First Edition: October 14, 2014
Today's headlines include reports from various campaign-trail debates in which the health law played a role.
Kaiser Health News: Modest Premium Hikes, Higher Consumer Costs Likely For Job-Based Plans
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: “Fall is enrollment season for many people who get insurance through their workplace. Premium increases for 2015 plans are expected to be modest on average, but the shift toward higher out-of-pocket costs overall for consumers will continue as employers try to keep a lid on their costs and incorporate health law changes” (Andrews, 10/14). Read the column.
The Associated Press: How The New Healthcare.Gov Stacks Up With The Old
HealthCare.gov, the website for health insurance under President Barack Obama’s health care law, has been revamped as its second enrollment season approaches. But things are still complicated, since other major provisions of the Affordable Care Act are taking effect for the first time (10/14).
The Associated Press: Poll: Many Insured Struggle With Medical Bills
They have health insurance, but still no peace of mind. Overall, 1 in 4 privately insured adults say they doubt they could pay for a major unexpected illness or injury. A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research may help explain why President Barack Obama faces such strong headwinds in trying to persuade the public that his health care law is holding down costs (10/13).
The Washington Post’s Wonkblog: How Family Planning Programs Save Taxpayers Billions Of Dollars Each Year
Publicly-funded family planning services help low-income Americans avoid serious health conditions while saving billions of dollars each year, according to a new analysis -- benefits that go beyond providing contraception that can prevent unintended pregnancies. Past research from the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports publicly funded family programs , already found that family planning services such helped prevent an estimated 2.2 million unintended pregnancies in 2010, which would have resulted in about 1.1 million unplanned births (Millman, 10/14).
Politico: GOP Can’t Give Up Obamacare Repeal Talk
Republicans may be split on many issues, but they remain fiercely united in their loathing for the Affordable Care Act; they still see it as a terrible law, and they want it to go away. But GOP staffers and health care wonks also know that, even if they win the Senate, they’re not going to accomplish that in the next two years while President Barack Obama is still in office. And after that? Well, think of the last time a major social program was repealed after three enrollment seasons, with millions of people getting benefits. That’s right — it hasn’t happened (Nather, 10/13).
The New York Times: Senate Contest In South Dakota Is Free-For-All
But Mr. Rounds has acceded to his party in some matters since the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee announced last week that it would air ads here. He started broadcasting a commercial contrasting his views on taxes, the health law and the Keystone XL pipeline with those of his two main opponents and has consented to bringing in strategists from Washington to help his get-out-the-vote effort (Martin, 10/13).
The Associated Press: Cotton, Pryor Stick To Familiar Themes In Debate
Pryor defended his vote for the federal health care overhaul and said that before the law many Arkansans were one medical emergency away from bankruptcy. “We needed to put patients back in charge of their health care,” Pryor said. “I do support changing the law, I do, but I don’t want to go back to those days.” Cotton called the law a “disaster” for the state and the country and said repealing it could allow for other reforms. “When we start over on health care reform, we can take a program like Medicaid that has too much red tape and return it to the states and let states make those decisions,” he said (10/13).
The Wall Street Journal: McConnell, Grimes Face Off In Kentucky Senate Debate
Both candidates at times found themselves wrapped in rhetorical knots—Ms. Grimes on whether she ever backed President Barack Obama and Mr. McConnell on the Affordable Care Act. … Moderator Bill Goodman, of Kentucky’s public television network, also pressed Mr. McConnell about the Affordable Care Act. Mr. McConnell said he continues to push for a repeal of Mr. Obama’s signature health-care law, but said Kentucky ought to be able to maintain its state-level health care exchange – provided state officials find a way to pay for it. “It’s a state exchange, they can continue it if they’d like to,” Mr. McConnell said. “They’d have to pay for it, because the [federal] grant would be over” (Epstein, 10/13).
The Washington Post: Anthony Brown, Larry Hogan Trade Attacks In 2nd Maryland Gubernatorial Debate
Democrat Anthony G. Brown and Republican Larry Hogan on Monday sharply questioned each other’s credibility on economic issues and managing state spending, part of a gubernatorial debate that also included attacks on gun laws, funding for pre-kindergarten and Maryland’s troubled health insurance exchange. … The candidates also sparred over Brown’s role in Maryland’s botched rollout of its online health insurance exchange. The issue was not mentioned when the men debated in Baltimore last week, prompting Hogan to complain about the moderators (Wagner, 10/13).
The Wall Street Journal’s Pharmalot: Will ‘Son Of Sovaldi’ Cause State Medicaid Programs To Erect High Hurdles?
How might state Medicaid programs cope with a new and equally expensive hepatitis C treatment from Gilead Sciences GILD -2.26%? A new report released just as the FDA late last week approved Harvoni, which will cost $94,500 for a 12-week regimen, may offer some insights, at least according to a trade group for the state programs (Silverman, 10/13).
The New York Times: C.D.C. Rethinking Methods To Stop Spread Of Ebola
The transmission of the Ebola virus to a nurse here forced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday to reconsider its approach to containing the disease, with state and federal officials re-examining whether equipment and procedures were adequate or too loosely followed, and whether more decontamination steps are necessary when health workers leave isolation units (Fernandez, Tavernise and Fausset, 10/13).
The Washington Post: CDC Chief: After Dallas Nurse’s Ebola Infection, U.S. Must ‘Rethink’ Protocols
Frieden did not detail precisely how the extensive, government-issued safety protocols in place at many facilities might need to change or in what ways hospitals need to ramp up training for front-line doctors or nurses. But his message was clear: With Ebola, there is no margin for error. The Dallas case made that certain. Federal, state and local health officials on Monday raced to investigate how Nina Pham, a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, became infected with Ebola. A 2010 graduate of Texas Christian University’s nursing program, she was part of the team that treated Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who succumbed to the virus Wednesday after more than a week at the hospital (Nutt, Berman and Dennis, 10/13).
Los Angeles Times: Error In Dallas May Have Exposed Others To Ebola, CDC Chief Says
The second case of Ebola diagnosed in this country came after American officials had insisted for weeks there was a minuscule chance of the virus penetrating the U.S. healthcare system. The case raised questions on several fronts: the preparedness of medical facilities to handle Ebola patients properly; the funding available for hospitals to ready themselves for pandemics; the policy of allowing people from the hardest-hit African nations to enter the United States (Hennessy-Fiske and Susman, 10/13).
The Wall Street Journal: Ebola Response Strains Hospitals
As the Ebola epidemic in West Africa expands, more cases could require treatment at U.S. hospitals far from the specialized centers that have handled patients so far. But the challenges even these medical centers have encountered show the steep learning curve others face. Treating Ebola takes money, space, aggressive care and obsessive vigilance to prevent doctors and nurses from getting infected, say infectious disease doctors at such specialized hospitals in Atlanta and Omaha, Neb. Also important is extreme diplomacy in dealing with suppliers and contractors, which have balked at handling blood samples, soiled linens and hospital waste out of fear of the virus, the hospitals say (McKay and Loftus, 10/13).
The New York Times: Questions Rise On Preparations At Hospitals To Deal With Ebola
Federal health officials have offered repeated assurances that most American hospitals can safely treat Ebola, but Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, which had years of preparation for just such a crisis, found out how hard that is while it cared for three Ebola patients. As doctors and nurses there worked to keep desperately ill patients alive in August, the county threatened to disconnect Emory from sewer lines if Ebola wastes went down the drain. The company that hauled medical trash to the incinerator refused to take anything used on an Ebola patient unless it was sterilized first. Couriers would not drive the patients’ blood samples a few blocks away for testing at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And pizza places would not deliver to staff members in any part of the hospital (Grady, 10/13).
NPR: U.S. Hospitals Redouble Efforts To Prep For Ebola
Another Ebola infection in Dallas has raised some concern among nurses and other health workers in hospitals around the country who worry they may not be equipped to deal with the crisis (Aubrey, 10/13).
The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: New Ad Blames GOP For Limiting Ebola Research
The Agenda Project Action Fund, a progressive group organized as a 501(c)(4) under the tax code, posted a new ad Sunday that places sound bites of Republican senators, such as Mitch McConnell, Pat Roberts and Rand Paul, calling for budget cuts, and juxtaposes them with health officials saying cuts have hurt the U.S.’s ability to fight infectious disease. The ad also includes graphic images of sick patients (Andrews, 10/13).
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