First Edition: September 22, 2014
Today's headlines include a variety of stories detailing how health issues are playing in the midterm election campaigns.
Kaiser Health News: A Single Insurer Holds Obamacare Fate In Two States
Capital Public Radio’s Pauling Bartolone, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: “Here’s a health law pop quiz: Which two states have the least successful Obamacare health insurance exchanges? You may guess a state in the Deep South where political opposition to the law is fierce. Or maybe Missouri? It passed a state law saying consumer advisors funded by the Affordable Care Act aren’t allowed to advise consumers. In fact, Iowa and South Dakota are the two states where the ACA insurance marketplaces struggled the most (Bartolone, 9/22). Read the story.
Kaiser Health News: Too Many People Die In Hospital Instead Of Home. Here’s Why.
WNYC’s Fred Mogul, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: “’New York City continues to lag in serious ways with regards to providing patients with the environment that they want at the end of life,’ says Dr. David Goodman, who studies end-of-life care at Dartmouth College's Geisel School of Medicine. The reasons they do this are many, but most experts agree that it has less to do with the unique characteristics and desires of people in New York and New Jersey than the health care system and culture that has evolved here. The result: More people dying in the hospital, often in an intensive care unit on a ventilator or feeding tube; more doctor visits leading to tests, treatments and drug prescriptions; and more money being spent by the government, private insurers and patients themselves” (Mogul, 9/22). Read the story.
USA Today: Don't Expect 'Perfection' On Health Care Site
The federal health insurance website is trying to resolve glitches and security questions raised by the Government Accountability Office, so people can safely and successfully sign up for insurance at open enrollment Nov. 15. Much of the Obama administration's success in enrolling 8.1 million people in health insurance over the past year was overshadowed by the momentous problems with HealthCare.gov and several state exchanges. As administration officials prepare to test the site with insurers Oct. 7, they're trying to manage expectations while portraying some confidence (O’Donnell, 9/21).
The Washington Post’s Wonkblog: Millions Have Joined Medicaid Under Obamacare. Here’s What They Think Of It.
The Medicaid program, already the nation's largest insurer, has quickly added millions to its rolls since the start of Obamacare's coverage expansion. And it appears that Medicaid enrollees are generally happy to have coverage, though many are encountering roadblocks to receiving the care they want, according to new research that provides one of the earliest insights into people's experiences under the expanded health insurance program for low-income Americans (Millman, 9/19).
The Washington Post: In Heated Midterm Contests, GOP Candidates Explore A Move To The Middle
Buoyed by President Obama’s deep unpopularity, the Republican Party is positioned to reclaim a national governing majority for the first time in nearly a decade by winning control of the Senate. But Republicans have little margin for error, and most key races remain tossups. That’s in part because many of those same polls show that voters favor Democrats on several issues, including pocketbook economic concerns and women’s reproductive health issues. This has led many Republican candidates to take steps — some only in recent weeks — to project a more moderate image and try to inoculate themselves from attacks portraying them as extremists (Rucker and Wilson, 9/21).
The New York Times: To Win Back Older Voters, Democrats Talk Up Social Security
While the [Democratic] party by necessity is focused on motivating its dispirited base of women, Latinos, African-Americans and young people, lately the number of television ads mentioning Social Security and Medicare in places with close congressional races testifies to the battle for retirement-age voters. In the first half of September, one in five Democratic ads dealt with either a candidate’s commitment to the programs or, more often, the threat from Republicans, according to Kantar Media CMAG, a nonpartisan media monitor. By comparison, one in 10 Republican ads mentioned the programs, typically to answer Democrats’ assaults. Many Democratic candidates, party committees and allied groups are drawing a link between Republican plans to overhaul Medicare and Social Security and cut taxes for wealthy Americans, on the one hand, and Republicans’ support from the billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch (Calmes, 9/20).
The Associated Press: GOP Holds Hagan To Standard She Used In 2008
But Hagan can’t completely shake the 95 percent figure, which Tillis’ campaign considers the capstone of a narrative that Hagan said one thing in 2008 but did another in Washington. Her vote for Obama’s signature 2010 health care law and her Obama-like assertions that people could keep their doctor and insurance plan under the overhaul reinforce the difficulty. The president “is not real popular in North Carolina and has the potential of making a vote for her less attractive than it might otherwise be,” said Duke University political science professor David Rohde (9/19).
The New York Times: Republicans Switch Firm Handling Obama Suit
House Republicans on Friday replaced the firm handling their lawsuit against President Obama after the lawyer representing them pulled out over what was said to be political backlash among his colleagues at the firm, Baker Hostetler. The lawyer, David B. Rivkin Jr., had taken the case on behalf of House Republicans in August, right after they voted to sue the president, accusing him of overstepping the powers of the presidency. Two people with knowledge of the situation said Mr. Rivkin withdrew from the case under pressure after facing criticism that he had taken on an overly partisan lawsuit. ... With Mr. Rivkin’s withdrawal, the House Administration Committee signed a new contract on Friday with William A. Burck, co-head of the Washington office of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. Mr. Burck had served as outside counsel for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform when House Republicans sued Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to produce documents related to the botched gunrunning investigation known as Operation Fast and Furious (Parker, 9/19).
The Washington Post: Congress Approves Tighter Scrutiny Of Hospices
Hospice agencies must subject themselves to government inspections at least once every three years under new legislation approved by Congress, part of a measure that addresses concerns about substandard operators in the booming industry. Approved by the House earlier this week and by the Senate late Thursday night, the bill also requires closer scrutiny of hospices at which a large percentage of patients live longer than six months — a sign to regulators that a hospice may be intentionally enrolling people who are more profitable than patients closer to death (Whoriskey, 9/19).
Los Angeles Times: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Signals She Has No Plans To Retire Soon
Earlier in her court career, Ginsburg was cautious and restrained, voting with the liberal bloc but rarely raising her voice. But in recent years, she has spoken out against what she has called conservative activism. … In June, she delivered another sharp dissent when the court, by a 5-4 vote in the Hobby Lobby case, ruled Christian business owners had a religious-liberty right to refuse to pay for the full range of birth control methods that were made part of health insurance by the Affordable Care Act. The five men who formed the majority had a "blind spot," Ginsburg said in one interview, and did not see the importance of these contraceptives for working women (Savage, 9/20).
The Wall Street Journal: Medicare's Annual Enrollment Period Approaches
Got Medicare? Two recent developments may help you figure out what type of coverage to elect during this fall's open-enrollment period, and how to navigate the backlogged system for appealing Medicare claim denials (Tergesen, 9/20).
The New York Times: After Surgery, Surprise $117,000 Medical Bill From Doctor He Didn’t Know
In operating rooms and on hospital wards across the country, physicians and other health providers typically help one another in patient care. But in an increasingly common practice that some medical experts call drive-by doctoring, assistants, consultants and other hospital employees are charging patients or their insurers hefty fees. They may be called in when the need for them is questionable. And patients usually do not realize they have been involved or are charging until the bill arrives. The practice increases revenue for physicians and other health care workers at a time when insurers are cutting down reimbursement for many services (Rosenthal, 9/20).
NPR: Which Catholics Offer Birth Control? Look To The Insurers
The Affordable Care Act requires that most health plans offer birth control to women. Around the country, Catholic employers have been arguing in court that having anything to do with insurance coverage of contraceptives violates their freedom of religion. But when the insurance companies themselves are Catholic, contraceptive coverage comes without a hitch (9/21).
The Wall Street Journal: Gynecologists Resist FDA Over Popular Surgical Tool
Doctors nationwide are still using a gynecological tool months after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned that it can spread undetected cancer, demonstrating the limits of the regulator's reach into clinical practice. Since the FDA warning in April, Johnson & Johnson JNJ +0.60% pulled the device called a laparoscopic power morcellator from the market; many hospitals, such as Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital and Philadelphia's Temple University Hospital, put moratoriums on the tool; and some regional insurers stopped covering its use (Levitz and Kamp, 9/21).
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