KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: April 17, 2013

Today's headlines include reports about a new study finding that surgical woes can actually bolster a hospital's profits.

Kaiser Health News: As Refugees Settle In, Health Care Becomes A Hurdle
Kaiser Health News staff writer Ankita Rao reports: "A refugee's relationship with American health care can vary widely by community and circumstances, said Heather Burke, a domestic team leader at the committee on migrant and refugee health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Refugees might be resettled in a well-established community with neighbors from their home country, or they may reach a destination where the government caseworker who greets them at the airport is the only person they know to call" (Rao, 4/17). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Democratic Lawmakers Seek To Restore Drugmaker Rebates For 'Dual Eligibles'; Mississippi's Lone Abortion Clinic Is Still Open And Still Controversial
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Mary Agnes Carey reports on new legislation introduced regarding Medicare drug rebates: "The legislation would require drug companies to provide rebates to the federal government for drugs used by a group of beneficiaries often called "dual eligibles." These beneficiaries are predominantly low-income seniors and people with disabilities who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid" (Carey, 4/16).

Also on the blog, Mississippi Public Radio's Jeffrey Hess, working in partnership with KHN and NPR, reports on the status of his state's only abortion clinic: "Protesters clashed Tuesday outside the Jackson Women's Health Organization, the only abortion clinic in Mississippi, which won a victory in federal court that allows the facility to continue to operate, at least for now. The legal victory for the clinic came Monday when U.S. District Judge Daniel Jordan III temporarily blocked a state law that requires all the doctors at the facility to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. The judge is preventing the law from taking effect until a legal challenge against it is settled" (Hess, 4/17). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: After Demanding Budget Debate, GOP Resists Naming Negotiators For Endgame Talks
What may be really motivating House Republicans to delay is a wish to avoid a series of politically difficult votes that Democrats could force upon them soon after a conference committee is named. Democrats could force such votes on a daily basis for months if negotiations drag on, and the tallies on highly charged topics like Medicare could produce fodder for campaign commercials. "We don't want to ... have an endless process that focuses on our differences," Ryan said (4/16).

The New York Times: Hospitals Profit From Surgical Errors, Study Finds
Hospitals make money from their own mistakes because insurers pay them for the longer stays and extra care that patients need to treat surgical complications that could have been prevented, a new study finds (Grady, 4/16).

The Wall Street Journal: Treatment Woes Can Bolster Hospitals' Profit
Hospitals have faced pressure for years to make visits to their wards safer. But their investments in everything from hand-washing campaigns to infection-fighting robots have done little to curb the thousands of yearly injuries and deaths caused by avoidable medical complications (Weaver, 4/16).

Politico: Study: Hospitals Profit When Surgeries Go Awry
Perverse financial incentives offered by private insurers and Medicare actually pad hospitals’ profits when surgeries go awry, according to the study. Hospitals earned 330 percent higher profit margins on surgeries with one or more complications when they were paid for by private insurers, according to the study (Cheney, 4/17).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Millions More To Get Coverage For Addiction, Alcoholism Treatment, But Can The System Deliver?
It has been six decades since doctors concluded that addiction was a disease that could be treated, but today the condition still dwells on the fringes of the medical community. Only 1 cent of every health care dollar in the United States goes toward addiction, and few alcoholics and drug addicts receive treatment. One huge barrier, according to many experts, has been a lack of health insurance. But that barrier crumbles in less than a year. In a major break with the past, 3 million to 5 million people with drug and alcohol problems — from homeless drug addicts to working moms who drink too much — suddenly will become eligible for insurance coverage under the new health care overhaul (4/16).

The Washington Post's WonkBlog: Hospitals Serving The Uninsured Face Challenge Under Obamacare
Under the Affordable Care Act, the safety-net hospitals will gain a new source of revenue when millions of the uninsured gain coverage. At the same time, the law’s spending cuts could prove challenging for hospitals that tend to operate with relatively small profit margins (Kliff, 4/16).

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Roofer Union Calls For Repeal Of Obama Health Law
A labor union representing roofers is reversing course and calling for repeal of the federal health law, citing concerns the law will raise its cost for insuring members. Organized labor was instrumental in getting the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, but more recently has voiced concerns that the law could lead members to lose their existing health plans. The United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers is believed to be the first union to initially support the law and later call for its repeal (Adamy, 4/16).

Politico: Ark. House Oks Medicaid Proposal
The Arkansas House on Tuesday narrowly approved the state’s unusual approach to Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, keeping alive an effort that has led several GOP-led states to consider similar ways of using health law dollars to cover low-income people with private insurance (Cheney, 4/17).

The Wall Street Journal: Stock Surge Linked To Lobbyist
A key source for a private report that sent health-care stocks on a tear earlier this month is a former top congressional aide who is now a health-industry lobbyist, according to emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Mark Hayes is currently an outside lobbyist for health-insurance giant Humana Inc. HUM +0.41%His email to Washington investment-research firm Height Securities, alerting it to a government decision that will save the industry billions of dollars, was a final piece of confirmation Height received before blasting a news alert to its clients, according to emails and people familiar with the matter (Mullins, Strasburg and McGinty, 4/17).

Politico: Lawmakers Blast FDA On Outbreak
House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans blasted Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg on Tuesday for failing to crack down on the compounding pharmacy responsible for a deadly fungal meningitis outbreak last fall despite a history of known problems. The committee released a report at an oversight hearing Tuesday showing the agency chose to suspend its inspections of the New England Compounding Center and a sister company in 2011 while it worked to clarify its policy toward compounders (Norman, 4/17).

The Associated Press/Los Angeles Times: Amgen Will Pay $25 Million To Resolve Kickback Case
The U.S. Department of Justice said Tuesday that biotech drug maker Amgen Inc. will pay $24.9 million to resolve claims it paid kickbacks to increase sales of its anemia drug Aranesp. The Justice Department said Amgen paid kickbacks to Omnicare Inc. and PharMerica Corp., which sell drugs to long-term care providers such as nursing homes and hospitals, and Kindred Healthcare Inc., which runs long-term acute-care hospitals and nursing and rehabilitation centers (4/16).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Johnson & Johnson’s 1Q Profit Down 10.6 Pct As Higher Costs Offset Rising Drug, Device Sales
Johnson & Johnson’s first-quarter profit fell by just over 10 percent as increased sales were offset by higher costs for production, marketing and administration, plus charges for litigation and other items (4/16).

The Wall Street Journal: Mississippi Clinic Gets A Reprieve From Judge
Prior to the injunction granted earlier this week by U.S. District Judge Daniel Jordan III in Jackson, Miss., the state had scheduled a hearing this Thursday to consider revoking the license of the Jackson Women's Health Organization. The Mississippi Department of Health hearing was to determine whether the clinic was complying with a state law passed last year mandating that all doctors who practice at abortion clinics must have admitting privileges at a local hospital. If the clinic was found to be in violation, the state was expected to begin revoking the clinic's license (McWhirter, 4/16).

The New York Times: Suit Seeks To Block Arkansas Abortion Law
Supporters of abortion rights on Tuesday filed a challenge to the new Arkansas law banning most abortions at the 12th week of pregnancy, calling it a "violation of over 40 years of settled United States Supreme Court precedent" and a threat to "the rights, liberty and well-being of Arkansas women and their families" (Eckholm, 4/16).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Groups Sue To Overturn Arkansas' New 12-Week Abortion Ban, Saying It's Unconstitutional
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the suit on behalf of Dr. Louis Jerry Edwards and Dr. Tom Tvedten, who provide abortions at a Little Rock clinic, say Arkansas' ban clearly contradicts the standard of viability established by the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision (4/16).

Los Angeles Times: Immigration Proposal Could Affect California Health Safety Net
Making immigrants ineligible for public health benefits -- at least initially -- under proposed immigration law changes would push the costs of healthcare from the federal government to states and counties, said Sonal Ambegaokar, a health policy attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. And those costs could be sizable in a state like California, where there are an estimated 2.5 million illegal immigrants (Gorman, 4/16).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: North Dakota Governor Signs 'Fetal Pain' Measure That Outlaws Abortions After 20 Weeks
Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed into law a measure that outlaws abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the disputed premise that at that point a fetus can feel pain. The law signed Tuesday is the latest among a raft of measures passed in North Dakota this session that are meant to challenge the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion up until viability, usually at 22 to 24 weeks (4/16).

The Wall Street Journal: Kickbacks Alleged At Spine Hospital
The U.S. attorney for the Central District of California is investigating allegations that a hospital executive paid kickbacks to physicians so they would refer their patients for spine surgery at his facility, according to people familiar with the probe. Over the past 15 years, Michael D. Drobot built a Southern California business empire centered on treating people with back problems, many of them workers' compensation patients. At the heart of the operation is Pacific Hospital of Long Beach, a 184-bed facility that Mr. Drobot bought in 1997 and turned into a spine-surgery center (Carreyou, 4/16).

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