pay Formula May Finally Get Fixed
Efforts to finally get rid of that dreaded Medicare payment formula could see smoother sailing now that the Congressional Budget Office has sliced the price tag nearly in half. That could give momentum to legislation like the bipartisan repeal bill Reps. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) and Joe Heck (R-Nev.) unveiled Wednesday morning — a reincarnated version of their bill doing away with the Sustainable Growth Rate formula (Cunningham, 2/7).

USA Today: HHS Report: Medicare Prescription Drug Savings Hit $5.7B
Seniors have saved about $5.7 billion on prescription drugs since January 2011 because of provisions in the 2010 health care law meant to close the Medicare "doughnut hole," the government plans to announce today (Kennedy, 2/7).

USA Today: Impending Rules Will Guide Equality For Mental Health
Regulations to be issued this month on the type of mental health coverage insurers must provide under the 2010 health care law may elevate mental illness to the status it needs, mental health experts say. … Since the shooting of 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., President Obama has signed several executive actions designed to identify and help those with mental illness. He has called for a discussion about mental health and has vowed to issue final rules this month that extend mental health parity to everyone who has health insurance under the health care law, also known as the Affordable Care Act. Those regulations would go into effect in January, and though the specifics of those rules are unknown, advocates have clear ideas of what they'd like to see parity look like (Kennedy, 2/6).

The Wall Street Journal: CVS Caremark Raises Outlook
CVS's retail pharmacy business gained customers last year in the wake of a contract dispute between rival Walgreen Co.'s and pharmacy-benefits manager Express Scripts Holding Co. that has since been resolved. A wave of major generic drugs introductions is having a mixed effect on the industry. Though the copycat drugs carry higher margins than branded products, they command lower prices, hurting sales revenue (Stynes, 2/6).

The Wall Street Journal's Venture Capital Dispatch: Q&A: Rep. Mike Honda On Proposed FDA Office Of Wireless Health
Congressman Michael Honda (D., Calif.), who has been representing Silicon Valley in the U.S. House of Representatives for the past 12 years, recently submitted a bill asking for Congress to create and fund a new office at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which would be called the Office of Wireless Health. The office would be tasked with regulating the growing number of mobile, wireless health gadgets and applications, which have been proliferating wildly since the start of the smartphone craze (Hay, 2/6).

The Washington Post: Sen. Menendez Contacted Top Officials In Friend's Medicare Dispute
Sen. Robert Menendez raised concerns with top federal health-care officials twice in recent years about their finding that a Florida eye doctor — a close friend and major campaign donor — had overbilled the government by $8.9 million for care at his clinic, Menendez aides said Wednesday (Leonnig and Markon, 2/6).

Los Angeles Times: Alzheimer's Cases, And Costs, Projected To Swell
As baby boomers enter their golden years, the number of people afflicted with Alzheimer's disease is expected to reach 13.8 million by 2050 — millions more than previously anticipated, according to a new study in the journal Neurology (Serna, 2/6).

USA Today: An Alzheimer's 'Epidemic' Could Hit The USA By 2050
A new government-funded report confirms what advocacy groups have been warning for years: The number of people in the USA with Alzheimer's disease will almost triple by 2050, straining the health care system and taxing the health of caregivers. Numbers are projected to rise from about 5 million now to 13.8 million. The disease robs people of their memory, erases personality and makes even routine tasks like dressing and bathing impossible (Lloyd, 2/6).

The New York Times: Smoking, Once Used To Reward, Faces A Ban In Mental Hospitals
After decades in which smoking by people with mental illness was supported and even encouraged — a legacy that experts say is causing patients to die prematurely from smoking-related illnesses — Louisiana's move reflects a growing effort by federal, state and other health officials to reverse course (Belluck, 2/6).

Los Angeles Times: Consumer Group Calls For Laws To Boost Monitoring Of Doctors
A consumer advocacy group Wednesday called for new laws to improve the state's monitoring of doctors who prescribe dangerous narcotics. Consumer Watchdog said reforms were needed to reduce surging prescription drug overdoses and to rein in incompetent and corrupt physicians. "We call upon you to convene hearings immediately to deal with this crisis and consider appropriate solutions," the Santa Monica-based group wrote in a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers (Girion, 2/7).

The Wall Street Journal: Malloy Takes Hacks At Budget Gap
Gov. Dannel Malloy said he would close the state's $1.2 billion budget gap with a mix of spending cuts, including to hospitals and programs for the poor, and new revenues, including the extension of some business taxes that were scheduled to expire (De Avila, 2/6).

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