KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: October 12, 2010

Today's early morning highlights from major news organizations look at a probe of a California hospital chain, the effect that the governors' races around the country will have on the federal health law and a review of prescription purchases that shows more Americans are foregoing their medicines.

Open Insurance Season May Bring Sticker Shock 
Writing for Kaiser Health News, Michelle Andrews explores what consumers will find when their health insurance comes up for renewal this fall. "When you examine your health plan options during open enrollment season this fall, you may get sticker shock from the increases in both the premiums and the cost-sharing for services. Even benefits that are increasing under the health-care overhaul may come with financial strings attached" (Kaiser Health News).

U.S., California Probe Prime Healthcare 
A Southern California hospital chain known for aggressive billing practices and cost-cutting is being investigated by state and federal authorities for an unusually high rate of life-threatening infections among its older patients. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the state Department of Justice are looking into whether a reported surge in septicemia infections at hospitals operated by Prime Healthcare Services reflects a serious health problem or multimillion-dollar Medicare fraud, officials at both agencies said (Los Angeles Times)

Health Law's Fate Tied To State Races 
Republicans have made opposition to the Democrats' health care overhaul a central theme in their push to take back Congress. But the fate of the law may actually depend more on the outcome of dozens of state-level races across the country. While congressional Republicans won't be able to repeal health care reform with Barack Obama in the White House, Republican governors and their appointees have the power to throw major roadblocks in the way of reform plans (Politico).

States Thumb Nose At Health Reform 
A handful of governors are beginning to seriously flex their muscles in attempts to block the federal health reform law by rejecting grants or legislative action, a worrisome move for health reform's most stalwart supporters (Politico).

More Balk At Cost Of Prescriptions 
Growing numbers of Americans with health insurance are walking away from their prescriptions at the pharmacy counter, the latest indication that efforts to contain costs may be curbing health-care consumption. A review of insurance-claims data shows that so-called abandonment-when a patient refuses to purchase or pick up a prescription that was filled and packaged by a pharmacist-was up 55% in the second quarter of this year, compared with four years earlier (The Wall Street Journal).

Supreme Court To Consider Vaccine Case 
The safety of vaccines is at the heart of a case expected to be heard on Tuesday by the United States Supreme Court, one that could have implications for hundreds of lawsuits that contend there is a link between vaccines and autism (The New York Times).

First Clinical Trial Begins For Stem Cell Therapy 
Researchers announced Monday that they had injected stem cells into a patient with a spinal cord injury on Friday, kicking off the world's first clinical trial of a therapy derived from human embryonic stem cells (Los Angeles Times).

Physician Revives A Dying Art: The Physical 
At Stanford, Dr. Abraham Verghese is on a mission to bring back something he considers a lost art: the physical exam. The old-fashioned touching, looking and listening - the once prized, almost magical skills of the doctor who missed nothing and could swiftly diagnose a peculiar walk, sluggish thyroid or leaky heart valve using just keen eyes, practiced hands and a stethoscope (The New York Times).

Ad Campaign Pushes Health Care For Veterans 
The Department of Veterans Affairs unveiled a multimillion advertisement campaign Monday designed to encourage more military veterans to enroll for government benefits and services (The Washington Post).

Poll: Women See Barack Obama Administration As A 'Failure' 
The White House may view the last 18 months as historic, racking up a legislative scorecard that includes a $787 billion stimulus package and an overhaul of the health care system. A majority of women, however, see it as a failure, according to a new poll conducted by Kellyanne Conway for The Kitchen Cabinet, a conservative women's group. ... Fifty-six percent of women consider the health care reform law a failure, while 29 percent view it as a success, according to the poll (Politico).

Tennessee's Bold Leap In Care For The Aged And Disabled 
After lagging behind the rest of the country for years, Tennessee is catching up fast when it comes to changes in its health care system aimed at elderly and disabled residents. More of them are getting the assistance they need in their homes - at a much lower cost than at a nursing home (Stateline).

Another OK Near In Sale Of Caritas 
A private equity firm's proposal to buy Caritas Christi Health Care stands to clear another major hurdle this week, with the staff of the state Department of Public Health recommending that licenses be granted to operate the six Caritas hospitals under the new for-profit owner (Boston Globe).

Council Sets Abortion Fight 
The New York City Council plans to unveil legislation Tuesday that would establish strict disclosure requirements for crisis-pregnancy centers, some of which, abortion-rights advocates charge, deceive women into believing they're full-serve reproductive health facilities by masking their antiabortion agenda (Wall Street Journal).

10 Babies Have Died In Four Years At Fort Bragg 
The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission is conducting environmental tests at military housing at Fort Bragg as part of an Army investigation. Army officials say they are focusing in particular on the cases of three babies who at some point had lived in the same house, built and owned by a private military housing company (USA Today).

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