First Edition: October 22, 2014
Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including reports about a new poll finding that that most likely voters expect GOP victories in November and that health care continues to be an important issue.
Kaiser Health News: Hospitals’ Struggles To Beat Back Familiar Infections Began Before Ebola Arrived
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jordan Rau reports: “While Ebola stokes public anxiety, more than one in six hospitals — including some top medical centers — are having trouble stamping out less exotic but sometimes deadly infections, federal records show. Nationally, about one in every 25 hospitalized patients gets an infection, and 75,000 people die each year from them—more than from car crashes and gun shots combined. A Kaiser Health News analysis found 695 hospitals with higher than expected rates for at least one of the six types of infections tracked by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 13 states and the District of Columbia, a quarter or more of hospitals that the government evaluated were rated worse than average for at least one infection category, the KHN analysis found” (Rau, 10/21). Read the story, which also ran on NPR. Check out the related chart showing infection rates by state or the downloadable hospital data.
The Associated Post: AP-GfK Poll: Most Expect GOP Victory In November
But the survey suggests many will cringe when they cast those ballots. Most likely voters have a negative impression of the Republican Party, and 7 in 10 are dissatisfied by its leaders in Congress. … What’s deeply important to likely voters after the economy? About three-quarters say health care, terrorism, the threat posed by the Islamic State group and Ebola (10/21).
The Wall Street Journal: Companies Try To Escape Health Law’s Penalties
With companies set to face fines next year for not complying with the new mandate to offer health insurance, some are pursuing strategies like enrolling employees in Medicaid to avoid penalties and hold down costs. The health law’s penalties, which can amount to about $2,000 per employee, were supposed to start this year, but the Obama administration delayed them until 2015, when they take effect for firms that employ at least 100 people (Wilde Mathews and Jargon, 10/21).
Politico: Gov. John Kasich’s View On Medicaid Fuels Two-Day Spat With AP
What, exactly, is Obamacare? According to Ohio Gov. John Kasich, it doesn’t include Medicaid expansion, a major facet of the law. It’s a view held by virtually no one else. Kasich’s unorthodox view of the Affordable Care Act — and the hunger the Republican base has for the health law’s repeal — are behind a two-day public spat between the possible 2016 contender and The Associated Press (Wheaton, 10/21).
The Washington Post: Obamacare’s Small-Business Exchanges To See Major Changes In The Coming Months
One year in, the new small-business insurance marketplaces born out of the new federal health-care law have fallen short of their promise in nearly every state, both in terms of functionality and enrollment. However, many are scheduled to see some important updates heading into year two — ones that health officials say should make them much more useful and appealing to small employers and their workers (Harrison, 10/20).
Los Angeles Times: Medical Costs Up To 20% Higher At Hospital-Owned Physician Groups, Study Finds
Raising fresh questions about healthcare consolidation, a new study shows hospital ownership of physician groups in California led to 10% to 20% higher costs overall for patient care. The UC Berkeley research, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., illustrates the financial risks for employers, consumers and taxpayers as hospital systems nationwide acquire more physician practices (Terhune, 10/21).
Politico: Tom Coburn Skewers NIH In Final ‘Wastebook’
This particular study on rodent rubdowns cost $387,000 — a tiny fraction of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ more than $4 billion budget. But the ranking member of the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee cites many “unnecessary” spending programs that continue while NIH officials argue that important disease research has slowed (Everett, 10/22).
The Associated Press: CVS Tacks Tobacco Payment To Prescription Network
First, CVS Health pulled tobacco from its store shelves. Now, it plans to make some customers think twice about filling prescriptions at other stores that sell smokes. The nation’s second-largest drugstore chain is developing a new tobacco-free pharmacy network that it will offer as a choice to employers and other clients of its Caremark pharmacy benefits management business. Employers, insurers and unions hire pharmacy benefits managers, or PBMs, to run their prescription drug coverage (10/21).
Los Angeles Times: Public Concerns About Ebola Increase Faster Than Cases
Public concerns about Ebola have grown much faster than the actual number of cases of the illness in the U.S. A Pew Research Center survey released Tuesday found that 41% of Americans said they worried that they or someone in their families would be "exposed" to the Ebola virus, up from 32% two weeks ago (Lauter, 10/21).
Politico: Poll: Drop In Faith In Government On Ebola
Americans have become less confident in recent weeks in the federal government’s ability to fight Ebola in the United States, according to a new poll. According to the Gallup poll, 52 percent of Americans said that they were “very” or “somewhat confident” in the government’s ability to handle the virus. That’s down nine percent from Oct. 5, when 61 percent of Americans expressed confidence, and Oct. 12, when Gallup found that 60 percent of Americans were confident in government to handle the situation (Breitman, 10/22).
Politico: GOP Doctors In House Seek Travel Ban
The Republican Doctors Caucus is calling on the White House to put in place a temporary travel ban for West African countries affected by Ebola. The letter, sent Tuesday to President Barack Obama, was signed by 16 members of the group, including co-chairs Reps. Phil Gingrey of Georgia and Phil Roe of Tennessee (Topaz, 10/22).
USA Today: West Africa Travelers Must Go To 1 Of 5 Airports
The Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday that all travelers from Ebola outbreak countries in West Africa will be funneled through one of five U.S. airports with enhanced screening starting Wednesday. Customs and Border Protection within the department began enhanced screening — checking the traveler's temperature and asking about possible exposure to Ebola — at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport on Oct. 11 (Jansen, 10/21).
The Associated Press: Sparks Fly Throughout Last Maine Governor Debate
The three candidates for governor clashed Tuesday in their final debate, highlighting their differences on a wide range of issues, including health care and welfare. Partisan sparks flew early and often between Republican Gov. Paul LePage and Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, who are running in a dead heat in the race, far ahead of independent Eliot Cutler, two weeks before Maine residents go to the polls (10/21).
Los Angeles Times: Lawyers Versus Doctors In Costly Prop. 46 Campaign Wars
A ballot initiative that pits lawyers against doctors has set off one of this year's fiercest campaign wars, a costly clash over increasing state limits on malpractice damages and imposing drug testing on physicians. Proposition 46 would raise the cap on pain-and-suffering awards in malpractice lawsuits and require that hospitals randomly test their doctors for drug and alcohol use. Backers say the measure would rein in negligent doctors; opponents charge that it's a money grab by the lawyers who helped put it on the ballot (Mason, 10/21).
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