KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: June 6, 2013

Today's headlines include a report about a new poll showing public uneasiness is increasing in regard to the health law. At the same time, the White House is stepping up its efforts encourage people to enroll in the health coverage the will be available as a result of the overhaul. 

Kaiser Health News: Entrepreneurs At Health 'Datapalooza' Ask Feds For More Data
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Eric Whitney writes: "Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the agency's latest liberation of data from its vast trove of health care information this week, making public for the first time price and quality specifics for 30 different out-patient procedures at hospitals nationwide. But this data stream is not big enough or fast enough for some entrepreneurs" (Whitney, 6/6). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Of ACOs And Proton Beams: Why Hospitals 'Live In Two Worlds'
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Jenny Gold reports: "For the past several years, hospital CEOs have been talking a big game about accountable care—the latest health care model, which pays doctors and hospitals for quality, rather than the volume of services they provide. ACOs make providers jointly accountable for the health of their patients, giving them financial incentives to cooperate and to save money by avoiding unnecessary tests and procedures" (Gold, 6/6). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Wall Street Journal: Poll Finds Support Slumping For Health Law
Americans' unease with President Barack Obama's health-care law has intensified, just as the administration is gearing up to persuade people to sign up for some of its major provisions, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey finds. Prior Journal/NBC polls have found more people calling the health law a bad idea rather than a good one. But the number calling it a bad idea reached a high of 49% in a poll of 1,000 adults taken between May 30 and June 2, with 43% "strongly" holding that view (O’Connor and Radnofsky, 6/6).

Politico: Selling Of Obamacare Underway
The Obama administration is reaching out to Democrats and Republicans in Congress as it gears up to try to sell Obamacare to the public this summer. For the Democrats, the meetings are part of a substantial messaging effort that will get under way to encourage people to sign up for health coverage through the new Obamacare exchanges starting on Oct. 1. They’ve involved high-level officials and lawmakers. The message? Rely on the facts, not the politics, of the health law. Now is the time to give Obamacare a constituent outreach touch, à la other government programs such as Medicare and Social Security: Help people sign up, participants say (Haberkorn and Cunningham, 6/6).

Politico: Arizona's Jan Brewer Becomes Unlikely Ally Of Obamacare
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has become an unlikely warrior for Obamacare. Brewer is a conservative Republican who sued to topple the health law, refused to set up a health insurance exchange and memorably wagged her finger at President Barack Obama on a Phoenix airport tarmac. But now she's so determined to put the Obamacare Medicaid expansion in place in her state that she's vetoing any legislation that reaches her desk until the Republican Legislature caves (Cheney, 6/5).

NPR: Is Obamacare Hurting Hiring By Small Businesses?
The Affordable Care Act, which has become known as Obamacare, will require small businesses with 50 or more employees to offer health care coverage to their workers. Some have suggested that could be discouraging hiring by small businesses (Ydstie, 6/6).

The Washington Post: Report: Entitlement Changes To Put Seniors At Financial Risk
Nearly half of the nation's elderly population is "economically vulnerable" and would be particularly hard hit by even modest changes in the Social Security and Medicare programs being considered to slow the growth of the nation's long-term debt, according to a new report (Fletcher, 6/5).

USA Today: Policing Of Medicare Fraud Explodes Over Two Years
The government has revoked the ability of 14,663 providers and suppliers to bill Medicare over the past two years — almost two and a half times the number that had been revoked in the previous two years, new Department of Health and Human Services statistics to be released Thursday show. In some states, the number of revocations has quadrupled (Kennedy, 6/5).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: UnitedHealth Board Approves 32 Pct Increase In Quarterly Dividend To 28 Cents Per Share
UnitedHealth Group will raise its quarterly dividend by another 32 percent as the price of its stock hits all-time highs. The payout is being made in the face of funding cuts to a key portion of the health insurer's business starting next year (6/5).

The New York Times: Betty Ford Center And Hazelden Seek Business Partnership
With the Affordable Care Act poised to make addiction treatment available to millions of new patients, the Betty Ford Center and the Hazelden Foundation, two of the biggest names in substance abuse recovery, are pursuing a formal business alliance, the two groups said Tuesday (Quenqua, 6/5).

Politico: Abortion Emerges As An Issue In Filibuster Fight
As Democrats consider whether to use the so-called nuclear option to rewrite the Senate's filibuster rules, one issue in particular has some liberals worried: abortion. Changing the rules to make it easier to confirm President Barack Obama's executive branch or judicial appointments may help the White House in the short term, and railing against Republican filibusters plays well with the Democratic base. But privately, that base and pro-choice groups are concerned how a future GOP president and Senate could take advantage of the new setup (Everett, 6/6).

NPR: Court Says Some Morning-After Pills Must Be Available OTC Now
A federal appeals court has dealt the Obama administration yet another blow in its quest to keep at least some age restrictions on the sale of emergency contraceptive pills. In a three-paragraph order, a three-judge panel for the United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled that although the government's appeal of a lower court decision removing all age restrictions on morning-after pills is still pending, at least some medications must be made available over the counter immediately (Rovner, 6/5).

The New York Times: Judge Orders All Restrictions Lifted On Some 'Morning-After' Pills
A federal appeals court in New York on Wednesday ordered that some types of emergency contraceptives be made available for now to women of all ages without a prescription, adding another layer of confusion to a complex and intensely political fight over the drug’s availability (Belluck and Shear, 6/5).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Court Allows Girls Of All Ages To Buy Generic Morning-After Pill While Government Appeals
A federal appeals court has decided to permit girls of any age to buy generic versions of emergency contraception without prescriptions while the federal government appeals a judge's ruling allowing the sales. The order Wednesday was met with praise from advocates for girls' and women's rights and scorn from social conservatives and other opponents, who argue the drug’s availability takes away the rights of parents of girls who could get it without their permission. It is the latest in a series of rulings in a complex back-and-forth over access to the drug (6/6).

Politico: Report Promotes Research On Gun Violence And Public Health
The Institute of Medicine is recommending a national research agenda on gun violence that would tackle the issue from the same public health perspective that’s been applied to tobacco use and car accidents. A report released Wednesday recommends research in a number of areas that have angered the gun lobby in the past, including the risks and benefits of having a gun in the home (Norman, 6/6).

The New York Times: Accord Aims To Create Trove Of Genetic Data
More than 70 medical, research and advocacy organizations active in 41 countries and including the National Institutes of Health announced Wednesday that they had agreed to create an organized way to share genetic and clinical information. Their aim is to put the vast and growing trove of data on genetic variations and health into databases — with the consent of the study subjects — that would be open to researchers and doctors all over the world, not just to those who created them (Kolata, 6/5).

USA Today: Judge Orders Dying Pa. Girl Put On Transplant List
The national organ-transplant network is to hold an emergency review Monday, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said in a statement. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Tuesday refused to intervene in the lawsuit brought by Sarah's parents, saying that medical experts should make transplant decisions. She noted that three other children in Children's Hospital of Philadelphia are also gravely ill (Winter, 6/5).

Politico: Sarah Murnaghan Lung Transplant Case: Sebelius Ordered To Make Exception On Transplant
A federal judge on Wednesday ordered HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to allow 10-year-old Sarah Murnaghan to be moved to the adult lung transplant list, giving her a better chance of receiving a potentially life-saving transplant. The quick and unusual ruling, made after a hastily scheduled emergency hearing, follows a campaign by the family and some members of Congress to pressure the Obama administration to change a federal policy that puts children under age 12 at the bottom of the list of those who can receive donated adult lungs (Norman and Millman, 6/5).

The Washington Post: Cuccinelli Takes On IRS Over Payment to Virginia
Cuccinelli is in a bitter fight with McAuliffe, a Democrat, to succeed Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R). The attorney general called a morning news conference to announce that the IRS was refusing to release $125 million, part of the assets forfeited in a Medicaid fraud investigation that his office led. The case produced a $1.6 billion plea agreement with Abbott Laboratories for illegally promoting unapproved uses of its drug Depakote. It was the second-largest Medi¬caid fraud settlement in U.S. history (Vozzella, 6/5).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: After Va. Attorney General Complains Of Delay, Feds Cite Requirements For Releasing $115M
Hours after Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli complained that the Internal Revenue Service was blocking the release of more than $100 million owed to Virginia from a Medicaid settlement, federal officials said Wednesday that they are prepared to cut a $10 million check but need additional information before transferring the rest (6/5).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Suburban NY Hospital Damaged By Superstorm Sandy  Struggles To Reopen
Officials at the last hospital still closed because of damage from Superstorm Sandy are no longer predicting when they will be able to reopen. The Long Beach Medical Center, located on a waterfront channel just east of New York City, suffered heavy flooding damage in the October storm, requiring at least $56 million in repairs, hospital officials said (6/5). 

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