KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: April 6, 2012

Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including the Obama administration's response to a federal court about the Supreme Court's power.

Kaiser Health News: Q & A: Should You Have Access To Your Lab Results?
"Insuring Your Health" columnist Michelle Andrews answers a question from a reader who wants to get his lab results sent directly to him. Andrews points out that federal officials are weighing a rule that would allow that but there are concerns from medical professionals (Andrews, 4/6).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Health Care Hiring Boom Projected To Continue, Regardless Of Law
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Jay Hancock writes: "Health-care employment will continue to grow much faster than employment generally, with the number of jobs in home care and other ambulatory settings projected to jump more than 40 percent by 2020, a new study suggests. New figures from the Labor Department highlight an expected hiring shift away from hospitals, as the system puts greater emphasis on  preventive care and reduced admissions, said Jean Moore, director of the Center for Health Workforce Studies at the State University of New York at Albany" (Hancock, 4/6).

The New York Times: Administration Concedes Courts’ Review Power
The Obama administration stipulated the incontestable to a disgruntled federal court on Thursday, formally declaring that “the power of the courts to review the constitutionality of legislation is beyond dispute.” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., bowing to an unusual demand of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, made official the backpedaling of the past few days over remarks by President Obama about the Supreme Court’s coming ruling on the constitutionality of his health care overhaul. Mr. Obama said on Monday that it “would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step” for the court to overturn the law (Cushman, 4/5).

Wall Street Journal: Attorney General Defends Obama's Court Critique
Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday that the Justice Department recognized the authority of judges to overturn laws, but he defended comments on judicial review by President Barack Obama earlier this week, attempting to quell a political storm over the remarks. ... "The power of the courts to review the constitutionality of legislation is beyond dispute," Mr. Holder wrote, citing the 1803 Marbury v. Madison decision that established the principle of judicial review. But he also echoed Mr. Obama's argument that courts should act with restraint (Perez, 4/5).

Los Angeles Times: Obama Respects Supreme Court's Power, Attorney General Writes
Attorney Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. told a federal appeals court that President Obama respects the Supreme Court's power to rule on the constitutionality of the nation's laws, a statement that a week ago would have seemed obvious but on Thursday appeared aimed at ending days of White House stumbling over the tricky politics of the high court (Hennessey, 4/6).

The Washington Post: In Letter To Judge, Holder Defends Obama’s Comments Urging Supreme Court To Uphold Health-Care Law
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. Thursday defended President Obama’s comments urging the Supreme Court to uphold the health-care law, telling a panel of federal judges that courts should show “deference” to the “legislative judgements of Congress." ... But the attorney general, citing a series of Supreme Court and other cases, said acts of Congress are presumed to be constitutional and should be overturned only sparingly (Markon, 4/5).

The Wall Street Journal: Pain-Pill Crackdown Spreads
A federal crackdown on abuse of prescription pain pills has reached the nation's biggest drugstore chain, Walgreen Co., with drug agents searching six Walgreen stores and a distribution center in Florida. The crackdown, which earlier ensnared two pharmacies of CVS Caremark Corp. and one facility of major drug distributor Cardinal Health Inc., comes as federal authorities focus on the abuse of pain pills as one of the nation's most serious medical issues (Barrett, 4/5).

Chicago Tribune: Report: Health Care Law 'Medical-Loss Ratio' Provision Would Have Generated Over $100 Million In Customer Rebates In Illinois
An Illinois resident with individual health insurance would have received an average rebate of $159 last year if a provision of the new federal health care law had been in effect, according to a new report. The health care law's provision, called the medical-loss ratio, took effect in 2011. It requires that insurers spend at least 80 percent of patient premium revenues on medical services or issue customers rebates for the difference (Frost, 4/6).

USA Today: Costs Of Many Preventive Medical Exams Vary As Much As 700%
A new report shows costs vary as much as 700% for some preventive examinations, and as the federal health care law increases demand for those procedures, it can mean an increase in premiums if employees don't pay attention to those costs (Kennedy, 4/6).

The New York Times: A Company Gingrich Founded To Offer Health Care Advice Files For Bankruptcy
A consulting company founded by Newt Gingrich filed for bankruptcy on Thursday, an apparent casualty of Mr. Gingrich’s stepping down from the business to run for the Republican presidential nomination. The company, the Center for Health Transformation, charged up to $200,000 annually to big drug makers, insurance companies and hospitals for Mr. Gingrich’s advice, including what he had to say about working the corridors of Washington power, although Mr. Gingrich has insisted he was not a lobbyist (Gabriel, 4/6).

The Wall Street Journal: Gingrich Health-Care Group Files For Bankruptcy.
Newt Gingrich’s well-known health-care think tank has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, according to federal court filings, shuttering the most profitable of Gingrich’s former enterprises and potentially putting a big piece of his net worth in jeopardy (Yadron and McKinnon, 4/5).

The Washington Post: Gingrich Health-Care Think Tank Files For Bankruptcy Protection
The once high-flying health-care think tank that Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich started nearly a decade ago has filed for bankruptcy, its fortunes having sunk rapidly last year as its compelling leader turned his energies to the political campaign trail. The Center for Health Transformation had promoted private-sector solutions to America’s skyrocketing health-care costs. It also became a source of significant cash for Gingrich and his wife, Callista. The Washington Post reported that the center took in $37 million in donations, primarily from big pharmaceutical and health-care corporations, in its eight years in business (Leonnig, 4/5).

Los Angeles Times: Aetna Raises Health Insurance Rates For Small Employers
Aetna Life Insurance Co. raised health insurance rates for small employers by an average of 8% a year beginning April 1, a hike that California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones called  unreasonable. Jones said Thursday that he'd asked Aetna to withdraw its increase in quarterly rates, affecting 77,000 employees and dependents of small employers (Lifsher, 4/5).

The Wall Street Journal: California Regulator Criticizes Aetna Rate Increase As ‘Unreasonable’.
A California insurance regulator ruled that an Aetna Inc. health-insurance rate increase was “unreasonable,” in the latest salvo of a long-running debate in the state over the cost of coverage (Wilde Mathews, 4/5).

The New York Times: New Treatments To Save A Pet, But Questions About The Costs
Older pets like Tina are benefiting from advances in veterinary medicine that have accelerated in the past two to three years, raising not only the hopes of pet owners but also tough new questions about extending or saving an animal’s life, and how much to spend in doing so. A long list of cancers, urinary-tract disorders, kidney ailments, joint failures and even canine dementia can now be diagnosed and treated, with the prospect of a cure or greatly improved health, thanks to imaging technology, better drugs, new surgical techniques and holistic approaches like acupuncture (Grimes, 4/5).

The Wall Street Journal: Outbreak Of Rabies Puts City On Edge
Rabid skunks are causing a stink in Carlsbad, N.M. After 15 years without a confirmed case of rabies, the southeastern New Mexico county where Carlsbad is the county seat has seen about 30 skunks test positive for rabies since December. ... Rabid skunks have tangled with dogs, cats and sheep in the area, requiring more than 30 pets and farm animals to be euthanized, Dr. (Paul) Ettestad said. A dozen people in the county have received rabies shots as a precaution, but no humans have exhibited symptoms of rabies, a virus that typically is fatal in humans if not treated quickly (Koppel, 4/5).

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