KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: July 12, 2013

Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including articles on data tracking of doctors and comparing the rollout of the Medicare Part D drug plans to implementation of the federal health law.

Kaiser Health News: Connecting Minnesota's Latino Community To Health Care
Minnesota Public Radio's Elizabeth Stawicki, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "When Samuel Alcocer arrived at the reception desk of a North Minneapolis clinic with a swollen cheek in 1996, he was desperate for relief. One of his wisdom teeth had erupted into a throbbing, painful ache. At the time, Alcocer, a native of Santa Cruz in the Mexican state of Guanajuato, spoke no English. No one at the clinic spoke Spanish. ... Seventeen years later, Alcocer helps to make sure others don't have a similar experience, working as a Spanish interpreter at the same clinic in Minneapolis. ... [Latinos] are a big part of the state’s uninsured population. One in eight Minnesota Latinos lacks health insurance" (Stawicki, 7/12). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Republicans Ready To Try Obamacare Repeal – Again And Again
Now on the Kaiser Health News blog, Mary Agnes Carey reports on the House GOP leadership's plan for more votes against the health law next week: "The House will vote next week on measures to delay the 2010 health law’s individual and employer mandates, House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday. The votes would be the 38th and 39th time House Republicans have voted to repeal all or part of the law. Congressional Republicans saw a new opportunity to kill or weaken President Obama’s signature policy achievement last week. That was when administration officials announced that the law’s requirement that employers with 50 or more workers offer insurance in 2014 or pay a fine had been postponed for one year" (Carey, 7/11). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Wall Street Journal: Hospitals Prescribe Big Data To Track Doctors At Work
Marnie Baker, a pediatrician at California's MemorialCare Health System, has an easy manner and ready smile. Now, though, her job is to be the bearer of a serious and, for some of her colleagues, unwelcome message. She's the voice of a program that digitally tracks their performance, informs them when they don't measure up—and cajoles them to improve. MemorialCare is part of a movement by hospitals around the U.S. to change how doctors practice by monitoring their progress toward goals, such as giving recommended mammograms. It isn't always an easy sell (Wilde Mathews, 7/11).

The Associated Press: Q&A: Latest Health Law Fight: Battle Of Mandates
If businesses get an extra year to meet a new health care mandate, why not everybody else? Republicans, seizing on the White House delay for employers, are demanding that the Obama administration give individual Americans an equal break. But the White House says that's just a thinly disguised gambit for dismantling the entire health care overhaul. ... The battle of the mandates is the latest clash in the long-running political fight over health care — a fight that's far from over. Under President Barack Obama's big overhaul, most people will be required to have insurance starting next Jan. 1, and larger businesses were supposed to offer affordable health care to their employees who average 30 hours of work a week. Here are some questions and answers in the aftermath of the administration's sudden delay of the employer mandate (Alonso-Zaldivar, 7/12).

NPR: Messy Rollout Of Health Law Echoes Medicare Drug Expansion
It hasn't been a good week for the Affordable Care Act. After announcements by the administration of several delays of key portions of the law, Republicans returned to Capitol Hill and began piling on. "This law is literally just unraveling before our eyes," said Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., at a hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee. "I don't know how you can conclude that this is not a total fiasco." But this isn't the first time a major health law has gotten off to a rocky start. In the beginning, things didn't look so good for the now very successful Medicare prescription drug law, either (Rovner, 7/12).

The Wall Street Journal: Appeals Court Upholds Obamacare’s Employer Mandate
A federal appeals court Thursday upheld a central plank of the new federal health law, rejecting a challenge to Obamacare’s employer mandate. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Virginia said the plaintiff, Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, had legal standing to bring the case. But it rejected the school’s claim that the employer mandate was unconstitutional. The provision, which requires large employers to provide health coverage for workers or pay a penalty, is now supposed to start in 2015 after the Obama administration delayed enforcement for a year (Gershman, 7/11).

The Hill: Wegmans Grocery Chain Cuts Healthcare For Part-Time Workers
The Wegmans supermarket chain has stopped offering health insurance to its part-time employees, according to a report in The Buffalo News. The popular chain had previously offered coverage to employees who worked at least 20 hours per week. But the company has dropped that benefit, citing President Obama's healthcare law, employees told the News. The healthcare law requires large employers to offer insurance to all employees who work more than 30 hours per week. The Obama administration announced last week that it would not enforce the requirement until 2015 (Baker, 7/11).

The New York Times: North Carolina House Passes New Restrictions On Abortion
Legislation that would impose new restrictions on abortion clinics moved out of the North Carolina House of Representatives on Thursday in a form that would give wide power to Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration. The bill became the focus of battling factions in the Republican Party this week, with a series of public legislative debates and back-room maneuvering over how to create new limits that would appeal to the governor, who is a Republican. Mr. McCrory threatened to veto a Senate measure that would have required doctors to be present for all doses of abortion drugs and force clinics that perform abortions to meet standards similar to those of an ambulatory surgical center (Blinder, 7/11).

The New York Times: Ready Access To Plan B Pills In City Schools
Last month, the Obama administration seemingly changed the landscape of access to emergency contraception across the country when, in a reversal, it agreed to allow the best-known pill, Plan B One-Step, to become available to all ages without a prescription. Until recently, only those 17 and older could buy it over the counter. But New York City had long ago come to an accommodation with the idea that girls as young as 13 or 14 should have easy access to the pill. Through a patchwork of nurses’ offices and independent clinics operating in schools, students can now get free emergency contraceptives like Plan B One-Step in more than 50 high school buildings, generally in neighborhoods with high teenage pregnancy rates (Hartocollis and Bond, 7/11).

USA Today: Blood Drive To Challenge Ban On Donations From Gays
Gay men across the nation plan to offer to donate their blood Friday, even though they expect to be turned away. The blood drive, targeting 53 donor sites nationally, is designed to protest a 1977 federal policy barring gay and bisexual men from donating blood (Leys and Hall, 7/11).

The Wall Street Journal: Defanged HIV Shows Promise In Gene Therapy
Six children with rare genetic diseases were successfully treated using gene therapy that was delivered with a modified form of the AIDS virus, researchers said Thursday. HIV, which causes AIDS, is proving a boon to gene therapy because the ability to infect cells that makes the virus so dangerous has also rendered it an efficient agent for delivering replacement genes into a patient (Winslow, 7/11).

Los Angeles Times: Gene Therapy Using HIV Helps Children With Fatal Diseases, Study Says
Italian researchers have used a defanged version of HIV to replace faulty genes — and eliminate devastating symptoms — in children suffering two rare and fatal genetic diseases. Improved gene therapy techniques prevented the onset of metachromatic leukodystrophy in three young children and halted the progression of Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome in three others (Pandika, 7/11).

Los Angeles Times: Probe Of California's Prison-Based Mental Health Facilities Ordered
Citing evidence of doctor shortages, treatment delays and "denial of basic necessities, including clean underwear," a federal judge on Thursday ordered an in-depth probe of conditions at prison-based mental health facilities run by the California Department of State Hospitals. U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton has been overseeing mandated improvements of care for mentally ill prisoners throughout California, treatment that the courts 18 years ago deemed so substandard as to be unconstitutional (Romney and St. John, 7/12).

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