KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: March 19, 2013

Today's headlines include coverage of a new report about the troubling reach of Alzheimer's disease.  

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Group Appointments With Doctors: When Three Isn't A Crowd
In her latest Kaiser Health News' consumer column, Michelle Andrews writes: "When visiting the doctor, there may be strength in numbers. In recent years, a growing number of doctors have begun holding group appointments -- seeing up to a dozen patients with similar medical concerns all at once. Advocates of the approach say such visits allow doctors to treat more patients, spend more time with them (even if not one-on-one), increase appointment availability and improve health outcomes" (Andrews, 3/19). Read the column.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Congress Works On Budget For Both 2013 And Future; Passage Of Catchall Spending Bill Likely
Congress is finally cleaning up its unfinished budget business for the long-underway 2013 budget year with a bipartisan government-wide funding bill, even as the combatants in the House and Senate gear up for votes this week on largely symbolic measures outlining stark differences between Democrats and Republicans about how to fix the nation’s long-term deficit woes. …  House Republicans are moving first with a plan sharply slashing health care for the poor, budgets for domestic agencies like the FBI and the National Park Service, and safety net programs like food stamps. Senate Democrats are countering with a mostly stand-pat approach that hikes taxes by almost $1 trillion over a decade while reversing already-enacted across-the-board spending cuts that are slamming both the Pentagon and domestic agencies (3/19).

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: House GOP Group Would End Deficit In 4 Years
The Republican Study Committee, an influential group of 171 conservative House lawmakers, introduced a budget Monday that it says would eliminate the deficit in four years through deeper spending cuts and more immediate changes to federal health-care programs than the Ryan plan, which the House is expected to vote on later this week. Unlike the blueprint from Mr. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, the RSC plan would offer seniors the option of buying private health insurance or traditional Medicare beginning in 2019 and exempt only those 60 years old and older. The House Budget Committee plan for Medicare would not kick in until 2024, and wouldn't affect those 55 and older. And only the conservative plan proposes raising the Medicare eligibility age to 70 from 65, starting in 2024 (Peterson, 3/18).

Politico: New Republican Message: Balanced Budgets
Instead of focusing on selling the conversion of Medicare into a premium support program, Republicans will incessantly pound home the theme of balancing the budget, GOP leaders say. When talking about the Democrats’ plan, Republicans criticize it for attempting to raise taxes and the fact that it doesn’t balance the budget (Sherman, 3/18).

The New York Times: U.S. Drug Costs Dropped In 2012, But Rises Loom
Spending on prescription drugs nationwide has been slowing for years because of the increasingly widespread use of low-cost generics. But in 2012, something unheard-of happened: money spent on prescription drugs actually dropped (Thomas, 3/18).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: A Study Raises Doubts That Workplace Wellness Programs Save Companies Money
Your bosses want you to eat your broccoli, hit the treadmill and pledge you'll never puff on a cigarette. But a new study raises doubts that workplace wellness programs save the company money. Independent researchers tracking the wellness program at a major St. Louis hospital system for two years found that while hospitalizations for employees and family members dropped dramatically — by 41 percent overall for six major conditions — increased outpatient costs erased those savings (Alonso-Zaldivar, 3/18).

The New York Times: Seeking Profit For Taxpayers In Potential Of New Drug
With automatic spending cuts cascading through the government, lawmakers are calling for a review of federal policies they say have allowed businesses to profit on government research with limited return for taxpayers or consumers.  That re-examination could be particularly intense in federal science, once a corner of the government with bipartisan protection that has become something of an orphan caught between Republican efforts to protect the military and Democrats’ defense of Social Security and Medicare. Now, advocates for creative new funding policies might have an example for their cause (Weisman, 3/18).

NPR: Alzheimer's 'Epidemic' Now A Deadlier Threat To Elderly
Alzheimer's disease doesn't just steal memories. It takes lives. The disease is now the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., and figures released Tuesday by the Alzheimer's Association show that deaths from the disease increased by 68 percent between 2000 and 2010 (Hamilton, 3/19).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Beyond Memory Loss, Report Finds 1 in 3 Seniors Dies With Dementia That Can Impede Other Care
A staggering 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer's disease or other types of dementia, says a new report that highlights the impact the mind-destroying disease is having on the rapidly aging population (3/19).

USA Today: One In Three Elderly Have Dementia When They Die
Deaths from Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia have increased 68% from 2000 to 2010, according to the report being released today by the Alzheimer's Association, an advocacy group. Meanwhile, deaths from heart disease, HIV/AIDS and stroke have declined. The numbers are taken from Medicare and Medicaid reports (Lloyd, 3/19).

Los Angeles Times: California Scores Poorly On Posting Healthcare Prices, Report Says
California consumers don't have easy access to prices for medical care, according to a national report card that gave the state a letter grade of D for its dismal showing. Overall, 36 states received grades of D or F in the report issued Monday by two nonprofit healthcare groups that analyzed government efforts to make pricing information widely available to consumers (Terhune, 3/18).

Los Angeles Times: Two Former CalPERS Officials Indicted On Fraud Charges
Three years after a major influence-peddling scandal rocked California and the nation's largest public pension fund, a federal grand jury indicted two former top officials on fraud, conspiracy and obstruction charges (Lifsher, 3/19).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Federal Judge Strikes Down Mo. Law On Birth Control Coverage, Cites Conflict With Federal Law
A federal judge has struck down a Missouri law exempting moral objectors from mandatory birth control coverage because it conflicts with an insurance requirement under President Barrack Obama's health care law (3/18).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: North Dakota Looks At Banning All Abortions By Defining Life As Beginning With Conception
North Dakota lawmakers who approved what would be some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the U.S. are now considering outlawing all abortions. The "personhood" measures would ban abortions by defining human life as beginning with conception. It's drawing opposition from some doctors who say it could cause problems for infertile couples seeking to use in vitro fertilization to conceive, but supporters insist that's addressed in the legislation (3/19). 

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