KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: October 13, 2010

Today's early morning highlights from major news organizations looks at the number of people denied health coverage by major insurers, arguments before the Supreme Court on the right to sue vaccine makers, concerns about the FDA's plans on reviewing medical devices and doctors moving from private practice to hospital work.

Hospitals Lure Doctors Away From Private Practice 
Last year, half of new doctors were hired by hospitals, according to the Medical Group Management Association, a professional organization for physician practices. According to a 2009 report by the American Medical Association, one in six doctors works for a hospital, and the number is quickly growing (Kaiser Health News).

Studies Highlight High Medicare Costs For People In Nursing Homes
Medicare beneficiaries who reside in long-term care facilities account for an excessive and preventable portion of Medicare spending because of high rates of hospitalization, emergency room visits and skilled nursing care, according to reports released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation (Kaiser Health News).

Changes Wrought By Health Reform? Well, Maybe Not
So far, the big McDonald's controversy is turning out to be a big nothingburger. ... But that hasn't stopped the McDonald's story from becoming propaganda in the campaign to discredit and, eventually, repeal health care reform (Kaiser Health News).

Insurers Denied Coverage To 1 In 7 
The four largest U.S. for-profit health insurers on average denied policies to one out of every seven applicants based on their prior medical history, according to a congressional investigation released Tuesday (The Wall Street Journal).

Worried About Medical Device Rules 
A bipartisan group of House Energy and Commerce Committee members wants the Food and Drug Administration to delay some of its proposed changes to the process of reviewing and approving a wide array of medical devices ranging from syringes to MRI machines. The group of 12 lawmakers caution that five of FDA's recommendations have the potential to create new hurdles to getting products to the market (Politico).

N.Y. Faces $200 Billion In Retiree Health Costs 
The cities, counties and authorities of New York have promised more than $200 billion worth of health benefits to their retirees while setting aside almost nothing, putting the public work force on a collision course with the taxpayers who are expected to foot the bill (New York Times).

Air Force General Warns Growing Health Costs Could Hurt Military's Budget 
The Air Force's top uniformed officer on Tuesday warned that growing healthcare costs could hurt other critical military needs."We have to recognize that if we are not careful these unbounded costs can force out military content elsewhere in the Department of Defense portfolio," Gen. Norton Schwartz, the Air Force's chief of staff, said at a National Press Club luncheon on Tuesday (The Hill).

Vaccine Case Goes Before High Court 
Several Supreme Court justices expressed concern about opening the door wider to lawsuits against vaccine makers, saying it could force manufacturers from the market and undermine the nation's vaccine supply (The Wall Street Journal)

Vaccine Case Before Justices Turns On The Language Of A Law 
The Supreme Court on Tuesday struggled to divine the balance Congress had meant to strike in a 1986 law that established a system to compensate people injured by vaccines while barring some, but not all, lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers (The New York Times).

Justices Split On Childhood-Vaccine Case 
The Supreme Court seemed divided Tuesday on whether allowing lawsuits by people allegedly harmed by the side effects of childhood vaccines would hurt the general public by exposing drug companies to so much risk that they would leave the business (The Washington Post).

Supreme Court Appears Split By Infant Vaccination Case 
The US Supreme Court on Tuesday heard argument in a dispute over whether the family of an infant who suffered a severe reaction to a vaccine can sue the drug maker for allegedly failing to replace an older version of the vaccine with a safer version (Christian Science Monitor).

Mental Health Groups Call On President Obama To Recognize Military Personnel Who Commit Suicide 
The American Psychiatric Assn. on Tuesday urged President Obama to reverse a long-standing policy of withholding condolence letters to the families of U.S. servicemen and women who commit suicide (Los Angeles Times).

Women's Health Groups Launch Campaign For Copay-Free Birth Control
There's something many women of child-bearing age can rally behind in the new health overhaul law: free contraceptives. At least that's the idea behind a campaign being launched Tuesday by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (NPR).

Hollywood Takes On Health Care 
President Obama has spent recent months trying, among other things, to educate Americans about the health care reform bill, which he signed into law in the spring. Now he's getting some help from Hollywood. Actors Jack Black and America Ferrera have teamed up to star in a new video aimed at poking fun at some of the extreme arguments lobbed against the Affordable Care Act (Politico).

Dem Gov Candidate: Health Care Reform Could Be 'Toxic' In 2012 
Oregon's Democratic candidate for governor said Tuesday that President Obama's health care reform bill will be a "toxic" issue in 2012 unless states are given the opportunity to address the problem of rising medical costs. Former Gov. John Kitzhaber, a physician and a lead architect Oregon's state run health program, is seeking his old job back this year after serving two terms from 1995 to 2003 (CNN).

Ex-US AGs Back Va. Health Care Reform Lawsuit 
Three former U.S. attorneys general are supporting Virginia's lawsuit challenging the federal health care reform law. A friend-of-the-court brief filed Tuesday by Republicans William Barr, Edwin Meese and Dick Thornburgh supports Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's claim that Congress lacks authority to require citizens to buy health insurance or pay a penalty (The Associated Press).

Study: Overtesting In Late-Stage Cancer Patients 
If you knew you had one year to live, would you have medical tests you didn't need? Turns out a surprising number of patients with late-stage cancer get useless screening tests for new cancers that couldn't possibly kill them (The Associated Press).

Significant Number of Incurable Cancer Patients Are Still Having Routine Screening 
Prostate cancer is usually slow-growing; many men harbor it for years, and yet die of something else entirely. Even so, 15% of men with an incurable case of another cancer still had the routine PSA screening test, even though there was no chance it would save their life, according the results of a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. And that wasn't all (Wall Street Journal).

UMass Hospitals Will Cut 350 Jobs 
Strained by flat patient volume and pressure from health insurers, UMass Memorial Health Care, which runs five hospitals, said yesterday it will eliminate about 350 jobs or nearly 2.6 percent of its workforce - the largest hospital cutback in Massachusetts this year (Boston Globe).

L.A. County Offers Health Services Job To San Francisco's Health Chief 
Los Angeles County supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to offer Dr. Mitchell H. Katz, head of San Francisco's public health department, the job of leading L.A. County's massive and long-troubled health services department, a move that could bring to a close a two-year search (Los Angeles Times).

Doctor Faces New Charges 
A New Jersey doctor, exonerated once before of similar accusations, faces the state's medical board again Wednesday on charges that he put late-term abortion patients at risk when he shuttled them to Maryland to skirt state laws (The Wall Street Journal).

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