First Edition: January 23, 2012
Today's health policy headlines include reports looking ahead to President Barak Obama's State-of-the-Union address and others examining the health law.
Kaiser Health News: In Quest To Grow, Catholic Hospital System Pares Religious Ties
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jordan Rau reports: "Catholic Healthcare West, one of the nation's largest hospital systems, is ending its governing board's affiliation with the Catholic Church and changing its name, two steps intended to help the system expand throughout the states in which it operates — California, Arizona and Nevada — and beyond" (1/23).
Kaiser Health News: Bishops Will Sue Feds Over Contraception Rule
Kaiser Health News staff writers Mary Agnes Carey and Shefali S. Kulkarni report: "The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is promising a legal challenge to federal rules the Obama administration reaffirmed Friday requiring health insurers to provide women with a range of preventive health services, including birth control, without charging a co-payment, co-insurance or deductible" (Carey and Kulkarni, 1/20).
Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Advocates Demand Clarity About Options For Patients In Financial Need
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Jessica Marcy writes: "Many Americans continue to struggle with the high cost of medical care, unaware that non-profit hospitals are required to provide information about potential financial assistance or relief. But, a provision in the 2010 health law seeks to clarify what help hospitals should offer" (1/20). Check out what else is on the blog.
Kaiser Health News tracked weekend health policy headlines, including reports about the Administration's decision to give some religious employers an extra year to comply with its birth control coverage rule, about the AFSCME's ad that attempts to link GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney to Medicare fraud, House GOP leaders intent to again seek to revamp Medicare and the Republican presidential candidates comments after the South Carolina primary vote.
Note: The Wall Street Journal has a collection of health-related articles in "Big Issues: Health Care, January 2012." The section includes the following two stories and a number of others.
The Wall Street Journal: Can Accountable-Care Organizations Improve Health Care While Reducing Costs?
It's often said that the main method of paying health-care providers—with a fee for each service—results in increased and wasteful spending. Such a system, its critics say, rewards providers just for doing more procedures, rather than for providing efficient and high-quality care. One major effort to fix that system, promoted by the federal health-overhaul law and some private insurers, is to create accountable-care organizations, or ACOs. Medicare's main ACO program is launching this year, while many health plans are already working with providers on ACO-style payment models (Mathews, 1/23).
The Wall Street Journal: Should Physicians Use Email To Communicate With Patients?
Email has been so commonplace for so long that some people consider it nearly obsolete. But in the health-care profession, its use for communications between doctors and their patients is still controversial (1/23).
The Associated Press: Health Overhaul Lags In States
Here's a reality check for President Barack Obama's health overhaul: Three out of four uninsured Americans live in states that have yet to figure out how to deliver on its promise of affordable medical care. This is the year that will make or break the health care law. States were supposed to be partners in carrying out the biggest safety net expansion since Medicare and Medicaid, and the White House claims they're making steady progress (Alonso-Zaldivar, 1/22).
The Washington Post: Obama's 2011 State Of The Union Address: An Accounting
Every president announces a slew of initiatives in his State of the Union address. Here, in order of delivery, is a summary of the key proposals, pledges or priorities announced by Obama a year ago —and what happened to them. (The analysis includes proposals related to biomedical research and a health law technical correction) (Kessler, 1/ 23).
Politico: Boehner: GOP Weighing Medicare Options
House Speaker John Boehner said on Sunday his chamber would definitely pass a budget this year and signaled the GOP may pursue a bipartisan Medicare proposal in order to deflect Democratic attacks (Raju, 1/22).
The New York Times: Chefs, Butlers, Marble Baths: Hospitals Vie For The Affluent
Pampering and décor to rival a grand hotel, if not a Downton Abbey, have long been the hallmark of such "amenities units," often hidden behind closed doors at New York’s premier hospitals. But the phenomenon is escalating here and around the country, health care design specialists say, part of an international competition for wealthy patients willing to pay extra, even as the federal government cuts back hospital reimbursement in pursuit of a more universal and affordable American medical system (Bernstein, 1/22).
Chicago Tribune/Los Angeles Times: Chelation Therapy Trial Continued Despite Risks
With $30 million of taxpayer money, researchers set out to conduct one of the largest studies ever of an alternative medical treatment. The question: Does intravenous chelation therapy to expel metals from the body improve symptoms of coronary artery disease? (Tsouderos, 1/23).
The Washington Post: Va. Families Of Autistic Children Still Waiting For Coverage
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) signed a bill into law last spring mandating coverage, but Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) determined that the legislation contained imprecise language that legislators needed to correct. Since then, families who expected insurance coverage have continued to pay out of pocket … or forgo treatments they say could help their children learn basic skills such as talking or walking. … Despite a snag at the start of this year’s legislative session, a pair of bills are moving through the Republican-controlled General Assembly. But even if they pass, coverage is not likely until the end of the year (Kumar, 1/22).
The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: NY Making Progress On Health Care
New York state has made substantial progress in complying with the national health care law, which would extend coverage to the uninsured by 2014. An analysis by The Associated Press shows 13 states have adopted a plan to comply with the law. New York is among 17 states making headway. States must have their plans ready for federal approval by Jan. 1, 2013, or risk having federal oversight of their health care (1/22).
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