KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Longer Looks: Despite Health Law, Costs Still Overwhelming For Some

Every week Shefali S. Kulkarni selects interesting reading from around the Web.

The New York Times: Relief For Severe Asthma, At A High Price
For two decades, Patricia DiGiusto struggled with severe asthma. Powerful medications and frequent use of her inhaler could not prevent repeated trips to the emergency room. ... Two years ago, Ms. DiGiusto's doctor told her about a new procedure called bronchial thermoplasty, the first non-drug therapy approved by the Food and Drug Administration for patients with severe asthma. ... Doctors say bronchial thermoplasty has given them a new weapon in the battle against severe asthma, and many patients call it life-changing. But the procedure is expensive, costing around $20,000, and insurers have been reluctant to cover it. ... many insurers are denying coverage on the grounds the procedure is experimental (Anahad O’Connor, 9/3).

CNN: Aware Of 'No Options,' Woman Dies Fighting For Medical Coverage
[Leslie] Elder was finally diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. But what makes her family bristle: Elder did not have to die. If she had had health care, "Absolutely she'd still be here," said Jacquelyn Elder, Leslie's daughter, adding that Hodgkin's lymphoma has a high survival rate. ... The Affordable Care Act, which takes full effect in 2014, was supposed to save people like Elder (with pre-existing conditions and no medical coverage) in the interim by way of high-risk pools, also known as the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan or PCIP. The pools are supposed to be a safety net, but many, like Elder, are falling through the cracks (Stephanie Smith and Nadia Kounang, 9/2).

The Huffington Post: Health Care Reform Leaves Some Low-Income Americans At Risk For Big Medical Costs
Nick Shumaker faced down the shortcomings of his coverage when he learned the medicines to treat his hepatitis C would cost him and his wife $10,000 they just didn't have. Shumaker, 59, and his wife are covered by the health insurance she gets from her job for $230 a month -- but before their benefits kick in, they must meet a $5,000 deductible that's more than they can spare on their $42,000 income. What's more, the out-of-pocket share for Shumaker's costly prescriptions was going to total another $5,000 during the six months of treatment. ... The (federal health) law targets its assistance to people whose incomes are just above the federal poverty line, which is $11,170 for a single person this year. But the financial help gets smaller as incomes rise, and cuts off completely at 400 percent of poverty, $44,680 in 2012 (Jeffrey Young, 9/5).

The Oregonian: Latinos High On Organ Transplant Waiting List But Many Fear Becoming Donors
Carlos Aguilar, 20, of Hillsboro sees a doctor so often that he calls the medical clinic he regularly frequents his second home. Aguilar, who has kidney disease, has been at the clinic for about 10 hours every week for the last two years. There, his slight frame is hooked up to a dialysis machine that filters toxins out of his blood and removes excess liquid – a job his kidneys would do if they worked at more than 5 percent of the normal rate. Aguilar is one of more than 20,000 Latinos in the United States awaiting an organ transplant. ... But for a variety of reasons, including cultural taboos, Latinos fear being organ donors -- therefore limiting opportunities for others (Andrea Castillo, 9/4).

Forbes: Military PTSD: All-Star Scientists Start Mental Health Mega-Project
There's no question that plenty of soldiers from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But exactly how many soldiers? ... Now a new consortium, manned by some of the nation's top scientists where PTSD is concerned, is hoping to develop an objective means of diagnosing the condition ... that the illness can — one day soon — be diagnosed using medical techniques like blood tests or brain scans, rather than self-reported symptoms. ... the consortium still needs to secure funding — which they hope to do, in part, with military research dollars. And while the Pentagon is already funding plenty of research into PTSD, including pharmaceuticals that target fear response and tests to pin down PTSD biomarkers, they’ve yet to embark on a project of this scope (Katie Drummond, 9/4).

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