Daily Health Policy Report

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Last updated: Wed, May 2

KHN Original Reporting & Guest Opinion

Administration News

Health Reform

Capitol Hill Watch

Campaign 2012

Coverage & Access

Health Information Technology

State Watch

Editorials and Opinions

KHN Original Reporting & Guest Opinion

Dr. Otis Brawley: 'The System Really Is Not Failing … Failure Is The System' (Video)

Kaiser Health News features a video of excerpts of a recent speech by Dr. Otis Brawley, the chief medical officer and executive vice president of the American Cancer Society, in which he has a powerful message for the country: We're all responsible for overuse of the health care system (5/1). Watch the speech or read the transcript.

This Story: Print | Link to | Top

In Massachusetts, Hope For Higher Salaries If Health Care Inflation Slows

WBUR's Martha Bebinger, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "As Massachusetts' state legislators put the finishing touches on a major health care cost-control bill, there is still one big question: How much could it save? A recent report claims employers and employees could see between $8 billion and $34.5 billion in savings over nine years" (Bebinger, 5/1). Read the story.

This Story: Print | Link to | Top

Capsules: When Is A Joint Committee Disjointed?; Advocates Worry States Are Moving Too Fast On Dual Eligibles; Funding Boost For Community Health Centers

Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Marilyn Werber Serafini reports on news from the congressional Joint Economic Committee: "Over the past two weeks, 18 scathing messages hammering the Obama administration on health care matters have been e-mailed to reporters and congressional staff from an address associated with the congressional Joint Economic Committee – a panel of Democrats and Republicans from the House and Senate" (Werber Serafini, 5/2).

Meanwhile, Sarah Barr reports on a new timeline to improve care for dual eligibles: "Some states likely will begin testing new ways to care for people who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid early next year—a timeline that has some advocates urging officials to slow down" (Barr, 5/1).

Also on Capsules, Phil Galewitz reports on a funding boost for community health centers: "The Obama administration on Tuesday gave out $728 million to expand and modernize 398 community health centers that provide primary care mainly to the poor" (Galewitz, 5/1). Check out what else is on the blog.

This Story: Print | Link to | Top

Political Cartoon: 'Truth In Labeling?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Truth In Labeling?" by Chris Weyant.

Meanwhile, here's today's health policy haiku:


Repealing the health
law - good; Coverage for your
, much better.

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.

This Story: Print | Link to | Top

Administration News

Administration Gives Community Health Centers A $728M Boost

The administration noted that patient rolls have swelled at the centers as more Americans lost their jobs and health insurance. The White House said 20 million Americans - up from 17 million four years ago - now receive care at the federally funded facilities.

Reuters: Health Centers For Poor, Uninsured See Ranks Swell
Community health centers that cater to the poor and uninsured saw their patients' ranks swell by nearly 18 percent from 2008 to 2011 as job loss left more Americans without health insurance, the Obama administration said on Tuesday. A report released by the White House said 20 million Americans now receive healthcare services through 8,500 community health centers, up from 17 million four years ago (Morgan, 5/1).

The Associated Press: Community Health Centers Getting $700M Upgrade
Officials say nearly 400 community health centers will share more than $700 million in capital improvement grants as a result of President Barack Obama's health care law. ... The grants for construction and renovation projects announced Tuesday are part of an $11 billion funding boost for the centers under the health care law (5/1).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Community Health Centers Get $728M Boost To Serve More People
The Obama administration on Tuesday gave out $728 million to expand and modernize 398 community health centers that provide primary care mainly to the poor (Galewitz, 5/1). 

The Hill: HHS Touts Health Law As Expanding Access For Millions To Clinics
Millions will have access to health care at local clinics thanks to investments contained in the 2010 healthcare overhaul and the economic stimulus package, the federal health department announced.  The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said that the Affordable Care Act will have funded the construction of more than 300 new community health centers by 2014. Sixty-seven have been completed so far, it said (Viebeck, 5/1).

Politico Pro: Sebelius Announces Health Center Grants
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced more than $728 million in funding from the Affordable Care Act on Tuesday for nearly 400 community health centers in the U.S. Speaking at Fairmount Primary Care Center in Philadelphia, Sebelius stressed the role of community health centers for prevention and chronic disease treatment. She said the grants "will expand our ability to provide high-quality care to millions of people while supporting good paying jobs in communities across the country." Of the grant money, $629 million will go to 171 health centers for projects such as expanding current facilities, improving services and bringing in new patients. According to HHS, the money will allow these centers to serve an additional 860,000 people (Smith, 5/1).

News organizations from a variety of states offered local coverage about how these federal funds will be used -

Denver Post: Eight Colorado Health Centers To Get $22 Million In Federal Funds
More than $22 million is about to flow into Colorado to help eight community health centers renovate and expand to serve 27,160 new patients. "We are busting at the seams," said John Santistevan, chief financial officer for Salud Family Health Centers, which was awarded more than $5 million in two federal grants. "This will be more than a 50 percent expansion. We've really outgrown our facility" (Robles, 5/2).

California News Service/San Francisco Chronicle: Bay Area Health Centers Get $19 Million In Grants
Bay Area health centers will receive almost $19 million to expand service to thousands of uninsured, immigrant and other needy patients, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday. The grants are part of a $728 million nationwide program contained in the 2009 health care bill to help community health programs expand their capacity by building new facilities and renovating existing centers. Nearly 1 in 6 dollars - roughly $122 million - will go to California, aimed primarily at rural areas with large, underserved populations (Veyriras and Chilaka, 5/2).

San Jose Mercury News: Health Centers Get Grants
The Obama administration Tuesday awarded $122 million to community health centers around California, including several around the Bay Area, as part of the nation's new health care law... The facilities that will use the grants on long-term renovation projects include San Jose Foothills Family Community Clinic, which received $900,000. Santa Cruz County got $2.4 million (Rosenberg, 5/1).

California Healthline: Health Facilities Get Improvement Boost
Since a large percentage of Shasta health center's patients are Medi-Cal beneficiaries or uninsured, it has been a challenge to serve so many more patients, [Dean Germano, CEO of Shasta Community Health Center] said. "There is a much higher proportion of patients who are uninsured than we've ever seen," he said (Gorn, 5/2).

(St. Paul) Pioneer Press: Minnesota Clinics Sharing $15.3M In Grants To Expand Facilities
Community health centers in Minnesota are being awarded $15.3 million by the federal government for capital improvement projects, according to an announcement by federal officials Tuesday, May 1. The money is being made available through the Affordable Care Act, the federal government's overhaul of the nation's health care system that Congress passed in 2010. The health centers are nonprofit private or public entities serving designated populations or communities that lack access to health care providers (Snowbeck, 5/1). 

Minnesota Public Radio: Health Care Practitioners Short In Supply In Rural Communities
Rural health leaders from Minnesota told White House officials Tuesday that their communities not only face shortages of nurses and doctors, but of many other health care workers as well. ... [That includes] nurse practitioners; physician assistants; dental therapists and community paramedics (Stawicki, 5/1).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Feds Award $15M To Minnesota Community Health Centers
Minnesota community health clinics will receive more than $15 million in grants under the federal health law, according to an announcement Tuesday by U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. The grants will help the centers serve an estimated 9,700 patients, Sebelius said. The Minnesota grants, totaling $15,363,727, are among $728 million in national awards announced Tuesday under the 2010 Affordable Care Act (Lerner, 5/1).

Boston Globe: Mass. Health Centers Awarded $34 Million
Eleven Massachusetts community health centers, which serve patients in some of the state’s poorest neighborhoods, will receive nearly $34 million in grants under the federal health care law, the Obama administration announced Tuesday. The money, which the centers estimated will help them care for roughly 42,500 new patients, is also meant to help expand their facilities and improve existing services, federal officials said (Lazar, 5/1).

Health News Florida: Health Centers To Get $21M
Florida's community health centers, which offer medical homes for uninsured low-income patients, will receive $21 million under the Affordable Care Act -- the law that state officials are trying to get thrown out. The grants, announced today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will enable the centers to expand to serve an estimated 41,000 new patients in Florida (Watts, 5/1). 

Miami Herald: Miami-Dade Clinics To Get $6 Million For Expansion
Miami-Dade community health centers will receive more than $6 million in funds from a provision in the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration reported Tuesday. Borinquen Health Care will receive $4.3 million, Camillus Health Concern $800,000, Community AIDS Resource $500,000 and Community Health of South Florida $500,000. All the funds are intended for renovation and construction projects (Dorschner, 5/1). 

Georgia Health News: 5 Health Centers Get $11 Million From Feds
A Stone Mountain health center highlighted in a recent Kaiser Health News article  for scoring poorly on six care measures will get the largest amount awarded in Georgia. Oakhurst Medical Centers will receive $5 million to construct a larger facility. Jeffrey Taylor, Oakhurst's CEO, said the building will be in a more visible location, on Memorial Drive. "People now drive by our [current] facility and head to Grady's emergency room," Taylor told GHN (Miller, 5/2). 

The Texas Tribune: On the Records: $61 Million Awarded for Health Centers
It's unknown how the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on the case or whether their ruling will affect these funds, but federal officials said they're moving forward despite the uncertainty. ... The federal government estimates Texas is short 484 primary care doctors. Most of the underserved regions are rural, according to a 2012 report by the Texas Department of State Health Services (Aaronson, 5/1). 

Philadelphia Inquirer: Area Health Clinics Get A Boost From New Federal Funding
At Project H.O.P.E. in Camden, a group of 10 behavioral health patients is sometimes packed into an exam room at midday while the doctor is at lunch. That is expected to change over the next few years as the health center for the homeless triples its size with the help of a $4.7 million grant, part of $728 million in capital funding to community health centers nationwide that U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Tuesday in a visit to the Fairmount Health Center in Philadelphia (Sapatkin, 5/2).

Detroit Free Press: $19.6 M In Health Care Grants Heading To Help More Than 23,000 In Michigan
Health care for poor people in Michigan is poised to expand with more than $19.6 million in grants announced Tuesday as part of health care reform. The funds are part of an effort to help an additional 860,000 patients nationwide, including an estimated 23,521 Michiganders, gain access to health care. Dr. Anand Parekh, a deputy assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, was in Detroit to help announce the grants heading to Michigan (Erb, 5/2).

Kansas Health Institute News: Kansas Health Centers Awarded $21.7 Million To Expand Services
In Pittsburg, the community health center so desperately needed more space that last year staff converted closets and a bathroom into offices. ... The waiting room has been at capacity for years with more demand on it after one of the area's biggest employers was shuttered at the end of 2008. The wheel maker Superior closed as the auto industry crashed and the number of people near Pittsburg without insurance shot up from 12 percent in 2009 to nearly 18 percent in 2010 (Cauthon, 5/1).

KCUR: Community Health Center To Expand In Independence
One of Kansas City’s main community health centers got a major funding boost today. Swope Health Services has received $2,515,313 in federal grants for facility and infrastructure upgrades.  A fifth of that money will go toward the equipment needed to upload mammography and dental images to electronic health records.   The rest will enable Swope to build a new clinic in Independence, Mo. (Gordon, 5/1).

This Story: Print | Link to | Top

Health Reform

In Run Up To Health Law Ruling, High Court's Approval Hits New Low

A poll by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press found the court's favorability rating to be 52 percent, the lowest in 25 years.

Politico: SCOTUS Favorability Plummets, Poll Shows
The Supreme Court's favorability rating has plummeted to a 25-year low, with Americans on both sides of the aisle demonstrating historically negative views of the high court, according to a poll released Tuesday. … The survey also found that opponents and supporters of the Affordable Care Act hold similar views: 52 percent of proponents and 55 percent of opponents of President Barack Obama's health care law said they have a positive view of the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of the law earlier this year (Lee, 5/1).

The Hill: High Court's Approval Rating Hits New Low Ahead Of Health Ruling
Public opinion of the Supreme Court is at an all-time low ahead of a politically charged ruling on the healthcare reform law. The court's favorability rating stands at 52 percent, according to a poll released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press. Twenty-nine percent of those polled said they have an unfavorable view of the high court. The finding comes as Republicans and Democrats map out their strategies for handling the court's healthcare ruling, which is expected in June. Both parties say the court's public image could be at stake (Baker, 5/1).

This Story: Print | Link to | Top

Capitol Hill Watch

Congress Wrangling Over CHIP, Mandatory Medicare Cuts

On Capitol Hill, Republicans are charging that the health law is encouraging businesses to drop coverage and politicians prepare for the next fight on some of the law's provisions.

The Hill: GOP: Health Care Law 'Encourages' Business To Cut Back Benefits
President Obama's healthcare law gives the country’s biggest businesses a strong incentive to quit offering healthcare benefits, House Republicans said Tuesday. Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee said employers would save billions of dollars if they quit offering health coverage to their employees ... the Congressional Budget Office has said it does not expect an exodus from employer-based insurance (Baker, 5/1).

Politico: GOP: Cut State Bonuses For Children's Health Care
House Republicans want to stop rewarding states for finding and enrolling low-income children in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, and public health advocates are livid. The Republicans say it's a smart fiscal move that will better protect the program against fraud; their critics say it's undermining years of progress states have made in identifying and enrolling a hard-to-serve population (DoBias, 5/1).

Kaiser Health News: When Is A Joint Committee Disjointed? 
Over the past two weeks, 18 scathing messages hammering the Obama administration on health care matters have been e-mailed to reporters and congressional staff from an address associated with the congressional Joint Economic Committee – a panel of Democrats and Republicans from the House and Senate (Werber Serafini, 5/2).

The New York Times: Fate Of Postal Service Awaits Action In House
Perhaps most significant, the bill would restructure the payments the agency makes into a health benefits fund for future retirees. Under a 2006 law, the agency has to pay $5.5 billion annually into the fund, which the Postal Service said had added $20 billion in debt to its balance sheet since 2007. The House bill differs substantially from the Senate version (Nixon, 5/1).

Modern Healthcare: Legislation To Avoid Mandatory Cuts Awaits Budget Panel
Next week, House Budget Committee members will consider legislation that includes healthcare spending reductions and the repeal of some provisions of the reform law as part of a package to avoid across-the-board cuts to federal programs set to begin next year (Zigmond, 5/1).

JAMA: "Doc Fix" Saves Medicare Payments Again But Takes the Funds From Public Health
It has become an annual ritual: after mandated substantial cuts in Medicare payments to physicians, many practitioners threaten to leave the program, putting the elderly population's health at risk—a scenario averted only after Congress steps in at the last minute and delays the cuts. But this year the ritual is sacrificing funding earmarked for prevention and public health programs, and no one providing health care in any venue appears to be happy about the situation (Mitka, 5/2).

Modern Healthcare: Finance Committee To Seek Provider Input On Fraud Prevention
Senate Finance Committee members plan to issue an open letter to U.S. healthcare providers Wednesday to broadly solicit advice on the best ways to prevent waste, fraud and abuse in federal healthcare programs (Carlson, 5/1).

This Story: Print | Link to | Top

Campaign 2012

Latest Skirmish In 'War On Women' Involves Health Policy Concerns

NPR reports that the latest flashpoint involves a $15 billion cut from the health law's prevention trust fund. Meanwhile, The Washington Post offers a fact check on stats offered by the Romney campaign about the Obama administration and women.

NPR: Are Democrats Reaching On Latest 'War On Women' Claim?
The latest skirmish in the so-called war on women has to do with, of all things, interest rates on student loans. More specifically, the effort by House Republicans to offset the cost of a federal student loan bill by cutting funding from a $15 billion preventive health fund included in the 2010 Affordable Care Act (Rovner, 5/1).

The Washington Post: The Fact Checker: Romney Campaign's Misleading Stats: Women In The Obama Economy
Democrats have pushed for free contraceptive coverage, equal pay and renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, while Republicans such as Ed Gillespie, one of the top advisors for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, try to drive home the notion that women have fared worse than men during the Obama administration. As Gillespie put it, "It's still the economy, and women aren't stupid." Let's look at the numbers Gillespie brought up. Are they accurate? Do they tell the whole story? (Hicks, 5/2).

This Story: Print | Link to | Top

Mass., Ariz. Senate Races Grab National Spotlight

The hotly contested race between Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., and Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic challenger, continues to involve health policy issues. Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports that Democrats are hoping that former Surgeon General Richard Carmona will turn Arizona "blue."

The New York Times: A Shot Is Sunk, And Taken, In Massachusetts Race
The Warren campaign says this political moment is of little consequence compared with those involving health care and student loans that middle-class voters face every day. "These are the moments that Elizabeth Warren cares about -- they are why she is running for Senate -- not manufactured moments in a long political campaign," said Kyle Sullivan, a spokesman for Ms. Warren. … At the union event in Washington on Tuesday, Ms. Warren took Mr. Brown to task for opposing the federal health care law while using it to his family's benefit (Goodnough and Seelye, 5/1).

Boston Globe: Warren Hits Brown Over His Use Of Health Law
Democrat Elizabeth Warren said Tuesday that "it is wrong"’ that Senator Scott Brown has voted to block and repeal President Obama's health care overhaul while he continues to insure his nearly 24-year-old daughter through an extended-coverage provision in the law. Warren raised the topic, first reported in Tuesday's Globe, as she addressed the AFL-CIO's Building and Construction Trades Department in Washington (Johnson, 5/1).

The Washington Post: Richard Carmona, Former Bush Surgeon General, Best Hope Of Turning Arizona Blue, Democrats Say
Carmona has yet to leap a tall building in a single bound, but Democrats here are counting on him to provide some political heroics: They're hoping Carmona will not just take a Republican seat but also give President Obama the boost he needs to win Arizona, the one red state his campaign thinks can be turned blue this year (Sonmez, 5/2).

This Story: Print | Link to | Top

Coverage & Access

Courtroom Turf Battle: Which Professional Should Administer Anesthesia?

The New York Times: Debate Over Who Should Be Allowed To Administer Anesthesia Moves To Courts
The debate pits nurse anesthetists, who specialize in administering anesthesia and maintain that they are well equipped to treat patients on their own, against anesthesiologists, who are physicians and say nurses lack the necessary training. The dispute dates to a 2001 change in Medicare and Medicaid regulations, allowing states to opt out of a requirement that nurse anesthetists be supervised. And it is part of a broader turf war over how much power nurses should have in treating patients (Frosch, 5/1).

This Story: Print | Link to | Top

Health Information Technology

Hospitals Struggling To Meet Electronic Records Goals

According to the American Hospital Association, more than 80 percent of hospitals have yet to achieve the first stage of electronic health record "meaningful use" and, therefore, can't qualify for federal incentive payments.

Bloomberg: Electronic-Records Goals Aren't Met By 80% Of U.S. Hospitals
More than 80 percent of hospitals have yet to achieve the requirements for the first stage of a $14.6 billion U.S. program to encourage doctors to adopt electronic medical records, the industry’s largest trade group said. The program is too ambitious and goals may not be met, Rick Pollack, executive vice president of the American Hospital Association, said yesterday in a 68-page letter to the Health and Human Services Department. He cited "the high bar set and market factors, such as accelerating costs and limited vendor capacity" (Wayne, 5/1).

Modern Healthcare: AHA Seeks Smoother Road For Hospitals On Stage 2
American Hospital Association Executive Vice President Richard Pollack says the "digital divide" is widening between technologically advanced large and urban hospitals and their smaller and rural counterparts. Meanwhile, although nearly 3,500 hospitals have registered for federal incentive payment programs for the use of electronic health-records systems, more than 80 percent of hospitals have not yet achieved the first stage of meaningful use of their EHRs to qualify them for incentive payments -- a result, Pollack said, of "both the high bar set and market factors such as accelerating costs and limited vendor capacity" (Conn, 5/1).

This Story: Print | Link to | Top

State Watch

Federal Appeals Judge Reverses Monday Ruling, Allows Texas To Exclude Planned Parenthood From Women's Health Program

A second federal judge in Texas issued an injunction allowing Texas to exclude Planned Parenthood from Texas' Women's Health Program -- for now -- a day after another judge in Texas had ruled the state couldn't bar the group from the health program. The judge who ruled Tuesday has ordered Planned Parenthood to respond by Tuesday afternoon.

The Associated Press: Appeals Judge Stops Planned Parenthood Injunction
A federal appeals judge stepped into the fight over the Texas Women's Health Program on Tuesday, saying he wanted to hear arguments on whether the state should be prevented from enforcing a law that bans Planned Parenthood from participating in the program. Less than 24 hours after a federal judge in Austin ordered Texas not to enforce a rule banning clinics associated with abortion providers from receiving state funds, Fifth Circuit Appeals Judge Jerry Smith granted Texas an emergency stay lifting the Austin court's order (Tomlinson, 5/1).

Reuters: Appeals Court Allows Texas To Exclude Planned Parenthood
An appeals court ruled on Tuesday that the state of Texas can exclude Planned Parenthood from a state health program for low-income women because the organization performs abortions. The ruling by 5th U.S. Circuit Judge Jerry Smith reversed a lower court ruling Monday in favor of the family planning organization. The emergency ruling on Tuesday means the state is free -- for now -- to enforce a new rule banning Planned Parenthood from the Women's Health Program, Texas officials said. The court requested a response from Planned Parenthood by Tuesday afternoon (MacLaggan, 5/1).

Los Angeles Times: Planned Parenthood Vs. Texas: Funds In Limbo Pending Ruling
The brinkmanship continues as Texas battles to cut government funding to Planned Parenthood. … Planned Parenthood clinics had sued the state to maintain funding and appeared to have won a victory Monday when a federal judge in Austin issued an injunction that prevented Texas from withdrawing funds from 49 clinics. But early Tuesday, a federal appeals court judge stayed the injunction, pending an appeal by the state filed late Monday. Judge Jerry Smith of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans gave Planned Parenthood until 5 p.m. Tuesday to file an opposition brief that he will consider before ruling on the state's appeal (Hennessy-Fiske, 5/1).

Houston Chronicle: Another Twist In Battle Over Women's Health Program
Texas barred Planned Parenthood from a key women's health program Tuesday, after a federal appeals judge halted an order that the organization be allowed to continue participating at least temporarily. Planned Parenthood is fighting the appellate judge's action and said its affiliates will keep serving low-income clients who are part of the Medicaid Women's Health Program -- even though Texas Health and Human Services Commission spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman said they can no longer bill the state for program services. … U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel on Monday granted a preliminary injunction to require the state to keep Planned Parenthood in the program until he makes a decision on the merits of the case. But Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's office, on behalf of the state, asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for an emergency stay of the injunction, which was granted by Judge Jerry E. Smith (Fikac and Ackerman, 5/1).

The Dallas Morning News: Appeals Court Judge Removes Obstacle to Texas Defunding Planned Parenthood
In the back and forth of women's health funding, a U.S. Fifth Circuit Court judge has lifted a stay imposed on Monday that prevented Texas from cutting Planned Parenthood out of the Women's Health Program. As of now, Texas can withhold $13.5 million from Planned Parenthood that was used to provide about 50,000 poor, uninsured women access to cancer and diabetes screening, as well as contraception. The decision lifts a ruling by federal Judge Lee Yeakel, who found that the eight PP clinics that perform women's health exams raised a credible argument that they were being punished for associating with affiliates that offer abortions (Hoppe, 5/1).

The Hill: Appeals Court Says Texas Can Bar Funds For Planned Parenthood
A U.S. appeals court said Tuesday that Texas can bar Planned Parenthood from receiving funds under a state health care program because the organization performs abortions. The decision reversed a day-old ruling by U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel, who on Monday halted a 2011 law passed by the state's Republican-controlled Legislature excluding Planned Parenthood from the state's Women's Health Program (Viebeck, 5/1).

The Texas Tribune: Judge Gives State OK to Exclude Planned Parenthood 
In a statement to the Tribune, Melaney Linton, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, said the clinics in the lawsuit -- none of which provide abortions -- are"disappointed" by the action. ... On Tuesday evening, attorneys for the Planned Parenthood affiliates submitted a brief to the court requesting that Judge Jerry Smith repeal the stay and maintain the current system (Tan, 5/1). 

This Story: Print | Link to | Top

Georgia Bans Most Late-Term Abortions

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed a bill Tuesday banning most late-term abortions -- those after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The law was pushed after controversial research found a fetus can feel pain at that stage of the pregnancy.

Reuters: Georgia Bans Most Late-Terms Abortions, Assisted Suicide
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed into law two pieces of legislation on Tuesday to restrict late-term abortions and outlaw assisted suicide in the state. The first law banned most abortions after 20 weeks' pregnancy, making Georgia the eighth U.S. state to outlaw most late-term abortions based on controversial research that a fetus can feel pain by that stage of development (Beasley, 5/1).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Deal Signs 'Fetal Pain' Abortion Bill Into Law
Gov. Nathan Deal on Tuesday approved new restrictions on late-term abortions in Georgia, sealing a victory for conservative leaders who championed the issue at the Capitol this year. Deal's signature makes Georgia the latest state to generally ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, cutting by about six weeks the time women in Georgia may have an elective abortion. Commonly referred to as a "fetal pain" bill, House Bill 954 will tighten medical exemptions for terminating pregnancies and require any abortion performed after 20 weeks be done in a way to bring the fetus out alive (Torres, 5/1).

This Story: Print | Link to | Top

DOJ Investigating Humana Coding, Loan Practices In South Florida

Health insurer Humana said in quarterly filings Monday that the Department of Justice is investigating its coding practices by doctors in South Florida as well as loans made to doctor practices.

Reuters: Florida Investigators Seek Information From Humana
Federal investigators in Florida are seeking information from health insurer Humana Inc about the coding of claims by medical providers and loans to physician practices, among other issues. The civil division of the federal prosecutor's office for the Southern District of Florida informed Humana on Jan. 6 that it was seeking documents and information from the company and several affiliates, Humana said in its quarterly securities filing on Monday (5/1).

Bloomberg: Humana Says U.S. Attorney Asked About Florida Claims 
Humana Inc. (HUM), the second-biggest provider of private Medicare coverage, said the U.S. Justice Department is investigating its coding of medical claims from South Florida doctors and loans made to physician practices. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami requested documents and other information from Humana and its affiliates on Jan. 6, the Louisville, Kentucky-based health insurer said in a regulatory filing yesterday. … Humana last year disclosed its own investigation into enrollment practices and loans to providers in its Medicare and Medicaid networks in Florida (Nussbaum, 5/1).

This Story: Print | Link to | Top

State Roundup: Mass. Health Cost Control Bill Could Save $8B To $34B

News outlets report on health policy issues in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Oregon.

Kaiser Health News: In Massachusetts, Hope For Higher Salaries If Health Care Inflation Slows
As Massachusetts' state legislators put the finishing touches on a major health care cost-control bill, there is still one big question: How much could it save? A recent report claims employers and employees could see between $8 billion and $34.5 billion in savings over nine years (Bebinger, 5/1). 

The Washington Post: Hospitals Could Face Rate Freeze In Maryland
Maryland officials face a decision Wednesday on a controversial plan that would effectively freeze payment rates to hospitals in the state over the next year. Hospital representatives say they could be forced to lay off workers if the proposal is approved by the Health Services Cost Review Commission -- an independent agency made up of seven commissioners appointed by the governor (Aizenman, 5/1).

Des Moines Register: Iowa Senate Insists On HIV Insurance Fix
A fix to a program that is denying health care coverage to an estimated 100 HIV-positive residents in Iowa passed in the Iowa Senate this afternoon, resurrected after the House rejected the measure. The bill, Senate File 2293, generally updates law to the state's insurance division. But it also includes what some say is a fix to a $35 million state program charged with insuring Iowans with pre-existing conditions that is denying coverage to HIV-positive residents (Clayworth, 5/1).

Arizona Republic: Arizona Senate, House OK Budget
Lawmakers, with a strong push from [Gov. Jan] Brewer, took $42 million from a long-term health care account and used it to make up for the loss of federal welfare dollars. The money will maintain programs such as child-care and aging services, which were cut during the deficit years, at their current levels. ... Lawmakers also reversed a recent trend of cutting the rate at which health care providers are reimbursed for handling state services and gave them a 3 percent increase (Pitzl, 5/1).

Arizona Republic: Arizona's New KidsCare To Help Thousands
A new version of Arizona's children's health-insurance program opened Tuesday and eventually will cover nearly 22,000 low-income kids. About 500 Arizona children already have signed up for KidsCare II, created under a two-year deal between three hospital systems that won federal approval last month (Reinhart, 5/1).

(St. Paul) Pioneer Press: Health Bill Celebrated For Bipartisan Support At Minnesota Legislature
Bipartisan legislation being heralded this week at the Capitol includes money for a number of new health care studies, including a look at autism in Minnesota's Somali community. Overall, the health legislation includes about $18 million in spending between now and the end of June 2013, with roughly one-third of the funds reversing pay cuts for personal care assistants who care for relatives. The cut in pay for these workers was part of a deal to balance the state's gaping budget deficit in 2011.  The bill, which Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law Saturday, April 28, also provides $4.7 million for emergency dialysis and cancer treatments for noncitizens (Snowbeck, 5/1).

Sacramento Bee: 4,500 Nurses Walk Off Job At 7 Bay Area Sutter Health Hospitals
About 4,500 nurses at seven Bay Area Sutter Health hospitals walked off the job Tuesday in an effort to force hospital officials to back off proposals such as changing sick leave policies and requiring nurses to pay more of their health care premiums. It was the third one-day strike by Sutter nurses in the Bay Area over the past year, and one in a series of recent labor actions by the California Nurses Association, the union that represents the nurses (Sandoval, 5/2).

California Watch: Prime Hospital's Stent Placements Violated State Regulations
[D]uring a stent placement to prop open a blocked artery, Dale Kerkes died on the operating table at Desert Valley Hospital. Desert Valley had a limited cardiac license, which means it was allowed to place stents only in emergencies, such as after heart attacks. ... Desert Valley is owned by Prime Healthcare Services, which has been the subject of a yearlong California Watch investigation that uncovered a pattern of billing Medicare for rare ailments (Jewett, 5/2).

The Lund Report (an Oregon news service): Counties Hurt By Reduced HIV Prevention Funding
The CDC provides the bulk of state funds for HIV prevention, with additional money coming from the state's general fund. ... This year, the counties bore the brunt of the $700,000 reduction in CDC funds --losing 30 percent of their budget for HIV prevention. Local health departments received $2 million for HIV prevention in 2011; this year they're only getting $1.425 million (McCurdy, 5/1). 

The Associated Press/CBS News: Selig: Changes Won't End Ark Medicaid Shortfall
Changes in the way Medicaid pays for services in Arkansas and other efforts to save money won't eliminate the up to $400 million shortfall the state program faces next year, Department of Human Services Director John Selig said Monday. Selig and state Medicaid Director Andy Allison told a legislative panel Monday that they'll have a firmer number on the state's Medicaid shortfall later this year. State officials previously have estimated the program could have a deficit between $250 million and $400 million in the budget year that begins July 1, 2013 (DeMillo, 5/1).

Kansas Health Institute News: Grant Funds Remain For Nonprofits Seeking ACA Programs
Approximately $115,550 remains in the Affordable Care Act Opportunity Fund, a $450,000 grant pool created last year by the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City, Kansas Health Foundation, REACH Healthcare Foundation, Sunflower Foundation and United Methodist Health Ministry Fund. ... The aim of the fund is to help Kansas nonprofits, including government agencies, take preliminary steps toward applying for funding through Affordable Care Act programs (Sherry, 5/1).

New Orleans Times-Picayune: Bill Expands Roles For Nurse Practitioners
No one disputes that Louisiana lacks sufficient primary-care health professionals. But health industry leaders, to say nothing of elected officials, have yet to agree on a comprehensive strategy to eliminate a shortage. ... The issue will be at the core of a legislative hearing Wednesday pitting advanced practice nurses against doctors who oversee them (Barrow, 5/1).

This Story: Print | Link to | Top

Editorials and Opinions

Viewpoints: The Health Law's Double Count On Medicare Funding; Pa. Budget Endangering Health Safety Net; A Doctor's Call For More Texting

The Wall Street Journal: Exposing The Medicare Double Count
One of the enduring mysteries of President Obama's health law is how its spending constraints and payroll tax hikes on high earners can be used to shore up Medicare finances and at the same time pay for a massive new entitlement program. Isn't this double counting? (Charles Blahous and James C. Capretta, 5/1).

Boston Globe: Payment Reform Is Working In Massachusetts
When it comes to health reform, many in our state are on a mission to demonstrate that it is possible to achieve both near-universal coverage and affordable high quality care. While the rest of the nation holds its collective breath as it awaits the Supreme Court's decision on national health reform, Massachusetts is moving forward aggressively into the next phase (Dr. Gene Lindsey, 5/1).

Philadelphia Inquirer: Endangering Pa.'s Health And Prosperity
In proposing his state budget for the coming fiscal year, Gov. Corbett emphasized the need to "sort through the must-haves and the nice-to-haves, and compress government into its core functions. ..." He went on to note, "If we believe in society, we must accept that we have a duty to care for and protect those among us who cannot fend for themselves." Sadly, though, the governor’s budget proposal does not match this rhetoric. In fact, his spending plan would weaken the health-care safety net for the most vulnerable among us (Carolyn F. Scanlan, 5/2).

CNN: Seriously? Doctors Say They're Underpaid
The Medscape survey found the average physician compensation now ranges from a high of $315,000 for orthopedic surgeons to a low of $156,000 for pediatricians. Sounds pretty good right? ... So how do doctors' salaries compare with other well-paying professions? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average computer and information system manager earns $125,660 per year. The average lawyer makes $130,490 per year. Orthodontists take home $204,670. The New York Times recently reported the average base pay for managing directors at Morgan Stanley is $400,000. When you consider these numbers, the thought of pediatricians making $156,000 a year doesn't seem unreasonable (Dr. Anthony Youn, 5/1).

Journal of the American Medical Association: Studying Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Although evaluating the research portfolio of any institute at the NIH is difficult, social and political pressures may influence area-of-interest funding, and decisions should be based on science. For complementary and alternative medicine, it seems that some people believe what they want to believe, arguing that it does not matter what the data show; they know what works for them. Because negative studies do not appear to change behavior and because studies performed without a sound biological basis have little to no chance of success, it would make sense for [National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine] to either refrain from funding studies of therapies that border on mysticism such as distance healing, purgings, and prayer; redefine its mission to include a better understanding of the physiology of the placebo response; or shift its resources to other NIH institutes (Dr. Paul A. Offit, 5/2).

Journal of the American Medical Association: Next: Text
I encourage my patients to call me or e-mail me, so why not use cell phones and texting to communicate? After all, it is a ubiquitous technology, and at least in the United States it is more egalitarian in its availability and affordability. Most of my patients do not own computers or have consistent Internet access, and e-mail can be a pain if you do not have easy access and basic computer competencies. On the other hand, almost everyone has a cell phone ... and a plan that covers unlimited texting (Dr. James S. Kahn, 5/2).

This Story: Print | Link to | Top

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.