KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: April 10, 2012

In today's headlines, a new study finds that the health law, which has long been touted as a means to control costs, could add more than $340 billion to the nation's budget difficulties in the next ten years.

Kaiser Health News: Say What? Most Insurance Covers Little Of The Cost Of Hearing Aids
In her latest Kaiser Health News consumer column, Michelle Andrews writes: "Only a quarter of the 35 million U.S. adults who could benefit from hearing aids actually get them, and one of the main reasons is money. A hearing aid typically costs a few thousand dollars, sometimes much more, and most insurance plans don't cover that. Medicare generally doesn't pay anything, though hearing loss is a common concern among its beneficiaries. Faced with a hefty expense, many people decide that hearing what's going on around them is a luxury they can't afford" (Andrews, 4/9). Read the column.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Research Weighs Higher U.S. Costs For Cancer Care; During Tough Times, Hospitals Expand Into Affluent Areas; A Saturation Point For Under-26 Coverage?
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Sarah Barr reports on new findings regarding cancer care costs: "Higher U.S. spending for cancer care pays off in almost two years of additional life for American cancer patients on average compared to their European counterparts — a value that offsets the higher costs –according to a study in the April issue of the journal Health Affairs" (Barr, 4/9).

Also on the blog, Jordan Rau reports on where hospitals turn for business during difficult economic times: "Amid the recession, hospitals have been aggressively establishing footholds in affluent areas outside their traditional market boundaries as they fight for the patients with the best insurance, according to a new study" (Rau, 4/9). 

In addition, Christian Torres reports on the findings of a Gallup poll regarding under-26 coverage: "According to a Gallup poll released last week, the uninsured rate among 18- to 25-year-olds has leveled off around 24 percent since early 2011" (Torres, 4/10). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Washington Post: Health-Care Law Will Add $340 Billion To Deficit, New Study Finds
President Obama's landmark health-care initiative, long touted as a means to control costs, will actually add more than $340 billion to the nation's budget woes over the next decade, according to a new study by a Republican member of the board that oversees Medicare financing. The study is set to be released Tuesday by Charles Blahous, a conservative policy analyst whom Obama approved in 2010 as the GOP trustee for Medicare and Social Security (Montgomery, 4/9).

The New York Times: For The Elderly, Emergency Rooms Of Their Own
Hospitals also have strong financial incentives to focus on the elderly. People over 65 account for 15 percent to 20 percent of emergency room visits, hospital officials say, and that number is expected to grow as the population ages. Under the Affordable Care Act, … hospitals' Medicare payments will be tied to scores on patient satisfaction surveys and how frequently patients have to be readmitted to the hospital (Hartocollis, 4/9).

USA Today: Autism Science Is Moving 'Stunningly Fast'
The quest to unravel the mystery — and get children and families the help they need — has become more urgent as autism has become more widely diagnosed. The condition now affects one in 88 children, according to a report last month from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Szabo, 4/9).

The Wall Street Journal's Health Blog: ICD-10 Likely To Be Pushed Back A Year
It’s official – the Obama administration is proposing to push back by a year the deadline for a new medical-coding standard that was originally set to go into effect on October 1, 2013 (Mathews, 4/9).

NPR Shots Blog: Calif.'s Prescription-Drug Monitoring System Feels Pain From Budget Cuts
California has the oldest continuous prescription-drug monitoring program in the U.S. … It used to rely on carbon copies. … The system went online in 1998, and that's when its full power was realized. ... So alarm bells went off among doctors and law enforcement when California Gov. Jerry Brown announced last year that, for budget reasons, he was eliminating the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, which had long managed the prescription-drug monitoring program (Varney, 4/10).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Former Maine Governor Seeks Senate Seat As Independent, Is Critical Of GOP Policies
But Maine’s former two-term governor, running as an independent to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe, calls the GOP budget plan "a disaster" and the party's position on women's health "a mistake." He's also supporting President Barack Obama's re-election (4/9).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Utah: Health Department Data Breach May Include 750,000 Records; Many Victims Are Children
Health officials in Utah say 750,000 additional people, including many children, may have had personal information stolen by hackers. Utah Department of Health spokesman Tom Hudachko (HU’-dak-ko) said Monday that about 250,000 Social Security numbers were part of the tens of thousands of stolen files, although many numbers didn't include other information (4/9).

The Wall Street Journal: Molina Loses, Aetna Wins In Ohio Medicaid Decision
A surprise decision by Ohio to shake up the providers of its Medicaid health plan marked a sharp setback for incumbent insurer Molina Healthcare Inc., which lost its contract (Kamp, 4/9).

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