Mother, 36, who died of bowel cancer calls on others to ‘please, please grab life and enjoy it’ in her heartbreaking final blog viewed by millions
Officials running the federal health insurance website hope to resolve glitches before open enrollment begins Nov. 15, but warn consumers not to expect a seamless experience. Meanwhile, the unusually low enrollment in Obamacare plans in Iowa and South Dakota stemmed from one insurer's business decisions.
USA Today: Don't Expect 'Perfection' On Health Care Site
The federal health insurance website is trying to resolve glitches and security questions raised by the Government Accountability Office, so people can safely and successfully sign up for insurance at [the start of] open enrollment Nov. 15. Much of the Obama administration's success in enrolling 8.1 million people in health insurance over the past year was overshadowed by the momentous problems with HealthCare.gov and several state exchanges. As administration officials prepare to test the site with insurers Oct. 7, they're trying to manage expectations while portraying some confidence (O’Donnell, 9/21).
Kaiser Health News: A Single Insurer Holds Obamacare Fate In Two States
Here’s a health law pop quiz: Which two states have the least successful Obamacare health insurance exchanges? You may guess a state in the Deep South where political opposition to the law is fierce. Or maybe Missouri? It passed a state law saying consumer advisors funded by the Affordable Care Act aren’t allowed to advise consumers. In fact, Iowa and South Dakota are the two states where the ACA insurance marketplaces struggled the most (Bartolone, 9/22).
Viewpoints: CHIP Funding Needed; GOP’s Flawed Plan To Make ‘The Pill’ OTC; Millenials’ Health Issues
The New York Times: Children's Health Insurance At A Crossroads
Federal financing for a beneficial health insurance program for low-income children, known as the Children's Health Insurance Program or CHIP, will run out next year unless Congress agrees to extend it. Bills are pending in both the House and the Senate to extend financing for four years, to 2019. Congress should approve the extension in the lame-duck session after the midterm elections so that families and state officials will know what the future holds. The program needs to be maintained amid uncertainty as to whether other good coverage will be available for these children (9/21).
The Washington Post: Two Ideas That Could Overcome Political Gridlock
There is a credible case that a Republican-controlled Senate could prove more productive. The new, tenuous majority, with an eye on 2016, would want to prove itself and would have more leverage over recalcitrant House Republicans. ... What could get done that Obama might sign? On two pressing issues — paying for badly needed infrastructure and further controlling the rise in health-care costs — two leading Democratic think tanks have proposed intriguing, bipartisan ways forward (Ruth Marcus, 9/20).
The Washington Post: Over-The-Counter Availability Of 'The Pill' Wouldn't Be A Panacea
You know it's a weird political season when several Republican senatorial candidates are trumpeting their support for making oral contraceptives available without a prescription — and Planned Parenthood's political arm is running TV attack ads against them. Obviously, the GOP is trying to deflect the Democratic charge that it is waging a "war on women," while Democrats and their allies are determined to make it stick (9/21).
Los Angeles Times: New Study Shows That The Savings From 'Tort Reform' Are Mythical
"Tort reform," which is usually billed as the answer to "frivolous malpractice lawsuits," has been a central plank in the Republican program for healthcare reform for decades. The notion has lived on despite copious evidence that that the so-called defensive medicine practiced by doctors merely to stave off lawsuits accounts for, at best, 2% to 3% of U.S. healthcare costs. As for "frivolous lawsuits," they're a problem that exists mostly in the minds of conservatives and the medical establishment (Michael Hiltzik, 9/20).
The New York Times: In Context, Health Premium Increases Don't Actually Look Like Increases
Based on data available so far, we reported last week that the average premiums for last year's most popular plans would rise 8.4 percent, but that people willing to switch plans could get much better deals — an average 1 percent increase, and even decreases in some markets. But is 8.4 percent an alarming increase or a good deal for a plan you like? Is a 1 percent increase a disappointment or a terrific bargain? To put both increases in context, we've assembled some historical data on insurance markets that existed before the Affordable Care Act (Margot Sanger-Katz, 9/22).
The Washington Post: Virginia Republicans Reject Any And All Suggestions To Expand Health Coverage
The opposition of Virginia's GOP lawmakers to any form of Medicaid expansion — under any conditions or timetable or permutation — has assumed its own convoluted logic. They are against using federal funds to insure poor Virginians mainly because the other side — namely, President Obama — is for it. The blatant bankruptcy of the Republican position was on display in Richmond this week, where legislators met in special session to debate the Medicaid expansion — despite the fact that the GOP-controlled House of Delegates had dug in its heels .... They have advanced no legislation, nor even the seed of an idea, that would provide a basic safety net for their low-income constituents who must deal with their health problems by visiting emergency rooms. That is a costly and inefficient means of providing health care (9/19).
The New York Times: Can a Computer Replace Your Doctor?
Silicon Valley is bringing a host of new data-driven technologies to health care, many of them with enormous potential. But before we rush to measure every human attribute in real time, it would be a good idea to ask: When is more data actually useful to promote and ensure better health? And when does technology add true value to health care? The results have been mixed (Elisabeth Rosenthal, 9/20).
The Wall Street Journal: What Health Issues Will Millennials Face That Their Parents Didn't?
New technologies, economic shifts and demographic trends have changed the way millennials manage work and play. What about health? To get some perspective, we asked a group of health-care professionals this question: What health issue will millennials have to deal with that their parents didn't? (9/19).
The Washington Post: The Challenge Of Fighting Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs
When some of the best science minds in the United States say a problem has become "dire," requires "urgent attention," is growing at an "alarming rate" and has become "a crisis" that threatens medicine, economic growth, public health, agriculture and national security, it might be wise to listen. That is what President Obama's outside science advisers told him Thursday about the rise of antibiotic resistance, the growing tendency of bacteria to overcome the antibiotics that are a bedrock of modern medicine (9/20).
The New York Times: A Cancer Battle We Can Win
The war against cancer can be confusing, with providers, insurers and policy makers debating the effectiveness of treatments, prevention programs and research. But there is one significant victory within our grasp. There is, increasingly, a consensus that CT screening for lung cancer can save thousands of lives each year (Andrea McKee and Andrew Salner, 9/21).
Health Affairs: Different Parts Of The Same Elephant: Medicaid Research And State Expansion Decisions
Debates about Medicaid expansion betray an underlying fundamental disagreement not only about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) but about the Medicaid program itself. Medicaid, unlike Medicare, lacks the near-universal buy-in to the fundamental value of the program to beneficiaries' health and well-being. As a means-tested (read welfare-related) program, Medicaid raises concerns and disagreements regarding work (dis)incentives, labor market effects, the "deserving" poor, and how this relates to the construct of health care as a right and a public good (Donna Friedsam, 9/19).
Chinese hospitals introduce hands-free automatic ‘sperm extractor’ for donors (that even play videos to ‘help’)
A selection of health policy stories from Hawaii, Louisiana, Kentucky, New York, New Jersey, Georgia, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Missouri.
The Associated Press: Hawaii Public Hospitals Cut While Hurting For Cash
Public hospitals across Hawaii are finding ways to reduce staff and cut services because they don't have enough money to make ends meet. Executives from the Hawaii Health Systems Corp. told lawmakers Friday that even after layoffs they are facing a $30 million deficit in 2015. One hospital on Maui chose to close its adolescent psychology unit because it couldn't sustain the appropriate staffing levels to provide the services. It's also considering cuts to oncology and dialysis services if the situation doesn't improve (9/20).
The Associated Press: Health Insurance Program Still Hemorrhaging Cash
Despite sweeping changes enacted by Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration, the [Louisiana] health insurance program for state workers and public school employees will have to use $88 million from its reserve fund to cover its costs this year. The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Office told lawmakers Friday that the Office of Group Benefits will spend an estimated $7.4 million more each month on claims and operating expenses than it will receive in premium payments. A "negative burn rate" continues even after premium hikes, service reductions and higher deductibles are put in place during the current budget year that began July 1, according to Travis McIlwain, an analyst with the fiscal office. To cover its costs, the Office of Group Benefits will continue to deplete a reserve fund that once stood at $500 million three years ago, but that has dropped to $207 million and is expected to shrink to $119 million by the end of this budget year (Deslatte, 9/19).
The Associated Press: Kentucky Aiming To Revamp Services For Elderly
Kentucky is overhauling its elderly services with the aim of stretching resources and helping aging baby boomers remain independent and live out their final years at home, rather than in an institution. The state has struggled to keep up with demand, forcing many elderly residents to remain on waiting lists for critical programs or enter nursing homes earlier than necessary (9/21).
Kaiser Health News: Too Many People Die In Hospital Instead Of Home. Here’s Why.
"New York City continues to lag in serious ways with regards to providing patients with the environment that they want at the end of life," says Dr. David Goodman, who studies end-of-life care at Dartmouth College's Geisel School of Medicine. The reasons they do this are many, but most experts agree that it has less to do with the unique characteristics and desires of people in New York and New Jersey than the health care system and culture that has evolved here. The result: More people dying in the hospital, often in an intensive care unit on a ventilator or feeding tube; more doctor visits leading to tests, treatments and drug prescriptions; and more money being spent by the government, private insurers and patients themselves (Mogul, 9/22).
Georgia Health News: Kaiser Tops Georgia Rankings Once Again
Kaiser Permanente of Georgia remains the highest-ranked private health plan in the state for the 10th consecutive year, according to the National Committee for Quality Assurance. The new NCQA ratings put Kaiser at No. 19 among 507 plans nationally. The next highest Georgia insurer was a Humana plan, at 147, and Aetna, at 151 (Miller, 9/19).
Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Test Shows How Hospitals Battle To Balance Care, Cost
Results from an experimental Medicare program launched as part of health care reform efforts show that three Twin Cities health care systems all took good care of their patients, but couldn’t always cut costs at the same time. Park Nicollet, Allina Health and Fairview Health Services all agreed to act as “accountable care organizations” under the Pioneer program -- overseeing the care of elderly Medicare patients, and gambling that the hospitals could profit by keeping patients healthy while lowering medical costs below expected levels (Olson, 9/21).
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Chis Abele’s Budget Would Add Money For Mental Health Care, Sheriff
The proposed 2015 budget of Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele calls for no new taxes, but it would give hefty increases to two departments -- the Behavioral Health Division and the sheriff's office. Abele has proposed an estimated $3 million increase for the Behavioral Health Division, which is now run by the new Milwaukee Mental Health Board, an independent, nonelected 13-member board entrusted with overseeing the county's mental health programs and services (Pabst, 9/21).
Charlotte Observer: To Big To Be Home? Changing Medicaid Rules Force Closing Of Greensboro’s Bell House
In 1979, 26-year-old Doris Lentz found a home at Bell House. Next month, she’s losing it. The residents and staff she considers family, some of whom have been together for 35 years, must scatter. The dorm-like building that is home to 22 people with cerebral palsy and similar disabilities is closing because of efforts to move people out of institutions. North Carolina says Bell House is too big to qualify for federal money that’s designated to help people live full lives in their community. Lentz, who is 61, says she knows what institutional life is like. When her mother died, the young woman spent more than three years in a nursing home before coming to Bell House (Helms, 9/21).
Philadelphia Inquirer: Whistleblower Suit Filed Against Abington Memorial
A former billing manager at Abington Memorial Hospital has filed a whistle-blower lawsuit accusing the hospital of Medicare fraud and wrongful termination. According to the suit, Joanne Cleighton, 55, of Roslyn, had been talking to hospital officials for nearly a year about her concerns involving blood samples at the laboratory. In March, the suit says, she was fired on the same day she was scheduled to meet with the hospital's compliance officer. In a statement, the hospital denied Cleighton's allegations and said it would vigorously defend the case in court. The suit, filed last month in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, alleges that lab technicians were marking routine blood samples as urgent to keep the samples in-house and get paid for their testing (Parks, 9/19).
Philadelphia Inquirer: Waiting To Live: Pa. And N.J. Have One Of The Country’s Longer Lists For Transplants
When Donald Johnson checked out of Hahnemann University Hospital on June 27, he and his family thought he was coming home to die. Johnson, 63, a Warminster resident and director of a municipal authority, had end-stage fatty liver disease and his kidneys had failed. He needed two organ transplants and had even considered going to Florida to increase his chances of getting help. He had good reason to be afraid. At the time, he was one of nearly 2,500 patients on liver transplant waiting lists in federal Region 2, which includes Pennsylvania and South Jersey. He was also among nearly 15,000 patients waiting for a kidney in Region 2, which tends to have longer waiting lists than other regions (Scott, 9/21).
Philadelphia Inquirer: Community Clinics Say Delayed Payments Threaten Their Survival
Community health center officials say their ability to function is being threatened by delays in resolving a long-running dispute with the state over how the centers should be paid. A federal district judge has ordered the state to change how it calculates Medicaid payments to federally qualified health centers, which serve as primary-care clinics for low-income residents. The centers sued in 2012 over changes that state officials made in how payments are determined, saying they thought the FQHCs were being overpaid. But while the courts have ruled in favor of the clinics, state officials recently asked for more time to respond to the judge’s order. Meanwhile, New Jersey’s 20 FQHCs say the payment changes are costing some facilities more than $1 million per year, making it impossible for them to cover their costs (Kttchenman, 9/19).
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Dental Benefits For Missouri’s Low-Income Adults Still On Hold
With the dust settled on Missouri’s contentious veto session, about 300,000 low-income Missouri adults are still waiting to hear whether their government-funded health plan will cover the costs of dental care. When the Republican-controlled Legislature voted in May to restore dental benefits for most adult Medicaid recipients, it seemed like a slam dunk. Republicans had cut the dental benefits from Medicaid nine years earlier, but this year rallied behind restoring dental coverage as a means to promote cost-effective preventive care and oral health. Democrats, who lamented the earlier cuts, had been advocating to restore the funding for years. But the legislative accord over dental coverage was threatened by a budget dispute with Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, over tax breaks for certain industries and lower-than-anticipated state revenues (Shaprio and Liss, 9/20).
The health law mandated that state regulators review health insurance increases of 10 percent or more.
Politico Pro: HHS: Consumers Saved $1B From Negotiated Premiums
Insurance regulators knocked $1 billion off consumers’ 2013 health premiums by negotiating lower rates than carriers initially proposed, according to a report released Friday by HHS. Premium rate reviews, which occurred in many states before Obamacare, are now mandatory for proposed increases of 10 percent or more. Regulators around the country are negotiating with insurers over their proposed 2015 rates (Norman, 9/19).
In a look at the process in Connecticut -
CT Mirror: Why Some Obamacare Insurance Discounts Could Drop In 2015
Costs to buy coverage through Connecticut's health insurance exchange won't, on average, rise much next year. For some plans, the prices are dropping. But some customers who get financial aid to buy their insurance could see price increases beyond the rise in sticker price if they stick with their current plans, according to an analysis by consultants for the exchange, Access Health CT (Levin Becker, 9/19).
Today's headlines include a variety of stories detailing how health issues are playing in the midterm election campaigns.
Kaiser Health News: A Single Insurer Holds Obamacare Fate In Two States
Capital Public Radio’s Pauling Bartolone, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: “Here’s a health law pop quiz: Which two states have the least successful Obamacare health insurance exchanges? You may guess a state in the Deep South where political opposition to the law is fierce. Or maybe Missouri? It passed a state law saying consumer advisors funded by the Affordable Care Act aren’t allowed to advise consumers. In fact, Iowa and South Dakota are the two states where the ACA insurance marketplaces struggled the most (Bartolone, 9/22). Read the story.
Kaiser Health News: Too Many People Die In Hospital Instead Of Home. Here’s Why.
WNYC’s Fred Mogul, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: “’New York City continues to lag in serious ways with regards to providing patients with the environment that they want at the end of life,’ says Dr. David Goodman, who studies end-of-life care at Dartmouth College's Geisel School of Medicine. The reasons they do this are many, but most experts agree that it has less to do with the unique characteristics and desires of people in New York and New Jersey than the health care system and culture that has evolved here. The result: More people dying in the hospital, often in an intensive care unit on a ventilator or feeding tube; more doctor visits leading to tests, treatments and drug prescriptions; and more money being spent by the government, private insurers and patients themselves” (Mogul, 9/22). Read the story.
USA Today: Don't Expect 'Perfection' On Health Care Site
The federal health insurance website is trying to resolve glitches and security questions raised by the Government Accountability Office, so people can safely and successfully sign up for insurance at open enrollment Nov. 15. Much of the Obama administration's success in enrolling 8.1 million people in health insurance over the past year was overshadowed by the momentous problems with HealthCare.gov and several state exchanges. As administration officials prepare to test the site with insurers Oct. 7, they're trying to manage expectations while portraying some confidence (O’Donnell, 9/21).
The Washington Post’s Wonkblog: Millions Have Joined Medicaid Under Obamacare. Here’s What They Think Of It.
The Medicaid program, already the nation's largest insurer, has quickly added millions to its rolls since the start of Obamacare's coverage expansion. And it appears that Medicaid enrollees are generally happy to have coverage, though many are encountering roadblocks to receiving the care they want, according to new research that provides one of the earliest insights into people's experiences under the expanded health insurance program for low-income Americans (Millman, 9/19).
The Washington Post: In Heated Midterm Contests, GOP Candidates Explore A Move To The Middle
Buoyed by President Obama’s deep unpopularity, the Republican Party is positioned to reclaim a national governing majority for the first time in nearly a decade by winning control of the Senate. But Republicans have little margin for error, and most key races remain tossups. That’s in part because many of those same polls show that voters favor Democrats on several issues, including pocketbook economic concerns and women’s reproductive health issues. This has led many Republican candidates to take steps — some only in recent weeks — to project a more moderate image and try to inoculate themselves from attacks portraying them as extremists (Rucker and Wilson, 9/21).
The New York Times: To Win Back Older Voters, Democrats Talk Up Social Security
While the [Democratic] party by necessity is focused on motivating its dispirited base of women, Latinos, African-Americans and young people, lately the number of television ads mentioning Social Security and Medicare in places with close congressional races testifies to the battle for retirement-age voters. In the first half of September, one in five Democratic ads dealt with either a candidate’s commitment to the programs or, more often, the threat from Republicans, according to Kantar Media CMAG, a nonpartisan media monitor. By comparison, one in 10 Republican ads mentioned the programs, typically to answer Democrats’ assaults. Many Democratic candidates, party committees and allied groups are drawing a link between Republican plans to overhaul Medicare and Social Security and cut taxes for wealthy Americans, on the one hand, and Republicans’ support from the billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch (Calmes, 9/20).
The Associated Press: GOP Holds Hagan To Standard She Used In 2008
But Hagan can’t completely shake the 95 percent figure, which Tillis’ campaign considers the capstone of a narrative that Hagan said one thing in 2008 but did another in Washington. Her vote for Obama’s signature 2010 health care law and her Obama-like assertions that people could keep their doctor and insurance plan under the overhaul reinforce the difficulty. The president “is not real popular in North Carolina and has the potential of making a vote for her less attractive than it might otherwise be,” said Duke University political science professor David Rohde (9/19).
The New York Times: Republicans Switch Firm Handling Obama Suit
House Republicans on Friday replaced the firm handling their lawsuit against President Obama after the lawyer representing them pulled out over what was said to be political backlash among his colleagues at the firm, Baker Hostetler. The lawyer, David B. Rivkin Jr., had taken the case on behalf of House Republicans in August, right after they voted to sue the president, accusing him of overstepping the powers of the presidency. Two people with knowledge of the situation said Mr. Rivkin withdrew from the case under pressure after facing criticism that he had taken on an overly partisan lawsuit. ... With Mr. Rivkin’s withdrawal, the House Administration Committee signed a new contract on Friday with William A. Burck, co-head of the Washington office of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. Mr. Burck had served as outside counsel for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform when House Republicans sued Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to produce documents related to the botched gunrunning investigation known as Operation Fast and Furious (Parker, 9/19).
The Washington Post: Congress Approves Tighter Scrutiny Of Hospices
Hospice agencies must subject themselves to government inspections at least once every three years under new legislation approved by Congress, part of a measure that addresses concerns about substandard operators in the booming industry. Approved by the House earlier this week and by the Senate late Thursday night, the bill also requires closer scrutiny of hospices at which a large percentage of patients live longer than six months — a sign to regulators that a hospice may be intentionally enrolling people who are more profitable than patients closer to death (Whoriskey, 9/19).
Los Angeles Times: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Signals She Has No Plans To Retire Soon
Earlier in her court career, Ginsburg was cautious and restrained, voting with the liberal bloc but rarely raising her voice. But in recent years, she has spoken out against what she has called conservative activism. … In June, she delivered another sharp dissent when the court, by a 5-4 vote in the Hobby Lobby case, ruled Christian business owners had a religious-liberty right to refuse to pay for the full range of birth control methods that were made part of health insurance by the Affordable Care Act. The five men who formed the majority had a "blind spot," Ginsburg said in one interview, and did not see the importance of these contraceptives for working women (Savage, 9/20).
The Wall Street Journal: Medicare's Annual Enrollment Period Approaches
Got Medicare? Two recent developments may help you figure out what type of coverage to elect during this fall's open-enrollment period, and how to navigate the backlogged system for appealing Medicare claim denials (Tergesen, 9/20).
The New York Times: After Surgery, Surprise $117,000 Medical Bill From Doctor He Didn’t Know
In operating rooms and on hospital wards across the country, physicians and other health providers typically help one another in patient care. But in an increasingly common practice that some medical experts call drive-by doctoring, assistants, consultants and other hospital employees are charging patients or their insurers hefty fees. They may be called in when the need for them is questionable. And patients usually do not realize they have been involved or are charging until the bill arrives. The practice increases revenue for physicians and other health care workers at a time when insurers are cutting down reimbursement for many services (Rosenthal, 9/20).
NPR: Which Catholics Offer Birth Control? Look To The Insurers
The Affordable Care Act requires that most health plans offer birth control to women. Around the country, Catholic employers have been arguing in court that having anything to do with insurance coverage of contraceptives violates their freedom of religion. But when the insurance companies themselves are Catholic, contraceptive coverage comes without a hitch (9/21).
The Wall Street Journal: Gynecologists Resist FDA Over Popular Surgical Tool
Doctors nationwide are still using a gynecological tool months after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned that it can spread undetected cancer, demonstrating the limits of the regulator's reach into clinical practice. Since the FDA warning in April, Johnson & Johnson JNJ +0.60% pulled the device called a laparoscopic power morcellator from the market; many hospitals, such as Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital and Philadelphia's Temple University Hospital, put moratoriums on the tool; and some regional insurers stopped covering its use (Levitz and Kamp, 9/21).
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Dry-roasted peanuts ‘worst for allergies’: Findings will help scientists develop nuts that prevent reactions
It's tragic when advocates of abortion try to push their political agenda at the expense of women's health. The legislation touted in the op-ed " Support efforts to keep politicians out of examining rooms ," would be better labelled the Patient Mistrust Act.
52,000 cancer cases a year are spotted too late: Delays blamed on ‘stiff upper lip’ mentality and pressure on GPs not to refer patents for costly tests
Parents warned of poison spider after girl, 4, was bitten in her room and left with swollen leg and red rash which spread over her body in hours
Guest columnist Michael Gonidakis serves as the President of Ohio Right to Life. He writes in opposition to allowing abortion clinic to transfer patients to public hospitals.
Couple who lived on takeaways shed more than 13st between them after discovering how to make kebabs at home
Want a knee op with far less pain? Go back to the 1980s: A new interior brace means tendon can be repaired rather than replaced