KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: April 18, 2012

Today's health policy headlines include reports about how a one-year experiment on Medicare competitive bidding showed positive results in terms of saving money as well as reducing waste and fraud. 

Kaiser Health News: Some Women's Groups See Another Agenda In Attacks On Contraceptive Coverage
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Judith Graham writes: "Opponents of the Obama administration's contraceptive coverage mandate -- including likely GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney -- invoke 'religious freedom.' But women's groups and family planning organizations are convinced that the real objective is to limit access to birth control" (Graham, 4/18). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Survey: Key Groups Unaware Of Health Law Benefits
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Christian Torres reports: "Despite the millions of people who have gained insurance coverage as a result of the health law, a survey released Thursday shows outreach efforts for two popular provisions are missing key parts of their target audience" (Torres, 4/19). Check out what else is on the blog.

The New York Times: In A Shift, Medicare Pushes Bids
The Obama administration said Wednesday that it would vastly expand the use of competitive bidding to buy medical equipment for Medicare beneficiaries after a one-year experiment saved money for taxpayers and patients without harming the quality of care (Pear, 4/18).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Competitive Bidding Found To Reduce Medicare Waste And Fraud On Medical Devices
A yearlong experiment with competitive bidding for power wheelchairs, diabetic supplies and other personal medical equipment produced $200 million in savings for Medicare, and government officials said Wednesday they are expanding the pilot program in search of even greater dividends (4/18).

The New York Times: Bills Seek To Change Rule On Generic Drug Labels
Democrats in the Senate and House introduced companion bills Wednesday that would permit generic drug companies to update warning information about the drugs they manufacture, a change that could allow patients to sue the companies for failing to warn about the risks of taking their drugs (Thomas, 4/18).

Los Angeles Times: Survey Shows Holes In Health Insurance Coverage
With the future of the healthcare law emerging as a major campaign issue this fall, a new survey has found that more than a quarter of adults ages 19 to 64 in the United States lacked health insurance for at least some time in 2011. … And the vast majority of those people – nearly 70 percent – had been without coverage for more than a year, according to the study by the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund, a leading authority on health policy (Levey, 4/19).

Politico: Right Winning War On State Health-Insurance Exchanges
Two years into the law's implementation, conservative emissaries have contributed to impressive stats. Almost all red states are holding off on exchange legislation at least until the Supreme Court decides on the Affordable Care Act, and in most of those states, exchange-building legislation has crawled to a stop (Feder and Millman, 4/18).

Los Angeles Times: Obama, Romney Debate From States Apart
President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney engaged in a long-distance debate over the key issue in the election …  as both campaigned through key swing states more than six months ahead of November's election. … [Obama’s] "fair shot" argument focused on the House Republican budget, which Romney has said he supports. In the name of cutting the deficit, the Republican budget would overhaul Medicare and cut spending on programs throughout government, while lowering tax rates. "By the time you retire, Medicare would be turned into a voucher system that likely would not cover the doctors or the care that you need," Obama said (Hennessey and Reston, 4/18).

The Washington Post: Jim Webb: Health-Care Law Represents A Leadership Failure For Obama
President Obama's new health-care law will be his greatest liability as he attempts to once again win the critical swing state of Virginia, Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) warned Wednesday. "I'll be real frank here," Webb said at a breakfast organized by Bloomberg News. "I think that the manner in which the health-care reform issue was put in front of the Congress, the way that the issue was dealt with by the White House, cost Obama a lot of credibility as a leader" (Tumulty, 4/18).

The Washington Post: WellPoint Is Focus Of Aggressive Effort To Force Political Spending Disclosures
Health insurance giant WellPoint is the latest target of an increasingly aggressive campaign to force disclosure of corporate political and lobbying expenditures, including payments to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has become more active in elections over the past decade (Hamburger, 4/18).

The New York Times: Vatican Reprimands A Groups Of U.S. Nuns And Plans Changes
The sisters were also reprimanded for making public statements that "disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church's authentic teachers of faith and morals." During the debate over the health care overhaul in 2010, American bishops came out in opposition to the health plan, but dozens of sisters, many of whom belong to the Leadership Conference, signed a statement supporting it — support that provided crucial cover for the Obama administration in the battle over health care (Goodstein, 4/18).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Vatican Says Leadership Group For US Nuns Doesn't Adhere To Church Teaching; Orders Reform
The report from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said the organization faced a "grave" doctrinal crisis, in which issues of "crucial importance" to the church, such as abortion and euthanasia, have been ignored. Vatican officials also castigated the group for making some public statements that "disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops," who are the church's authentic teachers of faith and morals" (4/18).

USA Today/Religion News Service: Vatican Orders Crackdown On American Nuns
It added that "crucial" issues like "the church's biblical view of family life and human sexuality, are not part of the LCWR agenda in a way that promotes church teaching. Moreover, occasional public statements by the LCWR that disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops, who are the church's authentic teachers of faith and morals, are not compatible with its purpose" (Gibson, 4/18).

NPR: Few Answers In Abuse Probes At Homes For Disabled
Fairview is one of five state-run developmental centers in California — homes for people with developmental disabilities who are unable to care for themselves. An investigation by member station KQED and the nonprofit group California Watch has uncovered patterns of abuse at a number of these institutions, including Fairview (Montgomery, 4/19).

The Washington Post: Jeffrey Thompson's Chartered Health Plan Had A Very Bad 2011
A recent annual filing with the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking shows that D.C. Chartered Health Plan recorded a $14.9 million operating loss in 2011, even after accounting for a $7.5 million payment from the District to settle a billing dispute. Chartered is the largest of two companies that manage health care for low-income District residents under government-funded programs (DeBonis, 4/18).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: NY Audits Fault $42 Million In Medicaid Payments
State auditors say data problems and information delays at New York's Medicaid claims processing system have caused $36 million in improper payments and another $6.3 million in overpayments. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said Wednesday that $3.2 million has been recouped and the health department says it has changed practices (4/19).

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