KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: VA Fix Comes With Big Pricetag; Safety Outside Abortion Clinics; Questions About Medicaid Eligibility

The Fiscal Times: The Government's Next Big Health Care Experiment
As an example of how the normally sclerotic Congress can act extremely quickly when properly motivated, both chambers passed bills this week to ameliorate the Veterans Affairs health services scandal. The Senate version, negotiated by the mismatched pair of Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and John McCain (R-AZ), spends $500 million on more doctors for the VA and authorizes leases for 26 new medical facilities. But until the expansion gets up and running, between now and 2016, VA recipients who run into long delays or live more than 40 miles from a clinic would be able to access private care facilities like community health centers or private hospitals. ... Congress moved so fast that they skipped the part where they wait for the Congressional Budget Office to deliver a cost estimate (David Dayen, 6/13).  

Politico: Running The Gauntlet: The Supreme Court Is About To Decide Whether America's Abortion Clinics Become Dangerous No-Go Zones
In McCullen v. Coakley, the Massachusetts buffer-zone case currently before the Supreme Court, which will be decided by the end of June, lawyers for abortion protesters have tried to portray their clients as "plump grandmothers" wanting to quietly hand out pamphlets. ... What Scalia's argument doesn't acknowledge is that the civility of those encounters is largely dependent on laws ensuring buffer zones themselves. In September 2013, the National Abortion Federation or NAF, the professional association of abortion providers in the United States, reported that 92 percent of providers in areas without buffer zones said they were concerned about the safety of their workers and their patients in the areas directly surrounding the clinic (Robin Marty, 6/11).

Forbes: Federal Bungling Of ObamaCare Verification Creating Nationwide Chaos In Medicaid Departments
Increased Medicaid enrollment has long been heralded as a rare "success" of the ObamaCare rollout. Recently, CMS released a new report boasting about increasing enrollment in Medicaid. "These gains are made possible by collaboration between CMS and the states that operate these programs," CMS said. But how many of the new 6 million enrollees actually meet the eligibility requirements for Medicaid? Some state officials have started to push back on the claims of the Obama Administration on Medicaid, and a few have quietly started to remove ineligible individuals that have been enrolled due to continued issues with the federal website. The few examples that have become public from around the country call into question the validity of these Medicaid enrollment numbers, painting a dire picture for taxpayers and the truly needy (Josh Archambault and Nic Horton, 6/14).  

The New York Times: Under The Skin
Transgender Americans scored a major victory for equality last month, when the Department of Health and Human Services overturned a decades-old ban on Medicare coverage for gender-confirming surgeries. But the decision is hardly a final triumph. Though thousands of people will now receive insurance coverage, many, many more will continue to be denied because of state-level restrictions on coverage. Indeed, only five states and the District of Columbia require that private insurance companies cover transition-specific care (Parker Marie Molloy, 6/12). 

The Wall Street Journal: Transgender Surgery Isn't The Solution
The government and media alliance advancing the transgender cause has gone into overdrive in recent weeks. On May 30, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services review board ruled that Medicare can pay for the "reassignment" surgery sought by the transgendered—those who say that they don't identify with their biological sex. Earlier last month Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that he was "open" to lifting a ban on transgender individuals serving in the military. Time magazine, seeing the trend, ran a cover story for its June 9 issue called "The Transgender Tipping Point: America's next civil rights frontier." Yet policy makers and the media are doing no favors either to the public or the transgendered by treating their confusions as a right in need of defending rather than as a mental disorder that deserves understanding, treatment and prevention (Paul McHugh, 6/12).

The New York Times' Well Blog: When a Stressful Hospital Stay Makes You Sick
The woman was rolled into the emergency department by paramedics. Struggling to breathe, she bent forward, hands on her knees, using gravity to help expand her chest. "This all started when she was admitted, and now she's worse," her husband told me. A few weeks earlier, pneumonia had put her in the hospital for five days. When her oxygen levels improved she was discharged, but at home she struggled to get out of bed, and couldn't shake a deep fatigue. The day I saw her in the E.R., her breathing was becoming increasingly labored (David H. Newman, 6/12). 

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