KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: January 28, 2013

Today's headlines include reports about how the health law's implementation could impact the marketplace.

Kaiser Health News: Independence Of Long-Term Care Ombudsman Challenged In Some States
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, in collaboration with USA Today, Jenni Bergal writes: "The 2.3 million elderly or disabled people living in nursing homes or assisted living centers might not know it, but they've got an advocate – someone who's supposed to be looking out for their health, safety and rights" (Bergal, 1/27). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Retiring Medicare Actuary Reflects On The Politics Of Spending And Why He Almost Quit
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey, working in collaboration with Politico Pro, reports: "Richard S. Foster is retiring this week after 18 years as the chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. His duties included projecting Medicare and Medicaid spending and the cost of health care legislation to help policymakers weigh the impact on the federal budget. Some of those estimates got him into hot water with members of both parties" (Carey, 1/28). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News also tracked weekend health policy headlines, including reports about the strategy that emerged from the winter meeting of the Republican National Committee as well as the continuing position on entitlements (1/27).

The New York Times' Political Memo: Obama Focuses On Status Quo, Not Left, In Battle With GOP
That partisan gibe was telling. He defended two programs, Medicare and Medicaid, begun nearly a half-century ago, and a third, Social Security, that dates from the Great Depression. The federal welfare commitments that Mr. Obama praised in observing that “a great nation must care for the vulnerable” also date back to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s time. Yet all those benefits are in the cross-fire of the president’s continuing fiscal battle with Republicans in Congress. That is not because of a shift in philosophy by Mr. Obama or his party, but rather because of the looming cost of the retirements of baby boomers and of the persistent ideological boldness of partisan foes (Harwood, 1/27).

Politico: The Quiet Liberal Plans For Entitlement Reform
Ask liberals about GOP demands to rein in Social Security and Medicare spending, and many say this: no way. But the truth is, there are a number of ideas to do just that already sitting on the shelves of influential liberal think tanks around Washington (Nather, 1/27).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Health Insurance Exchanges: A New Way For Individuals And Small Business To Buy Coverage
Health insurance exchanges will change the way people buy coverage and will help millions of uninsured people get a private plan. Nearly 49 million people are uninsured in the United States, but the numbers vary dramatically by state. Exchanges will be the most visible part of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law in everyday life. Open enrollment starts Oct. 1, less than 10 months away (1/27).

The Associated Press: Consumer Alert: New Health Care Markets On The Way
Buying your own health insurance will never be the same. ... remember that nothing in life is free and change isn't easy. ... Starting Jan. 1, 2014, when coverage takes effect in the exchanges, virtually everyone in the country will be required by law to have health insurance or face fines (Alonso-Zaldivar, 1/27).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: New Lingo For Consumers: Health Care Overhaul Glossary
President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law has spawned its own jargon. With the law finally about to take full effect, consumers might want to get familiar with some of the terms (1/27).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Health Care Among The Early Leaders As 'Obamacare' Starts To Become A Reality
Health care stocks have started off the year on a tear. The industry group that includes health care providers, drugmakers and biotechnology companies has advanced 7.3 percent this year, making it the second-best in the Standard and Poor’s 500 index, trailing only energy companies. Even drugmakers, traditionally considered a safe-haven play, are outperforming the market (1/27).

Los Angeles Times: Under Healthcare Overhaul, Will Small Businesses Benefit?
In a perfect world, Irvine businessman Scott Griffiths says, he hopes to continue offering health insurance to the 42 employees at his chain of high-end men's hair salons. But with the full effect of President Obama's Affordable Care Act approaching, small businesses like his are facing numerous questions and concerns about the future of employee health insurance in California and what it will mean for them (Zamosky, 1/26).

The Wall Street Journal: Questions Remain On Expanded Medicaid
Advocates for the poor are making their case that New Jersey should expand the ranks of people eligible for Medicaid in what could be the next big decision on how the federal health insurance overhaul plays out in New Jersey. They say it will save state taxpayers money and give far more low-income people health coverage. But doctors are apprehensive, and hospitals aren't pushing hard for the change, which some anti-big-government groups oppose deeply (1/28).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Analysis: Is It Fair To Penalize Smokers And Overeaters? Yes, Say Experts. Here's Why.
Faced with the high cost of caring for smokers and overeaters, experts say society must grapple with a blunt question: Instead of trying to penalize them and change their ways, why not just let these health sinners die prematurely from their unhealthy habits? Annual health care costs are roughly $96 billion for smokers and $147 billion for the obese, the government says. These costs accompany sometimes heroic attempts to prolong lives, including surgery, chemotherapy and other measures (1/26).

The Wall Street Journal: Device Makers Add Fees To Cover Health Tax
Some medical-device companies faced with a new tax meant to help finance the health law are hoping someone else will pick up the tab: their hospital customers. Companies including feeding-tube supplier Applied Medical Technology Inc. and respiratory-valve maker Hans Rudolph Inc. quietly added new surcharges or warned hospitals of price increases to cover the new 2.3% tax on device sales that went into effect Jan. 1, according to letters and invoices from nine manufacturers sent to hospitals that were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal (Weaver, 1/25).

The New York Times: A Flood of Suits Fights Coverage of Birth Control
In recent months, federal courts have seen dozens of lawsuits brought not only by religious institutions like Catholic dioceses but also by private employers ranging from a pizza mogul to produce transporters who say the government is forcing them to violate core tenets of their faith. Some have been turned away by judges convinced that access to contraception is a vital health need and a compelling state interest. Others have been told that their beliefs appear to outweigh any state interest and that they may hold off complying with the law until their cases have been judged. New suits are filed nearly weekly (Bronner, 1/26).

The Wall Street Journal: Harkin's Exit Heralds Scramble For Senate Seat
Mr. Harkin has endured major political upheavals through the decades, arriving in the Senate during the conservative Reagan era and more recently helping to advance the 2010 health-care overhaul, the Affordable Care Act, a cornerstone of President Barack Obama's presidency that is widely embraced by liberals (Hughes, 1/26).

The Wall Street Journal: Get Developmental Care
Many kids struggle with developmental problems at some point in their childhoods, and getting care for them can be costly and confusing. If your child isn't babbling or sitting at nine months, for instance, struggles with stairs or speaks unclearly at age three, you might be worried about a developmental delay. Help is available to enable your child to catch up, but parents will need to navigate a complicated zone where health care rubs up against education—and kids sometimes fall through the cracks (Johnson, 1/27).

The Associated Press: Aging America: Elder Abuse, Use Of Shelters Rising
The woman, in her 70s, is trying to explain how she wound up in a shelter that could well be where she spends the rest of her life. While the woman was living with a close family member, officials at the Shalom Center say, her money was being drained away by people overcharging for her grocery shopping, while her body and spirit were sapped by physical neglect and emotional torment. ... The Shalom Center offers shelter, along with medical, psychological and legal help, to elderly abuse victims in this northern Cincinnati suburb. It is among a handful in the country that provide sanctuary from such treatment, a problem experts say is growing along with the age of the nation's population (Sewell, 1/27).

The New York Times: More Using Electronics To Track Their Health
Whether they have chronic ailments like diabetes or just want to watch their weight, Americans are increasingly tracking their health using smartphone applications and other devices that collect personal data automatically, according to health industry researchers (Freudenheim, 1/27).

The New York Times: An Oil Boom Takes A Toll On Health Care
The patients come with burns from hot water, with hands and fingers crushed by steel tongs, with injuries from chains that have whipsawed them off their feet. Ambulances carry mangled, bloodied bodies from accidents on roads packed with trucks and heavy-footed drivers (Eligon, 1/27).

Los Angeles Times: St. John's In Court Fight Over Failed Nurse Recruitment Effort
Now the hospital is pursuing a court fight over this costly failure, saying it was the victim of fraud, bribery and unfair business practices. But the legal battle may also yield unflattering details about the inner workings of one of the area's best-known hospitals, which recently saw a high-profile management shake-up (Terhune, 1/25).

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