First Edition: June 6, 2014
Today's headlines include reports about the Senate confirmation of Sylvia Mathews Burwell to be the next secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Kaiser Health News: A Reader Asks: Where Can My Daughter Who Turns 26 Mid-Year Get Coverage?
Kaiser Health News’ consumer columnist Michelle Andrews answers this reader’s question (6/6). Read her response.
Kaiser Health News: Capsules: What’s A Surgeon’s Role In An ACO? Not Much So Far, Survey Says
Now on Kaiser Health News’ blog, Jenny Gold writes: “Accountable Care Organizations have given little attention to surgery in the early years of the Medicare program, choosing to focus instead on managing chronic conditions and reducing hospital readmissions. That’s according to a case study and survey published this week in the journal Health Affairs. The authors conducted case studies at four ACOs in 2012 and sent a survey to all 59 Medicare ACOs in the first year of the program, with 30 responding” (Gold, 6/5). Check out what else is on the blog.
Kaiser Health News: Letters To The Editor: The 15-Minute Doctor-Patient Relationship; Issues Of Costs, Medical Debts And Unnecessary Procedures; Physicians’ Examination Skills; And Other Thoughts
This periodic Kaiser Health News feature highlights readers' thoughts and reactions to KHN original stories (6/5). Check out the comments.
The New York Times: Burwell Wins Confirmation As Secretary Of Health
The Senate on Thursday confirmed the nomination of Sylvia Mathews Burwell to be secretary of health and human services, which will make her responsible for delivering health insurance to more than one-third of all Americans. Ms. Burwell was confirmed by a vote of 78 to 17. All the no votes were cast by Republicans. But 24 Republicans joined 52 Democrats and two independents in voting for confirmation (Pear, 6/5).
The Washington Post: Senate Confirms Sylvia Mathews Burwell As New Secretary Of HHS
The Senate confirmed Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the White House’s budget director for the past year, on Thursday as the 22nd secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. On a bipartisan vote of 78 to 17, senators approved Burwell to lead the government’s largest domestic department, ending a quick confirmation process that was devoid of the bitter partisanship surrounding the 2010 Affordable Care Act and the changes it is bringing to the U.S. health-care system (Goldstein, 6/5).
Los Angeles Times: Senate Confirms Obama Pick Sylvia Mathews Burwell To Head HHS
Burwell, 48, will assume primary responsibility for continuing to implement the sweeping health law, which this year expanded health coverage to millions of Americans even as it remains a political flash point nationwide. Burwell did not shy from defending the law during her confirmation hearings, cautioning one senior GOP lawmaker that she would not support weakening consumer protections in the law in the name of giving states more flexibility. Burwell’s support for the 2010 health law prompted 17 GOP senators to oppose her nomination (Levey, 6/5).
The Wall Street Journal: Burwell Confirmed As Health And Human Services Secretary
Thursday's Senate confirmation of Ms. Burwell as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, in a 78-17 vote, marks a shift for an agency that has been headed by former state governors for the past 14 years and that over the past several months has been beset by the disastrous Obamacare rollout. Kathleen Sebelius, the current secretary and former Kansas governor, focused for much of her five years in the job on publicly selling the 2010 health law to a sometimes-skeptical American public. As the full extent of technical problems in the fall rollout of the law's online insurance exchanges became known, Mrs. Sebelius took a backseat to officials tapped by the White House to oversee the cleanup effort and instead traveled the country promoting enrollment (Radnofsky, 6/5).
USA Today: Senate Approves Burwell To Take Over Health Agency
he Senate on Thursday approved Sylvia Mathews Burwell to become the next head of the Department of Health and Human Services, the agency responsible for implementing President Obama's signature health care law. While Republicans continued to argue that the Affordable Care Act is a flawed act that should be repealed, Burwell easily passed the 51-vote threshold for confirmation, as 78 senators voted in her favor and 17 against (Kennedy, 6/5).
Politico: New Obamacare Chief Ran Textbook Campaign
With her overwhelming confirmation Thursday to succeed Kathleen Sebelius at Health and Human Services, Burwell has already started to cultivate a friendlier relationship with Republicans — one that could ease some of the tensions between the Hill and HHS simmering for four years over Obamacare. And her skillful navigation of what could have been a tricky confirmation process could serve as a case study for future Obama cabinet nominees, including whoever replaces Eric Shinseki at the Veterans Affairs Department (Kim and Haberkorn, 6/6).
The New York Times: Newest Cabinet Member Is Never Far From Her Roots
Senators say Ms. Burwell will need that sensibility now that they have confirmed her as President Obama’s secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. The department has a work force of about 30 times the population of Hinton, and it is responsible for, among many other tasks, continuing to put the landmark but divisive Affordable Care Act into effect (Calmes, 6/5).
The Wall Street Journal: Administration Overhauls Federal Health-Care Website
The Obama administration is revamping HealthCare.gov and scrapping significant parts of the federal health-insurance marketplace in an effort to avoid the problems that plagued the site's launch last fall, according to presentations to health insurers and interviews with government officials and contractors. But the makeover—and the tight timeline to accomplish it—are raising concerns that consumers could face another rocky rollout this fall when they return to the site to choose health plans. Some key back-end functions, including a system to automate payments to insurers, are running behind schedule, according to a presentation federal officials made to health insurers (Anti, Wilde Mathews and Radnofsky, 6/5).
The Wall Street Journal: Four Million To Face Penalties For Lacking Health Coverage, CBO Says
Four million people of the nation's 30 million uninsured will pay penalties in 2016 for lacking health coverage, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates. That is down about 2 million from an earlier CBO report and reflects the CBO's calculations that more people will qualify for exemptions from the Affordable Care Act's requirements (Radnofsky and McKinnon, 6/5).
The Washington Post’s Wonkblog: These States Want Another Obamacare Delay
The small business exchanges, like the law's individual exchanges, are a virtual marketplace where businesses with 50 or fewer employees can compare health plans. Besides offering a limited tax credit, Obamacare small business exchanges, or SHOP, are supposed to offer one particular feature that changes the healthcare landscape for small companies: choice. Through what's known as "employee choice," small businesses can send employees to the SHOP exchanges with a set contribution, and then the employee can pick a health plan among those offered on the SHOP exchange. This employee choice feature is "crucial" to the success of the SHOP exchanges, according to Small Business Majority, a group supporting the Affordable Care Act (Millman, 6/5).
The New York Times: Senators Reach Accord Easing Worries Over Veterans’ Health Measure
In the wake of a revelations that officials at veterans hospitals across the country have been manipulating patients’ appointment times by creating secret waiting lists, two senators reached a bipartisan accord on Thursday to give authority to the acting Veterans Affairs secretary to fire senior officials and to expand access for veterans who do not live near medical facilities or have experienced long waits (Weisman and Steinhauer, 6/5).
The Washington Post: Senators Reach Bipartisan Deal On Bill To Fix VA
The agreement would allow veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA facility or who are experiencing long wait times to seek care at other government or private medical facilities. Senators also propose providing $500 million for VA to hire more doctors and nurses to meet growing demand nationwide. "Right now we have a crisis on our hands and it’s imperative that we deal with that crisis," Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said as he announced the deal Thursday afternoon (O’Keefe, 6/5).
Los Angeles Times: Senate Reaches Bipartisan Deal To Fix VA ‘Crisis’
Two U.S. senators on Thursday announced a bipartisan deal on legislation aimed at improving healthcare for veterans in response to reports of Veterans Affairs employees falsifying records to conceal long waits for medical appointments. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced the agreement from the Senate floor as a group of senators headed to Normandy, France, for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings (Simon, 6/5).
The Wall Street Journal: Senators Reach Bipartisan Accord To Overhaul Veterans Affairs Department
The bill also would offer veterans the choice to use medical providers outside the VA system if they experience long wait times at their VA provider or live more than 40 miles away from a VA hospital. In addition, the legislation would improve access to health care for military sexual assault survivors and provide in-state tuition for veterans at public colleges or universities. It would also create a task force that would review the VA's scheduling needs and be authorized to fund the implementation of solutions (Ballhaus, 6/5).
Politico: Bernie Sanders, John McCain Strike VA Deal
The compromise measure, announced Thursday on the Senate floor, includes pieces of three VA bills that have been introduced in the Senate. The legislation would allow veterans to see private doctors outside the VA system if they experience long wait times or live more than 40 miles from a VA facility. And it incorporates provisions from legislation introduced in the Senate by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) making it easier to fire VA officials. Similar legislation overwhelmingly passed the House last month and is included in the Sanders-McCain deal with the addition of an appellate process (Herb, 6/5).
Los Angeles Times: VA Chief To Investigate Deaths Of 18 Who Waited For Care In Phoenix
Eighteen veterans died while waiting for appointments at the Phoenix VA medical center, the acting secretary of Veterans Affairs said Thursday, as senators reached a bipartisan deal on legislation aimed at improving veterans' healthcare in response to coverups of long waits that have caused national outrage. Sloan Gibson, the acting VA chief, said that he has asked investigators to determine how many of the 18 deaths were the result of a delay in care. If any deaths were caused by delayed care, he pledged to return to Arizona and personally apologize to survivors. In Washington, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, and John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced the agreement, as some senators headed to Normandy, France, for the 70th anniversary of the D-day landings (Carcamo and Simon, 6/5).
The Associated Press: VA Chief: 18 Vets Left Off Waiting List Have Died
Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said he does not know whether the 18 new deaths were related to long waiting times for appointments but said they were in addition to the 17 reported last month by the VA’s inspector general. The announcement of the deaths came as senior senators reached agreement Thursday on the framework for a bipartisan bill making it easier for veterans to get health care outside VA hospitals and clinics (6/5).
The Washington Post: Key Facts About Potential VA Nominee Delos Cosgrove
The White House has reportedly contacted the chief executive of the renowned Cleveland Clinic, Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, about heading the Department of Veterans Affairs in the wake of a scandal involving treatment delays and falsification of scheduling records. Former VA Secretary Erik Shinseki resigned last week after an inspector general’s report detailed the problems, and President Obama named Sloan Gibson, the VA’s former No. 2, to serve as interim head of the agency (Hicks, 6/5).
The Wall Street Journal’s Pharmalot: Sunshine… Or Clouds? Drug Makers Grapple With Transparency Law
For the past year, the pharmaceutical industry has been bracing for the Sunshine Act, a provision of health care reform that requires drug makers to gather and report payments and gifts to physicians. The disclosures, which will be made public on a federal government web site, are being submitted in stages, but a preliminary round that recently ended suggests that drug makers are uneasy (Silverman,
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