Today’s Headlines – May 24, 2012

Good morning! Here are your headlines …

The New York Times: For Hospitals And Insurers, New Fervor To Cut Costs
Giselle Fernandez is only 17 but she has had more than 50 operations since she was born with a rare genetic condition. She regularly sees a host of pediatric specialists. … Her care has cost hundreds of thousands of dollars so far. … While UCLA Health System has long prided itself on being at the forefront of treating patients like Giselle, it is now trying to lower sharply the cost of providing that care. By enrolling young patients with complex and expensive diseases in a program called a medical home, the system tries to ensure that doctors spend more time with patients and work more closely with parents to coordinate care. The program has cut emergency room visits by slightly more than half (Abelson, 5/23).

The New York Times: Individual Health Policies Fall Short, A Study Finds
More than half of all medical insurance policies sold to individuals now fail to meet the standards of coverage set by the federal health care law under review by the Supreme Court, a new study says. Even if the law is upheld, employer-provided insurance plans are likely to continue to be more generous, but the law would significantly improve the quality of coverage for individuals in several ways, the researchers concluded (Abelson, 5/23).

For more headlines …

Politico: Millions Still Uncovered With Health Law Expansion
The health law, if upheld by the Supreme Court, will help up to 33 million Americans get coverage over the next decade. Around 26 million to 27 million will remain uncovered.
And roughly one in four of the uninsured will be illegal immigrants, the Urban Institute has estimated. And as more tax dollars go toward subsidizing low- and middle-income Americans so they can get health coverage, advocates for immigrants say it may be increasingly difficult to care for the undocumented, who are excluded from the law’s coverage expansion and the new insurance exchanges. A few communities are testing solutions (Cheney, 5/23).

NPR: By Putting Patients First, Hospital Tries To Make Care More Personal
No one likes to go to the hospital. But some hospitals around the nation are trying to make their patients’ stays a little less unpleasant. They’re members of an organization called Planetree, which was founded by a patient named Angelica Thieriot, who had a not-so-good hospital experience back in the 1970s. … Today Planetree has certified, or “designated,” 30 hospitals and nursing homes in the U.S. and four countries as meeting a specific list of criteria that qualify them as providing truly patient-centered care (Rovner, 5/23).

The Wall Street Journal: Medical Devices In Hospitals To Go Wireless
Hospitals are getting ready to cut the cord. In place of knots of wires stuck to patients to monitor their blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen level and body temperature, doctors and the companies that supply them hope to use Band-Aid-like sensors to accomplish the same task wirelessly. The Federal Communications Commission is expected to vote Thursday to open up spectrum for wireless medical devices, raising the possibility of easier hospital-patient monitoring, fewer tubes in emergency rooms, and more remote monitoring at home (Linebaugh, 5/23).

Politico: Democrats Stiffen Spine On Sequester
In an interview with POLITICO, (Senate Majority Leader Harry) Reid said he was open to a compromise that would salvage about four-fifths of the Bush-era tax cuts. But absent some concession on revenues, the $110 billion in spending cuts ordered by the debt agreement last August would go into effect. “I am not going to back off the sequestration,” Reid said. … the recent House-passed reconciliation bill, which promises to forestall these very same cuts in January, was the last straw for Reid and helped fortify his position. The package shields the Pentagon entirely from sequester and even allows for an $8 billion spending increase over 2012 and what was promised in the August debt accords. At the same time, poverty programs like food stamps, Medicaid and the Social Services Block Grant face real cuts together with wholesale reductions at the expense of Obama’s signature health care and financial market reforms (Rogers, 5/24).

The New York Times: New Obama Ads Focus On Medicare And Veterans
President Obama’s campaign on Wednesday rolled out two new ads promoting his achievements, part of a $25 million advertising effort that his campaign unveiled this month. In one ad, titled “Personal,” Mr. Obama’s campaign brags about efforts the president has made to protect Medicare from scams and fraud, and says he is working to “preserve Medicare now and for the future. The ad cites the president’s upbringing by his grandparents to suggest that his desire to protect health care for the elderly is an important matter to him personally (Shear, 5/23).

The Washington Post: Obama Takes Break From Bain In Two New Ads
A second ad, “Personal,” targets senior citizens, emphasizing the president’s commitment to preserving Medicare. “To you and your loved ones, Medicare is personal. And to a president raised by his grandparents, it’s personal too,” the narrator says over shots of a young President Obama with his grandparents. “President Obama is leading the most successful crackdown on health-care fraud ever.” The ads are running in Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia as part of the campaign’s $25 million May ad buy (Weiner, 5/23).

The Wall Street Journal: Healthcare Districts’ Role Under Fire
Two (California) state assemblymen are training their sights on the municipal agencies known as healthcare districts, arguing they are outdated institutions whose funds would be put to better use helping county health systems. Healthcare districts today provide ambulance services, help build facilities such as nursing homes, allocate money to nonprofit health-care providers and run hospitals, among other things (White, 5/23).

Los Angeles Times: Blue Shield Of California CEO To Retire
Blue Shield of California’s longtime chairman and chief executive, Bruce Bodaken, will retire at year’s end, punctuating a career marked by praise for his early support of universal health coverage and criticism of his company’s repeated rate hikes (Terhune, 5/24).

Los Angeles Times: PSA Test: The Real Problem Is The Rush To Treatment, Doctor Says
The test finds many cancers that are not life-threatening, and treatment causes side effects from surgery and radiation such as impotence and urinary incontinence. The harms weighed against benefit aren’t enough to justify the screen, the task force concluded. But some doctors say the answer is to change the way that prostate cancer is handled in this country. When a biopsy reveals cancer, 90% of men are treated — even though most prostate cancers won’t threaten a man’s life (Mestel, 5/23).