First Edition: October 7, 2014
Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including a variety of health policy developments at the federal and state levels.
Kaiser Health News: How Will Taxes Be Reconciled With Premium Subsidies?
Kaiser Health News' consumer columnist Michelle Andrews answers readers questions about how subsidies for health insurance can be divvied up among family members choosing separate plans and how a miscalculation of the premium will be handled on your taxes (Andrews, 10/7).Read the column.
Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Poll: Californians Support Health Coverage For Undocumented Immigrants
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, KQED's Lisa Aliferis reports: "A majority of the state’s voters support extending current health insurance programs to all low-income Californians, including undocumented immigrants, according to a new statewide poll released today" (Aliferis, 10/6).Check out what else is on the blog.
The Washington Post: The Surprising Obamacare Experiment That Saved Taxpayers $24 Million Last Year
The medical center is what’s called a Pioneer Accountable Care Organization, one of 19 in the country. More simply: It’s a network of doctors, nurses and social workers who team up to deliver continuous, coordinated care to patients — and, in the process, slash government spending (Paquette, 10/6).
The New York Times: Medicare Revises Nursing Home Rating System
The federal government on Monday announced substantial changes to the government’s five-star rating program for nursing homes, a widely used consumer tool that has been criticized for its reliance on self-reported, unverified data (Thomas, 10/6).
The Associated Press: Medicare To Improve Nursing Home Ratings
The Obama administration says it’s launching a makeover for Nursing Home Compare, the government website consumers can turn to when a loved one needs long-term care. Officials said Monday a key improvement will involve a new electronic reporting system to gather details on nurse and aide staffing directly from payroll records (10/6).
Politico: New Abortion Cases Could Reach Supreme Court
The Supreme Court was asked Monday to block parts of a Texas law that restricts access to abortion, an emergency request that could be just the first of several abortion-related cases to reach the court in the upcoming term. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit on Thursday allowed Texas to implement a law that restricts abortion providers and immediately shuttered all but seven of the state’s remaining clinics. On Monday, the women’s health facilities asked the high court to essentially undo that decision, allowing them to remain open as the legal fight proceeds (Haberkorn, 10/6).
NPR/Propublica: Medical Company May Be Falling Short Of Its Patient Safety Ideals
When medical device entrepreneur Joe Kiani announced his commitment to eliminating medical mistakes, he did it with panache. His medical device company, Masimo Corporation, funded the launch of a nonprofit called the Patient Safety Movement Foundation. And at its flashy inaugural summit in 2013 – featuring former President Bill Clinton as the keynote speaker – Kiani pledged to galvanize the medical industry to reduce the number of deaths from medical errors across the country from hundreds of thousands a year to zero. "Of all the dreams I've had none seem as important as this dream: The dream of no more preventable patient death," Kiani said to the gathering of health care leaders (Allen and Waldman, 10/6).
The Wall Street Journal: Sanofi Says It Told U.S. About Improper-Payment Claims
Sanofi said it has told U.S. authorities about allegations of improper payments to health-care professionals in the Mideast and East Africa, joining a lineup of pharmaceutical companies that have faced similar claims. Among the allegations are that Sanofi employees made improper payments to doctors in Kenya and other East African nations, handing out perks based on whether the doctors prescribed or planned to prescribe Sanofi drugs, according to the firm and e-mails from a tipster The Wall Street Journal viewed (Ensign and Plumridge, 10/6).
The Wall Street Journal’s Pharmalot: Cash Is Not Always King In Pharma Pay-To-Delay Deals, A Judge Rules
Money may talk, but when it comes to pay-to-delay deals, other sorts of payments also have a voice. Yet another federal court judge has ruled that a cash payment is not only the litmus test for determining whether a patent settlement deserves antitrust scrutiny. The ruling was made in a case several insurers brought against AstraZeneca and several drug makers in which a monetary payment was not part of their deal (Silverman, 10/6).
The New York Times: Ebola Screening At Airports Will Increase, Obama Says
As this city waited anxiously to learn whether Ebola has spread beyond one victim, President Obama announced on Monday that the government would increase screening for the virus at airports both in the United States and in West Africa. Mr. Obama made the announcement after being briefed in Washington by Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mr. Obama called the fight against Ebola “a top national security priority,” but did not specify how screening would be changed. Dr. Frieden said that officials would explore a variety of options (Sack, 10/6).
Los Angeles Times: Obama Announces Plans For New Ebola Screening Of Airline Passengers
After meeting with his senior health, homeland security and national security advisors, President Obama told reporters that in the wake of the first Ebola case diagnosed in the U.S., officials would study increasing screening plans (Hennessy-Fiske and Muskal, 10/6).
The Washington Post: Post Poll: Anthony Brown Leads Larry Hogan By 9 Points In Maryland Governor’s Race
Maryland voters say they trust Brown more than Hogan on education, health care and social issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion. Brown has trumpeted plans to expand pre-kindergarten offerings and is airing ads that portray Hogan as outside the mainstream on social issues (Wagner and Craighill, 10/6).
The Wall Street Journal: Maine Governor’s Race Serves As Referendum On Welfare
A sustained push to trim Maine’s welfare rolls—arguably the most divisive effort of its kind in the country—has emerged as a prominent test for both parties’ positions on spending for the poor. Republican Gov. Paul LePage describes the cuts he has made to food stamps, Medicaid and cash-assistance programs as both a budget-cutting exercise and a kick-in-the-pants to many of Maine’s low-income workers. But underscoring how deeply the welfare issue resonates among voters here, both of his two challengers in the three-way race have their own plans to overhaul government programs for the less-well-off (Paletta, 10/6).
Los Angeles Times: L.A. County Offers $61-Million Health Plan For Those Still Uninsured
Los Angeles County will provide access to a primary care doctor for nearly 150,000 uninsured Los Angeles County residents, including many who are ineligible for Obamacare coverage because they lack legal immigration status. My Health L.A., as the $61-million program for the uninsured is called, will assign uninsured patients to a "medical home" at one of around 150 community clinics, said Dr. Mitchell Katz, director of the county's Department of Health Services (Brown, 10/6).
The Wall Street Journal: Philadelphia Schools Cancel Teachers Union Contract
In a surprise move Monday, the commission that governs the financially troubled Philadelphia public-school system canceled the teachers union contract and decided educators must contribute to their health insurance for the first time to free up money for classrooms. “We can’t say to students, ‘We would like to give you millions of dollars to improve schools, but the PFT won’t let its members pay for some of its health insurance,’” School Reform Commission Chairman Bill Green said, referring to the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (Calvert, 10/6).
Los Angeles Times: Wal-Mart Teams With Directhealth To Lift Healthcare Sign-Ups At Stores
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is launching expanded healthcare sign-ups at many of its stores, including hundreds of locations in California. The retail giant said Monday that it has partnered with DirectHealth.com, an insurance agency and online comparison site. DirectHealth agents will be staffed inside 2,700 stores, including 29 in Los Angeles County and 212 across California (Khouri, 10/6).
The New York Times: From A Father’s Anguish Comes A Plan To Help Mentally Ill Inmates
By his count, Francis J. Greenburger has built or owned more than 20,000 apartments over the past 50 years. Starting out at age 19 with a five-story brick rental on Barrow Street, Mr. Greenburger built one of the city’s largest co-op conversion businesses in the 1970s and 80s, with projects that included the Delmonico Building, 1045 Park Avenue and the sprawling Clinton Hill Co-ops. Next came Midtown office towers, apartments from New Jersey to Berlin, and even the stray Nova Scotia outlet mall and Tallahassee, Fla., parking garage. Yet for all of his 20-million-square-foot empire, the project Mr. Greenburger may be most excited about — certainly the one he is most determined to build — is a 25-bed center to treat convicts with mental illnesses (Chaban, 10/6).
Los Angeles Times: L.A.-Area Restaurants Adding Healthcare Surcharge To Cover Workers
Diners are discovering an unfamiliar new item when the bill comes for the truffled lobster Bolognese at Melisse and for the crunchy Spanish fried chicken and waffles at AOC — a 3% surcharge for employees' medical insurance. The charge first appeared at one Los Angeles-area restaurant late last year; by early September, more than a dozen mainly high-end eateries followed suit. The added cost has given some diners heartburn and thrust the restaurants' owners unwillingly into the debate over the Affordable Care Act (Li, 10/4).
The Associated Press: NY Bureau Probes Consumer Medical Issues
The Health Care Bureau in the New York Attorney General's Office reports investigating and resolving 13,000 consumer complaints and saving or returning $12.5 million to nearly 2,500 New Yorkers since 2011. The report tracks calls to the bureau's free help line and investigations into complaints like denied services, rejected insurance claims and medical overbilling (10/7).
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