First Edition: September 18, 2014
Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including details of a report by the Institute of Medicine on how end-of-life care should be overhauled.
Kaiser Health News: Dying In America Is Harder Than It Has To Be, IOM Says
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jenny Gold reports: “The report suggests that the first end-of-life conversation could coincide with a cherished American milestone: getting a driver's license at 16, the first time a person weighs what it means to be an organ donor. Follow-up conversations with a counselor, nurse or social worker should come at other points early in life, such as turning 18 or getting married. The idea, according to the IOM, is to ‘help normalize the advance care planning process by starting it early, to identify a health care agent, and to obtain guidance in the event of a rare catastrophic event’" (Gold, 9/17). Read the story.
Kaiser Health News: When A Hospital Closes
Kaiser Health News staff writer Lisa Gillespie reports: “In a scenario playing out in rural areas across the country, the closing has left local doctors wondering how they will make sure patients get timely care, given the long distances to other hospitals, and residents worrying about what to do in an emergency and where to get lab tests and physical therapy. ‘Half of them aren’t going anywhere,’ Dr. Charles Boyette said about people who already seem reticent about driving farther for medical treatment. ‘They’re taking a chance on if they’ll be alive or dead after the emergency passes. The disaster has already started’” (Gillespie, 9/18). Read the story.
Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Lawsuit Accuses Calif. of Denying Care to Medi-Cal Applicants
Now on Kaiser Health News’ blog, Anna Gorman writes: “California’s lingering backlog of Medi-Cal applications has left hundreds of thousands of people unable to access the health care they are entitled to receive, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday by a coalition of health advocates and legal services groups” (Gorman, 9/18). Check out what else is on the blog.
The New York Times: Panel Urges Overhauling Health Care At End Of Life
The country’s system for handling end-of-life care is largely broken and should be overhauled at almost every level, a national panel concluded in a report released on Wednesday. The 21-member nonpartisan committee, appointed by the Institute of Medicine, the independent research arm of the National Academy of Sciences, called for sweeping change (Belluck, 9/17).
The Washington Post’s Wonk Blog: It’s Time To Bury The ‘Death Panel’ Myth For Good. Is This The Way To Do It?
Behind all the charts and policymaking lies an uncomfortable truth about health care: We are all going to die someday, and the health-care system's ultimate challenge is to make that certainty as painless and as peaceful as possible. A rational and responsible national conversation about preparing for death and end-of-life care has been virtually impossible over the past five years because of the "death panel" myth that erupted during the heated health-care debate of 2009. But a new report from independent experts at the Institute of Medicine may revive the conversation about preparing patients for the end (Millman, 9/17).
The Wall Street Journal: End-Of-Life Care In U.S. Is Lacking, Report Says
End-of-life conversations with medical providers should be covered by insurers and Medicare, said the report by the Institute of Medicine, an independent organization and the research branch of the National Academy of Sciences. One impetus behind the study was concerns raised in 2009 about "death panels," a term that sprung up during political debates about what became the Affordable Care Act (Armour, 9/17).
The Associated Press: Study: Americans Endure Unwanted Care Near Death
The “Dying in America” study released Wednesday was done by a panel of 21 experts. It finds that people repeatedly stress a desire to die at home, free from pain, but often the opposite happens. The authors blame a medical system ruled by “perverse incentives” for aggressive care, inadequate physician training and too few conversations about end-of-life wishes (9/17).
The Washington Post: Va. House Of Delegates Plans To Vote On Medicaid Expansion
Republican leaders of Virginia’s House of Delegates, who have staunchly opposed Medicaid expansion all year, plan to put the question to a floor vote as early as Thursday in a special legislative session. The GOP-dominated chamber is widely expected to shoot down the proposed $2 billion-a-year expansion, although a few conservative legislators have expressed fears that the measure might defy expectations and pass — just as a then-record tax hike did when Democrat Mark R. Warner was governor a decade ago (Vozzella, 9/17).
The Associated Press: No Medicaid Action Expected In Special Session
There will be plenty of talking but probably not much action when Virginia state lawmakers reconvene to discuss whether the Medicaid program should be expanded. Both the state House and Senate are set to meet Thursday at noon at the Capitol. Republican leaders said they’re holding a special session to discuss Medicaid expansion because they promised they would. But they’ve indicated on several occasions that they still oppose expansion (9/18).
The Washington Post: Poll Finds Solid Support For Medicaid Expansion In Virginia
A solid majority of Virginia voters support expanding Medicaid to an additional 400,000 Virginians, according to a new poll. Released Wednesday, the day before the General Assembly is due to reconvene in Richmond to consider expanding the health-care program for the poor and disabled, the Christopher Newport University survey found that 61 percent of voters support expansion under the Affordable Care Act and 31 percent oppose it (Vozzella, 9/17).
The New York Times: F.T.C. Wary Of Mergers By Hospitals
As hospitals merge and buy up physician practices, creating new behemoths, one federal agency is raising a lonely but powerful voice, suggesting that consumers may be victimized by the trend toward consolidation (Pear, 9/17).
The Wall Street Journal: Lawmakers Plan To Introduce Bill Regulating 'Political Intelligence'
Lawmakers plan to introduce legislation in the House on Thursday that would for the first time shed light on the political-intelligence industry. … A spokeswoman for Mr. Grassley said that he was still interested in pursuing regulations on the issue, and is "looking for the right time and vehicle, as usual with legislation." Mr. Grassley's push for regulations became more complicated last year when one of his former aides ended up at the center of a high-profile investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission into the political-intelligence industry. The aide, Mark Hayes, sent an email to a Washington research firm correctly predicting a major change in government funding for private health-insurance firms. That prediction was relayed to more than 100 Wall Street firms and prompted a big rally in health-insurance stocks in the moments before the policy change was officially announced by the government (Mullins, 9/17).
The New York Times: F.D.A. Panel Backs Limits On Testosterone Drugs
An expert panel voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday for the Food and Drug Administration to impose strict new limitations on the multibillion-dollar testosterone drug industry, recommending that the agency tighten labels for the medicines so they are not prescribed to men who only have problems related to aging, such as low energy and libido. The F.D.A. often takes the advice of such panels (Tavernise, 9/17).
The New York Times: Hospitals And Insurer Join Forces In California
In a partnership that appears to be the first of its kind, Anthem Blue Cross, a large California health insurance company, is teaming up with seven fiercely competitive hospital groups to create a new health system in the Los Angeles area. The partnership includes such well-known medical centers as UCLA Health and Cedars-Sinai (Abelson, 9/17).
The New York Times: New York City Council Hears Push For Benefits By Jazz Veterans
Unlike Broadway pit musicians and symphony orchestra players, who receive pensions, health insurance and other benefits through their unions, many jazz musicians receive no such benefits. For the last few years, the union has argued that owners of clubs — namely Birdland, the Blue Note, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, Iridium, Jazz Standard and the Village Vanguard — reneged on a promise they made in 2006 to pay pension benefits in return for a sales-tax break passed by the Legislature. But the union and the clubs never reached a formal agreement (Schlossberg, 9/17).
Los Angeles Times: Mental illness Program Could Transform L.A. County Justice System
The $756,000 initiative marks one of the county's most significant attempts to find a better way to treat people who have mental illness and wind up in the criminal justice system by offering them transitional housing, medical treatment and job-hunting help. Officials say the pilot program will start in Van Nuys and initially help 50 people at a time, but it is expected to spread throughout the county and could accommodate up to 1,000 people at once (Gerber, 9/17).
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