First Edition: September 11, 2014
Today's headlines include reports about a new study regarding employer health coverage and costs.
Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill: HHS Official: Healthcare.gov Updates Will Be 'Improvement But Not Perfection'
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey and Politico Pro's Jennifer Haberkorn discuss testimony before a House subcommittee during which a key Obama administration official lays out the updates that HHS is making to the online marketplaces before enrollment begins in November (9/10). Read the transcript or listen to the audio.
Kaiser Health News: You're Being Observed In The Hospital? Patients With Private Insurance Better Off Than Seniors
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Susan Jaffe writes: “An increasing number of seniors who spend time in the hospital are surprised to learn that they were not ‘admitted’ patients -- even though they may have stayed overnight in a hospital bed and received treatment, diagnostic tests and drugs. Because they were not considered sick enough to require admission but also were not healthy enough to go home, they were kept for observation care, a type of outpatient service. The distinction between inpatient status and outpatient status matters: Seniors must have three consecutive days as admitted patients to qualify for Medicare coverage for follow-up nursing home care, and no amount of observation time counts for that three-day tally” (Jaffe, 9/11). Read the story, which also ran in The Washington Post.
The Wall Street Journal: Cost Of Employer Health Coverage Shows Muted Growth
The increase was slightly less than the 4% seen last year, according to the annual poll of employers performed by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation along with the Health Research & Educational Trust, a nonprofit affiliated with the American Hospital Association. The share of the family-plan premium borne by employees was $4,823, or 29% of the total, the same percentage as last year. The total annual cost of employer coverage for an individual was $6,025 in the 2014 survey, up 2%, a difference that wasn't statistically significant (Mathews, 9/10).
Los Angeles Times: Employer Health Rates Rise 3%, Worker Deductibles Top $1,200
Those results reflect a recent trend of slower growth in healthcare costs. But many employers and health-policy experts predict bigger increases for 2015 and beyond as the economy recovers (Terhune, 9/10).
Politico: Workplace Insurance Coverage Levels Steady In Year One Of Obamacare
It’s only year one of the Obamacare exchanges, and the findings won’t quell the debate about how businesses will respond in the coming years to new requirements and more regulatory and economic changes to the health industry. But the steady availability of employer-sponsored coverage and the “extraordinarily modest” premium rise indicate that predictions that “the sky would fall” under Obamacare have not come to pass, said Drew Altman, president of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, which conducted the study with the Health Research and Education Trust (Norman, 9/10).
USA Today: Employer Health Plan Deductibles See Big 5-Year Jump
A report out today puts numbers behind what hit many workers when they signed up for health insurance during open enrollment last year: deductible shock. Premiums for employer-paid insurance are up 3% this year, but deductibles are up nearly 50% since 2009, the report by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows (O’Donnell, 9/10).
The Wall Street Journal: Washington Trading Probe Broadens To Hedge Funds
Federal investigators have uncovered a flurry of communications between a Washington research firm and several hedge funds, opening a new front in an insider-trading probe focused on the firm's 2013 investor alert about a change in government health-care policy. The Wall Street Journal has previously reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating whether anyone in the government illegally leaked word of the announcement to Height Securities. Now, the agency is looking at whether hedge funds violated securities rules by trading on the resulting alert to Height Securities' clients (Mullins, Pulliam and Chung, 9/10).
The Associated Press: House, Senate Debate Measures Going Nowhere
On both ends of the Capitol, the parties controlling Congress are happily showcasing futility. Less than two months before pivotal congressional elections, Republicans were set Thursday to muscle legislation through the House that would let insurers continue selling health coverage that falls short of standards required by President Barack Obama’s health care law. The measure was sure to pass but then die in the Democratic-run Senate, and the White House promised an Obama veto in any event. Even so, the vote would let Republicans highlight their repeated efforts to debilitate the health care law. It will also dare Democrats to oppose an idea that appeals to some voters: letting them keep insurance they already have, an Obama promise that proved untrue for some consumers (9/10).
The Wall Street Journal: New Discord Brews On Over-the-Counter Contraceptives
Some major medical groups support the idea of making contraceptive drugs available without a prescription—a proposal raised in some political races—despite objections from women's health advocates that it could make women pay more for birth control and carry health risks. The idea has been pushed by Republican Senate candidates in North Carolina, Colorado, Virginia and Minnesota, a move widely seen as an attempt to deflect Democratic criticism about GOP stances on women's health and birth control. Some women's health groups say the push isn't really about expanding access to birth control but instead an attempt to undermine a piece of the Affordable Care Act (Burton and Andrews, 9/10).
The Wall Street Journal: The Short Answer: Why Some Republicans Back Over-The-Counter Contraceptives
The number of Republicans calling for oral contraceptives to be available over-the-counter is on the rise, with North Carolina Senate candidate Thom Tillis and Colorado Senate candidate Rep. Cory Gardner bringing it up recently (9/10).
The New York Times: New Drug To Treat Obesity Gains Approval By F.D.A.
Yet two drugs approved in 2012 — the first new prescription obesity drugs in 13 years — have had disappointing sales. Those drugs are Qsymia, which is sold by Vivus, and Belviq, which is from Arena Pharmaceuticals and Eisai. Analysts, doctors and company executives say one reason the drugs have struggled is that many doctors and many obese people do not think of obesity as a disease to be treated by medicine. Medicare, most state Medicaid programs and some commercial insurers do not pay for the drugs. Doctors and patients are cautious about safety because of problems with previous weight loss drugs. And for many people, the weight loss is modest (Pollack, 9/10).
Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader/USA Today: Mo. Overrides Veto Of 3-Day Abortion Waiting Period
Missouri lawmakers forced an extension of the state's abortion waiting period into law late Wednesday night after Republicans used a rare parliamentary tactic to kill a Democratic filibuster in the Senate. The House took the first step to forcing a 72-hour abortion waiting period into law early in the evening. The Senate began debating the measure soon after and passed it at about 11:30 p.m. Central Time (Shorman, 9/11).
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