KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: February 11, 2013

Today's headlines include developments related to Medicare and hospital readmissions.

Kaiser Health News: FAQ On Medicare Doctor Pay: Why Is It So Hard To Fix?
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey reports: "While physicians have sidestepped drastic Medicare payment cuts for 2013, doctors' groups and lawmakers are gearing up for yet another battle to scrap the formula that forces Congress to consider the 'doc fix' on a yearly basis. For doctors, the nail-biter has become a familiar but frustrating rite. Lawmakers invariably defer the cuts prescribed by a 1997 reimbursement formula, which everyone agrees is broken beyond repair. But the deferrals are always temporary due to the difficulty of finding offsetting cuts to pay for a permanent fix. In 2010, Congress delayed scheduled cuts five times, with the longest patch lasting one year" (Carey, 2/10). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Medicaid Transformation Watched Closely In Florida
WFSU's Lynn Hatter, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "This week the federal government signed off on the first part of a plan that could eventually steer more than 3 million low-income Floridians on Medicaid into a managed care, or HMO system. The decision comes two years after Florida lawmakers approved the conversion in an attempt to control costs in the $21 billion program" (Hatter, 2/8). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Feds Blame Mississippi Governor For Exchange Denial
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Phil Galewitz reports: "One, Mississippi has become No, Mississippi. The Obama administration on Friday offered an explanation for why it rejected Mississippi's bid to establish a state-based online health insurance marketplace, called One, Mississippi. In a letter, the federal government's top exchange official said they had no choice because Gov. Phil Bryant would not allow the exchange to work with Medicaid and other agencies under his control" (Galewitz, 2/8). Check out what else is on the blog.

Kaiser Health News also tracked weekend health policy news headlines, including reports about what Democratic and Republican congressional leaders said on the Sunday talk shows about Medicare and the nation's spending (2/10).

Kaiser Health News: Letters To The Editor: Readers' Thoughts On Issues Related To Hospice Care, Mental Health Provisions Of The President's Gun Plan
Stories that drew a lot of reader comment included one about a federal investigation into San Diego Hospice as well as another detailing the mental health provisions included in President Barack Obama's gun plan (2/8).

The Wall Street Journal: In Medicaid, A New Health-Care Fight
Employers in several states are bracing for higher health-care costs as some governors, worried about the impact on state budgets from the federal overhaul, resist a planned Medicaid expansion (Radnofsky, 2/10).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Medicare Crackdown Spurs Innovative Fixes To Slow Hospital Readmissions Epidemic
Hospital readmissions are miserable for patients, and a huge cost — more than $17 billion a year in avoidable Medicare bills alone — for a nation struggling with the price of health care. Now, with Medicare fining facilities that don't reduce readmissions enough, the nation is at a crossroads as hospitals begin to take action (2/11).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Aging America: Myriad Roadblocks To Recovery Fuel Hospital Readmissions, Geography A Factor
More than 1 million Americans wind up back in the hospital only weeks after they left for reasons that could have been prevented — a revolving door that for years has seemed impossible to slow (2/10).

Politico: Feds; 'E-Health' Initiative Reaches Out To Patients
In an age of the Web, Wi-Fi and ever-present social media, so-called e-health lags far behind. But federal officials leading the multibillion effort to get doctors and hospitals to use health information technology are now reaching out to patients and families to help them become e-patients (Kenen, 2/11).

The New York Times: A Growing Trend: Young, Liberal And Open To Big Government
Under-30 voters are "the only age group in which a majority said the government should do more to fix problems," the nonpartisan Pew Research Center reported in November. In a Pew survey a year earlier, more than 8 in 10 said they believed that Social Security and Medicare had been good for the country, and they were especially supportive of seeing the programs overhauled so they would be intact when they retire (Stolberg, 2/10).

Los Angeles Times: A Delicate New Balancing Act In Senior Healthcare
Frail seniors like Gordon account for a disproportionate share of healthcare expenditures because they are frequently hospitalized and often land in intensive care units or are readmitted soon after being released. Now the federal health reform law is driving sweeping changes in how hospitals treat a rapidly growing number of elderly patients (Gorman, 2/9).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: In Health Secretary Bill Hazel, Lawmakers Find An Honest Broker In Medicaid Expansion Struggle
The compelling facts and figures he provided the Senate Finance Committee gave feuding Democrats and Republicans the confidence to unite behind an expedited but cautious roadmap toward a federally prescribed expansion of Medicaid in Virginia (2/10).

Los Angeles Times: Judges Split Over Birth Control Coverage And Religious Liberty
Judges across the country are increasingly split over whether private employers and their companies can cite their religious beliefs as a valid reason for denying birth control coverage to their employees (Savage, 2/8).

Los Angeles Times: HealthCare Partners Seeks License To Operate As Managed-Care Plan
HealthCare Partners, the medical-group giant acquired last year by dialysis chain DaVita Inc. for $4.4 billion, is seeking a state license to operate as a managed-care plan after questions were raised about its compliance with California law (Terhune, 2/9).

The New York Times: Montefiore's President, Influential In Albany, Is Unknown By Design
The man behind the largest hospital system in the Bronx — one that delivers nearly a third of the babies born in the borough — remains largely unknown, by choice. But behind the scenes, where he holds court with political and business leaders while speaking in the language of a community activist, Dr. Safyer has become one of the most powerful figures in a borough of 1.4 million residents facing a growing health crisis from obesity, diabetes, asthma and chronic diseases (Hu, 2/10).

Los Angeles Times: State Lacks Doctors To Meet Demand Of National Healthcare Law
As the state moves to expand healthcare coverage to millions of Californians under President Obama's healthcare law, it faces a major obstacle: There aren't enough doctors to treat a crush of newly insured patients (Mishak, 2/9).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Virginia Struggles With Federal Health Insurance Requirement Regarding Part-Time Workers
State agencies are trying to figure out how to comply with federal health insurance requirements regarding part-time workers. The health care reform law requires providing health insurance coverage to employees who work at least 30 hours a week or more on average (2/11).

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