KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: September 4, 2013

Todays headlines include reports about how the Balitmore Ravens will be part of the effort to raise public awareness about Maryland's health exchange.

Kaiser Health News: FAQ: Hospital Observation Care Can Be Poorly Understood And Costly For Medicare Beneficiaries
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Susan Jaffe writes: "Some seniors think Medicare made a mistake.  Others are just stunned when they find out that being in a hospital for days doesn't always mean they were actually admitted. Instead, they received observation care, considered by Medicare to be an outpatient service. Yet, a recent government investigation found that observation patients often have the same health problems as those who are admitted. But the observation designation means they can have higher out-of-pocket expenses and fewer Medicare benefits" (Jaffe, 9/4). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Texas Minors Can No Longer Use Tanning Salons
The Texas Tribune's Jody Serrano, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News, reports: "The relationship between tanning beds and skin cancer has concerned lawmakers on a state and national level for years, but there has been no consensus on how to address it. The federal government requires tanning bed manufacturers to disclose the risks on warning labels, and some states require youth to have parental consent to tan" (Serrano, 9/3). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Baltimore Ravens To Host Ads for Maryland Health Exchange; Study: Nearly Half Of U.S. Births Are Covered By Medicaid
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Jay Hancock reports on ads just unveiled for Maryland’s online health insurance marketplace: "The Ravens join Giant Food and CVS Pharmacy in the effort to get as many uninsured people as possible enrolled in the state' online marketplace, dubbed the Maryland Health Connection. With an ad budget of $2.5 million, the predominantly Democratic state hopes to enroll 180,000 in private coverage sold through the marketplace and another 110,000 in an expanded Medicaid program" Hancock, 9/3).

Also on the Capsules, Phil Galewitz writes about a study detailing the number of U.S. births covered by Medicaid: "About half the births in the United States are paid for by Medicaid — a figure higher than previous estimates – and the numbers could increase as the state-federal health insurance program expands under the Affordable Care Act, according to a study released Tuesday" (Galewitz, 8/3). Check out what else is on the blog.

The New York Times: Budget Battles Keep Agencies Guessing
The budget woes are afflicting, among others, state governments, American Indian tribes, military contractors and cancer research laboratories. Budget experts said that the short-term concerns over next year’s dollar figures were already hampering long-term planning and making government officials hesitant to commit to big projects or to hire needed employees. In an interview, Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, called 2013 the "darkest ever" year for the agency, whose budget is at its lowest inflation-adjusted appropriations level in more than a decade. The agency has been awarding grants to an increasingly smaller sliver of applicants as well (Lowrey, 8/3).

The Washington Post's The Fact Checker: Ted Cruz's Claims About 'Obamacare' In New TV Ad
As part of his campaign to halt all government funding for the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, Cruz makes three assertions about "bipartisan" concerns about the new health-care law. Let's look at each of these claims in detail (Kessler, 9/3).

The Associated Press/New York Times: Michigan: State Ready To Expand Medicaid
In a bipartisan 75-to-32 vote, the State House gave final approval Tuesday to a measure that would make almost a half-million more low-income adults eligible for Medicaid. The vote positions Michigan to become the largest state controlled by Republicans to support a major component of the new federal health care law. The Senate narrowly passed the bill last week. Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican for whom Medicaid expansion was a major priority, will sign the bill (9/3).

The Wall Street Journal: More Employers Overhaul Health Benefits
This fall, tens of thousands of U.S. workers will learn that they're getting their health benefits next year in a radical new way: Their employers will give them a fixed sum of money and let them choose their plan from an online marketplace (Mathews, 9/3).

The Wall Street Journal's Corporate Intelligence: FAQ: What Workers Need To Know About Private Employer Exchanges
Online marketplaces, known as private exchanges, allow employers to offer their workers a range of choices for health-insurance coverage. Companies jumping in—including benefits-consulting firms like Xerox Corp.’s Buck Consultants, Marsh & McLennan Cos.' Mercer and Towers Watson & Co., as well as insurance brokerages such as Willis Group Holdings PLC and Digital Insurance Inc.—are betting that 2014 is the year the exchanges will start to take off (Mathews, 9/3).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Maryland Enlists NFL's Ravens On Obamacare
Maryland health officials announced Tuesday that they will partner with the Baltimore Ravens football team this fall to help spread the word about the state’s health insurance marketplace that will allow consumers to shop for health insurance starting in October. The partnership with the two-time Super Bowl champions is part of a broader campaign unveiled on Tuesday to market  Maryland Health Connection that will allow consumers to shop for health insurance or sign up for Medicaid if they qualify (Corbett Dooren, 9/3).

Politico: Baltimore Ravens To Aid Obamacare Enrollment Effort In Maryland
The NFL may have spiked the White House's request for Obamacare PR help — but the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens just called an audible. The team has signed onto efforts to market the health law to Marylanders, according to an announcement from Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and officials running the state's Obamacare insurance exchange, known as Maryland Health Connection (Cheney, 9/3).

The Washington Post: Hispanics Most Likely To Go Without Health Insurance
Hispanics are less likely to be covered by health insurance in every state in the union, according to new figures released late last week by the Census Bureau. The figures show more than 30 percent of Hispanics under the age of 65 are uninsured in 28 states, far higher than the rates of uninsured African Americans and whites (Wilson, 9/3).

NPR: For Hospital Patients, Observation Status Can Prove Costly
If you're on Medicare and you're in the hospital for a few days, you may think you're an inpatient. The hospital may have other ideas. Increasingly, hospitals are placing older patients on "observation status". They may be there for days, but technically they're still outpatients. This is a big deal for someone on Medicare because followup treatment in a nursing home isn't covered unless someone has been an inpatient for at least three days. That's leaving some seniors on the hook for thousands of dollars in nursing home bills (Jaffe, 9/4).

The Wall Street Journal's Total Return: Making Caregivers Part Of The Team
AARP has crunched some alarming numbers: The number of potential caregivers available for every person who is at least 80 years old is expected to plummet by 2030, as the older population outpaces the number of younger Americans. The ratio of people in the most common caregiving age group (45 to 64) to those most likely to need long-term care (80 and over) is expected to fall to 4 to 1 by 2030—compared with more than 7 to 1 in 2010, AARP says. By 2050, the ratio could drop to less than 3 to 1 (Greene, 9/3).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Trying To Dent GOP's Southern Advantage, Democrats Run As 'Problem Solvers' Above  Partisanship
As Democrats try to curtail GOP dominance in the South, the party's top recruits for 2014 elections are trying to sell themselves as problem solvers above Washington's partisan gridlock. They're casting the Republicans' anti-government mantra and emphasis on social issues like abortion and gay marriage as ideological obstacles to progress on "bread-and-butter" issues like public education, infrastructure and health care. … Haley, who consistently frames Obama's policies as out of step with South Carolina, is trying to tie Sheheen closely to the Democratic Party, particularly for advocating that South Carolina accept Medicaid insurance expansion under Obama's health care overhaul. Sheheen sees his position differently: "I've made a very practical decision: Oppose Washington when it's not in South Carolina's best interest but cooperate with any level of government when it is, regardless of party politics" (9/3).

The Wall Street Journal: Heart-Disease Gains Partly Elude Younger Adults
Fewer people in the U.S. are succumbing to preventable death from cardiovascular disease, but most of the improvement in rates is among the elderly, rather than among younger adults who are also at risk, according to federal data released Tuesday. The rate of so-called avoidable deaths from heart disease, stroke and hypertension declined 29% between 2001 and 2010 in people under age 75, thanks in part to healthier lifestyles and better cardiac care, according to an analysis of U.S. mortality data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the rates of decline were substantially slower among adults under age 65, the agency said. Rates also varied widely depending on where people lived and their race or ethnicity (McKay and Winslow, 9/3). 

Check out all of Kaiser Health News' e-mail options including First Edition and Breaking News alerts on our Subscriptions page.

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.