KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: May 22, 2013

Today's headlines include reports about how the Medicaid expansion is shaking out in Virginia and Texas, as well as a report about the role health care is playing as the House attempts to negotiate an immigration reform measure.   

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Survey: Even In Southern States, Medicaid Expansion Is Popular; Accuracy of Blood Glucose Meters Draws Scrutiny
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Karl Eisenhower reports on a poll of public opinion in southern states and the health law: "Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina have a lot in common: The summers are hot and the political climates are conservative. These are states where Mitt Romney handily beat Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election, so it's not surprising to learn that the president's signature health law is unpopular there. But despite the law's unpopularity, its expansion of Medicaid is supported by almost two-thirds of adults in these states, according to a survey by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a left-leaning think tank" (Eisenhower, 5/21).

Also on Capsules, Phil Galewitz reports on the accuracy of blood glucose meters: "Blood glucose meters, which millions of diabetics rely upon to regulate their blood sugar, have become less costly and easier and less painful to use. But they haven't become more accurate, a top Food and Drug Administration official said Tuesday at a meeting of researchers analyzing studies that show wide variation in the performance of the machines used to measure blood glucose levels" (Galewitz, 5/21). Check out what else is on the blog.

The New York Times: For Tea Party Groups, Shades Of 2010
Leaders of the Tea Party movement hope outrage over the I.R.S. inquiry will rekindle grass-roots activism that in many places went dormant after big Republican electoral defeats of November 2012. They aim to link the current scandal to other government programs they consider overweening — principally the rollout of the health care overhaul law — and generate a Republican wave in the 2014 midterm elections reminiscent of 2010's (Gabriel, 5/21).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Major Savings Reform Va. Demanded To Expand Medicaid Gets Approval From Federal Officials
Federal officials approved a four-year Virginia cost-saving experiment intended to simplify and consolidate health care coverage for about 78,000 Virginians who are eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare, a major change Gov. Bob McDonnell set as a condition for expanding Medicaid (5/21).

The New York Times/Reuters: Texas: House Votes to Ban Medicaid Expansion
The Texas House passed a measure on Tuesday that would prevent the state from expanding its Medicaid program as outlined by President Obama's health care law (5/21).

USA Today: Market, Insurers Will Keep Premiums Low, Analysts Say
Market forces and an impetus to attract younger, healthier people into the insurance market will help keep health insurance premiums lower as the 2010 health care law takes effect on Jan. 1, industry analysts and insurance officials say. "If they price too high, young people won't buy insurance, and that's going to hurt the companies," said Jay Angoff, who led initial implementation of the law for HHS. "They need these people to come in. It's an industry problem" (Kennedy, 5/21).

Politico: Courts To Hear Birth Control Mandate Lawsuits
Obamacare’s birth control mandate will go before four different appeals courts over the next three weeks as private businesses that object to the policy on religious liberty grounds bring a barrage of lawsuits that opponents hope to get before the U.S. Supreme Court as soon as this fall. On Wednesday, two for-profit companies will ask the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to strike the requirement that they provide employees with insurance coverage that includes birth control and other drugs that they say can cause abortion. Three other companies will present oral arguments in different appeals courts by early June (Smith and Haberkorn, 5/22).

The Wall Street Journal: Electronic Health Data Gaining Favor
More than half of U.S. doctors have switched to electronic health records and are using them to manage patients' basic medical information and prescriptions, according to federal data set to be released Wednesday. The Department of Health and Human Services says it has reached a tipping point as it seeks to steer medical providers away from paper records (Radnofsky, 5/22).

The Washington Post: The End Of Health Price Secrecy May Be Starting In Miami
Spurred by the release of the Medicare data, the chief executive of Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Miami has now pledged to release those negotiated rates that tend to be kept secret. Via MedCity News: Steve Sonenreich, chief executive of Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, made a public pledge Monday to divulge the contractual rates the hospital pays private insurers for diagnoses and treatments (Kliff, 5/21).

Politico: House Immigration Talks Hang On Health Care
House immigration negotiators have given themselves until the end of the week to hash out language on what kind of health benefits should be available to undocumented immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship, a crucial issue for the talks. If they can’t resolve this issue, the four-year immigration negotiations could come to a crashing halt (Sherman and Bresnahan, 5/21).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: House GOP Panel Approves Agency Budget Cuts Far Deeper Than Those Approved In March
Republicans controlling the House pressed ahead Tuesday with slashing cuts to domestic programs far deeper than the cuts departments like Education, Interior and State are facing under an already painful round of automatic austerity. Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security and the Pentagon would be spared under the plan approved by the House Appropriations Committee on a party-line vote, but legislation responsible for federal firefighting efforts and Indian health care would absorb a cut of 18 percent below legislation adopted in March (5/21).

The New York Times: Arizona Law On Abortions Struck Down As Restrictive
A federal appellate panel struck down Arizona's abortion law on Tuesday, saying it was unconstitutional "under a long line of invariant Supreme Court precedents" that guarantee a woman’s right to end a pregnancy any time before a fetus is deemed viable outside her womb — generally at 24 weeks (Santos, 5/21).

The Wall Street Journal: Appeals Court Strikes Down Arizona Abortion Law
Arizona is among a number of states that have tried to restrict the practice in recent months, while other states have weighed laws that would strengthen abortion rights. For instance, a bill recently proposed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, would expand women's access to late-term abortions (Jones, 5/21).

The Associated Press/Los Angeles Times: Arizona Abortion Ban Struck Down
A three-judge panel of the court said the law violated a woman's constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy before a fetus can survive outside the womb. "Viability" is generally considered to begin at 24 weeks. Normal pregnancies run about 40 weeks (5/21).

Los Angeles Times: Strike At UC Medical Centers Continues; More Picketing Wednesday
As the afternoon wore on, the number of union members on the picket lines at the University of California medical centers started to thin. But hundreds of workers concerned about staffing levels and pension reforms planned to continue striking throughout the evening. Union spokesman Todd Stenhouse said that the decision to strike was a difficult one for many (Gorman and LaGanga, 5/21). 

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