KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: June 5, 2012

Today's headlines include previews of today's recall election in Wisconsin.  

Kaiser Health News: Kingsdale: 'People Are Aware that There Are Huge Problems' (Video)
Kaiser Health News' Mary Agnes Carey talks to Jon Kingsdale about the upcoming Supreme Court ruling on the health law and its implications for the future of health care. Kingsdale, who helped implement the Massachusetts health law, divides states into three camps when it comes to implementing the 2010 federal law: Some are preparing in earnest to be ready on time, some are taking steps but waiting on others until the Supreme Court rules and the fall elections occur, and other states have done nothing, with hopes the law will be struck down. Kingsdale now consults with states and others on implementation of the federal health law (6/4). Watch the video. This is the first installment of KHN's video series "Supreme Uncertainty: What's Next After The Court Rules."

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: New Screening Tool Could Increase The Use Of Virtual Colonoscopies
In her latest Kaiser Health News consumer column, Michelle Andrews writes: "Colorectal cancer screening can cut a person's risk of dying from the disease in half, yet about 40 percent of those who should get tested don't do it. One reason is that the 'gold standard' for screening, an optical colonoscopy, requires a rigorous preparation to empty the colon, and it gives many people pause. A new method that doesn't require patients to take laxatives to empty their bowel beforehand could boost screening rates. But some experts question whether it's a good solution" (Andrews, 6/4). Read the column.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Hospital Observation Stays Increase 25 Percent In 3 Years; To Curb Spending On Elderly, Hospitals Try New Business Models
Now on the Kaiser Health News' blog, Susan Jaffe reports: "The number of Medicare patients who enter the hospital for observation rose dramatically even though Medicare enrollment and hospital admissions declined slightly, according to a study by gerontologists at Brown University in Providence, R.I." (Jaffe, 6/4).

Also on the blog, David Schultz writes: "Believe it or not, there is a silver lining to the massive storm cloud that is Medicare's spiraling health care costs. … But the silver lining is that the problem's gravity is inspiring many doctors, researchers and hospital administrators to conjure outside-the-box business models that could rein in these costs" (Schultz, 6/4). Check out what else is on the blog.

Los Angeles Times: Congress Shifting Attention To Women's Issues, Healthcare
Congress returns its attention this week to women's issues, with the Senate voting on legislation to ensure paycheck equity as GOP front-runner Mitt Romney tapped a Republican congresswoman to be his campaign liaison in the House. … The House this week is expected to take another turn at trying to dismantle Obama's healthcare law with legislation that would repeal a tax on medical device manufacturers. Democrats have largely supported the tax, but Republicans argue that it is stifling job creation (Mascaro, 6/4).

The New York Times' The Caucus: Conservatives Attack Romney's Choice To Lead Transition
Mitt Romney's choice of Michael O. Leavitt as his transition chief has spurred loud opposition from some conservatives over Mr. Leavitt's support of a crucial part of President Obama's health care plan. Mr. Leavitt, a former governor of Utah who was secretary of health and human services in George W. Bush's cabinet, is now a health care consultant who advises states on how to implement Mr. Obama's health law (Shear, 6/4).

The Wall Street Journal: How Romney Pushed State Health Bill
But a small cache of emails survived, including some that have never publicly surfaced surrounding Mr. Romney's efforts to pass his now-controversial health-care law. The emails show the Republican governor was closely engaged in negotiating details of the bill, working with top Democratic state leaders and drafting early copies of opinion articles backing it (Maremont, 6/4).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Wisconsin Holds Recall Targeting Gov. Scott Walker After More Than A Year Of Political Turmoil
The recall effort against Walker began bubbling last year, shortly after the rising Republican star took office. Just a month into his first term, Walker took the state by surprise with a proposal to effectively end collective bargaining rights for most state workers and pay more for health insurance and pension benefits as a tactic to deal with the state's budget shortfall. The proposal created a firestorm of opposition, and protests drew tens of thousands to the state Capitol (6/5).

USA Today: Wisconsin Gov. Walker Recall Vote
The recall election is the culmination of a bitter battle that began in February 2011 when Walker announced his plan to erase a $137 million budget shortfall in part by requiring state workers to give up collective-bargaining rights and pay more for health insurance and pension benefits (Keen, 6/5).

NPR: Caring For Aging Relative: 'To Give Her A Good Life'
Over the last two months, NPR's Morning Edition has been following three families who make up the growing number of multigenerational households in this country. All became multigenerational unexpectedly, when elderly relatives could no longer live independently and the families took them in (6/5).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: WellPoint Strays Outside Insurance With Deal To Buy Contact Lens Provider 1-800 Contacts
WellPoint Inc. plans to buy contact lens retailer 1-800-Contacts Inc. in a deal that would give the insurer its first direct-to-consumer business outside selling individual health coverage. Terms of the deal with private equity firm Fenway Partners were not disclosed (6/4).

Politico: Hospital Billing Shifting Costs
A hospital billing practice that can leave Medicare beneficiaries on the hook for large medical costs is becoming increasingly common, according to a report released in Health Affairs on Monday. Three researchers from Brown University examined how frequently patients are placed on "observation status," meaning they're getting treatment in a hospital but are not technically admitted. That means their care is covered by Medicare Part B rather than Part A, which can leave patients responsible for a greater share of their costs (Feder, 6/4).

The Wall Street Journal: Behind One Hospital's Fight Against Deadly Infection
Ms. Nash and her colleague Kathy Roye-Horn, Hunterdon's infection-prevention director, are on the front lines of one of the most critical battles in health care—keeping virulent hospital infections at bay. Nationwide, about one in 20 patients entering a hospital will get a potentially deadly infection, accounting for some $33 billion in preventable costs, according to the federal Department of Health and Human Services. Dangers lurk not only in vulnerable places like operating rooms. Recent studies have shown that some of the most common surfaces, from sink faucets to TV remote controls, can harbor the most deadly bacteria (Landro, 6/4).

Los Angeles Times: Unusual Partnership Offers Students Birth Control
Throughout the school year, students visit the on-campus clinic to get birth control, pregnancy tests, counseling and screening for sexually transmitted diseases. The services …  are offered through a unique collaboration between Planned Parenthood and the Los Angeles Unified School District designed to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies among teenagers at the Boyle Heights high school. Although nonprofit groups frequently offer reproductive healthcare on school campuses around the nation, the partnership involving Planned Parenthood — long a target of antiabortion lawmakers in Washington — is the only one of its kind (Gorman, 6/5).

Los Angeles Times: Six Southern California Hospitals Fined For Healthcare Violations
State regulators have fined six Southern California hospitals for healthcare violations that included an emergency room nurse's sexual assault on a patient at Chapman Medical Center in Orange. The penalties, announced Friday by the California Department of Public Health, included the eighth assessed on Southwest Healthcare System in Murrieta, which has been fined more often than any other hospital in the state since financial penalties were adopted in 2007 (Boxall, 6/5).

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