KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: April 23, 2013

Today's headlines include reports about immigrant patients' health care as well as the coverage limits that some victims of the Boston Marathon bombings might face. 

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Questions Arise About Robotic Surgery's Cost, Effectiveness
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "In the dozen years since the Da Vinci robot has been approved for surgeries in the United States, it's been embraced by health care providers and patients alike. Surgeons routinely use the multi-armed metal assistant to remove cancerous prostate glands and uteruses, repair heart valves and perform gastric bypass operations, among many other procedures" (Andrews, 4/23). Read the column.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: New Website Will Disclose Health Industry Payments To Doctors; Video: What Insurance Exchanges Mean For Consumers
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Ankita Rao reports on a new government website that will make public information about financial relationships between physicians and other parts of the health care industry: "To comply with a provision in the Affordable Care Act, drug and device manufacturers, along with group purchasing organizations, will have to disclose all of their payments and other compensation to physicians and teaching hospitals. Those who don’t comply could be fined" (Rao, 4/23).

Also on Capsules, a video of Kaiser Health News' Jenny Gold, who appeared on the C-SPAN program, to discuss the insurance exchanges where consumers will be able to purchase coverage beginning Oct. 1 (4/22). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: US Hospitals Send Hundreds Of Immigrant Patients Back To Home Countries To Curb Cost Of Care
In interviews with immigrants, their families, attorneys and advocates, The Associated Press reviewed the obscure process known formally as "medical repatriation," which allows hospitals to put patients on chartered international flights, often while they are still unconscious. Hospitals typically pay for the flights (4/23).

The New York Times: Day Centers Sprout Up, Luring Fit Elders And Costing Medicaid
Not a wheelchair or walker was in sight at these so-called social adult day care centers. Yet the cost of attendance was indirectly being paid by Medicaid, under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's sweeping redesign of $2 billion in spending on long-term care meant for the impaired elderly and those with disabilities. Such centers have mushroomed, from storefronts and basements to a new development in the Bronx that recently figured in a corruption scandal. With little regulation and less oversight, they grew in two years from eight tiny programs for people with dementia to at least 192 businesses across the city (Bernstein, 4/22).

The New York Times: For Wounded, Daunting Cost; For Aid Fund, Tough Decisions
Many of the wounded could face staggering bills not just for the trauma care they received in the days after the bombings, but for prosthetic limbs, lengthy rehabilitation and the equipment they will need to negotiate daily life with crippling injuries. Even those with health insurance may find that their plan places limits on specific services, like physical therapy or psychological counseling (Goodnough, 4/22).

Politico: Coverage Limits Are Harsh Reality For Amputees
Those who lost limbs in the Boston Marathon bombings now need care to learn to navigate the world in a new way — and navigate a thorny area of health care coverage, too. In the case of the Boston bombings, pledges and offers of support have poured in to help with the health care costs of the 14 people who reportedly lost all or part of a limb. But for some amputees, covering the staggering cost for prosthetics care can be a struggle (Smith, 4/23).

Los Angeles Times: Study: Growth In Health Spending, Curbed By Recession, To Rebound
A new study attributes a slowdown in U.S. healthcare spending to the recent recession and predicts more rapid growth as the economy strengthens. The report issued Monday by the Kaiser Family Foundation seeks to shed light on the reasons behind the recent drop-off. The analysis found that economic factors related to the recession accounted for 77% of the reduced growth in national healthcare spending, which totaled an estimated $2.8 trillion in 2012 (Terhune, 4/22).

The Washington Post's WonkBlog: Here's Why Health-Care Costs Are Slowing
The answer has huge implications for the federal budget, which now faces threats of really fast growth in Medicare, Medicaid and other health programs. If those programs grow like they have for the past few years — at the same rate as the rest of the economy — then that frees up lots of funds for whatever other investments the federal government wants to make (Kliff, 4/22).

The Wall Street Journal: Tobacco Industry's Challenge to Law Requiring Graphic Labels Is Rejected
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a tobacco-industry challenge to a 2009 federal law that requires graphic warning labels on cigarettes and expanded marketing restrictions on tobacco products. The challengers argued that parts of the law, which gave the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco, violated their constitutional free-speech rights (Kendall and Dooren, 4/22).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: NYC Proposes Raising Minimum Age For Cigarette Purchases From 18 To 21
After years of striving to set a national agenda for curbing smoking, New York City may set a new bar by becoming the most populous place in America to raise the minimum age for buying cigarettes to 21. A new proposal would increase the threshold from 18, a federal minimum that is the standard in many places. Four states and some communities have raised the age to 19, and at least two towns have agreed to raise it to 21 (4/23).

The Washington Post: Supreme Court Weighs Restrictions That Congress Can Impose On Groups It Funds
The Supreme Court seemed conflicted Monday on the question of whether the federal government can force groups that receive funding for overseas anti-HIV/AIDS programs to adopt its views against prostitution and sex trafficking (Barnes, 4/22).

The New York Times: Justices Weigh Conditions In Awarding U.S. Grants
The question for the Supreme Court on Monday was whether groups receiving federal money to combat AIDS abroad may be required to adopt policies opposing prostitution. The answer, judging from the justices’ comments in the first half of the argument, seemed to be that the First Amendment bars attaching that kind of condition to federal grants (Liptak, 4/22). 

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