First Edition: October 2, 2014
Today's headlines include progress reports on the health law at its one-year mark.
Kaiser Health News: Proton Center Closure Doesn't Slow New Construction
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jenny Gold, working in partnership with NPR, reports: “Proton therapy has been touted as the next big thing in cancer care. The massive machines, housed in facilities the size of football fields, have been sprouting up across the country for a decade. There are already 14 proton therapy centers in the U.S., and another dozen facilities are under construction even though each can cost $200 million to build” (Gold, 10/1). Read the story and related sidebar.
Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Long-Acting Contraceptives Help Reduce Teen Pregnancy Rates, Study Finds
Now on Kaiser Health News’ blog, Lisa Gillespie writes: “Teenage girls who are given access to long-acting contraceptives such as IUDs or hormonal implants at no cost are less likely to become pregnant, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine released Wednesday” (Gillespie, 10/1). Check out what else is on the blog.
NPR: Obamacare's First Year: How'd It Go?
Exactly one year ago, the Obamacare insurance exchanges stumbled into existence. Consumers struggled to sign up for its online marketplace — and the Obama administration was pummeled. Eventually, HealthCare.gov's problems were mostly fixed, and two weeks ago, the administration announced 7.3 million people have bought insurance through it so far this year. So, was the health exchanges' first year a success — or something less? (Ydstie, 10/1).
The Wall Street Journal: Bosses Face Affordable Care Act Deadline
A minority of business owners are considering trimming their head counts below the 50 full-time-worker cutoff or reducing their workers' hours rather than comply with the requirement, which begins in January for companies with 100 or more employees. Others have run the numbers and concluded that their best financial move is simply to skip the requirement and instead pay penalties, $2,000 for each full-time worker after the first 30 (Loten and Needleman, 10/1).
The Wall Street Journal: Healthcare.gov Delays Web Host Switch
The federal government has shelved plans to transfer the HealthCare.gov insurance website to a new hosting service for the coming enrollment period, delaying a move that was supposed to fix reliability problems. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services signed a contract last year to replace Verizon Communications Inc. with Hewlett-Packard Co. the host of HealthCare.gov, the site used by most people to obtain plans under the Affordable Care Act. The Verizon platform had a series of outages last year that shut the site and affected the federal data hub on which all states rely to transmit information about enrollees' identity and income (Radnofsky and Armour, 10/1).
NPR: A Year Later, HealthCare.Gov Has Found Its Footing But Problems Remain
Robert Siegel talks to Marilyn Tavenner, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, about the one-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act insurance marketplace rollout (10/1).
The New York Times: Health Law Resurfaces As A Political Punching Bag
Criticism of the Affordable Care Act has been conspicuously absent in the midterm election campaign cycle, with President Obama’s handling of foreign policy and immigration easier targets to pin on Democrats. But on the anniversary of the botched rollout of HealthCare.gov, talk of “Obamacare” is buzzing again, with remembrances of the website’s early failures, complaints of canceled insurance plans and laments of broken promises (Rappeport, 10/1).
The Associated Press: AP-GfK Poll: Economy Still The Top Election Issue
Recent headlines could make you think this election would be different. Perhaps, for the first time since the Great Recession, the economy wouldn’t be the top issue. The latest Associated Press-GfK poll suggests that’s not going to happen. Nine in 10 likely voters in the survey said the economy was an important issue, outpacing rising concerns about terrorism, ongoing concerns about health care, and the social issues that have led to sharp clashes on the campaign trail (10/2).
Politico: Obamacare And SCOTUS, The Sequel?
The U.S. Supreme Court will begin its new term Monday and, once again, Obamacare could be on the docket. The justices have been asked to weigh in on whether the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies can go to any American, regardless of whether their state runs a health insurance exchange or relies on the federal one. They’ll soon be asked, too, whether religious nonprofits have to provide contraception in employee health plans, a follow-up to last spring’s Hobby Lobby case (Haberkorn, 10/1).
The Associated Press: Consumer Group Sues Over Missouri Insurance Rates
A Missouri consumer group announced Wednesday that it has sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the latest effort to obtain information used to justify the rates consumers will pay for insurance on the federally run online marketplace (10/1).
The Associated Press: Gov’t Website For Doc Payments Not Up To Snuff
Although it’s called “Open Payments,” the government’s new website doesn’t make it easy to find out whether your doctor is getting freebies, travel or other financial benefits from drug companies and medical device manufacturers. This should be a clue: The website lacks a “Find Your Doctor” button (10/2).
The Wall Street Journal: Payments Reveal Range Of Doctors' Ties With Industry
Some of the doctors who received the biggest payments last year from drug and medical-device companies got them for purposes that had nothing to do with patient care. An analysis of a government database released Tuesday, which disclosed some $3.5 billion in industry payments to physicians in the last five months of 2013, revealed that several doctors who no longer practice medicine earned large sums for serving on corporate boards or writing software used in laser-surgery machines. Companies continue to spend heavily in hopes of getting doctors to use more of their drugs and devices. But the data underscore the variety of ties industry has forged with physicians for purposes beyond influencing their prescribing habits (Whalen, Walker and Rockoff, 10/1).
The Wall Street Journal’s Pharmalot: How Much? A Glaxo Goof Remains In The Sunshine Database
File this under ‘Things are not always what they seem.’ The old adage seems to apply to the newly launched Open Payments database launched this week by the federal government. The database contains payments made by drug and device makers to physicians and teaching hospitals, and was created as part of the Affordable Care Act in response to concerns that industry ties may unduly influence medical practice and research (Silverman, 10/1).
The New York Times’ The Upshot: Given Choice, Parents Pick Cheaper Medical Procedure For Children
It is common wisdom that patients don’t like to think about cost when it comes to health care. But what if the problem is that they’re so rarely even given that information? A recent study in the Annals of Surgery found that parents who were asked to decide which form of surgery their children should undergo and told about the price difference tended to select the cheaper option (Rosenthal, 10/1).
Los Angeles Times: Pentagon Orders Changes For Deficient Military Healthcare Facilities
After a review of all military healthcare facilities, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the military Wednesday to improve treatment at its hospitals and clinics, instructing the armed services to compose a plan on how it can be accomplished. The three-month examination of more than 50 hospitals and 600 clinics run by or for the Pentagon largely found that quality of military healthcare was equal to private care but that treatment clearly fell short in some cases (Hennigan, 10/2).
The Washington Post: Pentagon To Target Its Hospitals Providing Poor Care Following Review
A system-wide review of the military’s healthcare system has determined that eight facilities run by the Pentagon have “significantly higher than expected” rates of patients getting sick following treatment but that the system overall provides quality care. Results of the review, released Wednesday, found wide disparities in the care provided by the military, with some aspects of the system performing better than in the civilian healthcare system and others ranking “below national benchmarks” (Lamothe, 10/1).
The New York Times: Scrutiny In Texas To Detect Whether Ebola Has Spread
The man who has become the first Ebola patient to develop symptoms in the United States told officials at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital last Friday that he had just arrived from West Africa but was not admitted that day because that information was not passed along at the hospital, officials acknowledged Wednesday (Fernandez and Onishi, 10/1).
Los Angeles Times: Ebola Case In Dallas Signals Health System Lapse
A man infected with the Ebola virus slipped through the cracks of a system designed to stop the disease from spreading, health officials conceded Wednesday as they isolated five schoolchildren who may have had contact with the ill man and rushed to identify others who spent time with him. The patient, a Liberian named Thomas Eric Duncan, was listed in serious condition at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas after being taken there by ambulance Sunday morning, two days after his first visit to the hospital's ER ended with doctors sending him away with antibiotics (Glionna, Susman and Dixon, 10/1).
The Washington Post: Ebola Patient Was Allowed To Leave Dallas Hospital Last Week
Health officials are working to track down anyone who may have come into contact with Duncan after he began showing symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has sent a team of 10 people to Texas to work with state and local departments to track anyone who had close contact with him (Berman and Nutt, 10/1).
NPR: On The Alert For Ebola, Texas Hospital Still Missed First Case
Hospitals have been on the lookout for the Ebola virus in the United States, and Texas Health Presbyterian in Dallas was no exception. A nurse there did ask about the travel history of the patient who later turned out to be infected with the virus. But some members of the medical team didn't hear that the man had recently been in West Africa. So he was initially sent home — even though he was experiencing symptoms of Ebola, and that meant he was contagious (Greenfieldboyce, 10/1).
The New York Times: A Study Bolsters A Call To Use Long-Acting Contraceptives
So when Ms. House heard about a study offering sexually active teenagers in St. Louis free birth control, she signed up. Three in 10 girls and women in the United States become pregnant before 20, a rate significantly higher than that in many other rich countries. The 14- to 19-year-old participants in the study Ms. House joined, nearly half of whom had already had an unintended pregnancy, were offered free birth control and counseled on the benefits of long-acting contraceptives like intrauterine devices and implants, methods used by fewer than 5 percent of teenagers (Belluck, 10/1).
The Washington Post: Infant Mortality Ticks Up In D.C.; Officials Insist Federal Cuts Won’t Harm Response
The District’s infant mortality rate ticked up in 2012, city officials announced Wednesday — an unwelcome development that comes amid the loss of a key federal grant and the launch of a new effort to reduce infant deaths (DeBonis, 10/1).
The Associated Press: California Catholic Leaders Challenge State Health Rule On Abortion
California's Catholic leadership has filed a federal civil-rights complaint over a state requirement that health insurance cover abortions. The California Catholic Conference, which represents the state's bishops and archbishops, sent a letter Tuesday to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It contends that California's Department of Managed Health Care discriminated against people morally opposed to abortion and requests an investigation (10/1).
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