Daily Health Policy Report

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Last updated: Tue, Jun 5

KHN Original Reporting & Guest Opinion

Campaign 2012

Health Reform

Capitol Hill Watch

Health Care Marketplace

Public Health & Education

Coverage & Access

State Watch

Editorials and Opinions

KHN Original Reporting & Guest Opinion

Kingsdale: 'People Are Aware That There Are Huge Problems' (Video)

Kaiser Health News' Mary Agnes Carey talks to Jon Kingsdale about the upcoming Supreme Court ruling on the health law and its implications for the future of health care. Kingsdale, who helped implement the Massachusetts health law, divides states into three camps when it comes to the 2010 federal law: Some are preparing in earnest to be ready on time, some are taking steps but waiting on others until the Supreme Court rules and the fall elections occur, and other states have done nothing, with hopes the law will be struck down. Kingsdale now consults with states and others on the federal health law (6/4). Watch the video. This is the first installment of KHN's video series "Supreme Uncertainty: What's Next After The Court Rules."

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Insuring Your Health: New Screening Tool Could Increase The Use Of Virtual Colonoscopies

In her latest Kaiser Health News consumer column, Michelle Andrews writes: "Colorectal cancer screening can cut a person's risk of dying from the disease in half, yet about 40 percent of those who should get tested don't do it. One reason is that the 'gold standard' for screening, an optical colonoscopy, requires a rigorous preparation to empty the colon, and it gives many people pause. A new method that doesn't require patients to take laxatives to empty their bowel beforehand could boost screening rates. But some experts question whether it's a good solution" (Andrews, 6/4). Read the column.

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Capsules: California Lawmakers Move Bills To Guarantee Health Coverage; Hospital Observation Stays Increase 25 Percent In 3 Years; To Curb Spending On Elderly, Hospitals Try New Business Models

Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Capital Public Radio's Pauline Bartolone, working in collaboration with KHN and NPR, writes: "Pre-existing conditions would not prevent a Californian from buying health insurance on the individual market in 2014, if state lawmakers succeed with a push to make sure the main tenets of the national health law survive in the state – no matter how the U.S. Supreme Court rules later this month" (Bartolone, 6/5).

Susan Jaffe reports: "The number of Medicare patients who enter the hospital for observation rose dramatically even though Medicare enrollment and hospital admissions declined slightly, according to a study by gerontologists at Brown University in Providence, R.I." (Jaffe, 6/4).

Also on the blog, David Schultz writes: "Believe it or not, there is a silver lining to the massive storm cloud that is Medicare's spiraling health care costs. … But the silver lining is that the problem's gravity is inspiring many doctors, researchers and hospital administrators to conjure outside-the-box business models that could rein in these costs" (Schultz, 6/4). Check out what else is on the blog.

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Political Cartoon: 'It's The Real Thing'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "It's The Real Thing" by Nate Beeler.

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


I cannot "recall"
Such an election of note
Of the Cheesehead vote
- Anonymous

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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Campaign 2012

Romney's Choice For Transition Chief Triggers Analysis, Questions

Since GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney chose former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt to be his transition chief, news outlets have re-examined Leavitt's policy positions when he was the Health and Human Services secretary in George W. Bush's presidential administration, his support for elements of the 2010 federal health law and his work as a health care consultant advising states on the measure's implementation.

The New York Times' The Caucus: Conservatives Attack Romney's Choice To Lead Transition
Mitt Romney's choice of Michael O. Leavitt as his transition chief has spurred loud opposition from some conservatives over Mr. Leavitt's support of a crucial part of President Obama's health care plan. Mr. Leavitt, a former governor of Utah who was secretary of health and human services in George W. Bush's cabinet, is now a health care consultant who advises states on how to implement Mr. Obama's health law (Shear, 6/4).

Modern Healthcare: Romney Taps Leavitt For Transition Post
Mitt Romney appointed former HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt to head the transition team that would lay the groundwork for his presidency if he wins Nov. 6, according to his campaign. ... [Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda] Henneberg did not respond to questions about whether Leavitt's appointment was in any way related to Romney's promises to roll back much of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Romney has repeatedly said he would issue waivers to all states on his first day in office, as part of a push to repeal the law (Daly, 6/4).

CQ HealthBeat: Leavitt In Transition: Manager First, Health Wonk Second
As head of the transition team if Mitt Romney is elected president this fall, former Utah Gov. Michael O. Leavitt could be in a strong position to further the health policy agenda he pursued as Health and Human Services secretary under President George W. Bush, particularly in promoting health information technology and marketplace changes to make health care more efficient. Leavitt’s first responsibility as head of the transition team would be to recommend top appointees throughout a Romney administration. However, he made clear in his last days as HHS secretary how anxious he was to continue pushing his market-based ideas for improving the quality and efficiency of health care (Reichard, 6/4).

Politico Pro: Leavitt Role, Stance Stirs Conservative Distrust
Leavitt, a former Utah governor who led HHS during President George W. Bush's second term, has been less than militant about repealing all of President Barack Obama's health care law. Now a health care consultant, his firm advises states on how to implement portions of the ACA, which is sacrilege in right-wing circles. "This sends a very troubling signal to the grass roots. We're concerned by the choice of someone who has personally profited from Obamacare," Dean Clancy, vice president of health care policy for FreedomWorks, said Monday (Cheney, 6/5).

Denver Post: Mitt Romney Supporters Talk About Uncertainty Under President Obama
The new buzz word from Mitt Romney's presidential campaign apparently is "uncertainy," a word that was used by each Coloradan on a conference call today to talk about President Obama's "hostility" to business. U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, said the president’s health-care plan is creating "uncertainty" (Bartels, 6/4).

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports on how a cache of emails has emerged that demonstrates how involved Romney was in the efforts to pass a state health reform law when he was governor of Massachusetts - 

The Wall Street Journal: How Romney Pushed State Health Bill
But a small cache of emails survived, including some that have never publicly surfaced surrounding Mr. Romney's efforts to pass his now-controversial health-care law. The emails show the Republican governor was closely engaged in negotiating details of the bill, working with top Democratic state leaders and drafting early copies of opinion articles backing it (Maremont, 6/4).

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It All Comes Down To This: Wisconsin's Recall Vote

Today's recall election in Wisconsin represents the "culmination" of a political firestorm that began when Gov. Scott Walker proposed ending most state workers' collective bargaining rights and requiring them to pay more for health insurance and pension benefits as a way to address the state's budget shortfall.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Wisconsin Holds Recall Targeting Gov. Scott Walker After More Than A Year Of Political Turmoil
The recall effort against Walker began bubbling last year, shortly after the rising Republican star took office. Just a month into his first term, Walker took the state by surprise with a proposal to effectively end collective bargaining rights for most state workers and pay more for health insurance and pension benefits as a tactic to deal with the state's budget shortfall. The proposal created a firestorm of opposition, and protests drew tens of thousands to the state Capitol (6/5).

USA Today: Wisconsin Gov. Walker Recall Vote
The recall election is the culmination of a bitter battle that began in February 2011 when Walker announced his plan to erase a $137 million budget shortfall in part by requiring state workers to give up collective-bargaining rights and pay more for health insurance and pension benefits (Keen, 6/5).

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Health Reform

Handicapping The Health Law's Future

News outlets report on how stakeholders -- ranging from state governments to safety-net health care facilities -- are taking steps to prepare for the health law's implementation as well as the Supreme Court's decision on its constitutionality.

Kaiser Health News: Kingsdale: 'People Are Aware that There Are Huge Problems' (Video)
Kaiser Health News' Mary Agnes Carey talks to Jon Kingsdale about the upcoming Supreme Court ruling on the health law and its implications for the future of health care. Kingsdale, who helped implement the Massachusetts health law, divides states into three camps when it comes to implementing the 2010 federal law: Some are preparing in earnest to be ready on time, some are taking steps but waiting on others until the Supreme Court rules and the fall elections occur, and other states have done nothing, with hopes the law will be struck down. Kingsdale now consults with states and others on implementation of the federal health law (6/4). Watch the video. This is the first installment of KHN's video series "Supreme Uncertainty: What's Next After The Court Rules."

Boston Globe: Looking Ahead At Options If Health Law Falls
As the country awaits this month's Supreme Court decision on the fate of President Obama's sweeping health reform law, sharp negative questioning by justices during oral arguments has supporters and opponents girding for the possibility that the entire bill could be overturned. … Even if the court were to strike just the individual mandate and keep the rest of the law intact, some health care advocates, insurers, and lawmakers fear that these consumer protections would be unable to stand on their own (Jan, 6/5).

CQ HealthBeat: Medicaid DSH Payment Cuts Could Add To Financial Woes Of Safety Net Hospitals
Cuts to Medicaid disproportionate share hospital payments required by the health care law could leave safety net facilities unable to pay for necessary modernizations in health care delivery, experts said Monday. No matter how the Supreme Court rules on the law, according to Arthur Gianelli, president and CEO of NuHealth System in New York, payment changes in the health care system have already begun and will not stop. In response, hospitals, including safety net facilities, are reducing admissions, forging partnerships with other providers, expanding primary care and care management and entering into quality-based shared savings arrangements with payers (Bristol, 6/4).

Meanwhile, the anticipation regarding high court's ruling continues to play a role in politics --

Politico: Axe: Not The Time To 'Speculate' On Health Care Redo
President Obama's top campaign strategist David Axelrod is pushing back on reports about the president telling top donors that he may revisit health care in his second term. "Our hope and our expectation is that the Supreme Court will affirm the health care law," Axelrod said on a conference call Monday. "Now is not the time to speculate on that. We believe that the law is constitutional" (Tau, 6/4).

National Journal: Poll: Mixed View On Health Care, Farm Bill
If the Supreme Court strikes down part or all of the Affordable Care Act, a strong plurality of the public wants Congress to try again to come up with a comprehensive health care law to guarantee insurance for all Americans. Forty-six percent of respondents in a new poll favor that ambitious approach, while 18 percent say that Congress should be content to "pass smaller measures that will cover some people without insurance but not as many as the original law." Meanwhile, 28 percent of respondents said that Congress should simply do away with all of President Obama's 2010 law, including any parts the Supreme Court may decide to uphold (Cooper, 6/4).

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Capitol Hill Watch

Political Divide Deepens On Deficit Reduction And Tax Issues

Reuters reports that even last week's poor jobs report did not spur Congress toward a compromise. As it stands, Republicans are pushing for major cuts to entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid while Democrats want to preserve these programs and ask people with higher incomes to bear more of the tax burden. The partisan divide, meanwhile, is also evident regarding women's issues and health policy.

Reuters: Poor Jobs Data Fails To Spur Congress Into Compromise
Democrats demanded that new tax revenues be part of any deficit reduction and tax reform deal, while Republicans demand major cuts in so-called entitlements such as the Medicare and Medicaid health care programs for the elderly and the poor. In fact, these positions form the basis of key campaign themes for each side -- for Republicans, to slash Washington spending and lower all tax rates, and for Democrats, to preserve Medicare benefits while asking the wealthy to shoulder a greater share of the tax burden (Lawder, 6/4).

Los Angeles Times: Congress Shifting Attention To Women's Issues, Health Care
Congress returns its attention this week to women's issues, with the Senate voting on legislation to ensure paycheck equity as GOP front-runner Mitt Romney tapped a Republican congresswoman to be his campaign liaison in the House. … The House this week is expected to take another turn at trying to dismantle Obama's health care law with legislation that would repeal a tax on medical device manufacturers. Democrats have largely supported the tax, but Republicans argue that it is stifling job creation (Mascaro, 6/4).

Also on Capitol Hill --

Bloomberg: Cancer Doctors Push Congress To Help End Drug Shortages
U.S. regulators and the country's top cancer doctors urged Congress to help end the shortages of more than a hundred drugs, including those for deadly tumors. The House and Senate are working to merge bills passed last week that would require drugmakers to notify the Food and Drug Administration when they expect a disruption to production of medicines. The number of shortages have tripled since 2006 and include cisplatin for ovarian cancer and paclitaxel, a therapy given to women with breast cancer (Pettypiece and Langreth, 6/4).

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Health Care Marketplace

Study: Hospital At Home Program Offers Good Outcomes, Patient Satisfaction

The program in Albuquerque also lowered costs while providing some patients acute care at home.

Politico Pro: Hospital At Home Adopted In New Mexico
Very sick patients given hospital-level care in their homes through a New Mexico integrated health care system had as good or better outcomes, higher satisfaction and lower costs than similar patients in a traditional inpatient hospital setting, according to a study published in Health Affairs on Monday. Presbyterian Healthcare Services in Albuquerque adapted the Hospital at Home model developed at Johns Hopkins, which includes daily doctor visits and nursing visits at least once a day, to patients getting hospital-level acute care at home (Kenen, 6/4).

Modern Healthcare: Advanced Home Health Model Yields Savings, Study Finds
An advanced form of home health care offered by Presbyterian Healthcare Services, Albuquerque, N.M., provided care that was 19 percent less than the cost for similar inpatients, while clinical outcomes were comparable or better, according to a study published in the June issue of Health Affairs. Most of the savings came from the 323 home health care patients in the study having lower average length of stays and lower use of clinical testing than the 1,048 inpatients studied (Barr, 6/4).

Kaiser Health News: To Curb Spending On Elderly, Hospitals Try New Business Models
Believe it or not, there is a silver lining to the massive storm cloud that is Medicare's spiraling health care costs. … But the silver lining is that the problem's gravity is inspiring many doctors, researchers and hospital administrators to conjure outside-the-box business models that could rein in these costs" (Schultz, 6/4).

Baltimore Sun: Treating Patients At Home May Be Cheaper, Better
A program that allows patients to be treated at home instead of the hospital can improve care and satisfaction, new research from Johns Hopkins shows. The model called Hospital at Home reduced costs by roughly 20 percent and had equal or better outcomes among patients in New Mexico who participated in a study, published in the June issue of Health Affairs (Cohn, 6/4).

See related Kaiser Health News story: Some Patients Can Choose To Be Hospitalized At Home

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Study Finds Dramatic Increase In Hospital 'Observation Care' For Medicare Patients

Although patients don't often know the difference between observation and inpatient care, observation care leaves them on the hook for a much larger bill. A study published in Health Affairs finds this circumstance becoming more common.

Politico: Hospital Billing Shifting Costs
A hospital billing practice that can leave Medicare beneficiaries on the hook for large medical costs is becoming increasingly common, according to a report released in Health Affairs on Monday. Three researchers from Brown University examined how frequently patients are placed on "observation status," meaning they're getting treatment in a hospital but are not technically admitted. That means their care is covered by Medicare Part B rather than Part A, which can leave patients responsible for a greater share of their costs (Feder, 6/4).

Kaiser Health News: Study: Hospital Observation Stays Increase 25 Percent In 3 Years
The number of Medicare patients who enter the hospital for observation rose dramatically even though Medicare enrollment and hospital admissions declined slightly, according to a study by gerontologists at Brown University in Providence, R.I. (Jaffe, 6/4).

California Watch: 'Observation Stays' For Medicare Patients Create Coverage Problems
Advocacy organizations have criticized the practice of classifying patients who are treated in a hospital over several days as observation stays, which has left some Medicare patients with large, unexpected expenses. "If you’re in a hospital for a week, what do mean you’re not an inpatient?" said Toby Edelman, a senior policy attorney for the Center for Medicare Advocacy, who is one of the attorneys representing Jackson in the class-action lawsuit. "The (financial) consequences are serious" (Yeung, 6/4).

Other outlets reported on two other studies in Health Affairs -

National Journal: Report: Even When Free, Many Seniors Skip Checkups
Even though Medicare offers a free "welcome to Medicare" checkup for seniors who enter the program, about one in eight still wait two years or longer to seek a physical, a study in Health Affairs finds. The report did not find that those who delayed care were any sicker as a result. In fact, patients who waited were less likely to have chronic disease and more likely to believe they would live at least another decade (Sanger-Katz, 6/4).

The Hill: Study: Caution Needed In Handling Care For Dual Eligibles
Policymakers must be cautious in formulating plans to streamline care for some low-income elderly and disabled patients, according to an analysis published in the journal Health Affairs. Estimates about savings from new plans and demonstration projects must also be approached with skepticism, the authors wrote (Viebeck, 6/4).

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WellPoint To Buy 1-800 Contacts

The Associated Press: Health Insurer WellPoint To Buy 1-800 Contacts
WellPoint Inc. plans to buy contact lens retailer 1-800-Contacts Inc. in a deal that would give the insurer its first direct-to-consumer business outside selling individual health coverage. … 1-800 Contacts currently has about 3.3 million customers. WellPoint Chairwoman and CEO Angela Braly said in a statement that the business comes with a significant growth opportunity because there are more than 38 million people wearing eye contact lenses and more than 140 million people wearing eye glasses in the United States (Murphy, 6/4).

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Public Health & Education

Half Of New Yorkers Say Soda Ban Proposal Goes Too Far, But Legal Challenges Could Be Hard To Win

Half of New Yorkers say the proposal by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to limit the size of sugary drinks goes too far, but analysts say legal challenges to the limits might not be able to stop the policy.

Reuters: Legal Challenges To New York Soda Ban Face Uphill Climb
Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed ban on large-size sugary soft drinks in New York isn't winning him many new friends in the beverage and restaurant industries. Trouble is, they may not be able to stop him, at least in the courts. The mayor's proposal would change the city's administrative code, giving the health department the power to levy fines on most restaurants, movie theaters, food carts and delis that sell sugary soft drinks larger than 16 ounces (Ax, 6/4).

The Associated Press: Poll: Half Of NYers Oppose Drink Restrictions
About half of New Yorkers say Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed ban of sugary drinks over 16 ounces from the city's eateries is an example of government going too far, while 42 percent say it would be good health policy, according to a poll released Monday. Of the 500 adults surveyed Sunday for the NY1-Marist poll, 53 percent said the proposal is a bad idea, while 42 percent praised the concept -- which would make New York the first American city to so directly attempt to limit portion sizes in an attempt to fight obesity (Gross, 6/4).

In the meantime, Massachusetts lawmakers are considering dumping a sales tax exemption for soda and candy --

WBUR's CommonHealth blog: Soda Tax Proposal Survives Near-Death. Up For Debate This Week
We've been hearing for many months about a brewing proposal to lift the state sales tax exemption on soda and candy. … But in the bubbling political ferment in the State House over cutting health costs, nothing is a done deal until it's a done deal. So though many public-health-oriented personae have come out in favor of lifting the soda tax exemption -- including the Healthy People/Healthy Economy coalition way back in late 2010 -- for a while it was looking last week like the actual soda-tax amendment might not be filed and the proposal might not even come up for debate this legislative session (Goldberg, 5/4).

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Coverage & Access

As The Number Of Multigenerational Families Grows, More People Face Challenges Of Caring For Aging Relatives

NPR: Caring For Aging Relative: 'To Give Her A Good Life'
Over the last two months, NPR's Morning Edition has been following three families who make up the growing number of multigenerational households in this country. All became multigenerational unexpectedly, when elderly relatives could no longer live independently and the families took them in (6/5).

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State Watch

CMS Raises Questions About N.H. Medicaid Reimbursement; Other Medicaid News

The federal agency requests state data and analysis about cuts in payments to hospitals in recent years.

Modern Healthcare: CMS Queries N.H. On Medicaid Rate Cuts
The CMS requested that the New Hampshire health department provide detailed information about reductions in Medicaid reimbursement rates in recent years. In a May 23 letter, CMS Deputy Administrator Cindy Mann asked the state's Department of Health and Human Services to submit specific data and analysis about Medicaid rate and payment reimbursements within 30 days (Lee, 6/4).

The Union Leader (New Hampshire): State HHS Commissioner Says Federal Claims About Data Are Wrong
The commissioner of state Health and Human Services Department has reacted angrily to allegations from the federal agency that oversees Medicare and Medicaid that the department is not providing data on residents' access to services. In a letter to commissioner Nicholas Toumpas, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services asserted that the New Hampshire department has not furnished data to refute charges that access has been greatly diminished (Siefer, 6/4).

Meanwhile, other outlets reported on Medicaid news in California and Georgia:

California Healthline: State Health Officials Intrigued By New Medi-Cal Data
Last week, the California HealthCare Foundation, which publishes California Healthline, released a survey of the attitudes and concerns of Medi-Cal beneficiaries. It has been a relatively long time since a similar survey was completed in 2000, so state health care officials were extremely pleased to get updated information, (Len Finocchio, director of the Department of Health Care Services) said. ... One of the main general findings in the current survey is that beneficiaries are pretty happy with Medi-Cal. According to survey results, about 90 percent of the Medi-Cal insured have a positive view of the program and 78 percent said the program covers the care people need (Gorn, 6/5).

Contra Costa Times/McClatchy Newspapers: Challenges, Opportunities Lie Ahead For Medi-Cal As It Readies For Major Expansion
As California's Medi-Cal program readies for an influx of 2 million to 3 million people when national health reforms kick in, major challenges lie ahead, including finding enough specialists who will see participants. The state's existing 7.5 million Medi-Cal recipients already have difficulty accessing specialists, according to a study by the California HealthCare Foundation. And adults on Medi-Cal are twice as likely to visit the emergency room as people with other coverage, the study reveals. This may be an indication of greater difficulty in seeing primary care doctors (Kleffman, 6/4).

Georgia Health News: New Plan For Medicaid Is Weeks Away
The state's Medicaid agency Monday announced an updated timeline for its decision on how the health program will be restructured. A press release said the state's decision about the new model for Medicaid and PeachCare will come this summer, as experts had anticipated. And the Department of Community Health said it is projecting that it will begin the vendor procurement process with a Request for Proposals sometime this fall (Miller, 6/4).

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State Roundup: Embattled Planned Parenthood Runs School Clinic In Calif.

A selection of health care stories from California, Arizona, New Jersey, Michigan, Texas and Kansas.

Los Angeles Times: Unusual Partnership Offers Students Birth Control
Throughout the school year, students visit the on-campus clinic to get birth control, pregnancy tests, counseling and screening for sexually transmitted diseases. The services … are offered through a unique collaboration between Planned Parenthood and the Los Angeles Unified School District designed to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies among teenagers at the Boyle Heights high school. Although nonprofit groups frequently offer reproductive health care on school campuses around the nation, the partnership involving Planned Parenthood -- long a target of antiabortion lawmakers in Washington -- is the only one of its kind (Gorman, 6/5).

Philadelphia Inquirer: In N.J., The County Nursing Home Is An Endangered Species
County-run nursing homes in New Jersey could be headed for extinction. Four have been sold to private operators in the last 18 months, including Buttonwood Hospital in Burlington County, and Camden County now is considering selling its facility. And some within the industry suspect that the remaining 16 aren’t far behind. With local government budgets shrinking, county-run nursing homes -- the government’s traditional means of caring for seniors who lack money for a private facility -- are steadily being privatized. … The main cause, industry experts say, is decreasing Medicaid subsidies (Osborne, 6/5).

Los Angeles Times: Six Southern California Hospitals Fined For Health Care Violations
State regulators have fined six Southern California hospitals for health care violations that included an emergency room nurse's sexual assault on a patient at Chapman Medical Center in Orange. The penalties, announced Friday by the California Department of Public Health, included the eighth assessed on Southwest Healthcare System in Murrieta, which has been fined more often than any other hospital in the state since financial penalties were adopted in 2007 (Boxall, 6/5).

Arizona Republic: Arizona Prisons Can Be Deadly For Sick
A review by The Arizona Republic of deaths in state prisons over the past two fiscal years found at least four inmates, in addition to Dix, whose medical care was delayed or potentially inadequate leading up to their deaths. The records of these cases, together with interviews of officers, medical staff and inmates point to a system in which correctional officers routinely deny inmates access to timely care, and in which treatment sometimes falls short of accepted standards (Ortega, 6/4).

Detroit Free Press: Michigan Urges Collaboration, Lifestyle Changes To Combat Obesity Problem 
A statewide public health plan calls on schools, street planners, park districts, private businesses, insurers, restaurants and others to tackle the state’s growing obesity problem. "We have a real public health crisis on our hands," said Olga Dazzo, director of the Michigan Department of Community Health, which released the plan this morning at an Ypsilanti senior center and park. ... Nearly one-third of adults in Michigan are considered obese -- a problem contributing to Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, stroke and dementia. Additionally, nearly 12 percent of Michigan’s high school students are considered obese, public health officials say (Erb, 6/5).

CNN (Video): Opting Out Of Vaccinations Could Get Tougher In California
The re-emergence of some vaccine-preventable diseases has prompted the California legislature to consider a bill that would make it more difficult for parents to opt out of vaccinating their kids. The legislation would require that parents get counseling from a doctor before opting out of immunizations for their children (Roope, 6/5).

Texas Tribune: Facing Accusations in CA, Hospital Company Looks to TX
Despite more than a year of bad press and an apparent FBI inquiry, Prime Healthcare Services, which owns and operates more than a dozen hospitals, most of them in California, acquired ownership of South Texas' 112-bed Harlingen Medical Center in December, then bought Pampa Regional Medical Center, a 115-bed hospital in the Panhandle, this month. Prime spokesman Edward Barrera said in a statement that the allegations -- which he called a labor union's fictitious smear campaign against the company -- have prompted the company to "look outside the state for expansion" (Ramshaw, 6/5).

Kansas Health Institute News: Drug Disposal Program Enrolls 32 Pharmacies In First Month
After its first month of operation, the Kansas Medication Disposal Program has 32 participating pharmacies statewide that can collect unneeded or unwanted prescription drugs. A map showing the locations of the pharmacies and household hazardous waste facilities was released today by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Debra Billingsley, executive secretary for the Kansas Board of Pharmacy, said the level of participation in the voluntary program so far is what officials expected when it was launched in April. There are 287 chain pharmacies and 289 independent pharmacies in Kansas (6/4).

Kansas Health Institute News: Southeast Kansas Collaborative Seeks $11M Grant For Virtual Health Center
The plan is to create a rural health network that would connect providers via computer to create a “virtual” federally qualified health center, or FQHC, serving Labette, Neosho and Wilson counties. FQHCs typically are bricks-and-mortar facilities offering primary care services in underserved communities. Led by Labette Health, the hospital in Parsons, and its Chief Executive Officer Jodi Schmidt, collaborative members hope the idea is unique enough to earn funding through the new Health Care Innovation program administered by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. They have an $11.4 million grant request pending before the agency that would allow them to develop and implement the plan (Sherry, 6/4).

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Editorials and Opinions

Viewpoints: Why Changing Doctors' Practice Is Difficult; HHS As 'Giant Venture Capital Investor'

The New York Times: The Trouble With 'Doctor Knows Best'
This deluge of do-less recommendations results from research into tests and procedures that have been arguably overused. You'd think these pronouncements would bring a sea change in the way patients are treated in this country. But my guess is that little will change. Many doctors, maybe most, will ignore these findings and keep doing what they have been doing all along. ... It’s the culture of doctors, and that will be very hard to change (Dr. Peter B. Bach, 6/4).

The New York Times: Asthma By The Numbers
Federal health officials recently issued a gloomy report noting that the percentage of Americans suffering from asthma reached a record high of 8.4 percent in 2010, up from 7.3 percent in 2001. An estimated 25.7 million people had asthma in 2010, including 18.7 million adults and seven million children below the age of 18. It is a frightening disease in which sufferers struggle to breathe. In severe attacks, victims can die (6/4).

The Wall Street Journal: Inside ObamaCare's Grant-Making
Early this year, I was briefly involved with one of the Affordable Care Act's bureaucracies called the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, or CMMI. Despite its lofty ideals, it is one more pork program and venue for political cronyism, as I learned firsthand (Steven E. Greer, 6/4).

The Wall Street Journal: Fannie Med
Perhaps you thought that the Affordable Care Act is all about making insurance more affordable. Too bad no one told Americans that the law also turned the Health and Human Services Department into a giant venture capital investor for health care. This won't turn out well. Awash in ObamaCare dollars, HHS has a growing investment portfolio that includes everything from new insurance companies to health-care start-ups to information technology (6/4).

CNN: Bloomberg's Visionary Move Against Obesity
Nobody seems to have a positive word for Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal to ban oversized servings of sugary drinks in New York's food-service establishments. The mayor has been decried as a nanny. ... So let's defy the trend here and say: Good for Bloomberg. ... There is little doubt about the serious health effects of sugary soda. Just one soda a day doubles a woman's risk of diabetes, according to the Harvard Journals of Public Health. Two sodas raises her risk of heart disease by 40% (David Frum, 6/4).

CNN: Forget Large Sodas, How About Banning French Fries?
Critics are crying that the move is an infringement on personal freedom. But the bigger question is: What's the rationale behind targeting a single dietary factor in the sea of unhealthy foods and drinks that barrage us every day? Is it scientifically sound? A typical 16-ounce soft drink contains about 180 calories, nearly all from sugar. It doesn't contain any fat. While Bloomberg's ban will make it illegal to sell large-sized sugary drinks, it's perfectly legal to sell plenty of other beverages (milkshakes, anyone?) and foods (how about some ice cream?) that pack far more calories per amount served as well as very high levels of fat, sodium or other laboratory-engineered chemicals (Mark A. Pereira, 6/4).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: FDA Right To Take A Look At Prescription Opioids
Some doctors are urging federal officials to make it illegal for drug companies to market (prescription opiods) to treat chronic, long-term pain, a step we believe the FDA should consider….. Heather Pierce, who has a genetic connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, said she is worried about limiting the approval of opioids to just severe pain….. The FDA needs to consider that point. But the rising use of prescription opioids should be the bigger concern, as doctors writing in last week's New England Journal of Medicine pointed out (6/4). 

The Wall Street Journal: Illinois Blows Smoke At Taxpayers
Such a warning might be especially instructive for Illinois. There the Democratic legislature (with the help of Republicans in the state House) has just raised cigarette taxes by a dollar a pack. Gov. Pat Quinn says everyone wins: The higher tax means more revenue for Medicaid from those who continue to puff, while the higher price will encourage some to quit, lowering smoking-related health costs for the state (William McGurn, 6/4).

Arizona Republic: State Needs A Permanent Solution
It's the right thing for the right reasons. But Arizona's new version of a safety net for uninsured children raises questions about how long the state can substitute patches for long-term solutions. … Dubbed KidsCare II, the program is part of a larger plan that allows the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System to use money from the hospitals to take advantage of a federal match. This will help defray the hospitals' uncompensated costs of caring for adults and kids who have been cut from health-care coverage in Arizona in recent years (6/5).

Miami Herald: Wayward Government
At the Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee, the state's largest public facility for mental care, workers ignored a woman's cry for help as she felt the onset of birth. She eventually delivered a brain-injured child who will likely require lifelong medical care. Immediate responsibility for this appalling incident last December rests with unresponsive hospital workers. But an 88-page report issued last week by the Inspector General of the Department of Children & Families found ample reason to point the finger at the real culprits — an uncaring system and incompetent administration (6/4).

San Francisco Chronicle: Outdated CA Mental Health Law Serves No One
Many of the mentally ill end up in jail rather than in treatment. Thus, acute bed cuts billed as savings have simply shifted costs to the criminal justice system…. California needs to revise its 45-year-old Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, a civil rights law designed to extract persons with mental illness from state hospitals with the expectation that they would receive care and treatment in their home communities. This expectation failed (Fred Martin Jr., 6/5).

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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.