First Edition: July 10, 2013
Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including articles about House Republican plans to seek a delay in the health law's requirement that nearly all Americans get health insurance.
Kaiser Health News: How Oregon Is Getting 'Frequent Flyers' Out Of Hospital ERs
Oregon Public Broadcasting's Kristian Foden-Vencil, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "Forty-year-old Jeremie Seals has had a tough life. He left home at 14, and he says, his health isn't good. He had a heart attack when he was 35, he has congestive heart failure and nerve pain in his legs 'real bad.' ... over the years, he says his health has deteriorated to such a degree, he can no longer hold a job. By 2011, he was sleeping in his car, and that’s when his medical problems started having a big financial impact. 'I basically lived at the emergency department,' he said. ... And that's what brought him to the attention of one of Oregon's new coordinated care organizations (CCOs)" (Foden-Vencil, 7/10). Read the story.
Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Study: Competition, Not Need, Drives Hospital Cardiac Care Investment; Medicare Advantage Plans Cut Total Cardio Procedures, But Regional Variations Remain
Now on the Kaiser Health News' blog, Phil Galewitz reports on a study examining hospitals adding services for a key heart procedure: "U.S. hospitals spent up to $4 billion adding angioplasty services over a four year period, but the new services did little to improve access to timely medical care, says a study published Tuesday in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. Between 2004 to 2008, some 251 hospitals added the invasive and often life-saving cardiac care, but researchers found that the new programs were mainly built near existing ones in competitive health care markets, rather than where the need for the services was greatest" (Galewitz, 7/9).
Also, Jay Hancock writes about a different study that looks at heart procedures performed on patients in the private Medicare Advantage plans: "Patients in Medicare Advantage plans got expensive balloons and stenting to clear coronary arteries at a rate 31 percent lower than patients in traditional Medicare, according to the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Dr. Daniel Matlock and colleagues. ... What they didn’t expect were enormous differences in utilization rates among Medicare Advantage patients from one city to another. They figured cost-control incentives would smooth out the notorious regional swings in how often procedures are administered under traditional Medicare. They didn’t" (Hancock, 7/9). Check out what else is on the blog.
The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Struggles To Meet Health-Law Deadline
When Obama administration officials delayed a central plank of the new health law—requiring that big employers offer health insurance to workers—they said it was to help businesses pleading for more time. Left unsaid was the federal government hadn't written key rules guiding employers, according to current and former administration officials, and computer systems that were supposed to run the program weren't operational. The delay has opened the door for critics and allies alike who are now raising questions about the administration's ability to implement the biggest domestic policy initiative in a generation (Meckler, Corbett Dooren and Nicholas, 7/9).
The New York Times: Seeing Opening, House G.O.P. Pushes Delay On Individual Mandate In Health Law
House Republican leaders on Tuesday seized on the Obama administration’s one-year delay of a mandate for larger employers to offer health insurance or face penalties, demanding the same postponement for the mandate on individual insurance purchases and promising a series of showdowns aimed at dividing Democrats from the White House. ... House leaders began devising strategies that would most likely start this month with multiple votes, the first to codify the one-year delay on the employer mandate, then another to demand a delay on the individual mandate. ... Some Republicans raised the possibility that a provision to repeal the individual mandate could be attached this fall to legislation raising the government’s statutory borrowing limit (Weisman and Pear, 7/9).
The Associated Press: GOP Wants Delay In Health Law's Individual Mandate
Framing a new argument against President Barack Obama's health care law, congressional GOP leaders called Tuesday for a delay in the law's requirement that individual Americans carry health insurance. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other senior Republicans told Obama in a letter that his decision last week to grant a one-year delay for employers but leave in place provisions for individuals and families had created many new questions and concerns. At a Capitol Hill news conference, Boehner vowed to hold another vote this month to remove the individual mandate, arguing that it was necessary to "correct this injustice" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 7/9).
Politico: Hill GOP Eyeing Obamacare Mandate Delay Responses
House Republican leaders are hoping to take full political advantage of the White House’s delay of a key Obamacare requirement by targeting votes this summer on at least three pieces of the law — including the unpopular individual mandate. Last week, the White House gave employers another full year — until 2015 — to offer affordable health care to workers. Republicans, returning from the July 4 break, say that’s more proof the law is too complicated to work and that it’s just not right to let businesses off the hook for a year but not ordinary Americans (Cunningham and Haberkorn, 7/9).
The Washington Post: White House Ramps Up Effort To Sell Obamacare
The White House is dramatically expanding its efforts to sell the Affordable Care Act, hiring additional staffers, formulating a public-relations strategy and reaching out to key lawmakers as the new health-insurance system prepares to launch in coming months. The administration’s push comes as Republican leaders signal their intent to focus on the law’s implementation, and any problems it encounters, in their quest to retake the Senate and maintain their House advantage in 2014 (Eilperin, 7/9).
NPR: Affordable Care Act Hits More Road Bumps
Another day, another delay of a piece of the federal health care law known as ObamaCare. The administration is having trouble setting up some of the new computer systems required by the Affordable Care Act. Last week, they announced a year-long delay in the implementation of some of the law's requirements for businesses. Today, it's smokers who are affected. Critics say this is more evidence that the administration is not ready to roll out the law, which takes effect in October (Rovner and Cornish, 7/9).
The New York Times: At Restaurant, Delay Is Help On Health Law
Eric King has worked diligently to keep his family’s 35-year-old seafood restaurant [in Ellicott City, Md.] viable, most recently by expanding the menu beyond its well-loved crab cakes and other traditional dishes to draw a younger, freer-spending crowd. ... Yet the prospect of providing health insurance to every full-time worker or paying a penalty starting in January, a provision of the Obama health care law, has overshadowed the good news. ... Then came last week’s announcement that the mandate would be delayed a year after business owners begged the Obama administration for more time. Mr. King, who had been fretting for three years about whether the restaurant would be subject to the mandate and how it would affect the bottom line, was thrilled (Goodnough, 7/9).
Politico: Obamacare At The Crossroads (Video)
Politico Pro health care editor Joanne Kenen leads a discussion with reporters Jennifer Haberkorn, Kyle Cheney, and Jason Millman about the delayed Obamacare employer coverage rules, health law politics and the next steps for the Affordable Care Act (7/9).
The Wall Street Journal: Prescribed: Guide To The Health Law Rollout (Interactive)
This guide explains the law and its impact on industry, consumers and states, and includes maps showing state positions on Medicaid and the insurance exchanges, a subsidy calculator and a timeline of key dates in the rollout. You can also take an interactive tour of “Obamacare,” learning through your own eyes what’s covered and how the law affects you, your employer and the uninsured (7/9).
The Washington Post Fact Checker: A New Ad Attacking ‘Obamacare’
The conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity is launching a $700,000 ad buy that features a mother expressing concern that her son won’t get the medical care he needs for seizures because of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. ... The AFP ad sets up a straw man — the notion that people are going to lose access to their doctor. For the vast majority of Americans, that’s not going to be the case. Under the law, millions of other Americans, for the first time, are supposed to gain access to regular health insurance. Certainly it is appropriate to ask questions about this complex law, but focusing an ad on such an emotional — and unlikely — hypothetical goes too far (Kessler, 7/9).
USA Today: Medicare Beneficiaries Reach $5 Billion In Drug Savings
Since passage of the health care overhaul two years ago, 5.8 million Medicare patients have saved $5 billion from prescription drug discounts, and the government can now predict lower health care costs based on increased use of these cheaper drugs. The savings are a continuation of the 2010 health care law's attempt to close the "doughnut hole" — or the prescription drug coverage expenses that kick in once Medicare coverage runs out (Kennedy, 7/9).
The New York Times: Rare Mutation Ignites Race For Cholesterol Drug
She was a 32-year-old aerobics instructor from a Dallas suburb — healthy, college educated, with two young children. Nothing out of the ordinary, except one thing. Her cholesterol was astoundingly low. ... The discovery of the mutation and of the two women with their dazzlingly low LDL levels has set off one of the greatest medical chases ever. It is a fevered race among three pharmaceutical companies, Amgen, Pfizer and Sanofi, to test and win approval for a drug that mimics the effects of the mutation, drives LDL levels to new lows and prevents heart attacks. All three companies have drugs in clinical trials and report that their results, so far, are exciting (Kolata, 7/9).
The New York Times: Roche Abandons New Diabetes Drug
Roche, the Swiss pharmaceutical giant, has discontinued development of a potentially important diabetes drug, a move that could raise new safety questions about the entire category of drugs, which includes the controversial diabetes medicine Avandia (Pollack, 7/9).
The Wall Street Journal: The Office Nurse Now Treats Diabetes, Not Headaches
Workplace health clinics used to be a lot like the school nurse's office, dispensing Band-Aids, treating occupational injuries, and serving as a first stop for emergencies like asthma attacks. But as companies face rising insurance costs and an aging workforce, they're turning clinics into something new: A place to aggressively nudge employees about long-term, expensive conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol (Weber, 7/9).
Los Angeles Times: California Facilities Put Disabled At Risk, Audit Finds
Californians with developmental disabilities who are cared for at state facilities are being put at risk by outdated policies and inadequate investigations of abuse, the state auditor's office said Tuesday. Allegations that residents have been raped, shot with stun guns and otherwise abused have not been acted on satisfactorily, auditors found. The California Department of Developmental Services cares for 1,480 severely disabled people in five facilities throughout the state (McGreevy, 7/9).
Los Angeles Times: Abortion And Preterm Births Studied
In a finding likely to reignite debate over proposed new limits on abortion, British researchers have found that years ago, women who terminated a pregnancy increased their risk of giving birth prematurely in subsequent pregnancies, but that with modern procedures the danger has all but vanished. The researchers suggest the shift is the result of a growing use of oral medication to induce or aid in abortion, and a decline in surgical abortions that may injure a woman's cervix (Healy, 7/9).
The New York Times: Texas Resumes Efforts At Abortion Restrictions
The restrictive abortion bill that has stirred up Texas politics in the past few weeks is once again moving its way through the Legislature during a second special session called by Gov. Rick Perry. The bill was initially stalled last month by the 11-hour filibuster of State Senator Wendy Davis, Democrat of Fort Worth. A new version was drafted, restarting the process in the Republican-controlled Texas House with a hearing on Monday and an often-angry debate on the floor on Tuesday (Schwartz, 7/9).
The Wall Street Journal: Abortion Fight Flares In North Carolina
North Carolina is considering new laws that would restrict the circumstances and types of places in which a woman could obtain an abortion, drawing protests and illustrating the recent rightward shift of a generally centrist state. The GOP-led state Senate approved a proposal just before the July Fourth weekend that the state health department said could close some of North Carolina's two dozen abortion clinics and require a doctor's presence for hours after a woman takes pills to induce an abortion (Bauerlein, 7/9).
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