KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: June 12, 2013

Today's headlines include reports about how the health law's implementation played in a recent town hall meeting as well as the action taken by one business in anticipation of its some of the requirements that will take effect in 2014. 

Kaiser Health News: NYC's Answer To Proton Therapy Controversy: One For All
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jenny Gold reports: "During the recent debate in Washington, D.C. over whether to let to local competing hospital systems build rival proton therapy centers, an interesting question was raised: Why not work together? … It turns out, Selassie is on to something. That's exactly what is happening in New York City" (Gold, 6/12). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Colorado Offers Exchange 'Assister' Money To Many Groups
Colorado Public Radio's Eric Whitney, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "Obamacare in Colorado is getting down to the details, in dollars and cents. One of the 16 states that is setting up its own online insurance marketplace, Colorado on Monday named 58 organizations it’s selected to form its “assistance network” to help residents sign up for health coverage on the exchange" (Whitney, 6/11). Read the story.

Politico: Town Meeting Meets Challenge In Explaining ACA
All those polls on just how little Americans understand about the health law sprung to life an hour north of Washington one evening this week, as Baltimore County held one of the first public forums to try to explain the new health care options and how to sign up for them. About 100 people, most middle-age adults to seniors, attended the session at a temple here Monday. Their questions provided a glimpse of the public's perceptions of Obamacare enrollment and underscored the challenge facing the law’s backers: Before people can sign up, they have to understand it (Haberkorn, 6/12).

The Wall Street Journal: At Work: What Makes Employees Stick Around? One Company Has an Answer
Now that the Jan. 1, 2014 deadline is getting closer, firms with many part-time or hourly workers are beginning to finalize their decisions on eligibility and workforce scheduling, with a number of employers choosing to cut employees’ hours and skirt coverage requirements. But not every company is choosing that route. The Cumberland Gulf Group is expected to announce Tuesday that it is maintaining or expanding some workers' schedules to make them eligible for company-sponsored care. Its reasoning: The increased costs for care will pay off in the long run, with better employee retention and customer service (Weber, 6/10).

The New York Times' Economic Scene: Health Care's Overlooked Cost Factor
When the Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Corporation merged its two hospitals with the neighboring Highland Park Hospital just north of Chicago 13 years ago, the deal was presented as an opportunity to increase efficiency and improve the quality of patient care. But when the Federal Trade Commission finally decided to look at the deal, it encountered an entirely different objective: to gain market power (Porter, 6/11).

NPR: Administration's Plan For Morning-After Pill Pleases No One
Reaction was swift to the Obama administration's announcement Monday night that it was dropping a long-running legal battle to keep age restrictions on one type of the morning-after birth control pill. But like just about everything else in this decade-long controversy, the latest decision has pleased just about no one (Rovner, 6/11).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Morning After Pill Appears Headed To Drugstore Shelves, But Which One And How Soon? Stay Tuned
Don’t look for the morning-after pill to move next to the condoms on drugstore shelves right away — but after a decade-plus fight, it appears it really will happen. Backed into a corner by a series of court rulings, the Obama administration has agreed to let the Plan B One-Step brand of emergency contraception sell over the counter to anyone of any age. There still are a lot of details to be worked out, including whether a federal judge agrees that the government has gone far enough or whether cheaper generics can be sold without restrictions too (6/12).

Los Angeles Times: California Budget Accord Balances Restraint, Social Services
The budget deal that lawmakers will vote on this week is an effort to mesh financial restraint with a desire to provide more social services and healthcare for the needy — giving the state's economy extra time to recover before some of the spending kicks in (Megerian and York, 6/11).

The Wall Street Journal: Brown Set For Victory In California Budget Fight
When Mr. Brown issued his budget plan in May, he called Sacramento "a big spending machine" and said he was prepared for a fight with the legislature. … Later that month, after an independent state analyst unveiled a 2014 revenue forecast higher than the governor had projected, legislators pursued their own budget proposals, with higher spending based on the analyst's forecast. Democrats in the state Senate proposed spending $98.2 billion, including increases in mental-health programs and in dental care for low-income Californians. Democrats in the assembly proposed spending $98.3 billion. But as the deadline for budget passage approached, they accepted Mr. Brown's more-cautious spending plan (Vara, 6/11).

Los Angeles Times: Prime Healthcare Settles Federal Patient-Privacy Case For $275,000
The case stemmed from allegations that Prime Healthcare and its Shasta Regional Medical Center violated patient confidentiality by sharing a woman's medical files with journalists and sending an email about her treatment to nearly 800 hospital employees. Last year, California regulators fined the Ontario hospital chain $95,000 for the unauthorized disclosure of medical information in this matter. The company said it's appealing that state fine (Terhune, 6/11). 

The New York Times: New York State Gets $2.5 Million In Medicaid Fraud Case
The state attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, said on Tuesday that his office had reached a settlement with the estate of Ms. Sieger to pay a total of $2.5 million to the state's Medicaid program, which includes $1.2 million in reimbursements, and $1.3 million for damages (Hu, 6/11).

The Wall Street Journal: Wellcare Former CEO, CFO Found Guilty of Florida Medicaid Fraud
Former CEO Todd S. Farha and former CFO Paul L. Behrens were both convicted of two counts of health-care fraud. Mr. Behrens was also convicted of two counts of making false statements relating to health-care matters, according to the Justice Department. Also convicted of two counts of health-care fraud was William L. Kale, former vice president of Wellcare unit Harmony Behavioral Health Inc. Peter E. Clay, former WellCare vice president of medical economics, was found guilty of making false statements to a law-enforcement officer (Chaudhuri, 6/11).

The New York Times: Protests In North Carolina Challenge Conservative Shift In State Politics
As the protests have grown, so has the list of causes. At the center is a package of changes to voting rules and a tax reform plan working its way through the legislature that would reduce individual and corporate income taxes and expand the sales tax. Protesters have also rallied against the expansion of school vouchers, cuts to unemployment benefits, the repeal of the Racial Justice Act, efforts to allow hydraulic fracturing and the state's refusal to expand Medicaid benefits as part of President Obama’s health care plan (Severson, 6/11).

The New York Times: Alabama: Suit Is Filed to Block Abortion Clinic Law
Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday to block a new Alabama law that would force three of the state’s five abortion clinics to shut down (Eckholm,6/12). 

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