First Edition: October 3, 2014
Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including results of the latest round of Medicare penalties for hospital readmissions and a federal appeals court ruling that could have a major impact on abortion services in Texas.
Kaiser Health News: Medicare Fines 2,610 Hospitals In Third Round Of Readmission Penalties
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jordan Rau reports: "Medicare is fining a record number of hospitals – 2,610 – for having too many patients return within a month for additional treatments, federal records released Wednesday show. Even though the nation’s readmission rate is dropping, Medicare’s average fines will be higher, with 39 hospitals receiving the largest penalty allowed, including the nation’s oldest hospital, Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia" (Rau, 10/2). Read the story, and check out a related story, A Guide To Medicare’s Readmissions Penalties And Data (Rau, 10/2) and the chart detailing the readmissions penalties by state. You can also download the hospital data.
Kaiser Health News: Canceled Health Plans: Round Two
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Appleby reports: “Thousands of consumers who were granted a reprieve to keep insurance plans that don’t meet the federal health law’s standards are now learning those plans will be discontinued at year’s end, and they’ll have to choose a new policy, which may cost more. Cancellations are in the mail to customers from Texas to Alaska in markets where insurers say the policies no longer make business sense. In some states, such as Maryland and Virginia, rules call for the plans’ discontinuations, but in many, federal rules allow the policies to continue into 2017” (Appleby, 10/2). Read the story, which also ran in The Washington Post.
Kaiser Health News: Calif. Law Bolsters National Effort To Give Workers Paid Sick Time
Kaiser Health News’ consumer columnist Michelle Andrews reports: “With federal legislation continuing to prove elusive, California in September joined a growing number of states and cities that require employers to provide paid sick time off for their workers” (Andrews, 10/3). Read the story.
The Wall Street Journal: Health Insurers Notify Consumers Of Canceled Plans
Tens of thousands of consumers across the country are set to receive notices this fall from their insurers canceling their health plans in the latest sign of how the Affordable Care Act is reshaping the insurance market. The cancellations are far less widespread than last fall, when millions of people were told their individual insurance plans didn't meet the law's more-stringent coverage requirements. The reasons for this year's cancellations are more varied than last year's (Radnofsky and Wilde Mathews, 10/2).
Politico: Obamacare And SCOTUS, The Sequel?
The U.S. Supreme Court will begin its new term Monday and, once again, Obamacare could be on the docket. The justices have been asked to weigh in on whether the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies can go to any American, regardless of whether their state runs a health insurance exchange or relies on the federal one. They’ll soon be asked, too, whether religious nonprofits have to provide contraception in employee health plans, a follow-up to last spring’s Hobby Lobby case. And there is a third, very long-shot issue in the wings: whether the health care legislation was a tax bill that under the Constitution had to start in the House of Representatives instead of the Senate (Haberkorn, 10/2).
The Wall Street Journal: Texas Can Enforce Law On Abortion, Appeals Court Says
All but seven abortion clinics in Texas are faced with the prospect of closing after a federal appeals court ruling Thursday that allowed a restrictive provision of a state abortion law to take effect. The law, enacted last year, includes a provision requiring abortion clinics to qualify as “ambulatory surgical centers”—a standard currently met by only seven clinics located in the state’s five largest cities. At that time, the state had about 40 abortion facilities (Koppel, 10/2).
The New York Times: Appeals Court Ruling Closes 13 Abortion Clinics In Texas
Thirteen abortion clinics in Texas will be forced to close immediately after a federal appellate court sided with the State of Texas in its yearlong legal battle over its sweeping abortion law and allowed the state to enforce one of the law’s toughest provisions while the case was being appealed. The decision by the three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, will have a sharp and urgent effect on abortion services in Texas, lawyers for abortion providers said. (Fernandez, 10/2).
The Associated Press: Appeals Court Lets Texas Enforce Abortion Limits
A federal appeals court Thursday gave Texas permission to fully enforce a sweeping abortion law signed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry last year that would effectively close all but seven abortion facilities in America's second-most populous state. Two years ago, Texas had more than 40 abortion facilities. Many clinics have already closed under a part of the law requiring doctors who perform abortions to obtain hospital admitting privileges, and now more than a dozen remaining clinics are set to shutter as well (Weber, 10/2).
USA Today: Appeals Court Lets Texas Enforce Law That Restricts Abortions
The ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals stays a lower judge's ruling and allows Texas to put into effect restrictions that were part of its abortion law passed last year and pushed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry. The Texas' attorney general's office called the decision "vindication'' for the Texas law, which Perry and other Lone Star conservatives say is designed to protect women's health. The Center for Reproductive Rights, an abortion rights group that challenged the Texas law, denounced the decision and said it was considering legal options (Welch, 10/2).
Los Angeles Times: Most Abortion Clinics In Texas Must Close After Appeals Court Ruling
Nearly two-thirds of the abortion clinics remaining in Texas must close immediately after a federal appeals court ruled Thursday that the state may enforce a law that requires those facilities to be built to the same standards as hospitals (LaGanga, 10/2).
The New York Times: Financial Ties Between Doctors and Health Care Firms Are Detailed
For some doctors, treating patients isn’t the only way to make money. ... In just five months at the end of last year, doctors and other health care professionals made more than $212 million on speaking and consulting engagements for drug and device makers, according to data released on Tuesday by the federal government. ... Although the database also includes payments for research, royalties and other activities, ethicists particularly scrutinize the money doled out for speaking and consulting payments. They argue that these relationships can influence prescribing behavior and negatively affect patients, especially when such ties are lucrative (Thomas and Abrams, 10/2).
The Wall Street Journal's Pharmalot blog: One Doc Shoulders Aside Criticism Of Sunshine Database Payment
The $7.4 million that Texas surgeon Stephen Burkhart received from a medical device maker earlier this year seems like the kind of eye-popping sum that a new doctor-payment website was created to reveal. But his explanation for the remuneration suggests the importance of carefully examining the sums reported by the federal government’s Open Payments database (Rockoff, 10/2).
The Associated Press: Supreme Court Takes Up Idaho Medicaid Challenge
The Supreme Court said Thursday it will decide whether private sector health care providers can force a state to raise its Medicaid reimbursement rates to keep up with the rising cost of services. The justices agreed to hear an appeal from Idaho, which wants to overturn a lower court decision that ordered the state to increase payments (Hananel, 10/2).
Reuters: Supreme Court To Decide Idaho Medicaid Reimbursement Dispute
The U.S. Supreme Court is set to decide in a case coming from Idaho whether private medical providers can sue a state in order to raise Medicaid reimbursement rates to deal with rising medical costs. The justices agreed on Thursday to hear an appeal filed by the state of Idaho, which says that medical providers have no legal recourse to sue. The case focuses on rates for certain residential services (Hurley, 10/2).
The Washington Post: McAuliffe Aide Suggested Job For Senator’s Daughter If He Remained In His Seat
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s chief of staff left a voice-mail message for a Democrat who was on the verge of quitting the General Assembly in June, saying that the senator’s daughter might get a top state job if he stayed to support the governor’s push to expand Medicaid, according to descriptions from three people who heard the recording. Then-Sen. Phillip P. Puckett wound up resigning, flipping control of the chamber to Republicans and thwarting McAuliffe’s signature goal of expanding health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Puckett’s abrupt exit came amid accusations that Republicans had enticed him to leave with job offers for himself and his daughter, triggering an ongoing federal investigation and inflaming partisan passions in Richmond (Vozzella, 10/2).
Politico: Ebola Highlights CDC Fund Crunch
Congress gave the CDC an emergency injection of $30 million to combat Ebola right before it left town last month. Lawmakers will still have to confront what the agency needs to keep fighting this disaster — and to get ready for the next one, and the one after that. More than many agencies, the CDC has been hit hard during the last four years of pervasive austerity, with hundreds of millions of dollars stripped from its budget. State and local preparedness has also suffered (Norman, 10/2).
Politico: Rand Paul Stokes Ebola Fears
Sen. Rand Paul is warning that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention might be downplaying the threat from the Ebola virus. The Kentucky Republican, appearing on “The Laura Ingraham Show” on Wednesday, said the CDC and the Obama administration are giving off a false sense of security. “This could get beyond our control,” said Paul, an ophthalmologist (Topaz, 10/2).
The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Ebola Screening Grows
The number of people in Texas who are being screened for potential exposure to Ebola expanded Thursday to roughly 100, as health officials cast a wide net to try to prevent the one confirmed case of the disease from sparking an outbreak. Four members of a family close to Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man diagnosed with the virus, were ordered to remain in their Dallas home and not receive any visitors until at least Oct. 19, to pass the 21-day maximum incubation period for the often-deadly disease (Campoy, Hinshaw and Frosch, 10/2).
The New York Times: Understanding The Risks Of Ebola, And What ‘Direct Contact’ Mean
Can you catch Ebola on a crowded bus or train if you are standing next to someone who is infected? What if that person sneezes or coughs on you? If the person has symptoms, the answer could be yes. Questions that may have seemed theoretical a few days ago have taken on a troubling reality since a traveler from Liberia, Thomas E. Duncan, carried the virus to Texas (Grady, 10/2).
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