KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: June 25, 2013

Today's headlines include reports about the Obama administraiton's plans for getting the word about the health law's online marketplaces. 

Kaiser Health News: FAQ: Medicare Beneficiaries May See Increased Access To Physical Therapy Or Some Other Services
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, in collaboration with The Washington Post, Susan Jaffe writes: "For years, seniors in Medicare have been told that if they don't improve when getting physical therapy or other skilled care, that care won't be paid for. No progress, no Medicare coverage -- unless the problem got worse, in which case the treatment could resume" (Jaffe, 6/25). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Pittsburgh Researchers Look For Ways To Prevent Depression In Seniors
Judith Graham, reporting for Kaiser Health News in collaboration with The Washington Post, writes: "A year ago, Bernard Belisle was in a bad way. Pain throbbed in his legs all day, every day, and he was angry and irritable much of the time. Then, he enrolled in a novel study on preventing depression in older adults at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Belisle says the move has changed his life" (Graham, 6/25). Read the story and the related sidebar or watch the video.

Kaiser Health News: NFL's Help Sought On Promoting Obamacare Insurance Plans
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz reports: "Top federal health officials are in talks with the National Football League to promote the health law’s insurance marketplaces that begin enrolling people Oct 1. … Sebelius said the administration is also talking to other major sports franchises about improving public awareness of the Obamacare online insurance exchanges, which are a critical way the federal health law expands insurance coverage" (Galewitz, 6/24). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Sebelius: Administration Is Negotiating Rates In Federal Exchanges
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Phil Galewitz reports: "Hoping to get consumers the best prices, the Obama administration is negotiating with insurers looking to sell policies in online health insurance marketplaces this fall, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Monday" (Galewitz, 6/24). Check out what else is on the blog.

The New York Times: U.S. Unveils Health Care Web Site and Call Center
The Obama administration announced new steps to expand coverage under the federal health care law on Monday, less than a week after the Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, found that the federal government and many states were “behind schedule” in setting up marketplaces where Americans are supposed to be able to buy insurance (Pear, 6/24).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: ‘Obamacare’ Insurance Publicity Campaign Steps Up
The Obama administration showed off its work to prepare to sign up millions of Americans for new health-insurance products on Monday, unveiling a revamped version of the healthcare.gov website that will be a centerpiece of this fall’s official enrollment campaign. The website uses a Q-and-A format and includes a video describing the experience of shopping for coverage through new insurance exchanges as well as a live-chat feature, in the hopes of raising people’s awareness of the law. A new hotline that people can call is also up and running (Radnofsky, 6/24).

Politico: Kathleen Sebelius: Exchange Enrollment Goal Is 7 Million By End Of March
For Obamacare the magic number is 7 million. That’s how many people the Obama administration hopes to enroll in its new health insurance marketplaces by the end of March. It is starting a huge public education campaign to get people on board with hopes for an assist from the NFL and other professional sports leagues (Haberkorn, 6/24).

Propublica/NPR: Top Medicare Prescribers Rake In Speaking Fees From Drugmakers
When the blood pressure drug Bystolic hit the market in 2008, it faced a crowded field of cheap generics. So its maker, Forest Laboratories, launched a promotional assault on the group in the best position to determine Bystolic's success: those in control of prescription pads. It flooded the offices of health professionals with drug reps, and it hired doctors to persuade their peers to choose Bystolic — even though the drug hadn't proved more effective than competitors (Ornstein, Weber and Lafleur, 6/25).

The Wall Street Journal: Tenet To Acquire Vanguard Health For $1.73 Billion
Dallas-based Tenet said it would expand to 79 hospitals from 49, and significantly increase its geographic reach, adding markets such as Detroit and Chicago and particularly deepening its presence in Texas. Tenet also said the acquisition marks what it hopes will be a stepped-up effort to acquire other hospitals, where its deal pace has been relatively slow (Mathews and Kamp, 6/24).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: House Investigators: Social Security Lax In Judging Disability Claims; Fund Nearing Insolvency
Social Security is approving disability benefits at strikingly high rates for people whose claims were rejected by field offices or state agencies, according to House investigators. Compounding the situation, the agency often fails to do required follow-up reviews months or years later to make sure people are still disabled (6/25).

The Wall Street Journal: Ford Adopts Health Management Program
Ford Motor Co. and a United Auto Workers union trust fund that provides health care to retired union auto workers are launching a two-year pilot program that seeks to cut costs by adding more care to workers and retirees with chronic illnesses (Ramsey, 6/24).

Politico: Supreme Court To Take Up Massachusetts Abortion Law
As lawsuits over early abortion laws spring up across the country, the Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a different kind of abortion challenge — this one involving free speech. The court will consider a case challenging a Massachusetts law that bans demonstrations within 35 feet of entrances and driveways of abortion clinics. The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in January sided with the state in McCullen v. Coakley, ruling that the law strikes the right balance between protecting free speech and patients’ rights (Millman, 6/25).

The New York Times: Hepatitis C Test for Baby Boomers Urged by Health Panel
An influential health advisory group has reversed itself and concluded that all baby boomers should be tested for hepatitis C, meaning that under the new health law many insurance plans will have to provide screening without charge to patients. The group, the United States Preventive Services Task Force, announced its change of heart on Monday, saying there was likely to be some benefit from such screening (Pollack, 6/24).

The Wall Street Journal: Hospital in Long Beach Remains Closed Since Sandy
Long Beach has sputtered back to life in recent weeks, as crowds once again stream to its shores, but the Long Island community's hospital remains closed almost eight months after it sustained $20 million of damage from superstorm Sandy (Dawsey, 6/24). 

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