Daily Health Policy Report

Monday, March 25, 2013

Last updated: Mon, Mar 25

KHN Original Reporting & Guest Opinion

Capitol Hill Watch

Health Reform

Health Care Marketplace

Administration News

State Watch

Editorials and Opinions

KHN Original Reporting & Guest Opinion

Connecticut Races To Reach Uninsured, Open Health Insurance Marketplace

Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz, working in collaboration with The Boston Globe, reports: "In the nation's insurance capital, the hunt to find uninsured people and get them enrolled in the state's new online health insurance marketplace has already begun. Officials working for Access Health CT, created under the federal health law, have collected names of more than 1,300 people needing coverage at recent town-hall meetings across the state. This spring and summer, they plan to use booths at festivals and street fairs to gather thousands more. Come fall, they'll also pay community groups and small businesses, such as barbers and beauticians, in New Haven, Bridgeport and other cities with high uninsured rates to reach out to people and sign them up for coverage on the spot" (Galewitz, 3/25). Read the story.

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IOM Panel Raises Concerns About Lowering Medicare Pay For High Spending Areas

Kaiser Health News staff writer Jordan Rau reports: "An Institute of Medicine panel on Friday panned an idea that has been raised in Congress to pay Medicare providers in some areas of the country less if their regions are heavy users of medical services" (Rau, 3/22). Read the story.

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Capsules: Officials Unveil More Details Of Colo. Exchange Funding; Doctors Eager For Evidence About Integrated Health Systems

Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Colorado Public Radio's Eric Whitney reports on developments related to how the state's exchange will be funded: "A week after approving a tax on health insurance policies, Colorado officials are offering more details of their plans to fund the state’s health insurance exchange after federal backing runs out in 2014" (Whitney, 3/22).

Also on the blog, Ankita Rao reports about doctors thoughts on integrated health systems: "Doctors say they are finding more opportunities in the integrated health systems that have been touted in the federal health law, such as accountable care organizations, which are groups of health providers and hospitals that work together to improve patient care and lower costs. But they are still hesitant to change their practices without more evidence that these systems will work" (Rao, 3/22). Check out what else is on the blog.

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Political Cartoon: 'Personnel Responsibility?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Personnel Responsibility?" by Ron Morgan.

Meanwhile, here is today's health policy haiku:


 States: "Medicaid - No!"
Politics stalls coverage.
What truly matters?
- Paul Hughes-Cromwick

If you have a health policy haiku to share, please send it to us at http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/ContactUs.aspx and let us know if you want to include your name. Keep in mind that we give extra points if you link back to a KHN original story.

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Capitol Hill Watch

Senate Narrowly Passes Budget Proposal For Fiscal Year 2014

The next step will come when President Barack Obama releases his budget, although that is not likely to offer details about changes in Medicare and other entitlement programs that the president might be willing to support.

The Wall Street Journal: Congress Set To Alter Focus After Passing Two Budgets
After the Senate passed its budget this weekend, Congress is expected to pivot to issues such as immigration and guns before attempting a broader deal on taxes, spending and the national debt later this year. … Mr. Obama has indicated a willingness to support bigger changes in Medicare and other entitlement programs than the Democratic budget called for, but only as part of broader deficit-reduction deal with Republicans that includes tax increases. The president isn't likely to detail such entitlement cuts as part of his formal budget request (Hook, 3/24).

The Associated Press: Analysis: Balance Is In The Eye Of The Congressional Beholder When It Comes To Budgets
Well before then, on April 8 in fact, Obama will present a budget of his own. It is long overdue, to the disappointment of Republicans who had hoped to make it an object of ridicule in the just-completed budget debates in the House and Senate. It gives Obama the chance to align himself entirely with his Democratic allies, or possibly to edge away when it comes to government benefit programs that have largely escaped cuts in earlier compromises. Republicans will watch to see what steps, if any, the White House is willing to recommend to slow the growth of Medicare or perhaps Social Security. Given Obama's recent series of meetings with Republicans, some GOP lawmakers say privately it would be a positive sign for him to include a proposal curtailing the rise in cost of living increases in benefit programs (Espo, 3/25).

News outlets also reported on the scores of amendments the Senate considered as part of its budget debate, including those that sought to de-fund elements of the health law and repeal the medical device tax.

Los Angeles Times: Senate Narrowly Approves Democratic Budget
More than 600 amendments were filed on the bill, from the lofty to the parochial. They included proposals to de-fund new healthcare laws, to restrict potential surveillance by domestic drone aircraft, and to prevent a Western bird called the sage grouse from being listed as an endangered species. Like some members of the Senate, it is known for its strutting displays. … Senators dispatched with several key amendments. They tossed aside the House GOP budget drafted by Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, which calls for deep cuts to the social safety net, including Medicare, and in an effort to achieve balance in 10 years. Five GOP senators defected on their party's defining document (Mascaro, 3/23).

Politico: An Obamacare Rerun: Senators Target Health Law In 'Vote-A-Rama'
Proving that the Obamacare wars are far from over, the health reform law was one of the favorite targets of amendments during Friday night's "vote-a-rama" on the Senate floor. Dozens of amendments were filed to the budget resolution picking apart various elements of health care policy: whether employers should provide contraceptives in their insurance policies, whether a tax should be imposed on medical device-makers, whether Medicare can adjust payments based on the state (Haberkorn, 3/23).

Politico: Democrats Join Push To Dump Obamacare Tax
Thirty-four Senate Democrats joined Republicans on Thursday night in a nonbinding but overwhelming vote to repeal a key tax in President Barack Obama's health reform law. The Senate voted 79-20 to get rid of the law's 2.3 percent sales tax on medical device-makers (Haberkorn, 3/22).

The Wall Street Journal: Medical-Device Tax Repeal Faces Uphill Climb In Senate
The push to repeal the 2010 federal health-care law's tax on medical devices got a boost in the Senate this week, but the search to replace the nearly $30 billion the levy provided to fund other parts of the law will impede efforts to unwind it. Intense lobbying from the medical-device industry helped nudge the Senate to vote 79-20 Thursday night to repeal the 2.3% tax on sales of pacemakers, surgical tools and a swath of other devices. Strikingly, 34 lawmakers who caucus with the Democrats signed onto the repeal, including many who created the tax by voting for the 2010 Affordable Care Act (Peterson and Weaver, 3/22).

The Hill: Senate Rejects Ban On Allowing Former Illegal Immigrants Healthcare Benefits
The Senate rejected an amendment to the budget that would have banned illegal immigrants from qualifying for "ObamaCare" and Medicaid during the period of legal status. Senate Budget Committee ranking member Jeff Session (R-Ala.) introduced the amendment, which failed on a 43-56 vote. His amendment would have prohibited illegal immigrants, who later gain citizenship, from getting healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act or through Medicaid (Cox, 3/23).

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Health Reform

What The Health Law's Future Holds

At the health law's three-year mark, news outlets look ahead to the major provisions slated to take effect in 2014, exploring their impact on insurance premiums and who might be left uncovered.

Politico: No Simple Procedure: Putting The Affordable Care Act Into Practice
Welcome to the eye of the Obamacare storm. This year represents a deceptively calm interlude — after the partisan war whoops of "repeal and replace," and before 2014, when millions of Americans are supposed to get covered under the health care law. It's a year of nuts and bolts, trying to get many complicated moving parts in place for a policy that large swaths of the country still oppose (Cheney, 3/24).

The Hill: On Third Anniversary, Obama Touts Health Law's Benefits
President Obama on Saturday touted his landmark healthcare reform law on its third anniversary, but cautioned that there was "more work to do to implement" its provisions (Mali, 3/23).

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Obamacare's Effect On Premiums Debated
With full rollout of President Barack Obama’s health care law just months away, attention is shifting from political battles to how it will affect health insurance premiums for millions of Americans. Some experts and studies predict sticker shock for people with individual coverage, who include about 5 percent of Georgians, though others say the fears are overblown. Workers with employer-based insurance, as well as those on Medicare and Medicaid, are expected to feel less financial fallout (Markiewicz and Williams, 3/24).

MPR News: U Study: After Reform, 1 In 10 Poor Will Lack Health Plan
A University of Minnesota study says 1 out of every 10 low-income people living in the state will still lack access to government health care coverage, despite the Medicaid expansion under the federal health care law. The law expands government coverage, said researcher Lynn Blewett, but there will still be low-income people without access to coverage: illegal immigrants, who are excluded from government programs, and some residents who are in the United States legally but have not been here long enough (Stawicki, 3/24).

The Medicare Newsgroup: CMS Innovation Center Continues Testing, Waiting for Results
With the goal of improving quality and cutting costs, the Affordable Care Act established The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation (Innovation Center) in January 2011 to test new methods of care delivery. However, the Innovation Center's initiatives remain in the early stages of implementation and testing, according the December 2012 Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) "Report to Congress" on the Innovation Center's progress (Solana, 3/22).

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Some Republicans Propose Using Medicaid Expansion Dollars For Private Insurance

Some governors who initially opposed the health law's Medicaid expansion are proposing to use the federal money to allow low-income people to buy private insurance in the new exchanges. News outlets report on those and related developments in Tennessee, California, Missouri, Florida and Kansas.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Republicans' Firm 'No' On Medicaid Expansion Is Shifting Toward 'Let's Make A Deal'
A new "no, but ..." approach is spreading among GOP states in which officials are still publicly condemning the Democratic president's Medicaid expansion yet floating alternatives that could provide health coverage to millions of low-income adults while potentially tapping into billions of federal dollars that are to start flowing in 2014 (3/24).

Stateline: Expanding Medicaid With Private Insurance
The governors of Ohio and Arkansas, seeking a way around conservative state legislators who refuse to expand Medicaid, want to insure some of their poorest residents using a market-based approach. The federal government appears likely to allow Republican Governor John Kasich of Ohio and Democratic Governor Mike Beebe of Arkansas to use federal Medicaid dollars to purchase private health insurance for low-income people from the new health-care "exchanges" that will be created under the Affordable Care Act. They plan to use the strategy to cover newly eligible adults making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level (Vestal, 3/22).

The Wall Street Journal: Medicaid-Expansion Puzzle
Deciding whether to expand Tennessee's Medicaid program as part of the federal health-care law should be easy for Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and the GOP leaders of the state legislature. All of them oppose the health law. They watched the state significantly extend eligibility in the 1990s for its Medicaid program, TennCare, only to see costs eat into the state budget and prompt lawmakers a decade later to kick several hundred thousand people off the rolls. But the decision is proving anything but simple (Radnofsky, 3/24).

The New York Times: Tennessee Race for Medicaid: Dial Fast and Try, Try Again
Two nights a year, Tennessee holds a health care lottery of sorts, giving the medically desperate a chance to get help. State residents who have high medical bills but would not normally qualify for Medicaid, the government health care program for the poor, can call a state phone line and request an application. But the window is tight — the line shuts down after 2,500 calls, typically within an hour — and the demand is so high that it is difficult to get through (Goodnough, 3/24).

Los Angeles Times: Outreach Effort Aims To Get Uninsured Enrolled In Healthcare
The goal is to hold ongoing enrollment events throughout the county in the lead up to the healthcare overhaul, which begins Jan. 1. … The county Department of Health Services has partnered with OneLA, an organization of churches, synagogues and nonprofit groups, to conduct the enrollment sessions. Volunteers are identifying people through the church parishes and doing pre-screening so the enrollment can occur on the spot. Some of the people are eligible for Medi-Cal, and others are being enrolled in Healthy Way LA, a temporary coverage program until the Medi-Cal expansion takes place in 2014 (Gorman, 3/25).

St. Louis Beacon: Mental Health Patients, Advocates Make Case For Expanding Medicaid In Missouri
William Shortall is among 50,000 Missourians who are in a bind because they don't have sufficient insurance to cover treatment for their mental health problems…The Affordable Care Act was supposed to throw a lifeline to people like Shortal by extending Medicaid to uninsured Missourians with incomes up to 138 percent of poverty, which is roughly $26,000 for a family of three (Joiner, 3/22).

Health News Florida: Senate Republicans, Democrats Back 'Healthy FL'
State Sen. Joe Negron's "Healthy Florida" plan, officially launched without dissent Thursday by the Senate Appropriations Committee, has already attracted support from a broad swath of industries and leaders of both political parties (Gentry, 3/22).

Kansas Health Institute: House Speaker Talks About Medicaid Expansion, Reading Initiative, Autism Mandate
House leaders today expressed support for a Senate budget provision that would bar expansion of the state's Medicaid program without the Legislature's OK. House Speaker Ray Merrick, a Stillwell Republican, said he sided with language added to the Senate budget bill Thursday that would bar state agencies from spending any money to expand eligibility for the Kansas Medicaid program without the expressed consent of the Legislature (Ranney, 3/22).

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Colorado, Maryland Make Progress On How To Fund State-Run Health Exchanges

Also in the news, reports about early efforts in Connecticut to find and enroll uninsured people in the state's health insurance marketplace and about emerging details for a call center in California.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Officials Unveil More Details Of Colo. Exchange Funding
A week after approving a tax on health insurance policies, Colorado officials are offering more details of their plans to fund the states health insurance exchange after federal backing runs out in 2014 (Whitney, 3/22).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Maryland House Advances Measure To Pay For Health Care Exchange
The House of Delegates has advanced a measure to expand Medicaid eligibility and create a funding stream for Maryland's health benefit exchange as part of the federal health care overhaul. The House gave the bill initial approval on Saturday. A vote is expected early next week (3/23).

Kaiser Health News: Connecticut Races To Reach Uninsured, Open Health Insurance Marketplace
In the nation's insurance capital, the hunt to find uninsured people and get them enrolled in the state's new online health insurance marketplace has already begun. Officials working for Access Health CT, created under the federal health law, have collected names of more than 1,300 people needing coverage at recent town-hall meetings across the state. This spring and summer, they plan to use booths at festivals and street fairs to gather thousands more. Come fall, they'll also pay community groups and small businesses, such as barbers and beauticians, in New Haven, Bridgeport and other cities with high uninsured rates to reach out to people and sign them up for coverage on the spot (Galewitz, 3/25).

Sacramento Bee: California Health Exchange To Create 500 Call Center Jobs In Rancho Cordova
California's emerging health care exchange will bring a new call center -- and 500 local jobs -- to Rancho Cordova. City and state officials confirmed Friday that Covered California, the organization instrumental to carrying out the federal health insurance overhaul in California, has signed a local lease to open a state service center on White Rock Road in Rancho Cordova. "We welcome them," said city economic development director Curt Haven. "They complement our other companies located in Rancho Cordova. We have a ready and willing workforce that will easily fill those jobs" (Hecht, 3/23).

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Health Care Marketplace

Supreme Court To Hear Case About 'Pay To Delay' Deals Between Generic And Branded Drug Makers

Generic and the brand-name drug companies -- usually fierce competitors -- will be on the same side as they argue their case against the federal government. At issue is whether brand name drug manufacturers may pay generics to keep generic competitors off the market.

The New York Times: Justices To Look At Deals By Generic And Branded Drug Makers
Just about anyone who has gone to a pharmacy and paid for a prescription knows that a generic copy costs much less than the brand-name drug. The makers of those two versions of a drug, therefore, usually compete fiercely for market share and profits. But at the Supreme Court on Monday, the generic and the brand-name drug companies will be on the same side, arguing against the federal government in the legal equivalent of a heavyweight title bout (Wyatt, 3/24).

NPR: Supreme Court Hears 'Pay To Delay' Pharmaceutical Case
The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on Monday in a case worth billions of dollars to pharmaceutical companies and American consumers. The issue is whether brand name drug manufacturers may pay generic drug manufacturers to keep generics off the market. These payments — a form of settlement in patent litigation — began to blossom about a decade ago when the courts, for the first time, appeared to bless them (Totenberg, 3/25).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: High Court Weights Drug Companies' Payments To Delay Release Of Cheaper Generic Drugs
The Obama administration, backed by consumer groups and the American Medical Association, says these so-called "pay for delay" deals profit the drug companies but harm consumers by adding 3.5 billion annually to their drug bills (3/25).

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Administration News

FDA Proposes Charging Fees To Compounding Pharmacies To Pay Oversight Costs

Reuters: U.S. Proposes Charging Compounding Pharmacies For Oversight
The head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed charging compounding pharmacies fees to pay for the oversight needed to prevent a recurrence of the meningitis outbreak that killed 50 people and sickened hundreds more. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in an official blog post on Friday that serious problems continue to take place at compounding pharmacies and she is hopeful that the Senate committee with jurisdiction over the issue "will yield strong legislation for patients across the nation” (3/22).

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State Watch

Louisiana Attorney General Challenges $200 Million Medicaid Contract

In other Medicaid news, the Alabama Legislature takes up a proposal for Medicaid managed care.

The Associated Press: Attorney General Investigating Medicaid Contract
The Louisiana attorney general's office advised Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration to cancel a nearly $200 million Medicaid contract with a Maryland company that has ties to the governor's health secretary. David Caldwell, head of the attorney general's public corruption unit, said Friday that the office has an ongoing investigation into the awarding of the contract to CNSI, which was supposed to take over Medicaid claims processing next year (3/23).

The Associated Press: Ala. Legislature To Take On Revamp Of Medicaid
The Alabama State Legislature is set to begin work on an overhaul bill that will change Medicaid to a managed care plan by 2017. The plan that will be introduced to House and Senate committees is the result of a 14-month effort by the 33-member Alabama Medicaid Advisory Commission formed by Gov. Robert Bentley in late 2012. The effort represents a major restructuring of how Medicaid works (Wingard, 3/24).

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Wash. Bill To Mandate Abortion Coverage Awaits State Senate Vote

Washington's Reproductive Parity Act would be the first state law to require insurance plans to cover abortion.

The Wall Street Journal: State Weighs Mandate On Abortion Insurance
Washington state may be on the verge of passing the nation's first mandatory abortion-insurance law, which would require all insurers to reimburse women for abortion procedures as part of their maternity-care coverage. Legislation known as the Reproductive Parity Act has passed in the state House of Representatives but still must clear the Senate (Millman, 3/24).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Wash., An Abortion Rights Trailblazer, Weighs Passing Nation's 1st Abortion Insurance Mandate
With 21 states having adopted bans or severe restrictions on insurance companies from paying for abortions, Washington is alone in seriously considering legislation mandating the opposite (3/23).

Meanwhile in North Dakota and Texas:

Reuters: North Dakota Lawmakers Approve Measure That Could Ban Abortion
North Dakota lawmakers on Friday approved a proposed amendment to the state constitution that could make the state the first to define life as beginning at conception, which would effectively outlaw all abortions. If approved by voters, North Dakota would be the first state in the United States with such a provision in its constitution. Similar measures have been put before voters in several states, including Mississippi, and rejected (Thompson, 3/22).

The Texas Tribune: Bill Could Reduce Number Of Texas Abortion Facilities
A bill advancing through the Texas Legislature could drastically decrease the number of legal abortion facilities in the state. Supporters of Senate Bill 537, which would increase regulations for abortion facilities, say it will improve women’s safety (Aaronson, 3/25).

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State Roundup: Nurses Press For Broader Responsibilities

A selection of health policy stories from California, New York, Maryland and Texas.

The Washington Post: Nurses Can Practice Without Physician Supervision In Many States
For years, nurses have been subordinate to doctors — both in the exam room and the political arena. But aided by new allies ranging from AARP to social workers to health-policy experts, nursing groups are pressing ahead in a controversial bid to persuade state lawmakers to shift the balance of power (Aizenman, 3/24).

Baltimore Sun: Bill Would Offer More Protection To Pregnant Workers
When Peggy Young became pregnant with her third child, she said a supervisor told her she was a liability and not to come back to work as a UPS package delivery driver in Landover [Md.] until she had the baby … Her midwife had written a letter saying she couldn't lift more than 20 pounds, but Young said she was willing to do her regular duties if management wouldn't give her less strenuous work. Young sued UPS six years ago for discrimination and to recoup money for lost health benefits the company denied her while not working, but lost. Most recently, judges in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against her in January, saying there was no discrimination. Young plans to petition the Supreme Court, but in the meantime, her case caught the eye of Maryland lawmakers who hope to remedy the problem at the state level (Walker, 3/22).

The Associated Press: Calif. Wants Control Of Prison Mental Health Care
Nearly two decades after a court takeover of California's prison mental health system, a federal judge is set to consider this week whether the billions of dollars invested by California taxpayers have improved conditions enough that he can return control to the state. Gov. Jerry Brown has aggressively moved to end the long-running lawsuit (3/23).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: NY Town Eyes Hospital Reopening Months After Sandy
Of the more than half-dozen hospitals in the New York area forced to close because of damage from Superstorm Sandy, only one has yet to reopen, idling hundreds of workers for months and forcing thousands of residents to travel farther for emergency health care (3/23).

Baltimore Sun: Fort Meade VA Outpatient Clinic Advances Effort To Serve Women Veterans
When retired Master Sgt. Sheryl A. Webb left the U.S. Army in 1997, she was scarcely aware of services that U.S. Veterans Administration hospitals offered specifically for women. That was well before women became the fastest growing demographic group within the U.S. veteran population, and before VA hospital officials made a concerted effort to get the word out about its women's services. On Friday, Webb marveled as she walked through the Women Veteran's Clinic inside the new $4.7 million Fort Meade VA Outpatient clinic. … The clinic provides veterans with outpatient medical care, preventive health and education services, screenings, social work and mental health clinics, as well as referrals to specialized programs and inpatient services (Burris, 3/24).

The Texas Tribune: Communities, State Lawmakers Take Aim At Obesity Rates
With obesity rates still soaring in parts of the state, lawmakers and local communities are looking at ways to combat the health crisis, especially among the state's fast-growing Hispanic population (Zaragovia, 3/25).

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Editorials and Opinions

Viewpoints: Health Law Offers 'Lifeline' To Many; National Exchange Could Solve Many Problems With State Insurance; Contrasting Looks At Faulty Hip Replacements

The New York Times: Report Card On Health Care Reform
Republican leaders in Congress regularly denounce the 2010 Affordable Care Act and vow to block money to carry it out or even to repeal it. Those political attacks ignore the considerable benefits delivered to millions of people since the law's enactment three years ago Saturday. The main elements of the law do not kick in until Jan. 1, 2014, when many millions of uninsured people will gain coverage. Yet it has already thrown a lifeline to people at high risk of losing insurance or being uninsured, including young adults and people with chronic health problems, and it has made a start toward reforming the costly, dysfunctional American health care system (3/22). 

The Washington Post: On Health Reform, A Shortsighted Vote
We're all for bipartisanship, but just because Republicans and Democrats agree on a particular policy doesn't necessarily mean it's a good one. Case in point: Thursday's Senate vote to repeal a 2.3 percent excise tax on medical devices that will help fund Obamacare to the tune of $30 billion over the next decade. ... Reforming health insurance and expanding coverage costs money — a lot of money. The medical-device tax is one part of a funding package that will enable the health-care law to cover 27 million previously uninsured people, at a projected cost of just under $1.2 trillion over 10 years, without adding to the projected federal deficit. Asking the medical device industry to chip in 2.5 percent of that doesn’t seem unreasonable, given the $100 billion-plus sector's profitability (3/22).

Fox News: ObamaCare Turns Three – A Checkup On The Rhetoric Vs. The Reality
Saturday marks ObamaCare's third anniversary, and President Obama and Democrats across the country will surely celebrate its greatest achievement to date: survival. The health care law narrowly survived a Supreme Court challenge, repeated attempts by House Republicans to repeal it and, with President Obama's reelection, seems to be set for implementation next year. But survival is a pretty low bar for the law, and far from the lofty claims made on its behalf (Paul Howard, 3/22).

Reuters: Should Congress Create A National Health-Care Exchange?
Rather than have the federal government build state-based exchanges governed by state insurance regulations, Congress should consider building a national health exchange. Insurance plans sold on the national health exchange would have to be certified by the federal government, just as employer-sponsored health insurance plans offered under ERISA have to meet certain minimum requirements, but regulations and mandates would be kept to a minimum (Reihan Salam, 3/22).

The New York Times Opinionator: A Plan To Fix Cancer Care
This year, more than 1.6 million Americans — 0.5 percent of the population — will receive a diagnosis of cancer. Their treatment will consume at least 5 percent of the country's health care spending, at a cost that is growing faster than all other areas of medicine. Doctors and patients recognize that this is unsustainable and that we need to change the way we deliver care. But we need help. ... Many cancer patients, after getting a diagnosis of a terrifying disease, pursue any potentially promising therapy, regardless of the price. But the main cost driver is the fee-for-service payment system (Ezekiel J. Emanuel, 3/23).

The New York Times: The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks, The Sequel
Last week, scientists sequenced the genome of cells taken without consent from a woman named Henrietta Lacks. She was a black tobacco farmer and mother of five, and though she died in 1951, her cells, code-named HeLa, live on. They were used to help develop our most important vaccines and cancer medications, in vitro fertilization, gene mapping, cloning. Now they may finally help create laws to protect her family’s privacy — and yours (Rebecca Skloot, 3/23).

USA Today: Hip Replacement Throws Johnson & Johnson: Our View
In the late 2000s, as evidence mounted that two of its hip implants were failing at high rates, a J&J subsidiary left the devices on the market for several years. It finally recalled them in 2010 — but not before surgeons had put them in 93,000 patients, more than a third in the U.S. This month, a Los Angeles jury found the design of the ASR XL implant defective and awarded $8.3 million to a retired Montana prison guard — one of 10,000 patients who have sued J&J and its DePuy unit (3/24).

USA Today: On Hip Replacement, DePuy Acted Properly: Opposing View
When DePuy, a Johnson & Johnson company, decided to recall the Articular Surface Replacement (ASR) Hip System in August 2010, it was the right decision at the right time. Only at that point did new data from a United Kingdom national joint registry report that 13% of patients were undergoing a second hip replacement surgery, called revision surgery, sooner than expected. We immediately recalled the product in every country where it was sold (Pam Plouhar, 3/24).

The Washington Post: 'Pay-To-Delay' Pharmaceutical Deals Smack Of Illegal Collusion
In 2006 Solvay Pharmaceuticals, the maker of the testosterone-therapy drug AndroGel, settled a dispute with a group of generic pharmaceutical companies, agreeing to allow would-be competitors into the market in 2015, five years before the AndroGel patent expires. So how is this bad for consumers in search of cheaper drugs? (3/24).

Des Moines Register: Medicaid Vote Is About Health Care, Not Politics
The Iowa Senate is expected to vote today on legislation to expand Medicaid health insurance to cover more than 100,000 additional Iowans. With Democrats holding a majority in that chamber, the bill will pass. But simply approving Senate File 296 along party lines isn't enough. Eventually the Iowa House, where Republicans hold a majority, will need to agree to expand Medicaid, too. That is why it is crucial for Senate Republicans to be true leaders today. They can help poor Iowans finally get health insurance by voting to support the legislation (3/24).

The Tennessean: Medicaid Expansion Will Save Lives
It's hard to find a reason not to expand Medicaid. It will add money to our economy, create jobs, help families become healthier and prevent needless deaths. If we don't take the money from the federal government, it won't be used to impact our national deficit — it will go to other states to help their hardworking families (Rebecca B. Kelly, 3/23).

Health Policy Solutions: Expansion Of Medicaid A Boon For Low-Income Baby Boomers
The expansion of Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act will help thousands of Colorado families who lack insurance. You've probably heard that. What you might not have heard is that the expansion will greatly benefit a large number of Colorado's aging baby boomers. These are low-income residents between the ages of 50 and 64 who may be in great need of health care coverage but often are not be able to afford it (Bob Semro, 3/22).

Health Policy Solutions: Behavioral Health, Firearms And Suicide: The Public Health Conversation We Aren't Having
The rampage killings that reignited the gun control debate have been inextricably linked in the public consciousness with the issue of mental health. … What the gun control debate in Colorado and across the U.S. has ignored, however, is that the most significant intersection of behavioral health and gun violence is not mass shootings nor violence against others. It is suicide (Michael Lott Manier, 3/22).

Boston Globe: Actors Help Doctors Learn To Convey Empathy
Early one morning when I was an intern, a truck driver, a father of four in his 40s, came to the ER with a cough and a low-grade fever. Two hours later he was dead, from an overwhelming staph infection. The resident on duty thought it would be instructive for me to deliver this news to the man's wife, who stood waiting in the hall, not suspecting that anything was seriously wrong. I stepped into the crowded corridor, found her, and said the first thing that came into my head, something I'd undoubtedly remembered from a B movie: "We lost him. There was nothing we could do" (Suzanne Koven, 3/25).

Los Angeles Times: Discord Over Elder Care Project In Sherwood Forest
Sherwood Forest is not a neighborhood of merry men and women these days. For the last several months, the leafy enclave of rambling homes in Northridge in the San Fernando Valley has been the site of a pitched battle between developers who want to build a 112-unit elder care facility and opponents who complain that the "Costco-size" institution will be an eyesore, and an unnecessary one at that, in a community zoned for single-family dwellings (3/24).

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Stephanie Stapleton

Andrew Villegas

Lisa Gillespie
Shefali Luthra

The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published by Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation. (c) 2014 Kaiser Health News. All rights reserved.