First Edition: September 13, 2011
In today's headlines, a report that new Census data is expected to show that working-age people are losing ground in terms of their health insurance coverage.
Kaiser Health News: Concern Is Growing That The Elderly Get Too Many Medical Tests
Sandra G. Boodman, reporting for Kaiser Health News in collaboration with the Washington Post, writes: "Every year like clockwork, Anna Peterson has a mammogram. Peterson, who will turn 80 next year, undergoes screening colonoscopies at three- or five-year intervals as recommended by her doctor, although she has never had cancerous polyps that would warrant such frequent testing. Her 83-year-old husband faithfully gets regular PSA tests to check for prostate cancer. … But increasingly, questions are being raised about the overtesting of older patients, part of a growing skepticism about the widespread practice of routine screening for cancer and other ailments of people in their 70s, 80s and even 90s. Critics say there is little evidence of benefit -- and considerable risk -- from common tests for colon, breast and prostate cancer, particularly for those with serious problems such as heart disease or dementia that are more likely to kill them" (Boodman, 9/12).
Kaiser Health News: Oakland Clinic Provides Medical Care to Ex-Offenders
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, in collaboration with KQED, Sarah Varney reports: California has embarked on an ambitious expansion of its Medicaid program, three years ahead of the federal expansion that the health law requires in 2014. At least half a million people are expected to gain coverage — mostly poor adults who never qualified under the old rules because they didn't have kids at home. Among those who stand to benefit right now are ex-offenders. Inmates often leave California prisons with no consistent place to get medical care. But that's changing (Varney, 9/13).
Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Actuaries To 'Super Committee': Slow Overall Health Spending, Not Just Medicare
Now on KHN's news blog, Marilyn Werber Serafini writes: "The deficit reduction 'super committee' should act to slow the growth of health care spending overall – not just in Medicare – as it rolls up its sleeves, says the American Academy of Actuaries. 'Achieving long-term sustainability for Medicare will require slowing the growth in overall health spending, not simply shifting costs from one payer to another,' said senior health fellow Cori Uccello." Check out Capsules.
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Census Data Expected To Show Working-Age People Losing Ground In Terms Of Poverty, Insurance
Hurt by high unemployment, working-age Americans are expected to lose ground when new census figures on poverty and the uninsured are released. The Census Bureau on Tuesday is releasing its annual report on U.S. economic well-being for 2010, when unemployment averaged 9.6 percent. The figures also are expected to show a 10th year of decline in the share of people with employer-provided insurance, reaching a new low. Currently just over 55 percent of people receive health coverage through their work (9/13).
Los Angeles Times: Candidates Agree: Keep Medicare Drug Program, Get Rid Of Waste And Fraud
Just after the candidates sparred over whether Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, the focus shifted to another topic of great interest to seniors – the Medicare prescription drug benefit embraced by former President George W. Bush and enacted during his tenure. They all agreed to maintain it, but that to pay for the program, government waste must end. (How they define waste is probably what distinguishes them from each other) (Abcarian, 9/12).
USA Today: Rick Perry Must Be The Front-Runner: Everyone Attacks Him
The emerging Republican campaign could test whether Social Security remains the "third rail" of American politics — that is, touch it and die — or if strains on entitlement programs and concerns about government spending have altered the calculations and changed the risks (Kucinich and Page, 9/13).
Los Angeles Times: Mitt Romney Says Massachusetts Plan Wasn't Model For 'Obamacare'
Mitt Romney defended the healthcare plan he enacted as governor during Monday's Florida debate while rival Rick Perry defended Massachusetts' right to chart its own course, even if he didn't agree with what the state settled on (Memoli, 9/12).
Los Angeles Times: Tim Pawlenty Backs Former Rival Mitt Romney For President
Just weeks after abandoning his campaign for president, Tim Pawlenty is injecting himself back in the race with an endorsement of Mitt Romney. The expression of support for his former foe is a quick turnabout for the former Minnesota governor, who earlier this summer lampooned Romney over his healthcare reform plan, which Pawlenty called "Obamneycare" (Memoli, 9/12).
USA Today: Poll: 'Gaping Divide' Between Democrats And 'Switchers'
Obama campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt said it is still early in the campaign and there will be a "vigorous discussion" on the president's and Republican field's differing views on Medicare, Social Security and job creation. Third Way concluded "there is a gaping ideological divide between Democrats and these crucial voters," but the group also found that the moderate voters are disillusioned with Tea Party-aligned Republicans, whom they view by a 3-to-1 margin as pushing the country in the wrong direction. Democrats and Obama could do well in winning swing voters by arguing that the Republican presidential field is beholden to the Tea Party, Kessler said (Madhani, 9/13).
The Wall Street Journal: US Targets Drug Executives
U.S. authorities are stepping up enforcement of a little-used law—the so-called "responsible corporate officer doctrine"—to hold executives personally and criminally responsible for corporate violations of U.S. food and drug laws. The development has triggered a new wave of worry among defense lawyers representing health-care executives (O’Connell and Rothfeld, 9/13).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Aging America: Caregivers Urge Action As Obama Administration Drafts National Alzheimer's Plan
As her mother's Alzheimer's worsened over eight long years, so did Doreen Alfaro's bills: The walker, then the wheelchair, then the hospital bed, then the diapers — and the caregivers hired for more and more hours a day so Alfaro could go to work and her elderly father could get some rest (9/12).
The Wall Street Journal: Walked Into A Lamppost? Hurt While Crocheting? Help Is On The Way
Today, hospitals and doctors use a system of about 18,000 codes to describe medical services in bills they send to insurers. Apparently, that doesn't allow for quite enough nuance. A new federally mandated version will expand the number to around 140,000—adding codes that describe precisely what bone was broken, or which artery is receiving a stent. …The federal agencies that developed the system—generally known as ICD-10, for International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision—say the codes will provide a more exact and up-to-date accounting of diagnoses and hospital inpatient procedures, which could improve payment strategies and care guidelines. "It's for accuracy of data and quality of care," says Pat Brooks, senior technical adviser at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (Mathews, 9/13).
The Associated Press/Chicago Tribune: Prescription Drug Vending Machine At South Suburban Hospital
A south suburban hospital is the first in Illinois to offer a 24-hour vending machine for prescription drugs. The service is called InstyMeds and it's for emergency room patients at MetroSouth Medical Center in Blue Island (9/13).
The New York Times: In Deal, Hundreds Of Mentally Ill People Will Leave Confinement Of Nursing Home
Hundreds of mentally ill people who have been confined to nursing homes, sometimes in prisonlike conditions, would move to apartments or other housing within three years under a legal settlement with New York State (Hartocollis, 9/12).
The Washington Post: DC Near Settlement In Mental Health Case
After 37 years of litigation, the District is on the cusp of ending court oversight of its services for the mentally ill. The settlement, reached after eight months of "painstaking" negotiations, represents a major victory for the D.C. government as it seeks to overcome a legacy of mismanagement (DeBonis, 9/12).
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