KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: April 9, 2013

Today's headlines include reports about about various elements of the health law and how they are being viewed as implementation rolls ahead.  

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Same-Sex Spouses Can Face Barriers On Health Care Under Federal Law
In her latest Kaiser Health News consumer column, Michelle Andrews writes: "Mike Bosia and Steven Obranovich, of Hardwick, Vt., were married three years ago after Vermont legalized same-sex marriage. As Bosia's spouse, Obranovich is entitled to health insurance through Bosia's employer, Saint Michael's College in Colchester. But that coverage comes at a cost" (Andrews, 4/9). Read the column.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Hospitals In 5 States Clamp Down On Delivering Babies Before 39 Weeks; Study: States Lag On Tracking Potential Obamacare Loophole
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Phil Galewitz reports on elective early deliveries: "A study published Monday in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology showed a group of 25 hospitals in five states were able to cut rate their rates of elective early deliveries from nearly 28 percent to under 5 percent in one year. The March of Dimes, which partly funded the study and assisted the hospitals in setting up new policies and procedures, said the findings show hospitals can overcome cultural and economic barriers to lower their rates" (Galewitz, 4/8).

Also on Capsules, Jay Hancock reports how states are doing in tracking a potential health law loophole: "What if there were a way for even small employers to escape some Affordable Care Act rules blamed for driving up costs? Some see self-insurance for medical care, which is exempt from the law's taxes, benefit rules and price restrictions taking effect next year, as just such an opportunity" (Hancock, 4/8). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Obama Budget Plan Revisits Small-Bore Budget Cuts That Have Proven Difficult To Pass
Efforts for a "grand bargain" on the budget between Obama and Congress have proven elusive, however, and stand-alone attempts to advance the proposals — including cutting farm subsidies and overhauling the Postal Service — have bogged down as well. At issue are dozens of longstanding options to trim the federal budget. They include eliminating direct payments to farmers even if they don't produce a crop and curbing $30 billion worth of Medicare payments over a decade to hospitals to reimburse them for patients who don't pay deductibles and copayments (4/8).

The New York Times: Critical Week in Senate for Gun and Immigration Bills
On the fiscal front, President Obama's budget release on Wednesday will add a third set of tax-and-spending plans to a Republican version that has passed the House and a Democratic one that passed the Senate. That should kick off talks to try to find some common ground and reach a deficit deal that would encompass changes to entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare and an effort to overhaul and simplify the tax code (Weisman and Steinhauer, 4/8).

NPR: The 'Hard-To-Change' Legacy Of Medicare Payments
The budget President Obama will send to Congress Wednesday is expected to include some $400 billion in reductions to Medicare and other health programs. And if the word around Washington is correct, it may also include a proposal aimed at winning some bipartisan backing – by changing the way Medicare patients pay for their care. But there have been previous efforts to streamline Medicare's antiquated system of deductibles and copayments. And none, so far, has been successful (Rovner, 4/9).

The Wall Street Journal: Health-Care Costs: A State-By-State Comparison
Health-care spending in the U.S. averaged $6,815 per person in 2009. But that figure varies significantly across the country, for reasons that go beyond the relative healthiness, or unhealthiness, of residents in each state (Radnofsky, 4/8).

Politico: Eric Cantor Could Sway GOP For Marilyn Tavenner
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor will introduce President Barack Obama's nominee to run the Medicare and Medicaid agencies at Tuesday’s Senate Finance Committee hearing to consider her nomination — a bipartisan boost that signals that she’s likely on course for confirmation. Cantor, who has known Marilyn Tavenner since he was in the state Legislature and she worked in Virginia, has called her "eminently qualified" to be administrator at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. That job also encompasses a lot of the implementation of the health care law (Haberkorn, 4/9).

The Washington Post: Rolling Out The Affordable Care Act In The Field
As the new features of the Affordable Care Act roll out between now and 2014, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) are developing new programs and tools to help healthcare providers deliver better care to the American public — and much of the work takes place outside the Beltway. Tom Fox spoke with a leader in the field about leading from the field. David Sayen is the CMS regional administrator for Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada and the Pacific territories. He has more than 30 years of federal service and experience in health and human services programs (Fox, 4/8).

Politico: Kathleen Sebelius: Much Confusion On ACA
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said she underestimated how long the politics of health reform would last and didn't anticipate how much confusion the slow rollout of the legislation would create. Sebelius said she had expected the Supreme Court ruling and President Barack Obama's reelection would tamp down some of the "relentless and continuous" politics. But the controversy goes on (Haberkorn, 4/9).

The Washington Post's WonkBlog: In Obamacare, Online Insurance Brokers See Potential Windfall
Online insurance brokers see a potential windfall when the federal government doles out billions in subsidies to buy help Americans buy health insurance. And they are asking state governments to help them score it (Kliff, 4/8).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Aetna Chairman, CEO Mark Bertolini Sees 2012 Total Compensation Climb  26 Percent
Aetna Inc. missed an earnings goal last year, so the health insurer chopped the performance-based bonus it awarded Chairman and CEO Mark T. Bertolini. But the executive’s total compensation still rose 26 percent in 2012. Bertolini, 56, received compensation valued at $13.2 million last year, according to an Associated Press analysis of the Hartford, Conn., company's annual proxy filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That's up from about $10.6 million in 2011 (4/8).

The Wall Street Journal: Where Do You Keep All Those Images?
Health-care providers are starting to embrace the fast-growing area of technology known as cloud services, the model of shared computing in which data is stored on remote servers that hospitals can access via desktop, tablet or smartphone. Instead of big capital investments in their own storage, they are paying a relatively modest upfront charge and monthly usage fees for cloud services (Landro, 4/8).

USA Today: Study: Younger Patients More Likely To Skip Medications
People younger than 65 are twice as likely to skip medications than older Americans, according to a study released today by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new CDC study found that about 13% of the Americans younger than 65 did not take their medications as prescribed to save money, while 6% of the older group skipped medications (Kennedy, 4/9).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: NY Doctor Convicted In Medicare Fraud Scheme
Authorities say a doctor has been convicted of participating in a $77 million Medicare fraud scheme. A jury in Brooklyn Monday convicted 50-year-old Dr. Gustave Drivas of Staten Island of health care fraud conspiracy and health care fraud following an eight-week trial. He was acquitted of kickback conspiracy (4/9). 

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