First Edition: September 9, 2014
Today's headlines include reports about Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe's scaled-back plan to expand health coverage within his state after efforts to pursue the health law's Medicaid expansion were blocked.
Kaiser Health News: Can I Buy Coverage After Accident Injuries? Who Pays The Cadillac Tax?
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews answers readers’ questions about whether people can wait until they get sick to buy health insurance and who’s allowed to buy plans on the state marketplaces, as well as a query about the tax on so-called Cadillac plans (Andrews, 9/9). Read her responses.
Kaiser Health News: Capsules: $60 Million For 34 States To Boost Obamacare Enrollment
Now on Kaiser Health News’ blog, Phil Galewitz reports: “Two Planned Parenthood chapters, two United Way organizations, a food bank association and a Catholic hospital system are among 90 nonprofit groups that will receive a total of $60 million to help people sign up for health insurance, the Department of Health and Human Services announced today” (Galewitz, 9/8). Check out what else is on the blog.
The New York Times: Health Chief Seeks To Focus On Insurance Site
Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of Health and Human Services, said Monday in her first major speech that she wanted to move beyond the politics of health care and work with members of both parties to improve the management and operation of HealthCare.gov, the website used by millions of people to sign up for insurance coverage (Pear, 9/8).
The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Burwell Speech Aims To Hit Reset Button At HHS
New Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell tried to hit the reset button on perceptions of the health-care rollout in her first public speech since taking the job at the embattled department overseeing it. “What I’ve told my team at HHS is that we’re not here to fight last year’s battles, we’re here to fight for affordability, access and quality,” said Ms. Burwell to an audience of George Washington University students and faculty on Monday. “Let’s move beyond the back and forth, let’s move forward together” (Radnofsky, 9/8).
The Washington Post: With Medicaid Expansion Blocked, McAuliffe Unveils Modest Plan To Insure More Virginians
McAuliffe outlined measures to provide health insurance to as many as 25,000 Virginians, just a fraction of those he had hoped to cover by expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The biggest change, covering 20,000 people with severe mental illness, will need funding approval from the General Assembly to continue past the current fiscal year. McAuliffe also offered proposals to improve care for people already in Medicaid and boost outreach efforts to those who qualify but are not enrolled (Vozzella and Portnoy, 9/8).
The New York Times: After First Plan Is Blocked, Virginia Governor Reduces Medicaid Expansion Goals
After fuming at state lawmakers and threatening unilateral action, Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia took only modest steps on Monday to extend health care to the poor and disabled, retreating on the issue he has chosen to define his first eight months in office. Mr. McAuliffe, who in June ordered his cabinet to devise a plan for unilateral action by Sept. 1, in the face of what he called Republican “demagoguery” and “cowardice,” announced that only 25,000 uninsured Virginians would be receiving coverage, far fewer than the 400,000 he has said are eligible if the state expands Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (Gabriel, 9/8).
The Associated Press: Va. Gov Proposes Limited Health Care Expansion
Virginia Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has repeatedly promised to expand Medicaid eligibility for about 400,000 low-income adults using mostly federal funds during his eight-month old administration. But on Monday he acknowledged that his executive power only reaches so far (9/8).
The Associated Press: Study: Rise In ER Visits After Medicaid Expansion
Many people newly insured by Medicaid under the federal health care law are seeking treatment in hospital emergency rooms, one of the most expensive medical settings, a study released Monday concludes. The analysis by the Colorado Hospital Association provides a real-time glimpse at how the nation’s newest social program is working (9/8).
The Washington Post’s Wonkblog: Obamacare Lets Young Adults Stay On Their Parents’ Insurance Longer. Has That Made Them Better Off?
Allowing young adults to stay on their parents' health plans is one of the most popular elements of the president's health-care law, but a pair of new studies out today raises questions about the overall impact of the coverage expansion to an estimated 3 million people. The provision, which allows young adults to stay on their parents' health insurance plans until their 26th birthday, was one of the earliest parts of the law to take effect, in 2010, and researchers are now starting to report on the effects of that expansion. As expected, it increased the rate of health insurance among young adults, who historically had the highest uninsured rates of any age group. But the provision didn't change whether the age group perceived themselves as healthier or whether they thought health care was any more affordable, according to a new study in JAMA Pediatrics (Millman, 9/8).
The Wall Street Journal: VA Director Outlines Plan For Fixing Veterans' Health Care
The new head of the Department of Veterans Affairs said Monday he is working to streamline the VA's sprawling bureaucracy, simplify the process for veterans to receive care and hire thousands of new doctors and nurses. Robert McDonald, who was confirmed by the Senate in July as VA secretary, said he wants to foster a culture where whistleblowers feel safe to speak out and employees who contributed to delays in care are disciplined (Kesling, 9/8).
NPR: U.S. Science Suffering From Booms And Busts In Funding
Ten years ago, Robert Waterland got an associate professorship at Baylor College of Medicine and set off to study one of the nation's most pressing health problems: obesity. In particular, he's been trying to figure out the biology behind why children born to obese women are more likely to develop the condition themselves. Waterland got sustaining funding from the National Institutes of Health and used it to get the project going. But, after years of success in this line of research, he's suddenly in limbo. His NIH grant ran out in 2012 and he hasn't been able to get it renewed. … His research can't move forward without funding. And he has plenty of company. Nationwide, about 16 percent of scientists with sustaining (known as "R01") grants in 2012 lost them the following year, according to an NPR analysis. That left about 3,500 scientists nationwide scrambling to find money to keep their labs alive — including 35 at the Baylor College of Medicine (Harris and Benincasa, 9/9).
The New York Times: D.E.A. To Allow Return Of Unused Pills To Pharmacies
Concerned by rising rates of prescription drug abuse, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced Monday that it would permit consumers to return unused prescription medications like opioid painkillers to pharmacies. The move is intended to help reduce stockpiles of unneeded medicines in homes, which are often pilfered by teenagers. Under the new regulation, patients and their relatives will also be allowed to mail unused prescription drugs to an authorized collector using packages to be made available at pharmacies and other locations, like libraries and senior centers (Saint Louis, 9/8).
Los Angeles Times: U.S. Drug Agency Expands Drop-Off Sites For Unused Prescription Drugs
In an effort to address the nation’s growing prescription drug abuse problem, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration will now allow hospitals, clinics and pharmacies to collect unused prescription drugs. The DEA’s new regulation will also provide residents at long-term health facilities with the option of turning in unused prescription drugs on-sit (Levine, 9/8).
The Wall Street Journal: U.S. To Allow Pharmacies To Take Back Unused Prescription Drugs
Federal authorities will soon allow pharmacies and clinics to take back customers' unused prescription drugs such as opioid painkillers in an effort to get addictive medications off the street. The change, to be issued in new Drug Enforcement Administration regulations effective next month, will address a long-standing complaint from people fighting opioid addiction that government rules make it difficult to safely dispose of unused pills (Barrett, 9/8).
The Associated Press: NY Lawmakers: Reauthorize 9/11 Compensation Law
Days before the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, elected officials from New York called on Congress to reauthorize federal legislation to compensate first responders who became ill working at ground zero. On Monday, standing in the shadow of the nearly completed One World Trade Center, Democratic U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand led the bipartisan push to renew the Zadroga Act, which provides medical treatment and compensation for the workers. The two main components of the law are set to expire in 2015 and 2016 (9/8).
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