Daily Health Policy Report

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Last updated: Wed, Apr 3

KHN Original Reporting & Guest Opinion


Health Reform

Capitol Hill Watch


Public Health & Education

State Watch

Editorials and Opinions

KHN Original Reporting & Guest Opinion

Death Rates Rise At Geographically Isolated Hospitals, Study Finds

Kaiser Health News staff writer Jordan Rau, working in collaboration with USA Today, reports: "For 15 years, Congress has bestowed special privileges to some small remote hospitals, usually in rural areas, to help them stay afloat. Medicare pays them more than it pays most hospitals and exempts them from financial pressure to operate efficiently and requirements to reveal how their patients fare. Nearly one in four hospitals qualifies for the program. Despite these benefits, there's new evidence that the quality of many of these hospitals may be deteriorating. A study published Tuesday found that during the past decade the death rates of patients at these critical access hospitals were growing while mortality rates at other hospitals were dropping" (Rau, 4/2). Read the story.

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In South Jersey, New Options For Primary Care Are Slow To Take Hold

WHYY's Taunya English, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "Camden, N.J., has serious health problems, with too many people going to local emergency rooms unnecessarily. But progress is being made, albeit slowly" (English, 4/3). Read the story.

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Capsules: Why You May Want To Reconsider That Plan With A Health Savings Account

Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes about health savings accounts: "Since high-deductible plans often mean you pay more out of pocket for medical care, it might seem like a no-brainer to sign up for a plan that links to a health savings account so you can sock away money tax free to cover your medical expenses. But there are good reasons to think twice before making that choice" (Andrews, 4/2). Check out what else is on the blog.

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Political Cartoon: 'An Arm And A Leg, And A Leg, And A Leg …'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with 'An Arm And A Leg, And A Leg, And A Leg …' by Rick McKee.

Meanwhile, here is today's health policy haiku:


Rural hospitals...
Hidden "charms" may include some
not-charming death stats.

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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Rate Boost To Medicare Advantage Plans Powers Insurers' Stock Surge

Health insurers led gains on Wall Street Tuesday after the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reversed plans to make payment cuts to Medicare Advantage plans and instead offered a 3.3 percent increase.

The Wall Street Journal: Health Insurers Prevail In Medicare Fight With Washington
Washington wants to get tough on spending—but in the latest round of payment rates for private Medicare plans, insurers emerged victorious. Shares of health insurance companies soared Tuesday after federal officials scrapped proposed payment cuts to carriers that run Medicare plans amid pressure from senior citizens and lawmakers (Kamp, 4/2).

Politico: CMS Reverses Course On Cuts
The insurance industry chalked up one of its greatest political victories in recent memory on Monday as the Obama administration reversed course on a proposal to cut Medicare Advantage rates. After intense lobbying, the agency said Monday that it would change the proposed 2.3 percent cut to those plans to a 3.3 percent boost. That's a significant swing worth billions of dollars to the industry next year alone (Norman and Haberkorn, 4/3).

Medpage Today: More $$$ Going To Medicare Advantage Plans
Payments to Medicare Advantage plans will increase by 3.3% in 2014, Medicare officials said late Monday. Officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) based the payment increase on the assumption that Congress will override scheduled cuts in physician reimbursements for an 11th consecutive year, the agency said. "The policies announced today further the agency's goal of improving payment accuracy in all our programs, while at the same time ensuring program stability and preserving beneficiary choice," Jonathan Blum, PhD, CMS' acting principal deputy administrator, said in a press release (Pittman, 4/2).

The Associated Press/Los Angeles Times: Health Insurers Lead Stocks Higher On Wall Street
U.S. stocks closed at a record highs Tuesday after reports on auto sales and factory orders provided the latest evidence that the U.S. economy is strengthening. Traders plowed money back into European stocks as the financial situation in Cyprus appeared to stabilize. Health insurers powered the gains a day after the government released revised reimbursement rates for Medicare Advantage plans. The new numbers suggest that funding cuts will be less severe than analysts and companies had feared (4/2).

Reuters: Health Insurers Rally After Surprise Medicaid Decision
Shares in some of the largest health insurers surged on Tuesday following an announcement late Monday by the government that it would increase payment rates for Medicare Advantage in 2014. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced after the market closed on Monday that it would raise the reimbursement rate by 3.3 percent next year instead of cutting it by 2.3 percent, as it had proposed in February (4/2).

USA Today: Stock Indexes Close At New Highs On Medicare News
The Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index closed at new highs Tuesday following strong reports on auto sales and factory orders, evidence that the U.S. economy is strengthening. The Dow closed up 89.16 points to 14,662.01 and the S&P 500 finished up 8.08 points to 1,570.25. The Nasdaq composite rose 15.69 points to 3,254.86 (Huggins, 4/3).

In other insurance industry news --

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Departing WellPoint CEO's Compensation Ballooned To $20.6M Last Year, As Insurer's Shares Fell
The compensation paid to outgoing Wellpoint Inc. CEO Angela Braly last year rose 56 percent, even as the company's shares slid on lower enrollment in its Blue Cross Blue Shield health plans. Braly, who resigned in August, received 2012 compensation valued at $20.6 million, according to an Associated Press analysis of the company's annual proxy statement. Most of the increase came from stock options (4/2).

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Health Reform

Health Law's Insurance Subsidies Hold Possible Tax Risk

The Associated Press reports on how people who take advantage of federal subsidies to buy insurance could owe taxes if they don't accurately forecast their income. It also offers a guide to eligibility.

The Associated Press: Health Care Subsidies Carry Tax Risk
Millions of people who take advantage of government subsidies to help buy health insurance next year could get stung by surprise tax bills if they don't accurately project their income. President Obama's new health care law will offer subsidies to help people buy private health insurance on state-based exchanges, if they don't already get coverage through their employers (4/3).

The Associated Press: Health Subsidies: How Much Do You Qualify For?
Starting next year, President Barack Obama’s new health care law will offer subsidies to help people buy private health insurance on state-based exchanges, if they don’t already get coverage through their employers. The premiums paid by taxpayers will be tied to their income, with the government subsidies making up any shortfall (4/2).

Also, a coalition of Minnesota groups launch a website to help consumers decode the health law --

MPR News: Health Website Aims To Help Minn. Consumers
A coalition of advocacy organizations has launched a new website to help Minnesotans understand how the federal health care law may affect them personally. The coalition includes the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and the Children’s Defense Fund - Minnesota. The Minnesota Council of Health Plans, the trade organization representing the state's health insurers, funded the interactive website. … The online tool is available at myhealthcarefuture.org (Stawicki, 4/2).

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Some Groups Urge HHS To Reverse Delay On Small-Businesss Insurance Program

The Obama administration announced Monday that it will delay -- until 2015 -- offering a choice of plans within health insurance marketplaces specifically for small businesses.

Modern Healthcare: Reversal Sought For Delay To Small-Business Exchanges
Small business groups and some lawmakers are urging the Obama administration to reverse course on plans to wait one year to give employees of small businesses a choice among health plans obtained through new exchanges. HHS in March proposed delaying the requirement in the 33 states where the federal government will operate insurance marketplaces either alone or in partnership with state officials next year. The comment period on the draft regulations for the small business health options program, known as SHOP, ended April 1 (Block, 4/2).

Georgia Health News: Feds Take Slow Approach To Small Firms' Exchange
Georgia's small businesses will be limited to offering their employees just a single health plan – instead of several – in an insurance exchange next year. States will get insurance exchanges — online marketplaces offering comparison shopping on coverage — starting Jan. 1, as a result of the Affordable Care Act. Georgia and most other states have opted to have their exchanges run by the federal government. And in those states, the Obama administration has decided to delay offering a choice of health plans in the exchange for small employers until 2015 (Miller, 4/2).

MPR News: MNSURE's Small Business Options Will be Ahead Of Other States
Workers at small businesses that buy health insurance on MNSURE -- Minnesota's new online marketplace -- will have access to features that will be delayed in many other states. The federal health care law calls for a system that allows small businesses to buy employee health coverage on a so-called exchange that lets workers choose from a variety of health plans ... allowing more choice than the employer picking one plan for all (Stawicki, 4/2).

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States Continue Efforts To Find Their Own Way Forward On Medicaid Expansion

Today's news regarding this health law provision comes from developments in Florida, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Tampa Bay Times: Speaker Will Weatherford Says 'Never Say Never' To Federal Money For Medicaid Alternatives
(Florida) House Speaker Will Weatherford, for the first time, indicated Tuesday he might be open to accepting federal money. "You never say 'never' in this business, I've learned that," Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, replied when asked about his willingness to accept some federal aid as part of a House alternative to Medicaid expansion. ... Weatherford has criticized Medicaid expansion as a one-size-fits-all program that Florida won't be able to afford in the long run. ... Weatherford this week said he would like a more limited scope, such as a plan that helps the disabled or adults with children. He continues to oppose providing health care coverage to all adults meeting income requirements (Mitchell, 4/2).

The Associated Press: Haslam Insists Medicaid Pursuit No 'Fool's Errand'
Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday that his ongoing pursuit of a special deal for Medicaid expansion in Tennessee is no "fool's errand" and that an arrangement could still be struck at any time. The Republican governor said he remains in negotiations with the federal government over his proposal to use $1.4 billion in Medicaid money available under the federal health care overhaul to pay for private coverage for uninsured Tennesseans (Schelzig, 4/2).

The Texas Tribune: Williams Crafting Medicaid Reform Plan
State Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, is crafting a Medicaid reform plan that would use premium tax revenue to subsidize private health plans for uninsured Texans, his office confirmed on Tuesday night. Gary Scharrer, a spokesman for Williams, said the proposal is "still a concept," one that is designed to "buy some time" as Texas debates how to overhaul Medicaid in the midst of pressure from the federal government to embrace elements of the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare" (Ramshaw, 4/2).

Modern Healthcare: State Reform Update: Pa. Governor Latest To Seek Medicaid Changes
Governors continue to make pilgrimages to HHS as states keep trying to craft custom versions of the healthcare reform law's Medicaid expansion and avoid leaving new federal funding on the table. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett planned to meet with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Tuesday evening to explore his state's options, according to spokeswoman for the governor. Corbett, a Republican, told the Pennsylvania Legislature in February that he opposed raising Medicaid eligibility but has since signaled he might support growing the program using a tailored approach (Daly, 4/2).

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Capitol Hill Watch

Confirmation Hearing For CMS Nominee Set For Next Week

The Senate Finance Committee will hold a session on whether to approve Marilyn Tavenner to head the agency that controls Medicare and Medicaid.

The Hill: Confirmation Hearing Set For Top Healthcare Nominee
The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing next Tuesday on Marilyn Tavenner's nomination to lead the Centers Medicare and Medicaid Services. Tavenner has broad bipartisan support in Congress. Even House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has endorsed her nomination, saying he worked well with Tavenner when she led Virginia's Medicaid agency (Baker, 4/2).

The Hill: Feud Between Hospitals, Medicare Contractors Explodes Over Fraud Bill
The longstanding feud between hospitals and Medicare contractors is intensifying as a House bill proposes new restrictions on anti-fraud efforts in Medicare. Recovery audit contractors (RACs), professionals who cut mistaken or fraudulent payments from the Medicare program, are pushing back against the bipartisan Medicare Audit Improvement Act, arguing the government will forfeit billions of taxpayer dollars in improper healthcare payments if hospitals are given more leeway (Viebeck, 4/3).

In other Medicare news --

The Medicare NewsGroup: Fact/Fiction: Medicare Drug Rebates Would Kill Drugmakers’ Research And Development Budgets
According to the best available evidence, Medicare Part D rebates would not be a deciding factor in the drugmakers’ R&D budgets. Dual eligibles, prior to 2006, had their prescription drugs covered by Medicaid, the state-run health care program for the poor. Medicaid drugs were part of a government rebate program, in which drug manufacturers gave states either the best price negotiated with a private insurer or a price 23.1 percent below the average manufacturer price, whichever was lower. When the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act went into effect in 2006, dual eligibles were moved from Medicaid to the newly created Medicare Part D plans. In Part D, there is no mandated rebate (Sojerdsma, 4/2).

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Death Rates On The Rise At Some Rural Hospitals

A new study finds that these critical access hospitals, which are exempt from reporting certain quality and outcomes data to the federal government, are not matching the gains made by other facilities regarding mortality rates after treatment for heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia.  

Kaiser Health News: Death Rates Rise At Geographically Isolated Hospitals, Study Finds
For 15 years, Congress has bestowed special privileges to some small remote hospitals, usually in rural areas, to help them stay afloat. Medicare pays them more than it pays most hospitals and exempts them from financial pressure to operate efficiently and requirements to reveal how their patients fare. Nearly one in four hospitals qualifies for the program. Despite these benefits, there's new evidence that the quality of many of these hospitals may be deteriorating. A study published Tuesday found that during the past decade the death rates of patients at these critical access hospitals were growing while mortality rates at other hospitals were dropping (Rau, 4/2).

Reuters: Small, Rural Hospitals Lag On Some Quality Measures
Although fewer people are dying shortly after treatment for heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia at most U.S. hospitals than a decade ago, the same trend doesn't apply to certain small, rural facilities, a new study suggests. So-called critical access hospitals -- which have no more than 25 beds and are typically miles from the nearest other hospital -- are exempt from reporting those sort of quality and outcomes data to the government (Pittman, 4/2).

Medpage Today: Mortality Worse At Critical Access Hospitals
After controlling for patient, hospital, and community factors, Medicare data on 30-day mortality rates for three major conditions at critical access hospitals showed an average annual 0.1 percent increase during the 9-year study period versus an annual decrease averaging 0.2 percent in other hospitals, reported Karen Joynt, MD, MPH, of the Harvard School of Public Health, and colleagues. The three conditions were acute myocardial infarction (MI), congestive heart failure, and pneumonia. At the 2002 baseline year, 30-day mortality rates in critical access and other hospitals for Medicare patients with these diagnoses were nearly the same -- 12.8 percent versus 13 percent after adjustments, respectively, the researchers noted in their report, appearing in the April 3 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (Gever, 4/2).

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Public Health & Education

Obama Rolls Out $100M Initiative To Study The Brain

President Obama revealed a $100 million plan Tuesday to study and better understand the human brain in part to attempt to find better treatments for Alzheimer's and other diseases.

NPR: Obama's Plan To Explore The Brain A 'Most Audacious Project'
President Obama has announced an ambitious plan to explore the mysteries of the human brain. In a speech Tuesday, Obama said he will ask Congress for $100 million in 2014 to "better understand how we think and how we learn and how we remember." Other goals include finding new treatments for Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy and traumatic brain injury (Hamilton, 3/2).

Reuters: Obama Launches Research Initiative To Study Human Brain
The White House unveiled a sweeping new initiative on Tuesday to map the individual cells and circuits that make up the human brain, a project that will give scientists a better understanding of how a healthy brain works and how to devise better treatments for injuries and diseases of the brain. … Called the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, the program will be funded with an initial $100 million from the president's fiscal 2014 budget, which the White House is slated to release next week (Mason and Steenhuysen, 4/2).

Politico: Obama Lays Out Brain Initiative, Research Push
Once again framing innovation as the key to America's prowess, President Barack Obama unveiled an expansive research initiative Tuesday intended to redefine how we understand the human brain. Obama's announcement served to underscore the research and development commitment he reinforced in February’s State of the Union speech (Meyers, 4/2).

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State Watch

Fight Brews Over Abortion Coverage In Va.'s Health Insurance Exchange

Abortion coverage could be banned in Virginia's health insurance exchange if an amendment pushed by Gov. Bob McDonnell wins legislative approval. The bill faces an uncertain outcome in the state Senate.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Fight Brewing Over McDonnell Amendment Banning Abortion Coverage Through Va Insurance Exchange
A Senate fight is brewing over Gov. Bob McDonnell's amendment to ban abortion coverage from being sold through a new federally run health insurance exchange. The bill faces an uncertain outcome in the Senate, where Democrats and Republicans hold 20 seats apiece. It's likely the most fiercely debated bill in Wednesday's single-day reconvened legislative session to consider McDonnell's amendments to 80 bills and vetoes to six (4/3).

In the meantime, lawmakers in Alabama, Texas and Indiana debate stricter abortion clinic regulations --

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Alabama Legislature Passes Bill Setting Stricter Standards For Abortion Clinics
Alabama lawmakers late Tuesday gave final passage to a measure placing stricter regulations on clinics that provide abortions. The state House voted 68-21 to give final passage to the Women's Health and Safety Act. The vote came hours after the state Senate voted 20-10 to approve the bill after amending the measure to require clinics to tell patients what medications they had received (4/3).

The Texas Tribune: Agenda Texas: Abortion Regulations Could Close Clinics
Last week we talked about the renewed push to pass a couple of bills that would increase state regulations for abortion clinics. Supporters say the measures would make abortions safer. Today we’ll hear from abortion providers who dispute those concerns about safety (Philpott, 4/3).

Indianapolis Star: Abortion Restriction Bill Passes Indiana House
A bill that would block at least one Indiana clinic from dispensing abortion-inducing drugs is likely on its way to Gov. Mike Pence to be signed into law. ... Senate Bill 371 would make any clinic that dispenses a drug that causes an abortion -- such as RU 486 -- meet the same standards as a surgery (Schneider, 4/2).

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State Roundup: Calif. Hires Consumer Group To Help Review Coverage Rates

A selection of health policy stories from California, Connecticut, Louisiana, New Jersey, Florida and Pennsylvania.

Los Angeles Times: State Hires Consumer Group To Help It Review Health Care Rates
California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones lashed out Tuesday at another double-digit rate hike for thousands of small businesses getting their health insurance from industry giant Anthem Blue Cross (Terhune, 4/3).

CT Mirror: In Gun Bill, Boosts In Coverage For Mental Health, Substance Abuse
They're not as eye-catching as the expanded assault weapons ban or a new restriction on large-capacity magazines. But the bipartisan agreement legislative leaders crafted in response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School also includes changes to insurance laws agreed to by both health plans and patient advocates. And they say the provisions will reduce barriers to treatment for people with private coverage. The changes include requiring insurers to make faster decisions about whether certain urgent mental health and substance-abuse services will be covered, and making it easier for consumers to see what criteria carriers use in determining if care is covered (Becker, 4/2).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Medicaid Contractor Objects To Cancellation, Says Nothing Improper Done to Get La. Contract
The company whose nearly $200 million Medicaid contract with the state has been cancelled says it didn't do anything improper to get the work, despite an ongoing federal investigation into the contract award (4/2).

Kaiser Health News: In South Jersey, New Options For Primary Care Are Slow To Take Hold
Camden, N.J., has serious health problems, with too many people going to local emergency rooms unnecessarily. But progress is being made, albeit slowly (English, 4/3).

Health News Florida: 'Bold' Plan Would Replace Lawsuits
Imagine a medical-malpractice system that resolves patients' complaints of harm quickly, without rancor or legal fees. Imagine a system that would encourage the injured patient and doctors to discuss the event to reduce the risk of future mistakes (Gentry, 4/2).

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: SEIU Sues Pa. To Block Merging Rural Health Centers
A state plan to close and consolidate rural health centers will hurt public health and leave under-served, uninsured or immigrant Pennsylvanians with fewer health care options, the union representing nurses at those centers alleges. … A lawsuit filed Monday in Commonwealth Court by SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania asks the court to halt the cuts. Several Democratic state legislators, including Sen. Tim Solobay, D-Canonsburg; Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Jefferson; and Rep. Ted Harhai, D-Westmoreland, also are plaintiffs in the suit (Giammarize, 4/3).

California Healthline: Spring Recess Gives Way To Spring Work
The California Legislature yesterday returned to work after a 10-day spring recess. A small mountain of bills is in front of lawmakers who have until May 31 to pass bills off the floor. Health care legislation up for discussion includes: Medi-Cal simplification. … Scope of practice expansion. … More [medical] interpreters. … Tax on soda. … Race evaluation (Gorn, 4/2).

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Editorials and Opinions

Viewpoints: Obama's Brain Initiative Is 'Modest But Welcome Start;' Disability Insurance Facing 'Immediate Crisis'

The New York Times: On The Frontiers Of Brain Research
President Obama officially announced his new brain research initiative on Tuesday, with a pledge to put $100 million in his 2014 budget to support work at three federal agencies. It is a modest but welcome start for an effort that could transform our understanding of how the brain works and help researchers find new ways to treat and prevent brain disorders like epilepsy and Alzheimer's (4/2). 

Los Angeles Times: Does Congress Have The Heart To Avert Disability Crisis?
Disability insurance, or DI, is the least-known and least-understood program within Social Security. It's also the worst-funded and facing an immediate crisis. You may have seen the forecast that Social Security's trust fund will be exhausted in the 2030s, at which point benefits would have to be cut or taxes raised. That's still a conjecture. But there's almost no doubt that the disability program's trust fund will run out in 2016, three years from now. At that point, absent congressional action, disability payments will have to be cut by about 20% (Michael Hiltzik, 4/2). 

Los Angeles Times: Is Disability The New Welfare?
Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute and the Harvard School of Public Health notes in his recent book "A Nation of Takers: America's Entitlement Epidemic" that 29% of the 8.6 million Americans who received Social Security disability benefits at the end of 2011 cited injuries involving the "musculoskeletal system and the connective tissue." Fifteen percent claimed "mood disorders." It's almost impossible, Eberstadt writes, "for a medical professional to disprove a patient's claim that he or she is suffering from sad feelings or back pain." And that's assuming a doctor wants to disprove the claim (Jonah Goldberg, 4/2).

Time: Obamacare Incompetence
Let me try to understand this: The key incentive for small businesses to support Obamacare was that they would be able to shop for the best deals in health care super-stores—called exchanges. The Administration has had 3 years to set up these exchanges. It has failed to do so. This is a really bad sign (Joe Klein, 4/2).

The Wall Street Journal: Comparative Dis-Advantage
The political options under ObamaCare usually come down to change for the worse or change for the much worse, so be thankful for small mercies. On Monday the Health and Human Services Department reversed some of the cuts it planned to impose on Medicare Advantage, even if HHS's vendetta against the program endures (4/2). 

The Wall Street Journal's Political Diary: Is There A Doctor In The House?
According to a recently released survey of 613 doctors—taken by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions—57% believe the future of the medical profession is "in jeopardy" as it "loses clinical autonomy" and income. It's part of what Deloitte calls a "new normal" in the wake of ObamaCare changes that put downward pressure on doctors' compensation and make it harder for them to run their own practices. Half of all respondents and 68% of solo physicians say they "expect their incomes to fall dramatically in the next one to three years" (Alexander Kazam, 4/2). 

New Orleans Times Picayune: More Reasons For Louisiana To Expand Medicaid
After claiming for months that expanding Medicaid would be a bad financial move for Louisiana, the Jindal administration's new analysis shows its own dire predictions to be untrue. Even now, the state Department of Health and Hospitals is downplaying the benefits of the expansion, complaining about Medicaid's cumbersome regulations and fretting about uncertainties. But the numbers in the state report are compelling (4/3).

Politico: Safe Solution For Rx Supply Chain
Three times in the past year including just last month, the Food and Drug Administration has issued warnings that counterfeit cancer drugs originating overseas infiltrated the U.S. pharmaceutical supply chain, putting patients at risk. While the U.S. is fortunate to have one of the safest and strongest pharmaceutical supply chains in the world, incidents like these remind us of the vulnerability of the supply chain and the need to remain vigilant to safeguard the lifesaving and life-enhancing pharmaceuticals that benefit every American (John Castellani, John Gray and Ralph Neas, 4/2).

Bloomberg: Be Rich, Be Smart, Live Longer
Better-educated Americans increasingly live longer than everyone else, and children from higher-income families in the U.S. are getting more education than other people. These are two of the most disturbing trends in the U.S., and it’s entirely plausible that they are related. Economists have recognized many possible connections between health and education, but so far they have done little to link the trends toward greater inequality in each area. ... On the other hand, something such as better access to cutting-edge medical treatments could increase life expectancy disproportionately for children from high-income families. And that, in turn, may make them more likely to complete college (Peter Orszag, 4/2).

Boston Globe: The BC Condom Clash
It's so easy to get sidetracked by the condoms. That's what put Boston College in the spotlight last week: A crackdown on a student group that was passing out condoms on campus, promoting public health while violating a basic Catholic rule. It’s a go-to watercooler story about theology and politics and culture and morality and "the things kids do these days." But what's most fascinating is what this story says about the state of campus activism and sex — the way students are stepping up, on their own, to fill a widespread gap in real-life education (Joanna Weiss, 4/3).

Reuters: New Bird Flu Strain Creates Fear And Surveillance
An emerging bird flu that is mysterious and deadly is haunting China. With four fresh H7N9 cases reported in Jiangsu Province and no indication as to how three Chinese adults caught the little-noted avian flu virus that killed two of them in March, the global medical community is hoping the new flu will calm down until China’s health system can determine how it spread (Peter Christian Hall, 4/2).

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Stephanie Stapleton

Andrew Villegas

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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.