First Edition: October 21, 2014
Today's headlines include reports about health law positions taken by Republican governors -- including Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Kaiser Health News: More Plans Setting Spending Limits For Some Medical Services
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: “Aiming to contain health care costs, a growing number of employers and insurers are adopting a strategy that limits how much they’ll pay for certain medical services such as knee replacements, lab tests and complex imaging. A recent study found that savings from such moves may be modest, however, and some experts question whether “reference pricing,” as it’s called, is good for consumers” (Andrews, 10/21). Read the story.
The Associated Press: In Louisiana, Both Sides Claim Defense Of Medicare
An old political standby — the future of Medicare — is emerging as the go-to issue in Louisiana’s bitter Senate race as the candidates woo seniors who typically wield strong influence in midterm elections. The challenge for voters is to figure out which side, if either, is telling the whole truth about who would cut and who would protect the popular insurance program. Medicare serves more than 50 million people and accounts for about 15 percent of federal spending, with about 10,000 new beneficiaries added daily as baby boomers reach age 65. The issue is so powerful that it’s cropping up in North Carolina and Iowa, too, amid a national battle for control of the Senate (10/21).
The Associated Press: GOP Governors Don’t See ‘Obamacare’ Going Away
While Republicans in Congress shout, “Repeal Obamacare,” GOP governors in many states have quietly accepted the law’s major Medicaid expansion. Even if their party wins control of the Senate in the upcoming elections, they just don’t see the law going away. Nine Republican governors have expanded Medicaid for low-income people in their states, despite their own misgivings and adamant opposition from conservative legislators. Three more governors are negotiating with the Democratic administration in Washington (10/20).
Politico: Gov. John Kasich: Repeal Obamacare, But Not All Of It
A political firestorm broke out Monday when The Associated Press quoted Kasich as saying that Obamacare repeal was “not gonna happen.” That view is almost unheard of — at least in public — among most Republicans, let alone those who might run for the White House in 2016. Kasich said AP got it wrong, and he called POLITICO Monday night to correct the record. He said he was talking specifically about repeal of the expansion of Medicaid — which Ohio has implemented — and not of the Affordable Care Act more broadly (Wheaton, 10/21).
The New York Times: Ohio Governor Backpedals On Repeal Of Health Law
Wait, that’s not what I really meant. Gov. John Kasich of Ohio said his comments about a Republican-led Congress being unlikely to repeal the Affordable Care Act — which commentators on the right and left pounced upon Monday — were taken out of context. Mr. Kasich, a Republican mentioned as a 2016 presidential hopeful, in an interview distanced himself from the notion that he had accepted the health care law as a fait accompli. The idea is anathema to almost all Republican officials, and especially the party’s base (Gabriel, 10/20).
The Washington Post: Kasich: I ‘Don’t Back Obamacare’ And I ‘Want It To Be Repealed’
Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) is pushing back on reports that he'd said Obamacare was here to stay, saying Monday night that he opposes the federal health care law and believes it could be repealed and replaced under a Republican president and GOP-controlled Congress. "I don't back Obamacare. I never have. I want it to be repealed," he told The Washington Post in a telephone interview (Sullivan, 10/20).
The Washington Post’s Wonkblog: How The Supreme Court Could Still Wreak Havoc On Obamacare
Obamacare may not be the political issue it was this time last year, when a faltering Web site threatened to derail the program, but that doesn't mean it's in the clear. Ongoing legal challenges to one aspect of the law could still put its coverage expansion in serious jeopardy. The dispute has to do with whether the subsidies can be provided through public health insurance marketplaces in states that refused to set up their own, instead leaving the job to the feds. The administration and Obamacare supporters say the law was designed to provide premium subsidies to all states, regardless of who runs the marketplace (Millman, 10/21).
USA Today: New Doctors Site Rates For Experience, Quality
The first comprehensive physician rating and comparison database launches Monday in time for open enrollment on federal and state health exchanges, as well as for many employer-provided plans. The new version of the website Healthgrades.com uses about 500 million claims from federal and private sources and patient reviews to rate and rank doctors based on their experience, complication rates at the hospitals where they practice and patient satisfaction (O’Donnell, 10/20).
Politico: Few Motives To Fix Busted Health Data
Someday, doctors will have our data at their fingertips and will use it to prevent drug reactions, nip diabetes and cancers in the bud and lengthen our lives while preventing unpleasant and costly hospital stays. But for most doctors, that free-flowing information highway is a beautiful dream that doesn’t pay the bills (Allen, 10/20).
The Wall Street Journal’s Pharmalot: Senate Lawmaker Eyes Hearing On The Cost Of Hepatitis C Treatments
Responding to the ongoing controversy over the prices for new hepatitis C treatments, U.S. Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) will probably hold a hearing – possibly before the year ends – to examine how the cost is affecting the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, according to his spokesman. Sanders is chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (Silverman, 10/20).
The New York Times: On Ebola Response, Congressional Republicans Put New Focus On Visa Suspensions
But a supercharged political atmosphere is making legislative nuance difficult two weeks before midterm elections and days before a hearing on Friday on the Ebola response called by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, a panel riven by partisan division. Republicans on the campaign trail continue to goad Democrats to embrace a broad travel ban, although no direct flights to the United States from Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea exist (Weisman, 10/20).
The Washington Post: CDC Issues Formal Guidelines Giving Workers More Protection Against Ebola
Federal health officials Monday tightened infection-control guidelines for health-care workers caring for Ebola patients, explicitly recommending that no skin be exposed. The beefed-up guidelines also call for health-care workers to undergo rigorous training, and to be supervised by trained monitors when putting on and taking off personal protective equipment. The government will issue step-by-step instructions for workers to follow in doing that (Sun and Berman, 10/20).
Los Angeles Times: New Ebola Protection Guidelines Leave No Bare Skin
After pointed criticism from healthcare workers and relatives of an Ebola-infected nurse, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new guidelines Monday for hospital protective gear. The guidelines, which were scheduled to be posted on the CDC's website late Monday night, were described by CDC Director Thomas Frieden during a telephone news conference (Morin, 10/20).
Politico: Dude, Where's My Czar?
The White House announced Friday that Ron Klain would be the country’s public point-person on Ebola, but so far what the “Ebola czar” isn’t doing has been clearer than what he is. Klain won’t be testifying this Friday on the Hill. He didn’t participate in a Saturday meeting of top officials on Ebola. And administration officials haven’t yet confirmed that he’s talked with the president since their conversation the day his selection was made public. Klain will be starting work on Wednesday, White House principal deputy press secretary Eric Schultz said Monday, but he won’t be testifying before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee at the end of the week as Chairman Darrell Issa (R-California) had requested (Epstein, 10/20).
Los Angeles Times: Health Insurers Boost No On 45 Funding
California insurers have pumped more than $12 million over the last five days into a campaign to defeat Proposition 45, an initiative on the Nov. 4 ballot that would regulate health insurance rates. Blue Shield gave $2.66 million, WellPoint $6 million, Kaiser Permanente $3.73 million and Health Net $350,000, according to late filings at the secretary of state's office (Lifsher, 10/20).
The Washington Post: Booz Allen Buys Baltimore-Based Health Division Of Genova Technologies
Booz Allen Hamilton has acquired the health care division of Genova Technologies, an Iowa-based government contractor, for an undisclosed sum. The health care group, made up of about 40 employees, is based in Baltimore. The office has already been integrated into Booz Allen, said Susan Penfield, executive vice president of Booz’s health business (Jayakumar, 10/20).
The Associated Press: La. Health Dept. Seeks End To Billing Rape Victims
Sexual assault victims in Louisiana should not have to pay for their treatment in emergency rooms, the health department said Monday, announcing a proposal that would have a state victims’ assistance board finance the exams (10/20).
The Wall Street Journal: Judge Blocks Cancellation Of Philadelphia Teachers Contract
A judge on Monday temporarily blocked the Philadelphia public-school system from canceling the teachers union contract and requiring educators to pay a share of their health insurance premiums starting in December. The union, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, sought the injunction, claiming the five-member School Reform Commission that governs the district lacked legal authority to impose the changes. The school district said it would appeal Monday’s ruling (Calvert, 10/20).
Check out all of Kaiser Health News' e-mail options including First Edition and Breaking News alerts on our Subscriptions page.This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.