KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: August 21, 2014

Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including reports about a new "Obamacare" ad in the Arkansas Senate race and a California poll measuring how the state's voters feel about a ballot initiative that would expand the state's ability to regulate health insurance rates.

Kaiser Health News: Californians Favor Tougher Rules On Health Insurance Rates, Survey Says
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Helen Shen writes: “California voters are showing strong early support for a ballot initiative that would expand the state's authority to regulate health insurance rates. Nearly 7 of every 10 respondents indicated that they would vote in favor of Proposition 45, while 16 percent would vote against it, according to an independent poll released Wednesday by the Field Research Corp. in San Francisco” (Shen, 8/20). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Are Your Medical Records Vulnerable To Theft?
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Eric Whitney writes: “A decade ago almost all doctors kept paper charts on every patient. That is changing quickly as laptops become as common as stethoscopes in exam rooms. Recent hacking attacks have raised questions about how safe that data may be. Here are some frequently asked questions about this evolution underway in American medicine and the government programs sparking the change” (Whitney, 8/21). Read the story, which also ran in CNN Money.

The New York Times: Loss For Democrats In Midterm Elections Could Be Boon For Clinton
“A Republican Congress will present an inviting contrast and easily understood negative for whoever runs for president as a Democrat,” said Anita Dunn, a former White House communications director for Mr. Obama. At the same time, she added, “The president will have two more years to get things done, and clearly, a Democratic Senate would be better for that.” As little as Congress is doing now, losing the Senate beachhead poses numerous dangers to Mr. Obama’s agenda. Republicans would control which of his appointees receive confirmation votes, and how quickly. They could, as their House counterparts have done, initiate investigations of the administration. They could make him use his veto pen to fend off legislation impeding his climate-change initiative or repealing parts of the health care law. They could seek smaller compromises on trade, infrastructure or business taxation on terms that force Mr. Obama to choose between alienating his Democratic base or accomplishing nothing further before leaving office (Harwood, 8/20).

The Washington Post: Small Business Owners Aiming To Unseat Incumbents In Midterms, Poll Shows 
“It’s important for politicians to hear their voice and focus on issues relevant to this community,” John Swanciger, Manta’s chief executive, said in the company’s report. So, what issues are those? Not surprisingly, a third of the respondents said the economy still represents the country’s greatest challenge, more than any other issue presented in the survey. Manta polled more than 1,500 owners and reported a margin of error of just below 3 percent. Conversely, health care, which has been one of the most controversial political issues for small firms in recent years, has fallen to fourth on that list, now behind immigration issues and income inequality (Harrison, 8/20).

The Associated Press: Pryor’s ‘Obamacare’ Ad Highlights His Cancer Fight
U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor reached into his own medical history Tuesday to explain his vote on the nation’s new health care law, telling Arkansans his battle with a rare cancer 18 years ago influenced him. The two-term Democrat, who is in a tough re-election battle, fought a clear-cell sarcoma discovered after a pickup basketball game. He had five weeks of chemotherapy and a 13-hour surgery that his campaign called experimental (8/20).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Democrat Pryor Embraces Obama Health-Care Law In Ad
Mr. Pryor discusses his own battle with cancer and appears for the first time in a campaign ad with his father, former Sen. and Gov. David Pryor, one of the state’s most popular Democrats. Although the senator does not mention the Affordable Care Act by name, he touts his support for the law proudly after his father mentions that his son’s insurance company didn’t want to pay for treatment after he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in 1996 (Hook, 8/20).

The Washington Post: GOP Win In Southwest Virginia Senate Race Secures Republican Control Of Legislature
The Senate election was the most important of the day given its impact on Richmond’s upper chamber. Republicans already dominate the House, so the GOP victory in the Senate put the General Assembly fully in the hands of a party that opposes the Democratic governor’s top policy aims (Vozzella and Robinson, 8/19).

The Associated Press: Republican Wins Special Va. State Senate Race
The seat was previously held by conservative Democrat Phil Puckett. His abrupt resignation in June gave control of the Senate to Republicans, who used their new leverage to prevail against McAuliffe in a monthslong showdown over whether the state budget should include Medicaid expansion. A possible job offer to Puckett by the GOP-controlled Virginia tobacco commission at the time of his resignation is the subject of an FBI investigation (8/19).

Los Angeles Times: Poll: 69% Favor Prop. 45 Measure On Regulating Health Insurance Rates
A new poll shows 69% of California voters back Proposition 45, a November ballot measure giving the insurance commissioner the power to stop excessive health-insurance rate increases. The Field Poll released Wednesday indicates broad support statewide for Proposition 45 ahead of what's expected to be a costly and contentious battle between consumer groups and health insurers (Terhune, 8/20).

Los Angeles Times: State Audits Find Prison, Hospital Payroll Abuses
Audits of a state prison and psychiatric hospital detail hundreds of thousands of dollars in improper payments and financial problems, including outright payroll fraud, and medical staff and guards receiving questionable bonuses and holiday pay, according to reports released Wednesday (St. John, 8/20).

NPR: How Much Bigger Is The Ebola Outbreak Than Official Reports?
The latest numbers on the Ebola outbreak are grim: 2,473 people infected and 1,350 deaths. That's the World Health Organization's official tally of confirmed, probable and suspect cases across Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. But the WHO has previously warned that its official figures may "vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak" (Greenfieldboyce, 8/21). 


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