KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: April 1, 2013

Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including several articles examining the difficulties of implementing the health law.

Kaiser Health News: Why Uninsured Might Not Flock To Health Law’s Marketplaces 
Kaiser Health News reporter Phil Galewitz, working in collaboration with The Washington Post, writes: "With almost one in five of its residents lacking health insurance, officials in Palm Beach County thought they had hit on a smart solution. The county launched a program that offered subsidized coverage to residents who couldn't afford private insurance, but made too much to qualify for Medicaid, the state-federal program for the poor. Enrollees would be able to buy policies for about $52 a month -- far cheaper than what private insurers were offering. But a year after the program began, fewer than 500 people had signed up - less than a third of the number expected" (Galewitz, 4/1).

Kaiser Health News: Maryland’s Tough New Hospital Spending Proposal Seen As 'Nationally Significant'
Kaiser Health News reporter Jay Hancock, working in collaboration with The Washington Post, writes: "Maryland officials have proposed what analysts call the most ambitious initiative in the country to control soaring medical spending, a plan that would bring relief to employers and consumers footing the bill while bluntly challenging the state’s powerful hospital industry. The blueprint, which needs the Obama administration’s approval, would use Maryland’s unique rate-setting system to keep hospital spending from growing no faster than the overall economy — roughly half its recent rate of increase" (Hancock, 4/1).

The New York Times: Hospitals Question Medicare Rules On Readmissions
While federal statistics show the effort is beginning to reduce costly and unnecessary readmissions, a growing chorus of critics is asking whether the government policy, which penalizes hospitals that have high readmission rates, is unfair. They are also questioning whether hospitals should be responsible for managing the personal lives of patients once they are released — or whether they should focus on other ways to improve care (Abelson, 3/29).

NPR: Three Years On, States Still Struggle With Health Care Law Messaging
It is hard to imagine that after three years of acrimony and debate we could still be so confused about President Obama's Affordable Care Act. ... There are essentially three big pieces to the Affordable Care Act: the insurance reforms (also known as the patients' bill of rights), quality and cost measures, and the health care mandate. .... For consumers, however, it doesn't matter if you're in Texas or California or anywhere else in the country, the law is clear: The uninsured are expected to get coverage by January. Whether those folks will be informed and ready by then is not so clear (Sullivan, 3/30).

The Hill: GOP Seeks To Benefit From Sebelius Admission On Healthcare Cost Hikes
Republican campaign officials are claiming new momentum for 2014 after the Obama administration admitted that some consumers could see their health insurance premiums rise under healthcare reform. ... The remark triggered a rush of campaign messaging against vulnerable Democrats who supported healthcare reform (Viebeck, 3/31).

Los Angeles Times: Healthcare An Obstacle As Republicans Court Latinos
As Republican leaders try to woo Latino voters with a new openness to legal status for the nation's illegal immigrants, the party remains at odds with America's fastest-growing ethnic community on another key issue: healthcare. Latinos, who have the lowest rates of health coverage in the country, are among the strongest backers of President Obama's healthcare law (Levey, 3/31).

The Associated Press: Can Mass Marketing Heal The Splits On 'Obamacare'?
How do you convince millions of average Americans that one of the most complex and controversial programs devised by government may actually be a good deal for them? With the nation still split over President Barack Obama's health care law, the administration has turned to the science of mass marketing for help in understanding the lives of uninsured people, hoping to craft winning pitches for a surprisingly varied group in society (Alonso-Zaldivar, 4/1).

The Wall Street Journal: States Harden Views Over Laws Governing Abortion
States are becoming increasingly polarized over abortion, as some legislatures pass ever-tighter restrictions on the procedure while others consider stronger legal protections for it, advocates on both sides say (Radnofsky, 3/31).

The New York Times: More Diagnoses Of Hyperactivity In New C.D.C. Data
Nearly one in five high school age boys in the United States and 11 percent of school-age children over all have received a medical diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to new data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These rates reflect a marked rise over the last decade and could fuel growing concern among many doctors that the A.D.H.D. diagnosis and its medication are overused in American children (Schwarz and Cohen, 3/31).

NPR: As Stroke Risk Rises Among Younger Adults, So Does Early Death
Most people (including a lot of doctors) think of a stroke as something that happens to old people. But the rate is increasing among those in their 50s, 40s and even younger (Knox, 4/1).

Los Angeles Times: Prescription Drug-Related Deaths Continue To Rise In U.S.
Despite efforts by law enforcement and public health officials to curb prescription drug abuse, drug-related deaths in the United States have continued to rise, the latest data show. Figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that drug fatalities increased 3% in 2010, the most recent year for which complete data are available. Preliminary data for 2011 indicate the trend has continued (Glover and Girion, 3/29).

The New York Times: As OSHA Emphasizes Safety, Long-Term Health Risks Fester
OSHA, the watchdog agency that many Americans love to hate and industry often faults as overzealous, has largely ignored long-term threats. Partly out of pragmatism, the agency created by President Richard M. Nixon to give greater attention to health issues has largely done the opposite. OSHA devotes most of its budget and attention to responding to here-and-now dangers rather than preventing the silent, slow killers that, in the end, take far more lives. Over the past four decades, the agency has written new standards with exposure limits for 16 of the most deadly workplace hazards, including lead, asbestos and arsenic. But for the tens of thousands of other dangerous substances American workers handle each day, employers are largely left to decide what exposure level is safe (Urbina, 3/30).

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