First Edition: September 12, 2011
Today's health policy headlines include reports about the pressures faced by the 'super committee' as well as the latest on how states are doing with the implementation of the health law.
Kaiser Health News: Health Insurers Deny Coverage To Many Who Apply For Individual Policies
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz, working in collaboration with USA Today, reports: "Amanda Hite says she felt 'really healthy' when she applied recently for health insurance. But Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield denied her, because she had seen a chiropractor a few months earlier for a sore back and later had visited an emergency room because of back pain" (Galewitz, 9/11).
Kaiser Health News: New Data Show Difficulties In Controlling Patient 'Rebound' At Care Facilities
Kaiser Health News reporter Jordan Rau, working in collaboration with The Washington Post, reports: "The Veterans Health Administration, the largest integrated health care system in the country, has long employed many of the approaches Medicare is pushing on all hospitals to reduce unnecessary readmissions. But new data show VA hospital patients are just as likely to end up back in a hospital bed as are patients at private hospitals. The new statistics underscore how hard it may be for hospitals to stop patients from rebounding back through their doors, a major goal of Medicare as it seeks to curtail the nation’s ballooning health costs" (Rau, 9/11).
Kaiser Health News also tracked weekend health policy news, including reports about how GOP contentiousness on Medicare and the health law will again show up during tonight's presidential primary debate.
The New York Times: Pressure Builds On Deficit Panel To 'Go Big,' Beyond Its Mandate, In Cuts
A higher deficit-reduction goal would increase pressure on both parties to address the two main drivers of projected high debt: the rapid growth of spending for the Medicare and Medicaid programs and an inefficient tax system unable to keep pace. That would test Republicans' opposition to raising any tax revenues from high-income individuals and corporations, and would challenge Congressional Democrats to agree to more savings from entitlement programs than they would like (Calmes, 9/12).
Politico: Deficit Panel Eyes Good Ol' Options
While that doesn't sound terribly ambitious, it does create a pretty familiar road map for the deficit panel: tax code reform, including closing loopholes for special interests and overhauling the big entitlement programs of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Other cuts to domestic programs are also under discussion, though the Defense Department is fighting deep cuts to military programs. Indeed, many old ideas seem to have fresh legs — before the panel's inaugural meeting last Thursday, members had begun revisiting some of the hundreds of billions of dollars in savings agreed to in the debt talks led by Vice President Joe Biden this spring (Wong, 9/11).
The Washington Post: As States Lag In Implementing Health-Care Law, Bigger Federal Role Looks Likely
Across the country, states are lagging in preparations to erect the health insurance market-places at the heart of the 2010 health-care overhaul, bogged down by a combination of partisan hostility and practical hurdles. Faced with the delay, administration officials have been ramping up talks with state leaders in recent weeks over ways the federal government could pitch in without having to completely take over — speaking both informally and at a series of regional meetings underway (Aizenman, 9/10).
The New York Times: GOP Senators In Albany Block Federal Aid To Fulfill Part Of Health Law
With 2.6 million uninsured residents, a popular Democratic governor and tens of millions of federal dollars at stake, New York would seem to be one of the least likely states to join a growing revolt in the nation's capitals against facilitating a federal overhaul of health care (Kaplan, 9/11).
Politico: Bill May Bleed Jobs From Health Sector
Health care providers are warning that President Barack Obama's new jobs plan could actually siphon jobs from one of the few industries still hiring — because the only way to pay for it would be to make deeper cuts in the health care entitlement programs (Dobias, 9/11).
Los Angeles Times: Reduced State Dental Benefits Create Dire Situation For Patients
California cut coverage for 3 million Medi-Cal recipients two years ago. Since then, dentists say patients wait until infections become so severe they must visit emergency rooms or their rotted teeth must be pulled (Gorman, 9/12).
The Wall Street Journal: WellPoint's New Hire. What Is Watson?
WellPoint Inc. and International Business Machines Corp. are set to announce a deal on Monday for the health insurer to use the Watson technology, the first time the high-profile project will result in a commercial application. WellPoint said it plans to use Watson's data-crunching to help suggest treatment options and diagnoses to doctors. It is part of a far broader push in the health industry to incorporate computerized guidance into care, as doctors and hospitals adopt electronic medical records and other digital tools that can record, track and check their work (Mathews, 9/12).
The Wall Street Journal: Puerto Rico Disability Claims Probed
The Social Security Administration's inspector general is investigating a case of potentially widespread disability fraud in Puerto Rico, two people familiar with the matter said, part of the agency's stepped-up efforts to tackle abuses in the financially struggling program (Paletta, 9/12).
The New York Times: Closing A Nursing Home, And A Chapter Of New York History
The Bialystoker home, plagued by deep debt and what it regards as inadequate Medicaid reimbursements, is closing. It was opened in 1929 as a nursing home and communal center by Jewish immigrants from Bialystok. … In authorizing the closing, the state's Department of Health has ordered the home, which is scheduled to shut in late October, to find new beds for all 95 residents. Meanwhile, its 10-story building at 228 East Broadway is on the market for an asking price of more than $10 million (Berger, 9/11).
Check out all of Kaiser Health News' e-mail options including First Edition and Breaking News alerts on our Subscriptions page.This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.