KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: April 17, 2012

Today's health policy headlines include reports from the presidential campaign trail as well as news from the states regarding abortion laws.  

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Out-Of-Network Care Is Expensive But A Couple Of New Options
In her latest Kaiser Health News consumer column, Michelle Andrews writes: "Financially, it's always been risky to get health care from a hospital or doctor that's outside your health plan's network. Without the protection of guaranteed rates negotiated by your health plan, you may end up owing much more, including any billed amounts not paid by your plan. Out-of-network cost sharing is usually higher, too" (4/16).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Wash. Abortion Coverage Bill Placed On Hold
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Christian Torres reports: "A bill that would require insurers to cover abortion services is off the table this year in Washington state. A special session of the Washington legislature ended Wednesday without the Reproductive Parity Act reaching a vote. The bill would require private insurers that provide maternity coverage to also cover abortion" (Torres, 4/16).

Reuters/Chicago Tribune: U.S. Cites Assurant Unit Over Health Premium Hike
U.S. officials on Monday cited two health insurers for excessive premium increases, under consumer protection rules of President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law that could soon be nullified by the Supreme Court (4/16).

The Wall Street Journal: Romney Woos Conservative Leaders
Mitt Romney, while ramping up efforts to win swing voters who will play a large role in November's election, has remained personally involved in trying to persuade conservative leaders to back him and help drive Republican turnout this fall. … Mr. Romney has sought to woo tea-party supporters. On Monday evening, he spoke to a tea-party rally in Philadelphia, where he derided Mr. Obama's health-care law and proposal for million-dollar earners to pay a tax rate of at least 30% (O’Connor and Hook, 4/16).

Los Angeles Times: What Would Romney Cut? Overheard Conversation Holds Clues
But there was no question that the typically cautious candidate had gone well beyond his typical stump speech — in which he mentions his support for moving programs like Medicaid to the states, where he says they would be more efficient, and his backing of Rep. Paul D. Ryan's budget plan, which aims to rein in the cost of Medicare while cutting taxes. For the most part, Romney has offered just a few examples of cuts he would favor, such as federal subsidies to Amtrak or the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which amount to a tiny slice of the budget (Reston and Mehta, 4/17).

Chicago Tribune: Cardinal Tries to Clarify Bishops' Stance On Health Care Law
Though the church's concern primarily focuses on the Obama administration's proposal to provide contraception coverage to all employees, including those who work for religious groups, George clarified in his talk to the Union League Club of Chicago on Monday that the church's opposition isn't personal or politically motivated (Brachear, 4/16).

The New York Times: Vital Signs: Patterns: Doctor's Stake In Lab Affects Biopsy Rate
Medicare pays for prostate biopsies by the jar, and a jar can contain one or more specimens. Self-referring doctors billed Medicare for an average of 4.3 more jars per biopsy, a difference of almost 72 percent that persisted despite controlling factors (Bakalar, 4/16).

The New York Times: A Sharp Rise In Retractions Prompts Calls For Reform
Last month, in a pair of editorials in Infection and Immunity, the two editors issued a plea for fundamental reforms. They also presented their concerns at the March 27 meeting of the National Academies of Sciences committee on science, technology and the law (Zimmer, 4/16).

Politico: FDA Tangles With Wireless Medical-App Makers
An onslaught of mobile health technology has forced an arranged marriage between smartphone app makers and the Food and Drug Administration — because someone had to regulate them. There's just one problem: Many of the tech wizards aren't used to FDA supervision. And now, both sides are struggling to figure out how to live with each other (Norman, 4/16).

The New York Times: Disabilities Act Used By layers In Flood Of Suits
A small cadre of lawyers, some from out of state, are using New York City's age and architectural quirkiness as the foundation for a flood of lawsuits citing violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act. The lawyers are generally not acting on existing complaints from people with disabilities. Instead, they identify local businesses, like bagel shops and delis, that are not in compliance with the law, and then aggressively recruit plaintiffs from advocacy groups for people with disabilities (Secret, 4/16).

Politico: Miss. Governor Signs Abortion Law
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law on Monday a bill that could shut down the only abortion clinic in the state, hailing it as an important step to "ensure that the lives of the born and unborn are protected in Mississippi." House Bill 1390, which passed the state Senate earlier this month, requires all physicians at abortion clinics in Mississippi to be board-certified OB-GYN and to have admitting privileges at a local hospital (Lee, 4/16).

Los Angeles Times: Mississippi Adopts New Abortion Restrictions
The law is one of several recent state measures championed by antiabortion activists and passed largely by Republican allies. Last week, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a law that banned most abortions after 20 weeks. In March, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed a bill requiring women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion (Fausset, 4/17).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Idaho Doctor-Lawyer's Strange Strategy In Lawsuit Targeting Anti-Abortion Laws Raises Eyebrows
The first challenge to the constitutionality of the so-called fetal pain anti-abortion laws enacted in several states has come from an unlikely place. So has the second. Rick Hearn, the lawyer in the center of this fight, represents an Idaho woman challenging her state’s abortion laws in an effort to avoid future prosecution (4/17).

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