First Edition: January 22, 2013
Today's headlines include reports analyzing how Medicare, Medicaid and the social safety net fit into President Barack Obama's inaugural address.
Kaiser Health News: Insurers Prod Doctors, Hospitals To Stop Elective Early Deliveries
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz, working in collaboration with The Washington Post, reports: "While most babies delivered at 38 weeks do not end up in intensive care, research shows they are more likely to have feeding, breathing and developmental problems than those born at 39 or 40 weeks. Since 1979, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has recommended against deliveries or induced labor before 39 weeks unless there are medical reasons, such as the mother's high blood pressure or diabetes or signs that the fetus may be in distress. Still, an estimated 10 to 15 percent of U.S. babies every year are delivered early without medical cause, according to the Department of Health and Human Services" (Galewitz,1/21). Read the story.
Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Hospices, Wary Of Costs, May Be Discouraging Patients With High Expenses
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "Many people who are terminally ill delay entering hospice care until just a few days or weeks before they die, in part because they or their families don't want to admit that there's no hope for a cure. … A recent study published in the journal Health Affairs found that there may be another reason that patients don't take advantage of the comprehensive services that hospice provides: restrictive enrollment policies that may discourage patients from signing up" (Andrews, 1/21). Read the column.
Kaiser Health News: Capsules: AMA Offers $10 Million To Fund Med School Innovations
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Mary Agnes Carey reports: "Memo to medical schools: If you have new ideas on how to train doctors, the American Medical Association may have some cash for you. The AMA says it will provide $10 million over the next five years to fund eight to 12 'bold, innovative projects'" (Carey, 1/21). Check out what else is on the blog.
Kaiser Health News also tracked weekend news developments, including coverage of the health olicy provisions of President Barack Obama's inaugural address (1/20) and the decision by GOP House members on the debt ceiling and entitlement programs (1/20).
The Wall Street Journal: Obama Vows Aggressive Agenda
With specifics not usually offered in inaugural addresses, Mr. Obama promised to preserve government health-care programs, expand rights for women and gay couples, and press for gun controls, overhauls of the tax code and immigration laws, as well as climate-change measures (Lee, 1/21).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Obama Stands His Ground On Fiscal Disputes, Seeks More Spending Amid Looming Fiscal Deadlines
But it was the paragraph that followed in his inaugural address that foreshadowed what's to come — more hard bargaining and more last-minute deals driven by Obama's own conviction that he now wields an upper hand. "We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future," he said. "The commitments we make to each other — through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security — these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great." This was the language of his re-election campaign (1/22).
The New York Times: Obama Offers Liberal Vision: 'We Must Act'
On a day that echoed with refrains from the civil rights era and tributes to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. Obama dispensed with the post-partisan appeals of four years ago to lay out a forceful vision of advancing gay rights, showing more tolerance toward illegal immigrants, preserving the social welfare safety net and acting to stop climate change (Baker, 1/21).
Los Angeles Times: In Obama's Inaugural Speech, A Sweeping Liberal Vision
But Obama made clear he views government as essential to fix the nation's problems and to guarantee the security of its citizens, reaffirming Democratic ideology stretching from the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. "Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative," he said. "They do not make us a nation of takers. They free us to take the risks that make this country great." The remarks were an allusion to one of the fiercest arguments of the presidential campaign — when Republican nominee Mitt Romney described 47% of Americans, Obama supporters, as overly reliant on government — as well as to attacks on entitlement programs during recent budget battles in Congress (West and Parsons, 1/21).
Politico: President Obama's Second Term: Return Of The Liberal
President Barack Obama's second inaugural address was the most liberal speech he has delivered as president — a blunt summons to wage war on poverty, defend entitlements for the middle class, end "perpetual war" overseas and move past the calibrated progressive agenda of his first term. … In a challenge to the GOP, Obama mentioned the country's $16.4 trillion debt load once and then, only to announce his stalwart opposition to slashing Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security (Thrush, 1/21).
Politico: Obama Dodges 'Hard Choices' On Entitlements
President Barack Obama insisted four years ago that the nation must make "hard decisions" to preserve entitlement programs. But on Monday, the "hard choices" he spoke of on health care and the deficit came with a major caveat: He's not willing to give up much (Budoff Brown, 1/22).
Los Angeles Times: Obama Intends To Fix Holes In Mental Health Coverage
When President Obama pledged this week to strengthen the nation's mental health system to help reduce gun violence, he also implicitly acknowledged that a gap remains in his signature effort to guarantee Americans access to healthcare (Levey, 1/19).
Politico: Affordable Care Act Still Provides Tempting Cost Savings
Republicans never got their chance to chop down President Barack Obama's health care law, but that doesn't mean it's safe from the clippers as Congress looks for solutions for tough fiscal times. The Affordable Care Act brings in a lot of new taxes and savings, but it also dishes out as much as $1.7 trillion in new spending over the next decade — money that looks awfully tempting to lawmakers scrounging around for ways to fund other projects or pay down the deficit (Cunningham, 1/22).
The New York Times: Medicare Pricing Delay Is Political Win For Drug Maker
Just two weeks after pleading guilty in a major federal fraud case, Amgen, the world's largest biotechnology firm, scored a largely unnoticed coup on Capitol Hill: Lawmakers inserted a paragraph into the "fiscal cliff" bill that did not mention the company by name but strongly favored one of its drugs. The language buried in Section 632 of the law delays a set of Medicare price restraints on a class of drugs that includes Sensipar, a lucrative Amgen pill used by kidney dialysis patients (Lipton and Sack, 1/19).
NPR: 'Roe V. Wade' Turns 40, But Abortion Debate Is Even Older
Jan. 22, 2013, marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. But the conventional wisdom that the court's 7-2 decision marked the beginning of a contentious battle that still rages today is not the case, according to those on both sides of the dispute (Rovner, 1/22).
The Wall Street Journal: Support Grows For Roe V. Wade
Seven in 10 Americans believe Roe v. Wade should stand, according to new data from a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, as the landmark Supreme Court abortion-rights ruling turns 40 on Tuesday. That is the highest level of support for the decision, which established a woman's right to an abortion, since polls began tracking it in 1989. The shift is mostly the result of more Democrats backing the decision—particularly Hispanics and African-Americans—and a slight uptick in support from Republicans (Radnofsky and Jones, 1/21).
Politico: Anti-Abortion Groups Take Page From NRA Playbook
Even before Roe v. Wade, there was the National Right to Life Committee. On this 40th anniversary of the landmark abortion decision, the NRLC remains the biggest anti-abortion group. But other groups have risen to claim the voice of the movement. Some, like Susan B. Anthony List, Americans United for Life and Concerned Women for America have brought on board a new generation of younger anti-abortion activists who are media-savvy, skilled at fundraising and able to extend the reach of the movement deep into statehouses and on ballots nationwide (Smith, 1/21).
The Washington Post: Employers Challenging Health Law Contraceptive Provision
The next legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act is moving quickly to the high court, and bringing potent questions about religious freedom, gender equality and corporate "personhood." The issue is the health-care law's requirement that employers without a specific exemption must provide workers with insurance plans that cover a full range of birth-control measures and contraceptive drugs (Barnes, 1/20).
Los Angeles Times: Why Does A Flu Shot Cost So Much?
Among the long list of reasons the fearful give for reasons they're not getting a flu shot … there's one that relates more closely to economics: cost. For while doctors urge everyone to get a flu shot, flu shots, like many other things in life, are not free. Stop by your local CVS or Walgreens and you'll shell out $30 or so for the pleasure of getting poked by a needle behind a suggestion of a curtain. So why aren't flu shots free, or nearly free? After all, they've been around for a while, and there’s a lot of demand – isn't it about time flu shots cost the same as, say generic Tylenol? If only, says Curtis Allen, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The real question should probably be – why does the flu shot cost so little? (Semueuls, 1/21).
Los Angeles Times: California Senate Leader Pushes National Mental Health Plan
Motivated by the shootings in Newtown, Conn., Steinberg is urging Washington to adopt a national mental health policy. He presented his recommendations to a commission spearheaded by Vice President Joe Biden to come up with ideas about how do reduce gun violence (York, 1/21).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Arizona Governor Proposes Taxing Hospitals To Pay For Medicaid Expansion
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has built a political career in standing up to the federal government over everything from immigration to health care. So she surprised almost everyone when she announced last week that she not only plans to push for an expansion of the state’s Medicaid program under the federal health care law — she plans to fund it by raising taxes (1/20).
The Associated Press/New York Times: A.C.L.U. Halts Challenge In Kansas On Abortion Coverage'
The American Civil Liberties Union ended its challenge to a Kansas law restricting private health insurance coverage for abortions. A court filing shows the parties have agreed to dismiss all remaining claims, with each side bearing its own costs and legal fees. The agreement followed a federal judge’s Jan. 7 ruling that, as a matter of law, the A.C.L.U. failed to provide any evidence that the Kansas Legislature’s predominant motivation in passing the 2011 law was to make it more difficult to get abortions (1/19).
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