KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: May 1, 2013

Today's headlines include coverage of Tuesday's press conference during which President Barack Obama offered his thoughts on the implementation of the health law. 

Kaiser Health News: Yes, Virginia, There Is A Medical Home
Virginia Public Radio's Sandy Hausman, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "One of the persistent questions about the Affordable Care Act is how are so many people, new to insurance, going to get quality health care when the system seems so strapped already. The law does have an answer to that: the medical home. But it is not a concept that is not widely understood yet. St. Francis Family Medicine near Richmond, Virginia is, like many medical practices in America, evolving into a medical home, where health care services are coordinated to manage each patient's care" (Hausman, 5/1). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Obama: 'We're Pushing Very Hard' To Meet Health Law Deadlines; A Shorter Exchange Application. But Is It Simpler?; Aetna Cuts Predictions For Obamacare Enrollment
No on Kaiser Health News' blog, Mary Agnes Carey reports on comments made during Tuesday's press conference by President Barack Obama about the health law: "President Barack Obama said … he expected some 'glitches and bumps' in the road to full implementation of his health care law. 'That's pretty much true of every government program that's ever been set up,' Obama said. 'We've got a great team in place, we are pushing very hard to make sure that we're hitting all the deadlines and the benchmarks'" (Carey, 4/30).

In addition, Jenny Gold reports on the latest version of the application for health insurance from the health law's new online marketplaces: "Consumer advocates have been complaining for months that the Obama administration's 21-page application to sign up for health insurance in the exchanges is too long and complicated. The designers of the application estimated it would take 45 minutes to complete. The administration heeded the advocates’ pleas with the introduction Tuesday of a modified application of just 3 pages for individuals who are not offered health coverage from their employer" (Gold, 4/30).

Also on Capsules, Jay Hancock reports on Aetna’s predictions for health law enrollment: "In a new sign that implementing the health law could take longer than expected, insurer Aetna said Tuesday it lowered the number of medical policies it expects to sell through online marketplaces that open for business in October" (Hancock, 4/30). Check out what else is on the blog.

Kaiser Health News: President on Obamacare: 'Still A Big Complicated Piece Of Business'
KHN has posted a transcript of President Barack Obama's remarks on health care during his Tuesday news conference (4/30). Read the transcript.

Los Angeles Times: Obama Seeks To Allay Healthcare Law Concerns
President Obama sought to tamp down fears Tuesday that his landmark healthcare law would raise insurance costs and cause other disruptions, saying most Americans were already benefiting from it and others soon would. … But the law's signature benefit — a guarantee that all Americans can get insurance, even if they are ill — doesn't take effect until next year. Building a system to deliver on that promise has been the law's most complex and costly challenge (Levey, 4/30).

The New York Times: Health Care Law Is 'Working Fine,' Obama Says In Addressing Criticism
President Obama said Tuesday that his health care law was "working fine," and he played down concerns that the law could disrupt coverage or lead to higher premiums for people who already had health insurance. At the same time, federal officials released simplified application forms to be used by people seeking health insurance, tax credits and other government subsidies under the law, which Mr. Obama signed three years ago (Pear, 4/30).

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Sees 'Bumps' For Health Law
The stakes are high for the administration since the outcome of Mr. Obama's signature domestic-policy legislation could shape the course of his second term. Republicans are preparing to seize on any early flaws to further their campaign against the law, and make gains in 2014 elections (Radnofsky, 4/30).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Obama Says His Health Care Law Already Benefiting Majority Of Americans Who Have Health Care
The president says despite what he calls "sky is falling" predictions, the Affordable Care Act's provisions are already in place for those with health insurance. He says what's left is to help those Americans who don't have health care coverage to obtain it. He acknowledged that is "a big undertaking" and predicted there could still be some glitches as the details are worked out (4/30).

The Washington Post's Wonk Blog: Poll: 42 Percent Of Americans Unsure If Obamacare Is Still Law
If you want to know what a challenge the Obama administration faces in implementing its signature health-care law, this statistic might help: Fewer than six in 10 Americans know that the Obamacare law is still on the books. Seven percent think the Supreme Court struck it down; 12 percent say Congress repealed Obamacare (Kliff, 4/30).

The Washington Post: GOP Bill Would Force Federal Workers Onto Health-Care Exchanges
A new Republican House proposal would push federal workers off their employer-sponsored health plan and onto the insurance exchanges being established under the Affordable Care Act. Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, introduced the bill Friday after talk on the Hill that Democrats were trying to exempt members of Congress and their staffs from a provision in current law that requires them to enroll in the exchanges in 2014 (Hicks, 4/30).

NPR: FDA OKs Prescription-Free Plan B Pill For Women 15 And Up
In an effort to find a compromise for a politically fraught issue, the Food and Drug Administration has approved a proposal to make the emergency contraceptive pill Plan B more available to some younger teens without a prescription and to older women by moving the medication out from behind the pharmacy counter (Rovner, 4/30).

Los Angeles Times: Plan B Can Be Sold To 15-Year-Olds Without Prescription, FDA Says
The action comes roughly three weeks after a federal magistrate harshly criticized government regulators for their handling of the drug's approval process, calling their actions "politically motivated and scientifically unjustified." FDA officials said Tuesday that their decision was based on a pending, amended application submitted by the drug's manufacturer, Teva Womens' Health Inc. (Morin, 4/30).

The New York Times: Advocates Say Managed-Care Plans Shun The Most Disabled Medicaid Users
Managed-care companies in New York have come under fire for signing up vigorous older adults referred to them by social day care centers, customers whose health needs are relatively small. But on Tuesday, legal advocates for the disabled told the state’s Medicaid director that the most seriously impaired people were getting the opposite treatment (Bernstein, 4/30).

The Wall Street Journal: Aetna Earnings: Insurer Raises Outlook
Aetna and its peers are preparing for major changes in 2014, when the health-care overhaul law calls for coverage expansion to millions more Americans. Mr. Bertolini said Aetna remains cautious about jumping into an emerging marketplace for individual health coverage, and he warned that lower government payments for Medicare Advantage next year will pose a challenge (Kamp, 4/30).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Aetna's 1st-Quarter Profit Slips 4 Percent, Health Insurer Raises 2013 Forecast
Aetna's first-quarter net income fell 4 percent as acquisition-related costs and rising health care expenses more than offset government business gains for the health insurer. But earnings still topped analysts' expectations, the company raised its 2013 forecast and said it expects more growth on top of that once it closes the acquisition of fellow insurer Coventry Health Care (4/30).

The Wall Street Journal: Health-Care Owners Shun Nursing Homes
Some of the nation's largest health-care landlords are pulling back from nursing homes on concerns they will be less profitable in an era of steep Medicare and Medicaid cuts (Pruitt, 4/30).

Politico: VA Steps Up On Women's Health Care
The nation’s imagination may be captured by the expanding combat role of women in the U.S. military. But for the Department of Veterans Affairs, there's a more pragmatic challenge. As more women serve in the armed forces, how does a massive health care system that for decades was focused primarily on men make sure women get the health services they need — whether it's a routine Pap smear or mental health care after a sexual assault? (Smith, 5/1).

Los Angeles Times: Workers Fired From Nevada Hospital Accused Of 'Patient Dumping'
Two employees have been fired and three others disciplined at a Las Vegas hospital accused of "patient dumping" -- sending mentally ill patients to other states, including California. The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday that 10 of roughly 1,500 patients discharged from Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital had been placed on buses within the last five years without "a support system/family/friends/housing at the destination," the Sacramento Bee reported (Mather, 4/30).

The Washington Post: Thrive Health Plan Approved As Medicaid Contractor
A brand-new health-care firm won the D.C. Council’s approval Tuesday to do $542 million in Medicaid business with the city, but not before a legislator accused one of the company's owners of committing perjury by not making required disclosures to insurance regulators (DeBonis, 4/30).

The New York Times: Harvard Student's Suicide As A Case Study
A lawsuit against Harvard provides rare detail on the issues involving a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder from a student-health department. … Mr. Edwards's father, John, contends, among other accusations, that his son had never had A.D.H.D. and that Harvard’s original diagnostic procedure, and subsequent prescriptions for Adderall, did not meet medical standards. Harvard attests that Johnny Edwards's care was "thorough and appropriate," according to a university statement. The trial is scheduled to begin next February in Massachusetts Superior Court (Schwarz, 4/30).

Los Angeles Times: Prosthetic Device Makers Reach Out To Aid Boston Marathon Victims
A group of companies that design, manufacture and service orthotic and prosthetic devices has banded together to aid uninsured and under-insured victims of the Boston Marathon bombing who have had limbs amputated and may need years of costly care. The newly formed Coalition to Walk and Run Again said its members are "committed to assuring the availability of appropriate patient care as well as artificial limbs and other mobility devices on a compassionate access basis" to those who had amputations as a result of injuries sustained in the April 15 bombing that injured 264 people and claimed the lives of three (Healy, 4/30).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: AP Exclusive: Calif. Prisons Spend Big On Anti-Psychotics For Inmates; Fear Of Lawsuits Cited
Under federal court oversight, California’s prison mental health system has been spending far more on anti-psychotic drugs than other states with large prison systems, raising questions about whether patients are receiving proper treatment. Figures compiled by The Associated Press show that California has been spending a far greater percentage on anti-psychotic medication for inmates than other states with large prison systems. While the amount has been decreasing in recent years, anti-psychotics still account for nearly $1 of every $5 spent on pharmaceuticals purchased for the state prison system (5/1).

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