First Edition: October 6, 2014
Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including an announcement by Walmart that it will provide services to help customers evaluate and enroll in health plans and Indiana's efforts to get the federal government to approve its controversial plan to expand Medicaid.
Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill: Republicans Focus On Contraception To Woo Women Voters
Kaiser Health News staff writers Mary Agnes Carey and Julie Rovner discuss a new pitch by Republican candidates to make the Pill available without a prescription. Watch the video or read the transcript (10/5).
The Washington Post: Wal-Mart Adds In-Store Program To Help Customers Compare Insurance Offerings
Wal-Mart announced Monday that it will dive deeper into the health-care market, unveiling an initiative to allow customers to compare and enroll in health insurance plans in thousands of its stores. Wal-Mart is teaming with DirectHealth.com, an online insurance comparison site and independent health insurance agency, to set up counters in its stores where consumers can talk to licensed agents about plan options (Halzack, 10/6).
The Wall Street Journal: Indiana’s Gov. Pence Presses Obama On Medicaid Plans
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence put the future of the Medicaid program front and center when President Barack Obama landed in Evansville, Ind., on Friday afternoon. Mr. Pence, a Republican, told the president in a five-minute conversation that negotiations with federal officials to extend Medicaid to an additional 350,000 Hoosiers are stalling over a key tenet: the state’s desire to require the low-income participants in the federal-state insurance program to pay premiums toward the cost of their coverage. Such a requirement is anathema to many of the program’s most forceful advocates (Radnofsky, 10/3).
Los Angeles Times: California Regulators Clear Obamacare Rates, Hold Off On Networks
California regulators won't challenge the next round of health insurance rate increases in the state exchange, but insurers' narrow networks of doctors and hospitals are drawing tougher scrutiny. The state's two insurance regulators didn't find proposed premiums for 2015 individual coverage to be unreasonable among the 10 health plans in the Covered California exchange. These rates also apply to individual coverage outside the state's Obamacare marketplace (Terhune, 10/3).
Los Angeles Times: Insurance Commissioner Race Pits Two Starkly Different Candidates
Few jobs at the state Capitol have more effect on citizen pocketbook issues than California's elected insurance commissioner. The commissioner oversees a $123-billion-a-year industry that includes automobile, homeowner and dozens of other types of insurance coverage that most Californians are required to purchase. And a fight is underway over how much power to give the office over the hot-button issue of health insurance rates (Lifsher, 10/5).
Los Angeles Times: Weigh Options When Losing Health Coverage At Work: COBRA Or Obamacare
[P]eople leaving — or losing — a job can continue the policy offered by their employer under COBRA, or they can buy one on their own in the private health insurance market. Those with qualifying incomes who shop through the state's Affordable Care Act exchange, Covered California, may be able to get financial help paying for coverage. The best choice will depend on a number of factors, experts say. Here are some tips (Zamosky, 10/5).
The Wall Street Journal: Doctors, Companies Say Physician Payment Database Contains Errors
Companies and doctors say there are a number of errors in a new U.S. government database that discloses pharmaceutical-company and medical-device company payments to physicians—mistakes that doctors complain give the public the wrong impression about their industry ties. Some companies acknowledge reporting data incorrectly, and some blame the errors on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (Loftus and Walker, 10/3).
The Associated Press: Democrats Reprise Pitches For Reproductive Rights
When U.S. Sen. Mark Udall aired the first television ad of his re-election campaign in April, the spot did not list his accomplishments, or otherwise argue why voters should send him back to Washington for a second term. Instead, it went after his challenger, Republican Rep. Cory Gardner, on his opposition to abortion rights. Six months later, Udall and his allies are still filling the airwaves with ads hammering Gardner on abortion .... It's the most prominent example of how, from Alaska to Florida, reproductive rights have taken center stage in Democratic campaigns (Riccardi, 10/3).
The New York Times: Texas Women Forced To Reassess After New Ruling On Abortions
The day after a federal appeals court allowed stringent new abortion restrictions to take effect in Texas, patients arrived on Friday at Whole Woman’s Health here in the Rio Grande Valley to find that they must travel 240 miles north to San Antonio to find one of the eight legal abortion clinics now in operation. ... For the staff as well as the patients, some of whom waited as long as four hours as they tried to arrange appointments elsewhere, it was an upsetting day of counseling and reassessment (Tillman and Eckholm, 10/3).
The New York Times: Supreme Court’s Robust New Session Could Define Legacy Of Chief Justice
The Supreme Court on Monday returns to work to face a rich and varied docket .... In the coming weeks, the justices will most likely agree to decide whether there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, a question they ducked in 2013. They will also soon consider whether to hear a fresh and potent challenge to the Affordable Care Act, which barely survived its last encounter with the court in 2012 (Liptak, 10/4).
The Washington Post: As Supreme Court Term Begins, Prospect Of A Gay-Marriage Ruling Looms Large
There is a chance that the court will accept one of the new challenges to the Affordable Care Act, this time about federal subsidies for those who bought insurance on an exchange that was not set up by a state. Both sides agree the subsidies are crucial to making Obamacare work (Barnes, 10/4).
The New York Times: Becton Dickinson To Acquire CareFusion For $12.2 Billion
Becton Dickinson & Company, a medical technology company, said on Sunday that it would acquire CareFusion, which provides products and services to hospitals, for $12.2 billion in cash and stock. The deal is the latest in a flurry of mergers and acquisitions in the health care industry. ... Combining BD and CareFusion will create one of the five largest medical device companies in the world, with a range of offerings for pharmacies and hospitals (Gelles, 10.5).
The Wall Street Journal: Becton Dickinson To Buy CareFusion For $12.2 Billion
Becton and CareFusion make products like catheters, tubes and pumps that hospitals use to deliver medicines to patients. The two companies also have been trying to help hospitals manage their drug use to eliminate waste and errors. By combining, the companies hope to be able to provide a fuller range of supplies, and also the tools medical facilities need to cope with health insurers, who are pressing them to curb spending and provide better, more cost-effective care (Rockoff and Mattioli, 10/5).
The Wall Street Journal: Ebola Case In Dallas Points Out Flaws
The aggressive response that health officials have mounted to the Ebola virus in Dallas is likely to prevent a wide-scale outbreak. But multiple snafus reveal some unexpected issues the U.S. would have to prepare for in the event of a larger-scale infectious disease threat (Campoy and McKay, 10/5).
USA Today: When Ebola Hits, Contact Tracing Is A Critical Process
When a person is diagnosed with Ebola, as happened last week with Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention aids local health officials in quickly launching a process called contact tracing to determine who had physical contact with the patient or his bodily fluids while he had symptoms of the deadly disease (Copeland, 10/6).
Los Angeles Times: Disease Detectives On The Hunt To Confine Ebola Virus
A team of disease detectives, quietly working behind the scenes, has fanned out across Dallas amid the swirl of activity around a Liberian man who arrived here infected with the Ebola virus. For public health officials, the team is the key to containing the virus. It includes experts from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some fresh from working the outbreak in West Africa, as well as a cadre of local health workers. They are part of a key process in combatting infectious diseases known as contact tracing (Brown, 10/4).
Politico: GOP 2016ers On Ebola: Panic
For once, President Barack Obama and Texas Gov. Rick Perry are on the same page. At separate briefings on the Ebola crisis, Obama administration officials and Perry have delivered the same message: Don’t panic — the health authorities know what they’re doing. But for other Republicans — and conservative media outlets — it’s time for panic. The likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates — except for Perry — are practically lining up to warn that the Obama administration isn’t doing enough to keep Ebola out of the United States, now that Dallas is dealing with the nation’s first confirmed case (Nather, 10/3).
The Washington Post: As Medical Imaging Moves From 2-D To 3-D, FDA Rushes To Keep Up
At the Food and Drug Administration, a small team of scientists is investigating how 3-D imaging — the technology used to create more realistic animations in video games and movies — could transform medical screening devices. The scientists are focused on early breast cancer detection; in a process known as tomosynthesis, new screening machines take low-dose X-rays from various angles, overlaying them to produce a 3-D rendering of a patient’s breast (Ravindranath, 10/5).
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