KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: July 17, 2013

Today's headlines include a report about how the delay of the health law's employer mandate might undermine enforcement of the measure's individual mandate as well as news that the House will consider a  bill that would put off both of these provisions.  

Kaiser Health News: Cerner Builds Recession-Proof 'Bunker' For Health Data
KCUR's Elana Gordon, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "This is a story about data. Lots and lots of data. And not just any data. Extremely sensitive data. The U.S. health system is undergoing a major technological shift right now. Some equate it to finally catching up to where the banking and airline industries have been for years: Doctors and hospitals are moving to electronic health records systems, and it’s not easy.  Cerner, based in Kansas City, Mo., has grown into one of the nation's biggest players in the field of health information technology. Cerner's main headquarters seems like a college campus, peppered with trees and walking paths, along with some Star Trek-like architecture" (Gordon, 7/16). Read the story

Kaiser Health News: Head Of Rx Drug Makers Group Says Obama Budget Plans Cause Concern
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey interviews John Castellani, who heads the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). He talks about the rollout of the federal health law, the sequestration cuts to federal spending and the president’s budget (Carey, 7/16). Read the interview.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: 9 Pioneer ACOs Jump Ship After First Year
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Jenny Gold offers a status update on Pioneer ACOs: "Nearly a third of the health systems chosen for the ambitious Pioneer accountable care organization program with Medicare are leaving after the first year of the three-year program. The goal of accountable care is for hospitals and doctors to save money while lowering costs" (Gold, 7/16. Check out what else is on the blog.

St. Louis Post Dispatch: Large Insurers Opt Out Of Missouri's Health Exchange
When the new health exchange opens for business in Missouri on Oct. 1, at least three major health insurers will not be participating. UnitedHealthcare, the nation's largest insurer, said Monday that it won't offer insurance policies this fall in the federally run health exchange in Missouri, but may enter the exchange later. The Minneapolis-based insurer also plans for the time being to stay out of Illinois' health exchange (Doyle, 7/17).

The New York Times: Credit Reporting Agency Hired To Verify Incomes For Insurance Subsidies
The Obama administration has hired a credit reporting agency to help verify the incomes of people who apply for federal subsidies to buy insurance under the new health care law (Pear, 7/16).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Delay Of Health Law's Employer Requirement May Hamper Enforcement Of Individual Coverage Rule
There's a bit of a domino effect undercutting President Barack Obama's health care law. Enforcement of the overhaul's central mandate — that individual Americans must have coverage — could be weakened by the Obama administration's recent delay of a requirement that larger employers provide medical insurance (7/16).

The Washington Post's The Fact Checker: Are College Students Being Overcharged On Loans To Pay For 'Obamacare'?
When the health-care law was passed in 2010, Democrats slipped in massive changes to student-loan programs, essentially cutting banks out of the business. In the official score of the health-care bill by the Congressional Budget Office, ending federal guarantees for federal loans and replacing them with direct loans made by the Education Department would yield $58 billion between 2010 and 2019. All federal money is fungible, but with such a large pot of money suddenly (theoretically) available, Congress wanted to spend it on other things. Here's the breakdown of where the money went (Kessler, 7/17).

Politico: Help Make Obamacare Work, Kathleen Sebelius Asks NAACP Meeting
Comparing Obamacare to the struggle for civil rights, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius urged the NAACP convention to focus on enrolling people in new health insurance coverage in the coming months. "Start spreading the word," Sebelius said Tuesday afternoon. "Download tool kits and customize fliers to hang up at local businesses and restaurants and barber shops and beauty salons." Sebelius called on leaders in the religious community especially to take up the Obamacare mantle (Millman, 7/17).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: House GOP Slated to Vote On Delaying Provisions Of Obama's Health Care Law
House Republicans, politically emboldened by President Barack Obama’s delay of a key requirement of his health care law, are taking another run at scrapping his signature domestic policy. The House has scheduled votes Wednesday to delay the law’s individual and employer mandates, the 38th time the GOP majority has tried to eliminate, defund or scale back the program since Republicans took control of the House in January 2011 (7/16).

Politico: 25 Unforgettable Obamacare Quotes
The House will vote on bills Wednesday that would delay both the employer and the individual mandate in Obamacare. POLITICO looks back at some of the memorable quotes from the past four years of Washington warfare over the health law (7/16).

Politico: Obamacare Pilot Project Lowered Medicare Costs
An ambitious program under the health law to change how care is paid for lost nearly a third of its participants after the first year, but not before all were able to boost the quality of care provided to patients in an experiment that some experts say holds promise to bring down health care costs in the long run (Norman, 7/17).

The New York Times: Health Plan Cost For New Yorkers Set To Fall 50%
Individuals buying health insurance on their own will see their premiums tumble next year in New York State as changes under the federal health care law take effect, state officials are to announce on Wednesday (Rabin and Abelson, 7/16).

USA Today: Most Health Records Now Are Electronic
An ever-expanding amount of the nation's medical records — millions of prescriptions, medical reports and appointment reminders — are now computerized and part of an ambitious electronic medical records program, the Obama administration reports. Since the start of a 2011 program in which the government helps finance new health records systems, doctors or their assistants have filled more than 190 million prescriptions electronically, according to data provided by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (Jackson, 7/16).

The New York Times: Dementia Rate Is Found To Drop Sharply, As Forecast
A new study has found that dementia rates among people 65 and older in England and Wales have plummeted by 25 percent over the past two decades, to 6.2 percent from 8.3 percent, a trend that researchers say is probably occurring across developed countries and that could have major social and economic implications for families and societies (Kolata, 7/16).

The New York Times: Last Day For Surgeon General
Surgeon General Regina Benjamin left her job on Tuesday and said she would return to work at the clinic she founded in Bayou La Batre, Ala. Dr. Benjamin, 56, gave no reason for her departure when she announced it last month, fueling speculation that she might run for Congress (Southall, 7/16)

The Washington Post: Ad Targets Cuccinelli On Medicare, Social Security
The Democratic Party of Virginia released a new television ad Tuesday that focuses on Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli II’s criticism of Medicare and Social Security. The 30-second spot, titled “Peggy,” features a senior citizen from the suburban Richmond swing territory of Henrico County (Vozzella, 7/16).

Los Angeles Times: Healthcare Law May Close Gaps In Mental Health Coverage
A disjointed financing system for mental health services in California has led to gaps in care, but the national healthcare law is expected to help close some of those holes, according to new research by the California HealthCare Foundation. Half of the state's adults and two-thirds of the adolescents with mental health issues aren't receiving treatment, according to the study (Gorman, 7/17).

Los Angeles Times: USC Buys Verdugo Hills Hospital In Glendale
The University of Southern California has purchased Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glendale, one of numerous mergers occurring around the country as hospitals prepare for the national healthcare overhaul. Keck Medicine of USC, which already had two hospitals, a medical school, a physician group and numerous clinics, wanted to expand its reach into the foothill communities and add an emergency room to its network. For its part, Verdugo Hills, a community hospital, wanted to become more competitive and gain access to the expertise and specialized services offered through USC (Gorman, 7/16).

Los Angeles Times: California Hospital Workers Get Training In Surviving Shootings
Between 2000 and 2011, there were 91 shootings inside U.S. hospitals, and another 63 outside on hospital grounds, according to a Johns Hopkins study. Emergency departments were the most common site of hospital shootings, and hospital employees accounted for 20% of those killed or injured. The study, published last year in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, was one of the catalysts for workshops that the California Hospital Assn. began offering to help medical workers prepare for the worst: a shooter in the workplace (Susman, 7/16).

Politico: North Carolina Abortion Bill Hurts Gov. Pat McCrory, Poll Finds
There’s little support for a controversial abortion bill in North Carolina, and voters are directing some of their anger at Gov. Pat McCrory, a new poll on Tuesday shows. Only 34 percent of voters support the abortion measure, which would bar so-called sex-selective abortions and impose additional regulations on abortion clinics, while 47 percent oppose it, the Public Policy Polling found. And 80 percent of voters disapprove of how the bill was brought to the floor and passed — it was attached to unrelated motorcycle safety legislation (Gold, 7/16). 

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.