KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Today’s OpEds: WSJ On Virginia Court Ruling; Health Law Politics; For-Profit Insurers; Mass. Doc Shortage; Physician Errors

Yes, Virginia ... ObamaCare Is Unconstitutional The Wall Street Journal
All the smart people in the political, media and legal classes know that ObamaCare is constitutional and anyone who says otherwise is frivolous. This faux consensus, however, does not include a U.S. district court judge in Virginia, who yesterday rejected the Administration's argument that one of the key constitutional challenges should be dismissed outright. Now the case will proceed to arguments on the merits this fall (8/3).

Thumbs Down: Missouri Proposition C The Kansas City Star
Missouri voters will find a question asking if the state should enact a statute to "deny the government authority to penalize citizens for refusing to purchase private health insurance or infringe upon the right to offer or accept direct payment for lawful health care services." The best answer to that question is no (7/31).

Kentucky Hospitals Will Be Hurt By Health Care Reform Lexington Herald Leader
The Kentucky Hospital Association released a disturbing report recently that explains the economic burden of what the new health care bill will be on Kentucky hospitals. The report is alarming and makes me question how many of our local hospitals will be able to keep their doors open in the coming years. The recently passed health care bill will cost Kentucky hospitals a total of $1.2 billion over 10 years (Sen. Jim Bunning, 8/3).

ER Care Now Is The Mother Of Unfunded Mandates The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
I practice emergency medicine, and all those who do so are covered by a federal statute called EMTALA, or the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act. Basically, this law states that hospitals that accept Medicare, and physicians practicing in those hospitals, cannot insist on payment for services; they can only bill after the fact. EMTALA, well-meaning and appropriate in its original intent, was the mother of all unfunded mandates and essentially allowed the mess of modern medicine to move forward for over 20 years (Edwin Leap, 8/2).

Health Care's Slim Political Payoff The Wall Street Journal 
President Barack Obama and his party were bound to be stuck with a lousy economy and high unemployment; the sheer depth and breadth of the recession insured that. But were they wise to also take on a giant overhaul of the nation's health system while also grappling with deep economic distress? … Privately, some Democrats are asking themselves that question. ... In the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, ... a majority say they'd be more likely to support a Democratic congressional candidate who wants to give the overhaul more time to work than a Republican who wants to repeal it. No doubt, though, Democrats would have liked a bit more reward, and a bit faster (Gerald Seib, 8/3).  

Michigan Needs Inspector General For Medicaid Fraud Now The Detroit News
Way back in February, Gov. Jennifer Granholm issued an executive order to create a new state health department inspector general. Good move, given recent reports of $4.4 billion in possible Medicaid waste and fraud. But the lack of urgency in getting oversight in place may be costing taxpayers serious money (8/3).

Tradeoffs In Care? News & Observer
America's for-profit health insurance system is driven by companies that make a buck or millions of them by trying to sign up healthy people whose premium payments will be steady and whose health will be good. Health care reform won't change that entirely, but by the time reform comes more or less into full bloom in 2014, those insurers no longer will be able to deny coverage to people with health problems. That change stands to cost those companies some money (8/3). 

Rx Needed For Mass. Doctor Shortage The Boston Herald
The Bay State spent about $32 million this year to enroll people in the state's health insurance. But good luck finding a doctor. … Since 2006, when the state's sweeping health-care overhaul passed, 184,000 Bay Staters have enrolled in MassHealth. But during that time, the wait for healthy people to get in and see a doctor has skyrocketed to an average 50 business days for an appointment with a family doctor. Assuming you can find one (Christine McConville, 8/3).

Why Physicians Hate To Admit Their Errors, Even To Themselves The Washington Post
Precisely two weeks after completing my medical internship, I proceeded to nearly kill a patient. ... No doctor will easily confess to error when a core sense of self is at risk. It's difficult to develop policy that addresses such a murky and uncomfortable issue. But it wouldn't hurt for the senior faculty to talk publicly to trainees about their own errors and to address how they dealt with the shame (Danielle Ofri, 8/3). Excerpted from Health Affairs

State Moves To Make Health Info Accessible The Jacksonville [Ill.] Journal-Courier
Last week, Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law a bill that supporters say will create a secure framework for the sharing of electronic health information in Illinois. … Backers say the health exchange will give providers a secure system to access a patient's comprehensive medical history, while avoiding duplicate tests and procedures, and assuring the accuracy of prescription drugs and other medical orders. … Our only concern would be to ensure that the patient's privacy rights are protected (8/2). 

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