KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: August 7, 2012

Today's headlines include reports that HCA, the largest for-profit hospital chain in the U.S., is facing scrutiny about the medical necessity of some of the  cardiac procedures done at some of its facilities.

Kaiser Health News: Is Magnetic Pulse Treatment An Answer For People Suffering From Drug-Resistant Depression
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Appleby, working in collaboration with The Washington Post, reports: "An increasing number of psychiatrists and hospitals - as well as entrepreneurs opening rTMS centers around the country – are betting that there are millions of people like Curtis, discouraged by depression treatments that have proved unsuccessful and willing to pony up thousands of dollars for the possibility of relief. The treatment, which has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, is covered by Medicare in five states, but few private insurers pay for it routinely" (Appleby, 8/6). Read the story and the related sidebar.

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Some Plans Deny Pregnancy Coverage For Dependent Children
In her latest Kaiser Health News consumer column, Michelle Andrews writes: "The health care overhaul provides a safety net for young adult children, who can now stay on their parents' health plans until they reach age 26. But it doesn't guarantee that their parents' plan will cover a common medical condition that many young women face: pregnancy" (Andrews, 8/6). Read the column.

Kaiser Health News: Study: Nearly A Third Of Doctors Won't See Medicaid Patients
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz, working in collaboration with The Philadelphia Inquirer, reports: "About 69 percent of doctors nationally accept new Medicaid patients, but the rate varies widely across the country, according to a study published Monday in the journal Health Affairs" (Galewitz, 8/6). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Survey: Employers Expect 7 Percent Growth Cost Of Health Benefits
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Matthew Fleming reports: "As employers brace to absorb cost increases in employee health benefits, many are also experimenting with new ways to control these expenses, according to a new survey from the National Business Group on Health, a non-profit association of 342 large employers" (Fleming, 8/6). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Obama Administration: Average Monthly Premium For Basic Medicare Drug Coverage To Stay AT $30
It's an economic indicator of sorts for seniors: The Obama administration says the average premium for basic Medicare drug coverage will stay the same next year, $30 a month. That's the third year in a row of little or no change (8/6).

The New York Times: Hospital Chain Inquiry Cited Unnecessary Cardiac Work
HCA, the largest for-profit hospital chain in the United States with 163 facilities, had uncovered evidence as far back as 2002 and as recently as late 2010 showing that some cardiologists at several of its hospitals in Florida were unable to justify many of the procedures they were performing. Those hospitals included the Cedars Medical Center in Miami, which the company no longer owns, and the Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point. In some cases, the doctors made misleading statements in medical records that made it appear the procedures were necessary, according to internal reports (Abelson and Creswell, 8/6).

The Wall Street Journal: HCA Discloses Federal Probe
The company, which is the biggest for-profit U.S. hospital operator with 163 facilities, also made an unusual statement defending its operations in anticipation of a New York Times article that appeared online late Monday. The statement addressed potential questions on its cardiac care, emergency-room billing practices and treatment of uninsured patients. In the wake of the disclosures, HCA shares fell 4% to $25.55 in 4 p.m. composite trading on the New York Stock Exchange, despite second-quarter earnings that were up from last year, largely based on improved patient volumes (Mathews and Weaver, 8/6).

The Associated Press/Los Angeles Times: HCA Holdings Questioned About Need For Some Cardiology Services
Hospital chain HCA Holdings said the Justice Department wants information about heart procedures performed at some of its locations. HCA said it has been asked about reviews that assessed the medical necessity of some cardiology services. The questions came from the U.S. Attorney's office in Miami, the company said. The New York Times published a report late Monday citing evidence that some HCA hospitals in Florida were performing unnecessary, and sometimes dangerous, heart procedures with the aim of driving up profit for the hospital chain (8/7).

Reuters/The Washington Post: U.S. Probes HCA Heart Procedures, Hospital Billing
HCA, in an unusual move, also issued a detailed rebuttal defending itself against a report by the New York Times, before it was published. The company said it believes the newspaper will question physician decisions at its hospitals regarding certain heart procedures (Berkrot, 8/6).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Feds Could Outflank GOP Governors Who Refuse To Set Up New State Health Insurance Exchanges
Don't look now: The feds may be gaining on GOP governors who've balked at carrying out a key part of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law. Opponents of the law say they won't set up new private health insurance markets called exchanges. But increasingly it's looking like Washington will just do it for them (8/7).

The Wall Street Journal: Study Finds 31% Of Doctors Shun Medicaid
About one in three doctors across the country doesn't accept new patients who are covered by Medicaid, the federal-state insurance program that is supposed to enroll millions more low-income Americans as part of the Obama administration's health overhaul, according to a new government study (Radnofsky, 8/6).

The New York Times: In Weak Economy, An Opening To Court Votes Of Single Women
But the Obama campaign, needing their support to offset traditional Republican strength among married women, is lavishing attention on them. Mr. Obama and his allies are highlighting issues like Mr. Romney's support for cutting federal funds to Planned Parenthood, which they say resonate with single women and that help draw a contrast between the two sides. A new Obama ad calling Mr. Romney "out of touch" with average women on health and contraception issues began running last weekend in battleground states (Dewan, 8/7).

Politico: Priorities Ad Ties Romney To Lost Health Insurance, Cancer Death
The Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action is unveiling perhaps the harshest, most personal ad of the 2012 presidential race, featuring a former worker at a Bain-owned company talking about the death of his wife after their family lost health insurance. The commercial casts Mitt Romney's business background in a severely negative light, but it's not a typical slash-and-burn attack ad. Instead, it features former GST Steel employee Joe Soptic speaking to the camera about what happened when the plant where he worked shut down (Burns, 8/7).

NPR: In British Emergency Room, 'There's No Card To Show; There Are No Bills'
If any of the 700 athletes in London for the Olympic Games are unlucky enough to get injured, they'll get treated at a state-of-the-art polyclinic situated inside the park. But for the half-million tourists, it's straight to a British hospital for serious ailments requiring medical attention (Aguirre, 8/6).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: NY Seeks Waiver To Invest Medicaid Savings
State health officials say they have applied for a waiver that would enable them to use $10 billion of federal savings from Medicaid changes for other state initiatives meant to improve primary health care for poorer New Yorkers (8/7).

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