First Edition: September 10, 2014
Today's headlines including the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll findings regarding how Americans feel about Obamacare.
Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Open Payments Database: Despite Criticism, Still On Track To Let The Sunshine In
Now on Kaiser Health News’ blog, Shefali Luthra reports: “Despite technical glitches, the federal “Open Payments” database – which tracks pharmaceutical company contributions to doctors and teaching hospitals – remains on track for its scheduled Sept. 30 launch, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services confirmed. It was mandated by a sunshine act included in the federal health law seeking to ease concerns that pharmaceutical interests could wield excessive influence over health providers. The database includes payments for research, gifts, meals or speaker fees. Consumer advocates have long called for the public display of such information, arguing that it is key to ensuring doctors don’t prescribe certain drugs out of financial incentives or loyalty” (Luthra, 9/9). Check out what else is on the blog.
The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Americans Still Not Sold On Obamacare – WSJ/NBC Poll
Voters who think the federal health law is a bad idea still significantly outnumber those who think it’s a good idea heading into November midterms, the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows. Among all registered voters captured in the September poll, 34% are in favor of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, and 48% are against it (Radnofsky, 9/9).
The Washington Post’s The Fact Checker: An ‘Obamacare’ Attack Ad Stuck In A Time Warp
Regular readers know that The Fact Checker and other fact checking organization have long criticized the use of the $700-billion figure. That number comes from the difference over 10 years (2013-2022) between anticipated Medicare spending (what is known as “the baseline”) and the changes that the law makes to reduce spending. The savings mostly are wrung from health-care providers, not Medicare beneficiaries — who, as a result of the health-care law, ended up with new benefits for preventive care and prescription drugs (Kessler, 9/10).
The Washington Post’s Wonkblog: Obamacare Has Reduced The Uninsured Rate For Virtually Everyone — Except Kids
The good news is that children under 18 have had a pretty low uninsured rate over the past few years, around 7 percent, thanks to previous coverage expansions of Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program. But the children's uninsured rate has hardly budged in the first six months of 2014, even as the uninsured rate for adults dropped 4 percentage points over the past year, according to the new Urban Institute Health Reform Monitoring Survey. The researchers say this is the first measure of the Affordable Care Act's effects on children's coverage (Millman, 9/9).
The Associated Press: US Funding Heads To Va. Health Care Navigators
More federal dollars are headed to Virginia to help consumers navigate the thicket of the federal health insurance marketplace. The Department of Health and Human Services has announced $1.9 million in grants for Virginia. They are going to the Virginia Poverty Law Center and Advanced Patient Advocacy LLC, both located in the Richmond area (9/10).
The Washington Post: The Simple Ways Health Insurance Can Change Your Life
It was time. A colonoscopy is a common procedure. If Benesh’s visit had been covered by private insurance or even Medicare or Medicaid, it would be unremarkable. Ho hum. But her medical insurance was made possible by the Affordable Care Act. The federal law, especially in this part of the country, is often called “Obamacare” with a derisive twang. Missouri’s Republican-led legislature has tried repeatedly to stop the legislation from taking root, including pushing back against an effort by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon to expand Medicaid. So Benesh’s doctor’s visit felt like an act imbued with political motive, a simple hospital trip transformed into a journey through the nation’s caustic battle over health care. Floating above were big questions about the role of government and whether health care is a right (Frankel, 9/9).
The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog: Religious Employers To Go Ahead With Contraception Lawsuits
A batch of nonprofit religious employers signaled they will continue with lawsuits against the Obama administration’s contraception coverage requirement, the first clear sign the administration’s latest compromise won’t end the legal battle over the issue. Three nonprofit organizations asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit late Monday to block the administration’s efforts to require their insurance plans to cover prescription forms of contraception under a new arrangement designed to shield employers from directly funding or providing methods they believe to be immoral. The requirement is part of the Affordable Care Act (Radnofsky. 9/9).
The Wall Street Journal: Justice Department Sues Surgeon Aria Sabit Over Spinal Operations
The Justice Department sued a neurosurgeon and the operators of a network of doctor-owned implant distributorships, alleging they defrauded Medicare of millions of dollars with unnecessary spinal surgeries. The neurosurgeon, Dr. Aria Sabit, and the distributorship network, Reliance Medical Systems LLC, were the subject of a 2013 Page One article in The Wall Street Journal detailing that Dr. Sabit profited from implants he used in dozens of surgeries at a California hospital, some with tragic outcomes (Carreyrou, 9/9).
The New York Times: Watchdog Says V.A. Officials Lied
Administrators at 13 health care facilities run by the Department of Veterans Affairs have lied to investigators looking into the extent of waiting-list manipulation and other improprieties, the department’s acting inspector general said in Senate testimony on Tuesday. Richard J. Griffin, the inspector general, did not elaborate at the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee whether the lies constituted federal crimes or whether his office had referred those or any other potential violations to law enforcement authorities for prosecution (Oppel Jr., 9/9).
The Wall Street Journal: Senate Panel Questions Independence Of VA Inspector General's Report
During the hearing, Sen. Dean Heller (R., Nev.) asked Mr. Griffin whether the inspector general had allowed the VA to insert a sentence into a final report on the Phoenix VA Health Care System that seemingly exculpated the hospital for alleged wrongful deaths. The sentence in question was at some point added to the final version of the Aug. 26 report, and it said investigators couldn't "conclusively assert the absence of timely quality care caused the death" of 40 veterans who were subject to long wait times (Kesling, 9/9).
The Washington Post: The Case For Extending Federal-Worker Health Coverage To Temporary Feds
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) last week questioned whether the government can legally extend federal-employee health benefits to its roughly 120,000 temporary and seasonal workers, as proposed by the Office of Personnel Management. In a letter to OPM Director Katherine Archuleta, Coburn said current law prohibits federal workers from enrolling in the program before “1 year of current continuous employment, excluding any break in service of 5 days or less” (Hicks, 9/10).
NPR: Built In Better Times, University Labs Now Lack Research Funding
When the National Institutes of Health budget doubled, some schools scrambled to build new laboratory buildings. But the funding has declined, leaving institutions struggling to pay for the buildings (Harris, 9/10).
The New York Times: At Surgery Clinic, Rush To Save Joan Rivers’s Life
Since the comedian’s death on Thursday, much has been said about her outspoken, madcap life, but there has been very little discussion of what exactly happened in the medical office where she lost consciousness, or the drama of the all-hands-on-deck attempt to save her life. The death is being investigated by the State Health Department and the city’s medical examiner. Her treatment at the clinic, Yorkville Endoscopy, a for-profit center, has drawn attention to a flourishing model of medical treatment, outpatient surgery centers, which have been licensed by the state to replace hospital operating rooms for minor procedures (Hartocollis and Goodman, 9/9).
The Washington Post: David Catania’s Aggressive Approach To D.C. Health Care Hints At Potential Mayoral Style
These days, the big issue is education, but Catania (I-At Large) burnished his reputation over the past decade in a different realm: as chairman of the council’s Health Committee. During numerous battles in that post, he earned criticism as a micromanager and a hothead more interested in satisfying his own ego than moving the city forward. But he also spearheaded a number of initiatives that left a measurable impact on the District, including insurance coverage and HIV/AIDS care (DeBonis, 9/9).
The Associated Press: Chiropractor Pleads Guilty To Health Care Fraud
A chiropractor who practiced in southeast Washington has pleaded guilty to signing fake prescriptions for services to be provided by D.C. Medicaid in exchange for cash (9/9).
Check out all of Kaiser Health News' e-mail options including First Edition and Breaking News alerts on our Subscriptions page.This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.