Daily Health Policy Report

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Last updated: Tue, Jun 11

KHN Original Reporting & Guest Opinion

Women's Health

Health Reform

Capitol Hill Watch


Public Health & Education


State Watch

Editorials and Opinions

KHN Original Reporting & Guest Opinion

Insuring Your Health: Federal Rule Allows Higher Out-Of-Pocket Spending For One Year

Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "Starting next year, the Affordable Care Act sets maximum limits on how much consumers can be required to pay out-of-pocket annually for their medical care. But some people with high drug costs may find the limits don't protect them yet" (Andrews, 6/11). Read the column.

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Capsules: Study: Brand Name Drugs Drive Up Medicare Spending

Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Ankita Rao reports: "A new study suggests that cash-strapped Medicare missed an opportunity to save more than $1 billion by not addressing the varying costs and use of prescription drugs" (Rao, 6/11). Check out what else is on the blog.

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Political Cartoon: 'K Street Sense?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "K Street Sense?" by Joel Pett.

Meanwhile, here is today's health policy haiku:


We're standing our ground
on young girls buying Plan B.
Oh wait, nevermind.


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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Women's Health

Obama Administration Changes Course On Plan B

Monday afternoon, the Justice Department announced it would accept recent court rulings and begin putting into effect a judge's order to have the Food and Drug Administration certify the Plan B pill for use without prescription and without age restrictions on sales.

The Washington Post: Obama Administration Drops Fight To Keep Age Restrictions On Plan B Sales
The Obama administration on Monday abandoned its fight to keep age restrictions on sales of a widely used morning-after contraceptive pill, a stark legal reversal that ended years of court battles but did little to extinguish political passions on both sides of the issue. … President Obama has not changed his position and still opposes over-the-counter access to emergency contraceptives for young girls, said a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity Monday to describe the White House’s reasoning. But the Justice Department decided to drop the case after multiple setbacks in federal courts in recent months (Dennis and Kliff, 6/10).

The New York Times: U.S. Drops Bid To Limit Sales Of Morning-After Pill
The Justice Department had been fighting to prevent that outcome, but said late Monday afternoon that it would accept its losses in recent court rulings and begin putting into effect a judge’s order to have the Food and Drug Administration certify the drug for nonprescription use. In a letter to Judge Edward R. Korman of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, the administration said it would comply with his demands (Shear and Belluck, 6/10).

Los Angeles Times: Obama Administration Reverses Course On Plan B Pill
In papers filed in federal court in New York, government attorneys announced that the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services would remove age and point of sale restrictions on the emergency contraceptive, pending approval by U.S. District Judge Edward Korman. The decision would not apply to similar brands of emergency contraceptives, or to a two-pill version of the same drug, which is manufactured by the Israel-based pharmaceutical firm Teva. Loretta Lynch, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, wrote in the court papers that other manufacturers could submit approval applications, but the FDA might grant Teva "marketing exclusivity." The limited nature of the government's proposal could be an issue for Korman, who has ordered that all such drugs be available over the counter like aspirin (Morin, 6/10).

The Wall Street Journal: Government To Comply With Morning-After Pill Ruling
The drug won't immediately be made available to all ages without a prescription. The FDA said it has asked Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., the maker of Plan B One-Step, to reapply for approval of the product without any restrictions. The FDA said it would act promptly to approve any application. However, if approved the drug would need to be relabeled for sale, a process that could take several weeks. A Teva spokeswoman said in a statement, "We do not have a comment at this time" (Dooren, 6/10).

NPR: Feds Cave On Emergency Contraception Age Restrictions
The Obama administration has gone to Plan C on Plan B. Backed into a legal corner, the Justice Department said Monday it would drop its appeal of Judge Edward Korman's ruling last April that it make the morning-after birth control pill available over the counter with no age restrictions (Rovner, 6/10).

Politico: U.S. To Allow Plan B Access For All Ages
When finalized, the move would end a long-running dispute over emergency contraception dating back to the early years of George W. Bush’s presidency — a legal fight that forced the Obama administration to take a position on the availability of the controversial product in late 2011, just as the 2012 election fight was heating up — and make "Plan B" pills readily available on the shelves of drug stores nationwide (Epstein and Haberkorn, 6/10).

The Associated Press: Feds: All Girls To Have Morning-After Pill Access
Advocates for girls’ and women’s rights said the federal government’s decision to comply with the judge’s ruling could be a move forward for “reproductive justice” if the FDA acts quickly and puts emergency contraception over the counter without restriction. … But opponents of easy access to the morning-after pill, such as the anti-abortion Family Research Council, criticized the government for not sticking with its decision to appeal. "We're very concerned and disappointed at the same time because what we see here is the government caving to political pressure instead of putting first the health and safety of girls (and) parental rights," said Anna Higgins, director of the council's Center for Human Dignity (Hays, 6/10).

Reuters: Obama Administration To Drop Limits On Morning-After Pill
The Obama administration will scrap age restrictions on the sale of emergency contraception pills, making the morning-after pill available to women and girls without a prescription. The U.S. Department of Justice said in a letter on Monday that it would comply with a court's ruling to allow unrestricted sales of Plan B One-Step, withdrawing its appeal on the matter (Humer and Dye, 6/11).

Fox News: Obama Administration Says It Will Allow All Girls To Have Morning-After Pill Access
The Obama administration announced Monday it will end age restrictions on emergency contraception, allowing girls and women of all ages to purchase the morning-after pill without a prescription. The Department of Justice notified U.S. District Judge Edward Korman it will submit a plan for compliance with his recent ruling that allowed unrestricted sales of Plan B One-Step. If he approves it, the department will drop its appeal of his April ruling (6/11).

MedPage Today: Plan B: Obama Administration To Drop Age Limits On OTC Sales
Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Cecile Richards hailed the administration's change of heart. In a statement she called the decision, "a huge breakthrough for access to birth control and a historic moment for women's health and equity" (Peck, 6/10).

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Health Reform

The Health Law's Implementation Gains And Pains

As Democrats begin campaigns to tout the health law's benefits and states work to implement some of the overhaul's central provisions, concerns about state budget pressures, program costs and civil liberties draw headlines. 

McClatchy: Democrats Hit The Road To Sell Public On Obamacare
Three years after it passed, President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats are still trying to sell the federal health care law to a skeptical nation. Lawmakers, armed with tool kits and fact sheets, are fanning out across the nation to tout the law’s benefits. Those charged with implementing its changes, starting with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, are pushing companies to donate money to a private group that's working to get the program up and running. Supporters are organizing armies of volunteers to go door to door to try to sign up millions of uninsured Americans (Kumar, 6/10).

Stateline: States Prepare To Launch New Health Law
With the Affordable Care Act set to debut in January, state legislators debated dozens of measures related to the historic health care law—from overhauling insurance laws and designing health "exchanges," to shoring up anti-fraud protections and increasing the ranks of doctors and nurses. On top of that, the politically volatile question of Medicaid expansion grabbed headlines, especially in the five states that still haven’t decided whether to expand the program (Vestal, 6/11).

Kansas Health Institute: Obamacare A Concern For School Districts, Particularly Rural Ones
School administrators here say they are alarmed and confounded by the looming, new costs they face with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. "We've been talking about it (in anticipation) the last two years. I wish there was somebody smarter than me to find a solution," said Chris Hipp, director of the North Central Kansas Special Education Cooperative Interlocal 636. "We are not built to pay full health benefits for non-certified folks who work a little over 1,000 hours a year" (Shields, 6/10).

Bloomberg: Health Co-Ops Stumble With Loans, Republicans Say
President Barack Obama’s use of federal loans to bankroll untested businesses is sparking controversy again, this time over a $6 billion program to create nonprofit competitors to commercial health insurers. Darrell Issa, the California Republican who heads the House Oversight Committee, said five of 24 health co-ops that received $2 billion in loans under the Affordable Care Act may not survive because of financial or regulatory shortcomings (Wayne, 6/10).

The Associated Press: Health Care Law Concerns Ohio Churches Group
An Ohio organization of Protestant and Catholic churches has expressed concern about religious liberty protections under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. The Ohio Council of Churches, representing 18 Christian denominations, says in a statement that more is needed to broaden the religious exemption in the new federal law's current mandate and to add safeguards for "religious liberty and the rights of conscience” (6/11).

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Medicaid Expansion Decisions Still Brewing In Some GOP States

News outlets also report on the latest expansion news from Mississippi and Arizona.

The Fiscal Times: States of Health: Winners & Losers In Medicaid
On a good day it only takes nine minutes to drive across the Ohio River between Clarksville, Ind., and Louisville, Ky. But for hundreds of thousands of uninsured poor and disabled people who live throughout Indiana and Kentucky, that short span defines a boundary between winners and losers in the political battle over expanding Medicaid coverage as part of the Affordable Care Act (Pianin, 6/11).

Politico: Mississippi's Medicaid Plan May Fail
A partisan feud over Obamacare's Medicaid expansion is threatening health care for thousands of low-income and elderly Mississippians whose coverage could be in jeopardy at the end of the month if lawmakers don’t come to a consensus. Both Republican Gov. Phil Bryant and Democratic state lawmakers face pressure to resolve their staring contest. If they don’t, the whole state Medicaid program — never mind any proposed expansion — would expire July 1 (Cheney, 6/11).

The Associated Press: Panel Rejects Medicaid, Full House Must Now Revive
Gov. Jan Brewer's plan to embrace a key part of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law will have to be resuscitated by the full Arizona House after a panel dominated by conservative Republicans rejected it outright on Monday. Between Democrats and a handful of moderate Republicans there appear to be the votes to do just that, and the party-line 7-4 Appropriations Committee vote at the end of nearly two hours of testimony was expected (Christie and Silva, 6/10).

Arizona Republic: Medicaid Showdown Today?
The Arizona House could consider Medicaid expansion as early as today, less than 24 hours after Republicans in a key committee defeated Gov. Jan Brewer’s top legislative priority. Leaders of a bipartisan coalition backing expansion of the health-care program for the poor met late Monday to plot their options for bringing the measure to a vote. A floor debate today offers the group its first opportunity to attach it to another bill (Reinhart, 6/10).

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States Consider Rates, Legislation On Health Insurance Marketplaces

Rates for coverage offered through the online marketplaces make news in Minnesota and the District of Columbia, while bills in California could hold up the exchange's rollout.

MPR News: Cost Of MNsure Health Plans Won’t Be Revealed Until October
If you're wondering how much you might have to pay for a health plan sold on MNsure, Minnesota's health insurance exchange, you're going to have to wait. Several other states, including California and Oregon have already revealed the premium rates health insurers want to charge for plans to be sold on the exchanges in those states. The state exchanges will likely foster the most significant changes in the health insurance system since Medicaid and Medicare were enacted in the 1960s. In Minnesota, carriers have already filed their rate proposals with regulators, but state law requires keeping them confidential until October (Richert, 6/11).

CQ HealthBeat: No Rate Shock In D.C. Exchange, Officials Assert
District of Columbia officials say premiums that insurers will charge this fall on the new insurance exchange won't show a spike in rates and that customers will have a wider choice of plans than they do now (Reichard, 6/10).

California Healthline: Background Check Bill May Affect Exchange Deadline
Covered California board members say the timely rollout of the health insurance exchange relies heavily on two bills in the state Legislature spelling out the details of hiring 20,000 health reform workers. The board expressed concern about controversy surrounding one of the bills that excludes felons. The bills -- SB 509 and AB 1428 -- would require new employees to undergo background checks and fingerprinting and disqualify any applicant with a felony conviction. … Health policy experts and civil rights groups are taking issue with the provision in the bill prohibiting the state from hiring new employees with a felony conviction, arguing that it violates potential employees' equal opportunity employment rights (Hart, 6/10).

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Capitol Hill Watch

Insider Probe Over Medicare Rate Decision Hits Congress

News outlets report on developments in the story of alleged insider trading after a Medicare rate decision.

Bloomberg: Medicare Rate Decision Seen By Hundreds Of U.S. Employees
The Medicare rate decision that sent Humana Inc.’s stock soaring in April was distributed to at least 436 government employees at the U.S. Health and Human Services Department before the agency’s official announcement. Senator Charles Grassley's staff obtained more than 1,000 pages of e-mails from HHS that mentioned the decision in the two weeks before April 1, according to Jill Gerber, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Republican (Wayne, 6/10).

The Wall Street Journal: Insider Probe Hits Congress
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has shifted the focus of a broadening insider-trading investigation to Congress, seeking information to determine whether one of Sen. Charles Grassley's aides may have been involved in sharing information about an important government decision with Wall Street this spring, said a person familiar with the matter. ... At issue is whether anyone violated insider-trading laws by improperly tipping off investors of a coming announcement by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to restore cuts in funding for private health insurance plans (Mullins, Grimaldi and Barrett, 6/10).

Also on Capitol Hill, a House panel considers late-term abortion legislation while some senators are pushing for a drug-compounding bill vote -

National Journal: House Judiciary Committee Considers Banning Late-Term Abortions
The House Judiciary Committee plans to consider a bill Wednesday banning late-term abortions nationwide, and its sponsor says the murder convictions last month of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell are serving as a "teachable moment" on the issue. Rep. Trent Franks's Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is actually an expanded version of legislation the Arizona Republican sponsored last session that failed under an expedited process to get enough votes on the House floor to pass (House, 6/11).

The Hill: Senators Urge Swift Vote On Drug Compounding Bill
Leaders of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee called for a swift vote on legislation to empower federal regulators to oversee non-traditional drug compounders. ... Lawmakers have been working to strengthen regulation of non-traditional compounders since the New England Compounding Center, a Mass.-based firm, caused a deadly outbreak of meningitis last fall (Viebeck, 6/10).

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Medicare Advantage Enrollment Reaches Record High

An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Mathematica Policy Research found that despite concerns  the health law's future payment cuts would have a chilling effect, Medicare Advantage enrollment increased by nearly 10 percent last year and by 30 percent since 2010.

The Hill: Enrollment In Private Medicare Plans Hits Record High
Enrollment in Medicare Advantage hit a record 14.4 million this year, challenging predictions that ObamaCare's cuts will kill the private plans. The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) reported Monday that enrollment in Medicare Advantage grew by nearly 10 percent in the last year and by 30 percent since 2010 (Viebeck, 6/10).

CQ HealthBeat: Medicare Advantage Plans Worry About Cuts, But Enrollment Keeps Growing
The number of seniors in the private Medicare Advantage plans tripled in the past seven years, according to an analysis released Monday. But future payment cuts could cause insurers to reduce benefits or increase cost-sharing, says a Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association official. The Medicare Advantage program grew from 5.3 million people in 2004 to a record 14.4 million in 2013, according to the analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Mathematica Policy Research Inc. From 2012 to 2013 alone, the program grew by 10 percent — or by 1 million people (Adams, 6/10).

Modern Healthcare: Medicare Advantage Enrollment Rose, Despite ACA, Kaiser Report Shows
Despite concern that the healthcare reform law would dampen Medicare Advantage enrollment, the opposite has happened so far, according the Kaiser Family Foundation. Between the beginning of 2012 and March 2013, 1 million more beneficiaries enrolled in the program, a nearly 10% year-over-year increase, bringing total Medicare Advantage enrollment to 14.4 million this year, according to a new report by Kaiser and Mathematica Policy Research. Since 2009, enrollment in MA had grown 30% (Block, 6/10).

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Missed Savings Opportunities In Medicare Program

The Wall Street Journal details a report from the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the Inspector General. Meanwhile, Kaiser Health News reports on a study that details missed savings of prescription drug costs.

The Wall Street Journal: Room For Savings Found In Medicare
The federal government's Medicare program could have saved nearly $1 billion in 2011 if it had paid the lowest rate negotiated by private insurers for lab tests, federal investigators said in a report to be released Tuesday. A review of rates on 20 of the most common lab tests showed Medicare paid $910 million more than it would have if it had paid the rates of some state Medicaid plans and private insurers, according to the report by the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General (Schatz, 6/11).

Kaiser Health News: Study: Brand Name Drugs Drive Up Medicare Spending
A new study suggests that cash-strapped Medicare missed an opportunity to save more than $1 billion by not addressing the varying costs and use of prescription drugs. Comparing Medicare enrollees and those on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health plan, researchers found that Medicare beneficiaries were up to three times more likely than VA patients to choose higher-cost brand name drugs over generic brands, according to the Annals of Internal Medicine  (Rao, 6/11).

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Public Health & Education

Organ Transplant Board Calls For Review Of Child Policy, Creates New Appeal System

A panel of officials that decides matters on organ transplants called Monday for a review of the guidelines for issuing organs to children and created a special appeals process after two cases of children who need lung transplants drew congressional and judicial attention.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Lung Transplant Vote Aims For Medical And Legal Balance On Life And Death Issues
Faced with a federal judge's order in the heart-wrenching cases of two terminally ill children who are seeking lung transplants, a national review board sought a balance that will keep such decisions in the hands of doctors, not lawyers or judges. The executive committee of the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network held an emergency teleconference Monday evening and resisted making rule changes for children under 12 seeking lung transplants, but created a special appeal and review system to hear such cases (6/11).

Politico: Transplant Panel Orders Policy Review
The national panel that sets organ donation policy on Monday ordered a yearlong review of the guidelines for allocating lungs to dying children -- but also allowed for a case-by-case review by an expert panel in the interim. The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network made the decision at an unusual emergency session. The cases of two seriously ill children hospitalized in Philadelphia have drawn congressional attention to the policy and prompted a highly unusual intervention by a federal judge after the families sued the U.S. government and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (Norman, 6/10).

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Hospitals Attempt To Address Patient Noise Complaints

The Wall Street Journal's The Informed Patient: Hospitals Work On Patients' Most-Frequent Complaint: Noise
Facing potential financial penalties from Medicare, more hospitals are changing decades-old practices that contribute to the din. Some are replacing overhead staff paging systems with wireless headsets, and allowing patients to shut room doors and post a Do Not Disturb sign. Designated sleep hours in some units mean there are no routine checks of vital signs unless necessary (Landro, 6/10).

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State Watch

State Highlights: Medi-Cal Rate Cuts Loom; Latin American Docs Help Meet Need

A selection of health policy stories from California and Massachusetts.

Los Angeles Times: Doctors Brace For Pain As 10% Cut To Medi-Cal Rates Looms
In an office decorated with Chinese art and diagrams of body parts, Dr. George Ma cares for more than 4,000 patients. Nearly three-quarters are covered by Medi-Cal, the state's public insurance program for low-income Californians, and Ma said he receives $10 a month to treat most of them (Gorman and York, 6/10).

San Jose Mercury News: Kaiser Permanente Research Method Has Potential To Transform U.S. Health Care System
It was a nuisance and David Gassman put it off for three weeks, but he finally put a little stool sample into a tube and mailed it to a Kaiser Permanente lab. It's a good thing he did. The test indicated he had colon cancer. The 68-year-old Oakland resident, who is recovering from surgery, can thank an emerging field known as "comparative effectiveness research." It's an idea that sounds so obvious it's hard to believe it isn't already routine: Rather than simply analyzing whether a drug or treatment method works, researchers compare options to determine which ones do the best job for patients. Many experts say the approach has such potential to transform the U.S. health system that the federal government will spend $3.5 billion on it through 2019 under national health reforms (Sleffman, 6/10).

HealthyCal: Latin American Doctors Fill U.S. Physician Shortage
Dr. Ana Solis, who was born in rural Mexico, felt helpless when her mother was bedridden during a high-risk pregnancy. Seeing her mother's agony prompted her to pursue a career in medicine. ... The University of California (Los Angeles) International Medical Graduate program, which aims to recruit doctors from Latin America like Dr. Solis, hopes to increase the number of Spanish-speaking physicians who have the cultural background to treat the growing Latino population at a time when the state is poised to face a doctor shortage (Ramirez, 6/11).

Los Angeles Times: Experts Seek Better Health Outcomes For Homeless
Years after facing patient dumping allegations and hefty legal settlements, Southern California hospital executives have begun working with advocates for the homeless to improve the health of homeless patients and to reduce their use of area hospitals. Hospital administrators are driven by the national health care law, which offers incentives to provide better care at lower cost and imposes penalties when patients are unnecessarily readmitted to hospitals. Homeless patients are among the most frequent users of the region's medical centers, often because they lack regular medical care (Gorman, 6/10).

Boston Globe: Unit At Morton Hospital Essential, State Says
Morton Hospital's pediatric unit, slated to close next month, provides critical access to health care for children in the Taunton region, according to a strongly worded state finding that, though not binding, is meant to pressure the hospital to reconsider. Steward Health Care, the for-profit hospital group that bought the troubled facility in 2011, has said it will close the 13-bed unit because it sees a low number of children and teens, with on average fewer than one patient admission each day (Conaboy, 6/11).

California Healthline: State 'De-Links' Mandatory Enrollment From Duals Project
The Department of Health Care Services last week announced a new provision of Cal MediConnect that would establish a means of abandoning the state's duals demonstration project  if it doesn't meet a financial benchmark. The department also wants to "de-link" mandatory enrollment from the demonstration project, according to Jane Ogle, deputy director at DHCS (Gorn, 6/10).

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Editorials and Opinions

Viewpoints: Medicaid Expansion 'Makes Sense'; Budget Cuts Hurt Alzheimers' Research; Lack Of Transparency In Generic Rx Prices

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Rand Study Adds To The Evidence: Expanding Medicaid Makes Sense
The numbers in the Rand study ... should not be a surprise to people who have been paying attention. Numerous studies now, including in Missouri, have pointed to the simple reality of the policy implications of the ACA to argue for Medicaid expansion. ... Frankly, there are public policy decisions that should be made for moral reasons, costs be damned. This is one of them. Giving people access to health insurance saves lives. That’s just a fact. Lawmakers don’t like to talk about it, but it should be the single most important factor in states like Missouri (6/11).

Tampa Bay Times: Scott Should Stand With Workers
If Gov. Rick Scott is positioning himself as pro-family and pro-women by supporting expanded Medicaid and vetoing a bill to eliminate permanent alimony, he should listen to Orlando-area mothers urging him to veto a bill that harms working families. The measure, HB 655, would prevent local governments from requiring local private employers to provide paid sick leave and other job-related benefits. Scott, who has two weeks to act on the bill, could demonstrate his sincerity in helping working families by vetoing it (6/10).

Los Angeles Times: Disparity In Generic Drug Prices Is A Bitter Pill To Swallow
Generic prescription drugs have to meet exacting standards for ingredients and quality, which you'd think would make them uniformly priced at pharmacies. But that, of course, isn't the case. Generic drug prices can be all over the map, depending on where and how you buy them (David Lazarus, 6/11).

Tampa Bay Times: Finally, Universal Access To Morning-After Pill
When it comes to public health, the government's job is to help Americans get access to the safest, most effective care. Finally on Monday, the Obama administration signaled it would do that job and prioritize women's and girls' health over gamesmanship. It said it would comply with a federal appeals court's order to make emergency contraception, called the morning-after pill, available to females of any age without a prescription (6/10).

Bloomberg: How To Look Younger And Fix Medicare Too
Medicare has been at the center of this debate because it consumes a large fraction of our tax dollars: about 16 percent of federal spending today and an estimated 18 percent by 2023. One way to curb this growth is to leave decisions about spending to the beneficiaries, but increase deductibles and co-payments. Another is to use evidence and data to recognize which interventions work best and for whom, and to cover procedures that do, something called “value-based insurance design.” These two approaches aren’t as different as they appear (Aaron Carroll and Austin Frakt, 6/10).

Bloomberg: Alzheimer Research Cuts Show Folly Of Sequestration
Because the cuts only affect the margins of a wide array of defense and domestic discretionary programs, there mostly hasn’t been an immediate pinch; the public backlash has been minimal. The long-term consequences, in more than a few cases, are ominous. There’s no better case study than Alzheimer’s disease. With the sequestration-enforced cuts at the National Institutes of Health, research to find a cure or better treatment is slowing (Albert R. Hunt, 6/9).

Oregonian: Oregon Should Adopt A Smarter Stance On Child Vaccines
Oregon's laws on childhood vaccines are among the nation's least restrictive, most accepting of religious beliefs and most deferential toward parents. This fact won't change if state lawmakers pass Senate Bill 132.  But the state would send a stronger and more consistent message about children's health and community responsibility by tweaking current law to reflect the importance of vaccines. The House should follow the Senate's lead, pass SB132 and send it to Gov. John Kitzhaber's desk (6/10).

WBUR: Cognoscenti: A Simple Test. Newborn Lives Saved. What’s The Holdup?
Last week, the Massachusetts state legislature heard testimony in favor of making a new kind of medical screening for newborns mandatory. Pulse oximetry tests — or “pulse ox” for short — measure oxygen levels and can detect serious heart defects, which are often missed during routine check-ups and are a leading cause of infant mortality. The screening is inexpensive, non-invasive and easy to perform (Darshak Sanghavi, 6/11).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Long-Term Care A Looming Crisis, But Colorado Takes An Important Step
If we are to successfully manage the health care needs of our aging population, we need to pursue options that will cost less, protect people’s assets and life savings, keep people in their homes for as long as possible and help to reduce the financial and emotional stress on family caregivers.  The longer we wait to develop a strategy, the more costly those options will be and the more difficult they will be to implement. Fortunately, Colorado is looking ahead. This year, the legislature passed a bill that will help provide additional long-term care options for older Coloradans and save money for the state at the same time. It is one important step, but many more will be required (Bob Serno, 6/10).

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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.