Daily Health Policy Report

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Last updated: Wed, Jun 12

KHN Original Reporting & Guest Opinion

Health Reform

Capitol Hill Watch

Women's Health

Health Care Marketplace

State Watch

Editorials and Opinions

KHN Original Reporting & Guest Opinion

NYC's Answer To Proton Therapy Controversy: One For All

Kaiser Health News staff writer Jenny Gold reports: "During the recent debate in Washington, D.C. over whether to let to local competing hospital systems build rival proton therapy centers, an interesting question was raised: Why not work together? … It turns out, Selassie is on to something. That's exactly what is happening in New York City" (Gold, 6/12). Read the story.

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Capsules: Colorado Offers Exchange 'Assister' Money To Many Groups

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Colorado Offers Exchange 'Assister' Money To Many Groups
Colorado Public Radio's Eric Whitney, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "Obamacare in Colorado is getting down to the details, in dollars and cents. One of the 16 states that is setting up its own online insurance marketplace, Colorado on Monday named 58 organizations it’s selected to form its “assistance network” to help residents sign up for health coverage on the exchange" (Whitney, 6/11). Read the story.

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Political Cartoon: 'Long-Range Planning?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Long-Range Planning?" by Gary Varvel.

Meanwhile, here is today's health policy haiku:


High-tech medicine 
does not have to run rampant
at least in New York.

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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Health Reform

Crunch Time For States Still On Fence About Medicaid Expansion

As states' legislative sessions draw to a close, some lawmakers are pressing for action. Meanwhile, media outlets track updates in Michigan, New Hampshire, Mississippi, Colorado, Ohio and Alabama.

Modern Healthcare: Medicaid Expansion Could Occur In Red States In Coming Weeks
The coming weeks are shaping up to be a big deal for states still on the fence regarding Medicaid expansion. Democrats in Pennsylvania are trying to force a vote in that state's Legislature, Philadelphia's CBS affiliate reported today. Democrats in the Keystone State recently failed in an effort to get a Medicaid expansion included in a budget bill that could be voted on today. In addition, Republican Gov. Tom Corbett is said to be in negotiations with the Obama administration on how the state might satisfy the Medicaid provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Block, 6/11).

The Associated Press: Michigan House May Pass Medicaid Expansion This Week
Michigan might be closer to making 320,000 more low-income residents eligible for Medicaid next year after House Republicans dropped calls to end the health coverage for adults who have received benefits for four years. A new draft version of legislation that could be voted on as early as Tuesday no longer includes a hard, 48-month time limit for nondisabled adults added to the government health insurance program under the contentious federal health care overhaul (6/11).

MLive: Tea Party Activists Blast Snyder For Medicaid Push: 'Conservatives Should Not Help' His Re-Election
Some prominent names in the Michigan Tea Party movement are calling on conservatives to "sit out" Republican Gov. Rick Snyder's re-election campaign because of his push to expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as "Obamacare" (Oosting, 6/11).

The Associated Press: Planned Parenthood Pushes For Medicaid Expansion In N.H.
About 38,000 New Hampshire women would be among those who qualify for health care coverage if the state expands Medicaid to cover poor adults under the federal health care overhaul, officials with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England said Tuesday. Women would be disproportionately affected if the state fails to take advantage of the optional Medicaid benefit because the majority of poor adults in the state are women, Planned Parenthood officials and members of the New Hampshire Women's Health Network told reporters at a Statehouse news conference urging the Republican-controlled Senate to agree with the governor and House and authorize the expansion (Love, 6/12).

The Associated Press: State Republicans And Democrats Staking Opposite Medicaid Expansion Positions
State leadership committees for the Mississippi Republican and Democratic parties are staking out opposite positions on Medicaid expansion. Resolutions adopted by the two groups in the past few days reflect what their own elected officials have been saying for months (6/11).

Columbus Dispatch: State Must Act Fast On Medicaid
With the legislative clock running down, supporters of expanding Ohio’s Medicaid program yesterday released statistics underscoring how it would slash the ranks of the uninsured while bringing millions into local economies. Expanding the program would provide health-care coverage to nearly 28,000 uninsured adults in Franklin County, reducing the county’s uninsured rate to 2 percent by 2015. It also would generate $3.3 million in sales taxes from managed-care revenues, according to Advocates for Ohio’s Future (Candisky, 6/12).

Tuscaloosa News: David Bronner Says Alabama Governor ‘Irresponsible’ On Medicaid
The head of the pension funds for Alabama’s state workers on Tuesday accused Gov. Robert Bentley of acting irresponsibly by refusing to expand Alabama’s Medicaid program. David Bronner, the longtime CEO of the Retirement Systems of Alabama, told members of the Tuscaloosa Rotary Club that Alabama is one of 14 states with conservative Republican governors who have refused to accept federal dollars to expand their Medicaid programs. “To turn it down makes no sense whatsoever to me. It is irresponsible,” Bronner said during a luncheon speech at Indian Hills Country Club (Rupinski, 6/11). 

In other state-based implementation news -

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Colorado Offers Exchange 'Assister' Money To Many Groups
Obamacare in Colorado is getting down to the details, in dollars and cents. One of the 16 states that is setting up its own online insurance marketplace, Colorado on Monday named 58 organizations it’s selected to form its "assistance network" to help residents sign up for health coverage on the exchange (Whitney, 6/11).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Exchange Must Offer Voter Registration, Activists Say
Voting rights activists say Colorado’s health exchange must serve as a mandatory voter registration agency, but exchange managers contend they do not need to comply with the law popularly known as the Motor Voter Act. For now, activists with Colorado Common Cause are trying to encourage exchange managers to comply with the law. But if negotiations fail, they may sue the exchange. … The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 requires agencies, such as driver’s license bureaus and all state offices that offer public assistance, to serve as “mandatory voter registration agencies” (Kerwin McCrimmon, 6/11).

The Associated Press: NH Health Overhaul Committee At A Stalemate
After months of arguing, New Hampshire lawmakers overseeing implementation of the federal health care overhaul law agreed on one thing Tuesday: They're at a stalemate. The joint Health Care Oversight Committee includes three Republicans and three Democrats who have spent a significant amount of time disagreeing about the authority accorded to various players involved in implementing the law, including the insurance department, the governor and the committee itself (Ramer, 6/11).

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Early Signs That ACOs Are Boosting Care, Saving Money

Bloomberg reports that hospitals across the U.S. are improving care and saving millions by creating accountable care organizations, one of the least-touted provisions of the health care law. In other news, Politico reports on a town hall meeting on the health law in Baltimore. Also, the Wall Street Journal details the steps one company is taking in anticipation of the 2014 coverage mandate.

Bloomberg: Obamacare Shows Hospital Savings As Patients Make Gains
Less than five months before the Affordable Care Act fully kicks in, hospitals are improving care and saving millions of dollars with one of the least touted but potentially most effective provisions of the law. While much of the focus on Obamacare has been on the government rush to open insurance exchanges by Oct. 1, 252 hospitals and physician groups across the U.S. have signed up to join the administration's accountable care program, in which they share the financial risk of keeping patients healthy (Wayne, 6/12).

Politico: Baltimore Holds Town Meeting On ACA
All those polls on just how little Americans understand about the health law sprung to life an hour north of Washington one evening this week, as Baltimore County held one of the first public forums to try to explain the new health care options and how to sign up for them. About 100 people, most middle-age adults to seniors, attended the session at a temple here Monday. Their questions provided a glimpse of the public's perceptions of Obamacare enrollment and underscored the challenge facing the law’s backers: Before people can sign up, they have to understand it (Haberkorn, 6/12).

The Wall Street Journal: At Work: What Makes Employees Stick Around? One Company Has an Answer
Now that the Jan. 1, 2014 deadline is getting closer, firms with many part-time or hourly workers are beginning to finalize their decisions on eligibility and workforce scheduling, with a number of employers choosing to cut employees’ hours and skirt coverage requirements. But not every company is choosing that route. The Cumberland Gulf Group is expected to announce Tuesday that it is maintaining or expanding some workers' schedules to make them eligible for company-sponsored care. Its reasoning: The increased costs for care will pay off in the long run, with better employee retention and customer service (Weber, 6/10).

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Capitol Hill Watch

House Panel To Investigate Alleged IRS Seizure Of Medical Records

The House Energy and Commerce Committee contacted the Internal Revenue Service Tuesday to request information about a 2011 search and seizure of as many as 60 million medical records from a California health care provider.

The Hill: House Panel To Probe Alleged Seizure Of Medical Records By IRS
A top House committee launched another probe of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Tuesday after a lawsuit alleged that the agency improperly seized millions of personal medical records in California. In a letter, Republican leaders on the Energy and Commerce panel asked the IRS to explain how it handles confidential medical information (Viebeck, 6/11).

Fox News: House Asks IRS About Purported Seizure Of Millions Of Medical Records
The House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter Tuesday to acting IRS Administrator Daniel Werfel requesting information about a 2011 agency search and seizure of as many as 60 million medical records from a California health care provider. The letter follows a recent lawsuit regarding the legality of the seizure of more than 10 million American patients’ medical information while executing a warrant related to a former employee’s financial records, leaders of the Republican-led committee said (6/11).

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Women's Health

Questions Emerge As Dust Settles Surrounding Plan B Policy Change

News outlets offer day-after coverage of the Obama administration's reversal on the morning-after contraceptive pill.

NPR: Administration's Plan For Morning-After Pill Pleases No One
Reaction was swift to the Obama administration's announcement Monday night that it was dropping a long-running legal battle to keep age restrictions on one type of the morning-after birth control pill. But like just about everything else in this decade-long controversy, the latest decision has pleased just about no one (Rovner, 6/11).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Morning After Pill Appears Headed To Drugstore Shelves, But Which One And How Soon? Stay Tuned
Don’t look for the morning-after pill to move next to the condoms on drugstore shelves right away — but after a decade-plus fight, it appears it really will happen. Backed into a corner by a series of court rulings, the Obama administration has agreed to let the Plan B One-Step brand of emergency contraception sell over the counter to anyone of any age. There still are a lot of details to be worked out, including whether a federal judge agrees that the government has gone far enough or whether cheaper generics can be sold without restrictions too (6/12).

Philadelphia Inquirer: Still Some Questions After White House's Plan B Shift
Don't rush to the drugstore quite yet if you are a female under 17, need emergency contraception, and have no prescription. … While Baruch said Tuesday it was "fantastic" that the Obama administration indicated Monday night it would tentatively comply with parts of federal Judge Edward B. Korman's recent orders regarding access, Baruch and colleagues did not like important details in a Justice Department letter that spelled out the government's plan (Sell, 6/12).

Medpage Today: Doc Groups OK With FDA Plan B Decision
Physician groups were generally supportive of an FDA decision to expand over-the-counter (OTC) access to the emergency contraceptive Plan B One-Step (levonorgestrel) without age restrictions. Multiple medical societies on Tuesday cited "overwhelming scientific evidence" of the safety and efficacy of the contraceptive for women of all reproductive ages as the basis of their support (Pittman, 6/11).

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Health Care Marketplace

What Drives Costs In The Health Care Marketplace?

The New York Times examines how hospital mergers might be one of the health sector's overlooked cost factors while Reuters reports on a recent study that examines what variables cause physicians to order unnecessary tests.

The New York Times' Economic Scene: Health Care's Overlooked Cost Factor
When the Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Corporation merged its two hospitals with the neighboring Highland Park Hospital just north of Chicago 13 years ago, the deal was presented as an opportunity to increase efficiency and improve the quality of patient care. But when the Federal Trade Commission finally decided to look at the deal, it encountered an entirely different objective: to gain market power (Porter, 6/11).

Reuters: More Than Money And Lawsuits Drive Overtesting: Study
Despite reports that financial incentives and fear of lawsuits lead doctors to order too many heart tests, a new study of U.S. Veterans Affairs (VA) doctors suggests overtesting may be the result of more fundamental issues. Researchers at one Florida VA facility found its doctors, who don't get paid for the tests they order and are rarely sued, order as many unnecessary nuclear stress tests as doctors at traditional hospitals (Seaman, 6/11).

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State Watch

Calif. Budget Agreement Seeks Balance, But Leaves Off Some Health Care Items

A budget agreement in California between lawmakers and Governor Jerry Brown seeks to strike a balance between spending restraint and providing more health care for the needy, the Los Angeles Times reports. But the agreement lacks several health care line items lawmakers bandied about in recent weeks -- including repeal of a 10 percent provider cut to Medi-Cal.

Los Angeles Times: California Budget Accord Balances Restraint, Social Services
The budget deal that lawmakers will vote on this week is an effort to mesh financial restraint with a desire to provide more social services and health care for the needy -- giving the state's economy extra time to recover before some of the spending kicks in (Megerian and York, 6/11).

The Wall Street Journal: Brown Set For Victory In California Budget Fight
When Mr. Brown issued his budget plan in May, he called Sacramento "a big spending machine" and said he was prepared for a fight with the legislature. … Later that month, after an independent state analyst unveiled a 2014 revenue forecast higher than the governor had projected, legislators pursued their own budget proposals, with higher spending based on the analyst's forecast. Democrats in the state Senate proposed spending $98.2 billion, including increases in mental-health programs and in dental care for low-income Californians. Democrats in the assembly proposed spending $98.3 billion. But as the deadline for budget passage approached, they accepted Mr. Brown's more-cautious spending plan (Vara, 6/11).

California Healthline: Autism Therapy Out Of The Budget
Several health care provisions were conspicuously absent from the Legislative Budget Conference Committee's budget agreement with Gov. Jerry Brown announced yesterday. The plan has no mention of repealing a 10 percent Medi-Cal provider rate cut nor a plan to fund autism services. The agreement omitted a proposal to set aside $50 million in general fund money to pay for autism services. When matched with federal dollars, the state would have had $100 million to help pay for autism treatment, including applied behavioral analysis therapy, known as ABA therapy (Gorn, 6/11).

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Wis. Lawmakers Poised To OK Bill That Will Require Ultrasound Before Abortion

Wisconsin lawmakers appear poised to approve a measure supported by the governor that would require women seeking an abortion get an ultrasound before the procedure. 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Senate Republicans Back Abortion Measures As Democrats Hold Up Final Vote
Republicans in the state Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill Tuesday requiring women seeking abortions to get ultrasounds and doctors providing them to have hospital admitting privileges, clearing the way for the measure to become law by the end of the month. Democrats blocked a final vote on the bill Tuesday, but Senate President Mike Ellis (R-Neenah) said senators would return to the floor at 8 a.m. Wednesday to give final passage to the measure. The plan has the support of Republicans who control the Assembly, as well as GOP Gov. Scott Walker (Marley, 6/12).

The Associated Press: Democrats Delay Vote On Bill Requiring Ultrasound
Gov. Scott Walker said Tuesday he will sign a measure that's quickly working its way through the Republican-controlled Legislature that would require women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound. The Senate debated the measure Tuesday, a week after it was introduced, but Democrats used a procedural move to delay a vote until Wednesday morning. The Assembly hoped to take it up Thursday (Wang, 6/11).

Elsewhere, New York lawmakers consider nurse-patient staffing ratios, and North Carolina grapples with AIDS care and Medicaid funding.

The Associated Press: NY Bill Would Mandate Hospital Nurse Staffing
A push to increase the number of nurses per patient at New York's 185 acute care hospitals pits promises of fewer patient deaths and complications against a billion dollars or more in annual health care costs. Advocates say required staffing of one nurse for every two intensive-care patients and 1-to-4 ratios in regular medical-surgical units will improve patient care, reduce deaths, complaints and readmissions and leave hospitals financially intact (Virtanen, 6/11).

North Carolina Health News: Funding For AIDS Drugs Faces Budget
The two houses of the General Assembly are differing on how much funding to provide for the N.C. AIDS Drug Assistance Program. At times, there’s been enough to provide medications to treat HIV for people earning as much as $45,000 per year. At other times, the program has been so underfunded that North Carolina had one of the longest waiting lists for AIDS medications in the country (Hoban, 6/12).

North Carolina Health News: Medicaid In The House And Senate Budgets
This past weekend, the House of Representatives presented it’s biennial budget. NC Health News has put the House’s plans for Medicaid next to the Senate plans for convenient comparison (Hoban, 6/12).

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Privacy, Medicaid Fraud Lawsuits Yield Settlements In Calif., N.Y.

Parties in health care court cases in California and New York reach settlements after privacy and Medicaid fraud lawsuits.

Los Angeles Times: Prime Healthcare Settles Federal Patient-Privacy Case For $275,000 
The case stemmed from allegations that Prime Healthcare and its Shasta Regional Medical Center violated patient confidentiality by sharing a woman's medical files with journalists and sending an email about her treatment to nearly 800 hospital employees. Last year, California regulators fined the Ontario hospital chain $95,000 for the unauthorized disclosure of medical information in this matter. The company said it's appealing that state fine (Terhune, 6/11).

The New York Times: New York State Gets $2.5 Million In Medicaid Fraud Case
The state attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, said on Tuesday that his office had reached a settlement with the estate of Ms. Sieger to pay a total of $2.5 million to the state's Medicaid program, which includes $1.2 million in reimbursements, and $1.3 million for damages (Hu, 6/11).

And in Florida, a former health care CEO is found guilty of Medicaid fraud --

The Wall Street Journal: Wellcare Former CEO, CFO Found Guilty of Florida Medicaid Fraud
Former CEO Todd S. Farha and former CFO Paul L. Behrens were both convicted of two counts of health care fraud. Mr. Behrens was also convicted of two counts of making false statements relating to health-care matters, according to the Justice Department. Also convicted of two counts of health care fraud was William L. Kale, former vice president of Wellcare unit Harmony Behavioral Health Inc. Peter E. Clay, former WellCare vice president of medical economics, was found guilty of making false statements to a law-enforcement officer (Chaudhuri, 6/11).

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State Highlights: Ala. Abortion Law Challenged In Court; NYC Officials Try Again On Soda Restrictions

A selection of health policy stories from North Carolina, Alabama, New York, Georgia, Virginia and Maryland.

The New York Times: Protests In North Carolina Challenge Conservative Shift In State Politics
As the protests have grown, so has the list of causes. At the center is a package of changes to voting rules and a tax reform plan working its way through the legislature that would reduce individual and corporate income taxes and expand the sales tax. Protesters have also rallied against the expansion of school vouchers, cuts to unemployment benefits, the repeal of the Racial Justice Act, efforts to allow hydraulic fracturing and the state's refusal to expand Medicaid benefits as part of President Obama's health care plan (Severson, 6/11).

The New York Times: Alabama: Suit Is Filed to Block Abortion Clinic Law
Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday to block a new Alabama law that would force three of the state's five abortion clinics to shut down (Eckholm, 6/12).

Reuters: New York City Lawyers Argue To Bring Back Soda Ban
New York City lawyers tried to convince an appeals court on Tuesday to allow Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ban on large sugary drinks, three months after it was struck down as an illegal overreach of executive power. The law, invalidated a day before it would have taken effect, barred movie theaters, restaurants and other venues from selling sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces. Convenience stores and grocers would not have been affected (Ax, 6/11).

Kaiser Health News: NYC's Answer To Proton Therapy Controversy: One For All
During the recent debate in Washington, D.C. over whether to let to local competing hospital systems build rival proton therapy centers, an interesting question was raised: Why not work together? … It turns out, Selassie is on to something. That's exactly what is happening in New York City (Gold, 6/12).

Georgia Health News: Health IT: Why Ga. Is At The Center Of Data Revolution
The old paper charts are vanishing from medical offices at a rapid rate, being replaced by digitalized records. And Atlanta and Georgia health information technology companies are taking advantage of this transition. Carrollton-based Greenway Medical Technologies, for example, has recently completed an expansion that added 300 jobs, fueled by the growth of its electronic medical records business. Revolutionary changes in how health care payments are made and clinical information is exchanged -- partly sparked by incentives in the Affordable Care Act -- have created an industry boom, says Greg Fulton, a Greenway spokesman (Miller, 6/11). 

Richmond Times-Dispatch: VCU Health Systems Plans Free-Standing Children's Hospital
The Virginia Commonwealth University Health System announced plans Tuesday to pursue building a free-standing children’s hospital governed by a board that includes community representatives and staffed by both VCU and community doctors. The move was praised by Pediatricians Associated to Care for Kids, a group of about 200 community pediatricians who have been working for two years to build support for an independently operated children's hospital (Smith, 6/12).

Baltimore Sun: University Of Maryland Medical Center To Begin Layoffs This Month
The University of Maryland Medical Center will send layoff notices to employees at the end of the month as it looks to cut costs in the wake of federal budget cuts and what it and other state hospitals have called inadequate rate increases. Jeffrey Rivest, president and CEO of the Baltimore hospital, sent an email to managers Tuesday that said individual letters regarding layoffs would be given out June 25, 26 and 27. The number of people who will lose their jobs still is being finalized, said spokeswoman Mary Lynn Carver said. She also said the dates of the layoff notifications could change (Walker, 6/11).

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Editorials and Opinions

Viewpoints: Administration 'Finally' Comes Around On Plan B; 'Legal Loophole' Creates Another Compounded Drug Scare

The New York Times: An Important Victory On Morning-After Pills
Reluctantly yielding to a federal-court decision, the Obama administration announced on Monday that it will take steps to allow a version of the so-called morning-after pill, known as Plan B One-Step, to be sold over the counter to girls and women of all ages. They will not need a prescription, nor will they be required to show any identification to obtain the emergency contraceptive. There will be no restrictions on where the drug can be sold; it will be up to the manufacturer to propose appropriate venues (6/11).

Los Angeles Times: On Plan B Contraceptive, The White House Gets It Right – Finally
The White House has smartly reversed its opposition to allowing girls of all ages to buy the Plan B One-Step contraceptive pill over-the-counter. The Obama administration still resists the sale of cheaper, more generic versions of the emergency contraception drug. That’s unfortunate, but at least the White House has stopped its long, drawn-out court battle over availability of a drug that scientific research and the Food and Drug Administration have found to be safe and effective for girls and women of all ages (Carla Hall, 6/11).

CNN: A Victory For The Morning-After Pill
The Obama administration finally got it right when it decided to stop fighting to put age limits on who can buy morning-after pill Plan B without a prescription. The fight started a year and a half ago, when apparently for the first time in history, the secretary of health and human services overruled a Food and Drug Administration decision. The FDA said Plan B should be sold the way aspirin is sold -- with no restrictions. The Obama administration wanted age limits; a coalition of reproductive rights groups sued the government, and on Monday, the Justice Department backed down and ended the legal wrangling (Aaron Carroll, 6/11).

The New York Times’ Economix: The New Subsidy For Layoffs
Employers may also offer to help laid-off workers continue with their health insurance during the unemployment spell. (Indeed, a laid-off worker who intended to spend some severance pay on health insurance premiums would save money on taxes if the former employer were paying those premiums, even if it meant lower severance.) Severance pay and health insurance costs for former employees are significant expenses that employers presumably take into account when they decide the number and timing of their layoffs. During 2009 and 2010, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act had the federal government pay some costs of layoffs, especially with its premium-assistance program, which paid 65 percent of the premiums that a laid-off employee would pay to stay on the former employer’s health plan. People who could join a spouse’s employer health plan and people without health insurance on their previous job were ineligible for the program (Casey B. Mulligan, 6/12). 

The New York Times: Healing The Overwhelmed Physician
We physicians are susceptible to a kind of medical Stendhal syndrome as we confront the voluminous evidence about the clinical choices we face every day. It would take dozens of hours each week for a conscientious primary care doctor to read everything he or she needed in order to stay current — a dizzying and impractical prospect. To remedy the problem, many medical groups issue clinical-practice guidelines: experts in a field sort through the reams of clinical research on a medical condition and pore over drug studies, then publish summaries about what treatments work best so that physicians everywhere can offer the most appropriate, up-to-date care to their patients. While this sounds straightforward, the process can go astray (Jerry Avorn, 6/11). 

Politico: Legal Loopholes Compound Drug Safety Problems
The Food and Drug Administration is sounding alarm bells, warning health care providers that an injectible drug produced by a compounding pharmacy in Tennessee has been implicated in more than a dozen illnesses. If the story sounds eerily familiar, that’s because it is. ... American consumers expect that the medications they take are not only effective but safe. There’s a good reason for that. As a country, we have made a commitment to rigorous oversight by the FDA. And while the rigor of this process requires a substantial financial investment and is time consuming, the result is a high level of safety and confidence in our nation’s drug supply. But when compounded medications are mass manufactured and distributed all over the country without FDA oversight, public health is compromised (Tommy Thompson, 6/11).

The Washington Post: Welcome Disclosure About Medicare Payments
Information can be efficiency’s best friend. The more that participants in the marketplace know about the true costs and benefits of various goods and services, and about the behavior of other individuals and firms, the easier it is for them to get the most for their money. The U.S. health-care system notoriously lacks transparency, which may be a reason why it produces poorer results at higher cost than do systems elsewhere. So one of the more encouraging recent developments in health care has been the Obama administration’s disclosure of data about how Medicare spends roughly $500 billion each year (6/11).

The Washington Post: IRS Taxing Of Tanning Beds And Other Obamacare Absurdities
It is reassuring that amid so much government dysfunction, the Internal Revenue Service has resolved the question of when and whether to tax tanning beds under the Affordable Care Act. Do not be concerned about that giddiness you feel. You are not having a nervous breakdown but are suffering a symptom commonly associated with recognition that the absurd has become the accepted norm — and that you are, in fact, alone (Kathleen Parker, 6/11).

Bloomberg: Retirement Will Kill You
Teddy Roosevelt once said "the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." Recent research suggests he may have been more right than he knew: Life’s "best prize" might actually extend life itself. Our common perception is that retirement is a time when we can relax and take better care of ourselves after stressful careers. But what if work itself is beneficial to our health, as several recent studies suggest? (Peter Orszag, 6/11).

St. Louis Beacon-Journal: Achieving Middle Ground On Medicaid Is Still Possible
The Missouri legislature closed its 2013 legislative session without resolving what was likely the most important question facing it: whether to adopt the proposal put forward by Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, to expand the Medicaid program to a projected 260,000 uninsured people in Missouri. While a bipartisan solution did not pass, the legislature appointed a committee to consider this question further. Recent signals suggest that a compromise solution could be found in the 2014 session (Timothy McBride, 6/11).

The Medicare NewsGroup: Medicare Trustees Report Presents A Fuzzy, Moving Target
Due to the moving-target nature of the ACA reforms and the SGR, though, the underlying tone of the trustees report is far from sanguine. There's a huge gap between implementing the SGR cuts (which won't happen soon) and alternatives, as illustrated in a chart in the report. That could amount to hundreds of billions of dollars in additional spending if Medicare can't reel in costs. The best-case scenario savings are "an illustration of the very favorable financial outcomes" outlined in the report (John Wasik, 6/11).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Consumer Revolutions Needed For Real Health Care Reform
If we want to flatten the cost curve in health care, maybe we should shift our focus to hospitals and doctors. All of us know that their prices are outrageous and ever rising. But, when you inspect financial statements and cost reports of health providers, you reach the same conclusion you reached when you looked at insurance company profitability (Francis Miller, 6/11).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Access To Health Care Major Issue For LGBT Coloradans
In addition, the Division of Insurance made changes to current regulations to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. As we celebrate LGBT Pride Month this June, there are now many new opportunities for Colorado’s LGBT community than in years past. However, there is still much work to be done to ensure that LGBT Coloradans have access to the care they need to get and stay healthy (Sarah Mapes, 6/11).

San Francisco Chronicle: Breast Cancer Treatments Less Disruptive
Early in my practice, it became clear to me that breast cancer treatment was not just a health issue, but a family and work disruption issue for busy women. This was frankly pointed out by a patient who presented me with the book she had written after her treatment called "Breast Cancer? Let Me Check My Schedule." Cancer remains a disruption, but not nearly as much as three decades ago (Nima Grissom, 6/11).

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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.