Daily Health Policy Report

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Last updated: Thu, Jun 7

KHN Original Reporting & Guest Opinion

Health Reform

Capitol Hill Watch

Campaign 2012

Health Care Marketplace


State Watch

Weekend Reading

Editorials and Opinions

KHN Original Reporting & Guest Opinion

Migrant Health Clinics Caught In Crossfire Of Immigration Debate

Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz, working in collaboration with USA Today, reports: "Such clinics, part of a 50-year-old federally funded program to treat migrant and seasonal farmworkers, have become the latest flash points in the national immigration debate. Health center officials across the country describe how local, state and national law enforcement authorities have staked out migrant clinics, detained staff members transporting patients to medical appointments and set up roadblocks near their facilities and health fairs as part of immigration crackdowns" (Galewitz, 6/6). Read the story.

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Medicaid Director Association Head: Uncertainty, Legislative Politics Have Slowed State Implementation (Video)

Kaiser Health News' Mary Agnes Carey talks to Andy Allison, Arkansas Medicaid director and president of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, who is adamant that cash-strapped states won't be able to do much to expand coverage to the uninsured if the Supreme Court strikes down the law. This interview is part of KHN's video series "Supreme Uncertainty: What's Next After The Court Rules," which solicits views from public officials and policy experts about the upcoming Supreme Court ruling on the health law and its implications for the future of health care (6/6). Watch the video or read the transcript.

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Capsules: The Downside Of Health Care Job Growth

Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Jenny Gold reports: "Health care employment has been the bright spot in the otherwise lackluster recent jobs reports. As overall employment decreased by 2 percent from 2000 to 2010, employment in the health care sector actually increased by 25 percent. But that's not necessarily a good thing, according to an opinion piece published in the most recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine" (Gold, 6/7). Check out what else is on the blog.  

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Political Cartoon: 'No Room For Dessert'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "No Room For Dessert" by R.J. Matson.

Meanwhile, for today, a double-dose of health policy haikus:


Voter anger for
pension and health plan changes -
A no-show at polls.


Walker won again
His first act of the new term
New name: WisKochsin
- 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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Health Reform

Crystal-Ball Predictions On The Health Law Decision

Bloomberg News examines another recent Supreme Court case where the justices were critical of the administration's arguments but upheld the law in the end. Meanwhile, various stakeholders and public officials offer their views on what the high court might do and what impact it might have.

Bloomberg: Voting-Rights Surprise At High Court May Foreshadow Health Care
When U.S. Supreme Court justices picked apart the government's arguments in defense of President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul, they buoyed the hopes of the law's opponents that it would be ruled unconstitutional. A 2009 challenge to the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act offers a cautionary note.  In both cases, the justices repeatedly interrupted as the administration made its case…..Two months later, the court left the law intact on an 8-1 vote. The justices struck a compromise that let them avoid a direct ruling on the constitutional challenge to the measure (Stohr, 6/7).

Kaiser Health News: Medicaid Association Director: Uncertainty, Legislative Politics Have Slowed State Implementation (Video)
Kaiser Health News' Mary Agnes Carey talks to Andy Allison, Arkansas Medicaid director and president of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, who is adamant that cash-strapped states won't be able to do much to expand coverage to the uninsured if the Supreme Court strikes down the law. This interview is part of KHN's video series "Supreme Uncertainty: What's Next After The Court Rules," which solicits views from public officials and policy experts about the upcoming Supreme Court ruling on the health law and its implications for the future of health care (6/6).

The Associated Press: New AMA Chief: No Chaos With Court's Health Ruling
Americans should not expect chaos if the U.S. Supreme Court rejects all or part of the sweeping health care law, the incoming president of the nation's largest physicians group said Wednesday. Dr. Jeremy Lazarus, who takes over as the American Medical Association's president later this month, isn't making any predictions on a high court decision, he told The Associated Press in an interview (Tanner, 6/6).

CQ HealthBeat: Erasing Mandate Won't Kill Heart Of Health Care Law, Pollack Says
Ending the individual mandate won't kill the heart of the health care law, says a leading supporter of the overhaul measure. In fact, up to 40 million people could still get coverage under the law even if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the mandate, says Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA (Reichard, 6/6).

Politico Pro: Health Care Decision A Budget Boon?
Congress could stumble into a big pile of cash from an unlikely source: The Supreme Court. The justices will deliver their landmark ruling on the 2010 health care law this month, and the government is in line to reap hundreds of billions of dollars in savings — perhaps more than $1 trillion — if certain parts of it are struck down. That money could be freed up just in time for a battle over whether automatic cuts to the Pentagon and social programs will kick in, and some members of Congress are already dreaming about the possibilities (Allen, 6/6).

Modern Healthcare: For-Profit Hospitals Would Face Hit If Reform Falls: Moody's
The credit strength of for-profit hospitals will fare best if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the healthcare reform law, rather than striking down some or all of the law, according to Moody's Investors Service. But pharmaceutical and medical-device companies would likely benefit most if the Supreme Court throws out the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Evans, 6/6).

News outlets also report on Republican "messaging" related to the upcoming decision - 

CQ HealthBeat: Boehner Briefs Members On Health Care Messaging
Anticipating the Supreme Court's decision on President Obama's health care law this month, Speaker John A. Boehner briefed his conference about health care messaging at a closed-door meeting Wednesday morning. The Ohio Republican’s office is also circulating a list of talking points to GOP offices to unify their response no matter which way the court rules on the law. The Speaker emphasized the importance of talking about the law's effect on small businesses, according to a source in the room (Newhauser, 6/6).

Bloomberg: Sick Should Stay Insured After Ruling, Republicans Say
Republican lawmakers with medical backgrounds will try to ensure that sick people who gained insurance under the 2010 U.S. health-care overhaul won’t lose coverage in the event the Supreme Court strikes down the law. The Republicans are preparing for a ruling that says it’s unconstitutional to require Americans to carry insurance while letting the rest of the law stand, said Representative Phil Gingrey, an obstetrician-gynecologist from Georgia who co-chairs a group of 21 lawmakers with health-care backgrounds.  Gingrey and his group met yesterday with Kevin McCarthy, the majority whip, in the first such session Republican leaders plan to hold with the rank-and-file to shape a response to the court’s decision, expected by the end of June (Wayne, 6/6).

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Implementing The Health Law: HHS Has Missed Nearly Half Of Its Deadlines

The Hill reports that, according to an analysis by the American Action Forum, the Department of Health and Human Services has missed many implementation deadlines in the last two years. Meanwhile, Politico Pro examines issues related to the health law's Medicaid expansion and exchange subsidies.

The Hill: Analysis: HHS Has Missed Nearly Half Of Health Care Law's Deadlines
The Health and Human Services Department has missed nearly half of its legal deadlines while implementing President Obama's health care law, according to an analysis by the American Action Forum. HHS has faced 42 statutory deadlines in the roughly two years since the Affordable Care Act became law -- and it missed 20 of them, according to the AAF's count. The highest-profile item on the list of missed deadlines is the CLASS, or Community Living Assistance Services and Supports, program, which would have provided insurance for long-term care such as nursing-home stays. But HHS decided not to implement the program, saying it simply couldn't work as it was written (Baker, 6/6).

Politico Pro: Medicaid Expansion A Mental Health Problem
Medicaid expansion in 2014 may give states a mental health problem. The national health law, if upheld by the Supreme Court, adds millions of people to Medicaid. And they will be guaranteed behavioral health services under the law's essential health benefits. But finding mental health providers -- many of whom shun private insurance let alone the lower pay rates of Medicaid -- won't be easy (Smith, 6/7)?

Politico Pro: Exchange Subsidies May Produce Errors
The new health exchanges aim for a "no wrong door" enrollment policy. But they may have a big problem with wrong numbers. A new Health Affairs article predicts that many people who turn to the exchange for coverage -- the "no wrong door" -- will be placed in the wrong program, or be given an incorrect subsidy. Some will then have to refund money to the feds (Millman, 6/6).

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Focus On Health Care Jobs 'Misguided'

News outlets report on a New England Journal of Medicine piece that argues that providing access to affordable health care is more important than protecting health industry jobs.

Boston Globe: Protecting Health Care Jobs Shouldn't Be Part Of Cost-Control Debate, Harvard Economists Argue
Hospital officials frequently warn state and national lawmakers that aggressive cost controls will lead to health care job losses. But two Harvard economists argue in this week's New England Journal of Medicine that health care jobs have no place in the policy debate. There's a bigger employment picture to consider, Harvard School of Public Health professors Katherine Baicker and Amitabh Chandra write (Conaboy, 6/6).

WBUR: 'The Golden Goose Fallacy': Fear Of Killing Health Care Jobs
Actually, the title of the "Perspective" piece just out in the New England Journal of Medicine doesn't mention any golden geese. It's "The Health Care Jobs Fallacy." But in the debate around pending Massachusetts proposals for cutting health costs, "the golden goose" -- as in, the goose that lays the golden eggs and must therefore not be killed -- is coming to be code for: "We must not hurt our state's biggest industry, which provides something like 1 in every 8 jobs, many of them good ones" (Goldberg, 6/6).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: The Downside Of Health Care Job Growth
Health care employment has been the bright spot in the otherwise lackluster recent jobs reports. As overall employment decreased by 2 percent from 2000 to 2010, employment in the health care sector actually increased by 25 percent. But that's not necessarily a good thing, according to an opinion piece published in the most recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine (Gold, 6/7). 

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Capitol Hill Watch

House To Vote Today On Medical Device Tax Repeal

The measure, which would repeal a nearly $30 billion excise tax on medical device manufacturers, would also repeal a health law provision that prohibits the use of funds from flexible health spending accounts and other health reimbursement arrangements to buy over-the-counter drugs without a prescription. The White House has threatened to veto the legislation.

Modern Healthcare: House Slated To Vote On Device Tax; Veto Threatened
In spite of a veto threat from the White House, House members will vote Thursday on a bill to repeal a provision in the 2010 health care law that requires a 2.3 percent tax on medical devices starting next year. The legislation from Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) to overturn the nearly $30 billion excise tax on medical device manufacturers also includes a provision from Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) to repeal a measure in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that prohibits using funds from flexible health spending accounts, health savings accounts, health reimbursement arrangements or Archer medical savings accounts to buy over-the-counter drugs without a prescription (Zigmond, 6/6).

CQ HealthBeat: Repeal Of Medical Device Tax Hits House Floor In A Three-Measure Package
The House is expected to take up legislation Thursday that combines a repeal of the health care law's upcoming medical device tax with two other health bills approved by the Ways and Means Committee last week. All three GOP-backed measures won some Democratic support when the panel endorsed them May 31. But while House Republicans' decision to offset the cost by removing limits on reclaiming overpayments of subsidies under the 2010 overhaul may erode some Democratic votes, others have indicated they still plan to support the expanded measure (Attias, 6/6).

MinnPost:  How Republicans Plan To Pay For Paulsen's Medical Device Tax Bill
Rep. Erik Paulsen's bill repealing a medical device tax makes its final stop before a potential floor vote on Wednesday, when the House Rules Committee will look at a beefed-up version of the bill. The bill's foundation is Paulsen's chief legislative priority, a provision repealing a 2.3 percent excise tax on medical device sales instituted as part of the Affordable Care Act and set to take effect next year. The bill contains two other ACA-related measures supported by House Republicans, and a crucial provision meant to pay for the legislation's $37 billion price tag: a reduction in federal health insurance subsidies at the heart of the 2010 health care overhaul (Henry, 6/6).

The Associated Press: GOP Ignoring Veto Threat On Medical Tax Repeal
Shrugging off a veto threat, Republicans are ready to push legislation through the House repealing a tax on the producers of many medical devices sold in the United States. GOP leaders scheduled a vote for Thursday, and with more than half the House sponsoring the measure its passage was ensured. Equally certain is its death in the Senate, where top Democrats say they won't even bring it up (Fram, 6/7).

Minnesota Public Radio: White House Threatens To Veto Paulsen's Medical Device Tax Bill
The Obama Administration has threatened to veto legislation put forward by Minnesota Republican Congressman Erik Paulsen that would overturn a tax on medical devices that was part of the 2010 health care overhaul. The House is set to vote as early as Thursday on Paulsen's bill, which has 240 cosponsors from both parties. Paulsen has made the bill one of his biggest priorities in Congress, calling it "a tax on innovation" that will hurt Minnesota's medical device industry. … As reported by MPR News earlier this week, Paulsen's bill has put some Minnesota Democrats in a political bind between supporting a local industry and chipping away at a health care law that almost all of them supported. On Wednesday, DFL U.S. Rep. Tim Walz announced that he would support a repeal of the tax (Neely, 6/6).

The Hill: Obama Administration Issues Veto Threat For GOP Health Care Bill
The White House on Wednesday issued a veto threat for a health care bill from House Republicans that will come to the floor this week. Republicans argue that H.R. 436 -- to repeal the health care reform law's medical device excise tax, among other purposes -- would help lower health care costs.  But in its veto threat, the White House said the measure "would fund tax breaks for industry by raising taxes on middle-class and low-income families" and increase the number of uninsured Americans (Viebeck, 6/6).

In other Capitol Hill news --

CQ HealthBeat: Panel Backs GOP Spending Bill Undercutting Health Care, Dodd-Frank Laws
A House Appropriations panel on Wednesday advanced GOP-backed legislation that would significantly undercut the Obama administration's efforts to implement the 2010 health care and financial regulatory overhaul laws, two of the president's signature legislative achievements. Overall, the draft fiscal 2013 measure would provide $21.2 billion in discretionary spending for the Treasury Department and various regulatory agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Small Business Administration (SBA), General Services Administration (GSA), as well as the judiciary and the District of Columbia (Holden, 6/6).

Politico: Secret Talks Under Way About 'Fiscal Cliff'
The uptick in back-channel talks reflects a growing recognition that the differences over the intractable tax, deficit and entitlement issues must be narrowed ahead of November if there's any chance to meet a critical Jan. 1 deadline -- the so-called fiscal cliff -- when $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts take effect and Bush-era tax cuts expire on individual tax rates, capital gains and dividends. … Above all else, they say, these summer talks must be done secretly and never be made public for fear that any new proposals could get swept into the highly toxic partisan atmosphere ahead of a historic presidential election. The secret talks might allow Democrats to entertain deeper cuts to entitlements than they usually would, and Republicans could talk more candidly about increasing tax revenues (Raju, 6/6).

The Washington Post: House Panel Reviews VA Pharmaceutical Contracting Reforms
Reforms put in place by the Department of Veterans Affairs to prevent the routine purchase of pharmaceuticals in violation of federal contracting laws have improved the VA procurement system but failed to eliminate improper practices, according to congressional testimony Wednesday (Vogel, 6/7).

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Campaign 2012

Health Care Issues Make June A Difficult Month For Democrats

News outlets report how the upcoming Supreme Court decision could be creating difficulties for Democrats.  

The Associated Press: Cruel June For Obama, Dems -- And Could Get Worse
If Chief Justice John Roberts and the court strike down all or part of the health care law, it could demoralize Democrats who invested more than a year — and quite a few political careers — to secure the bill's passage. ... Americans favor some elements of the massive law aimed at extending medical insurance to more than 30 million Americans but the far-reaching overhaul has never gained broad approval (Cassata, 6/6).

Boston Globe: Obama Encounters Rough Going Early In Race
It’s just the first week of June and already this month has dealt President Obama a series of setbacks as he struggles to regain footing in what portends to be a tight race. … Obama’s political fortunes could easily turn around - or plummet further - with the Supreme Court decision on his sweeping health care law expected by the end of the month (Jan, 6/7).

Meanwhile --

USA Today: Groups Benefit From Campaigns' Focus On Women's Issues
Debates this year over contraception, federal funding for abortion services and Tuesday's Senate vote on equal pay for women have invigorated women's groups on the right and the left to try to sway the female vote (Kucinich, 6/6).

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Health Care Marketplace

UnitedHealth's Shareholders Will See Dividend Boost

The UnitedHealth board approved an increase in quarterly dividends of more than 30 percent. Also in the news, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group is facing allegations of Medicare Advantage overpayments.  

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Insurer UnitedHealth's Board Approves More Than 30 Percent Increase In Quarterly Dividend
The largest U.S. health insurer authorized a quarterly payout of 21.25 cents per share on June 22 to shareholders of record as of June 15. That's up from the previous dividend of 16.25 cents per share for the Minnetonka, Minn., company (6/6).

Modern Healthcare: $115 Million In Overpayments Alleged
A subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group was accused by auditors of receiving as much as $115 million in overpayments from the CMS in 2007 by inappropriately using patient diagnosis codes to increase risk-adjusted reimbursements in the population-based insurance program Medicare Advantage. … However, the office stopped short of recommending the CMS collect the projected figure from the company, saying PacifiCare officials should "work with" the Medicare agency to come up with an appropriate payment adjustment (Carlson, 6/6).

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Group Rates More Than 2,600 Hospitals With Single Letter Grade

News outlets report on how their local hospitals were graded by a nonprofit organization that culled patient safety ratings from a variety of sources and assigned a single letter grade to more than 2,600 hospitals in the United States.

Georgia Health News: Two New Tools Add To Health Care Transparency
It’s called the transparency movement. Two new tools have surfaced this week to help patients on this information hunt. First, the Leapfrog Group, a Washington-based nonprofit organization, has rated 2,651 hospitals, including 78 in Georgia, on their patient safety records, giving them a single letter grade. The rating is based on 26 different measures collected by Leapfrog or by Medicare officials. The second consumer tool comes from UnitedHealthcare, which has introduced an online service for 14 million members in its health plans to compare medical providers' quality of care and estimate the cost of more than 100 common treatments and procedures (Miller, 6/7).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: In New Safety Test, Not All Minnesota Hospitals Earn A
A national patient-safety group has come up with a simple way to compare hospitals -- by giving them a letter grade -- and included 38 Minnesota hospitals in its new report card. The group, known as Leapfrog, graded 2,700 hospitals nationwide on a variety of safety measures, such as falls, infections and bed sores, in a report released Wednesday. Among the A's: Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis and Mayo Clinic's Methodist Hospital in Rochester.  Among the C's: the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview; and Mayo's Immanuel St. Joseph's in Mankato (Lerner, 6/6).

Health News Florida: On Hospital Report Cards, FL Does Well
Florida hospitals rated significantly better than the national average on the first "report card" published today by a non-profit group dedicated to patient safety. The Leapfrog Group released the scores of 2,600 hospitals across the country at www.hospitalsafetyscore.org. Nationally, almost half scored a "C" or below, but in Florida, only 39 percent of those evaluated received a "C" or worse (Rabaza, 6/6).

Related KHN coverage: Lots of 'C's As Hospitals Get Graded For Patient Safety (Rau, 6/6).

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State Watch

Calif. Voters Reject Tobacco Tax, Officials Consider Fallout

California voters narrowly defeated a $1-per-pack tax on cigarettes amid an advertising blitz by the tobacco industry that some predict could quash similar efforts in the future.

Reuters: California Voters Reject Raising Tobacco Tax
California voters narrowly rejected a ballot measure that would have added a $1 tax to a pack of cigarettes in the state's primary election Tuesday, an outcome observers attributed to a $47 million ad blitz by the tobacco industry. The measure, known as Proposition 29, was defeated 50.8 percent to 49.2 percent on a day of light voter turnout, according to election results posted on Wednesday by California's secretary of state. Some absentee and other ballots remained to be counted (Christie, 6/6).

The Associated Press: Push To Quash Tobacco Tax Could Echo Beyond Calif
Big Tobacco's success in branding a proposed California cigarette tax as a government boondoggle sent a message that could echo in other states as votes trended toward the opposition. Through a barrage of campaign ads, the industry was able to cut support for a $1-a-pack cigarette tax backed by cycling legend Lance Armstrong from a two-thirds majority in March to a dead heat on Election Day (Dreier, 6/7).

Reuters: California Governor Shrugs Off Tobacco Tax Defeat
California Governor Jerry Brown said on Wednesday the defeat of a measure proposing a tobacco tax increase in the state's primary election is not a bad sign for the tax measure he aims to put on the November ballot. The Democratic governor told the San Francisco Chronicle the narrow defeat of the measure on Tuesday reflects how its campaign was simply outspent on advertising by its opponents (6/6).

California lawmakers are also debating how and if to ban smoking in long-term nursing facilities --

California Healthline: Smoking In Long-Term Care Facilities Debated
California already prohibits smoking inside hospital buildings, so Assembly member Wilmer Amina Carter (D-Rialto) thought it made good sense to extend that ban to long-term nursing facilities. The often elderly, frail population at nursing facilities might need more protection from secondhand smoke than most people, Carter said at a Senate Committee on Health meeting yesterday. … The Senate Committee on Health passed the measure on a 7-2 vote. It now moves on to the Senate Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations (Gorn, 6/7).

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Medicaid: More Federal Scrutiny For Minn. Program; Colo. Reforms Become Law

Minnesota's Medicaid program faces more federal scrutiny on its rates. In the meantime, new Medicaid payment reforms are signed into law in Colorado.

(St. Paul) Pioneer Press: Minnesota's Medicaid Program Under Investigation By Yet Another Federal Agency 
Add the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to the list of federal agencies investigating the Medicaid program in Minnesota. In a May 16 letter, the agency that runs the federal government's two key health insurance programs asks Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson to answer a series of questions about how Minnesota sets payment rates for managed care organizations in the state's Medicaid program. … Questions about whether Minnesota officials have manipulated the Medicaid rate-setting process to wrongly pull down extra federal funding have swirled since February when Jesson confirmed the federal government was investigating the issue (Snowbeck, 6/6). 

Modern Healthcare: Colo. Medicaid Reform Signed Into Law
A Colorado bill that had bipartisan support and establishes a program to pilot-test Medicaid payment reform and fee-for-service alternatives was signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper. Regional care collaborative organizations could also be tested, and pilots could incorporate elements such as global payments, risk sharing and aligned payment incentives (Robeznieks, 6/6).

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State Roundup: Big NYC Hospital Merger; Colo. To Fight Exapnding Waistlines?

A selection of health policy stories from Colorado, New York, Washington state, Massachusetts, Idaho and North Carolina.

The New York Times: New York Hospitals Look To Combine, Forming A Giant
Two of New York City's biggest hospital systems reached agreement on Wednesday to pursue a merger that would shake up the way medical care is delivered, especially in Manhattan, where hospitals compete to serve some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the world. The proposed merger would bring together NYU Langone Medical Center, a highly specialized academic medical center, and Continuum Health Partners, a network of several community-oriented hospitals, including Beth Israel and the two St. Luke’s-Roosevelt campuses (Hartocollis, 6/6).

The Wall Street Journal: Aid For Supportive Housing Boosted
Supportive housing provides additional support services, such as an on-site coordinator to help residents with special needs to get counseling, benefits and employment assistance. [New York] state has committed $75 million of funding for the first year to creating more supportive housing, which is expected to be paid for, in part, by Medicaid savings (Kusisto, 6/6).

KQED's State of Health blog: Court Upholds Decision On Anorexia Treatment, Mental Health Parity
[T]he U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld its decision from August 2011 requiring Blue Shield to cover one woman's treatment for anorexia under state law, even though it wasn’t spelled out in her policy (Dornhelm, 6/7).

Boston Globe: Mass. House Passes Health Care Cost-Control Bill
The Massachusetts House overwhelmingly approved its 278-page plan to curb the soaring cost of medical care on Tuesday night. ...The final vote -- 148 to 7 -- sets up negotiations over the next two months between the House and the Senate, which approved its own cost-control legislation last month. Their plans contain key differences, particularly over how much the health care industry can be relied on to control costs on its own (Kowalczyk, 6/7).

WBUR's CommonHealth blog: Longtime Mass. Planned Parenthood Leader Stepping Down
Dianne Luby, who has led the [Planned Parhenood] league for 13 years, has told the board that she’ll step down at the end of this year. ... The Planned Parenthood press release says that Ms. Luby worked to "change the public conversations around sexual health" (Goldberg, 6/6).North Carolina Health News: Some Experts Restored To State Panels
In a meeting on state boards and commissions slated for reduction or elimination, several boards that advise health care policy-makers were restored.  After more than 15 proposed amendments, several health-related boards that had been slated for elimination were restored (Hoban, 6/6).

KING5-TV Seattle: Washington's Suicide Prevention Law Is First Of Its Kind
A Washington law set to take effect on June 7 requires mental health professionals to receive additional training to help them detect and prevent suicides. ... Washington is the first state in the country to enact such a requirement (Daniels, 6/5).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Hickenlooper Endorses Bloomberg's War Against Soda
Calling U.S. health costs a massive drain on the economy, Gov. John Hickenlooper on Tuesday endorsed bold moves to fight poor health like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s war on super-sized sugary drinks. … Hickenlooper didn’t elaborate ... But, he did endorse ideas ranging from expanding school physical education and recess for children to promoting more bicycle commuting (Kerwin McCrimmon, 6/6).

The Associated Press: Doc-Lawyer Will Intervene In Idaho Fetal Pain Case
In a strategy legal experts say is unheard of, a southeastern Idaho lawyer who is also a physician will be allowed to intervene in a challenge to the state's so-called fetal pain abortion law in a case that could set national precedent. Rick Hearn is representing a Pocatello woman accused of illegally taking abortion-inducing pills (Bonner, 6/6).

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Weekend Reading

Longer Looks: Toobin's Tips On SCOTUS Decision

Every week, KHN reporter Shefali S. Kulkarni selects interesting reading from around the Web.

ABC News: Health Scare: How Much Will You Pay For Health Care?
When the nurse calls my name, I head up to the check-in desk. "I'm sorry," she says as she lowers her eyes and hands me the phone. On the other end of the line, a woman identifies herself as a "third-party intermediary" for my insurance company. She says she is calling to inform me that the procedure I am scheduled to have in just a few minutes has been approved ... However, my chosen provider is more expensive than other options and may result in a higher co-payment. ... I ask the obvious question: "If I stay, how much will it cost me?" Her answer is that she is not authorized to give me that information  (Liz Neporent, 6/1).

The New Yorker: The Real Stakes in the Health-Care Case: A Guide 
Can the Justices strike down part of the law and leave the rest of the two-thousand-seven-hundred-page law intact? In some respects, this was the most surprising part of the argument—and the most disturbing development for the Obama Administration. Two Justices—Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy (the supposed swing vote in the case)—appeared to feel that it was best to strike down the full law, including the parts that are clearly constitutional, and let Congress start from scratch (Jeffrey Toobin, 6/5).

American Medical News: Doctors Quick To Adopt Tablets Into Practice
Before the nurse leaves the exam room, she hands the patient an Apple iPad and queues up one of more than 30 video modules, a choice made based on the patient's condition or health concerns. ... [The Manhattan Research's "Taking the Pulse U.S. 2012" survey of 3,015 physicians in 25 specialties], conducted in the first three months of 2012, found that 62% of physicians owned a tablet computer, up from 27% in 2011, the first full year after the introduction of the iPad set off the newest wave of tablets. Of the 62% who own tablets, half use them at the point of care (Pamela Lewis Dolan, 6/4).

Related, earlier KHN story: For Hospitals, There’s No App For That (Gold, 12/26/11)

The Atlantic: You Say 'Semantic-Pragmatic Disorder,' I Say 'Autism'
It used to be that ten years ago, for every 156 eight-year-olds, one would have autism. In 2004, that figure had risen to 1 in 125. By 2006, 1 in 110 children had it, and according to data released this March by the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in every 88 kids in America had the disorder in 2008. ... But it doesn't tell us why so many more children are being diagnosed with the developmental disorder now than before. One obvious possibility is that the rate of autism really is increasing -- whether through factors in our surroundings that we can control or thanks to genetic factors we can't. But it could also be that the rise in autism diagnoses has nothing to do with the actual disease so much as the way we talk about it (Brian Fung, 6/4).

The New Yorker: Failure And Rescue
Some [hospitals] still have far higher death rates than others. And an interesting line of research has opened up asking why. Researchers at the University of Michigan discovered the answer recently, and it has a twist I didn’t expect. I thought that the best places simply did a better job at controlling and minimizing risks—that they did a better job of preventing things from going wrong. But, to my surprise, they didn’t. Their complication rates after surgery were almost the same as others. Instead, what they proved to be really great at was rescuing people when they had a complication, preventing failures from becoming a catastrophe (Atul Gawande, 6/4).

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Editorials and Opinions

Viewpoints: The Potential Impact Of Medical Device Tax; 'Unsustainable' Health And Pension Benefits

Roll Call: Kill The Excise Tax On Medical Devices
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the 2.3 percent excise tax is estimated to have a nearly $30 billion negative effect on medical device and diagnostic manufacturers. ... This tax has the possibility of affecting 162,000 jobs in three states alone, never mind the rest of the nation (Reps. Erik Paulsen, Brian Bilbray and Jim Gerlach, 6/7).

Bloomberg: Taxing Medical Devices Will Keep The U.S. Healthy
Congress may well withdraw the medical-device tax. If it does, it won’t be because the industry mustered a strong economic case. It will be because it’s too easy to pull the wool over lawmakers’ eyes (6/6).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Device Tax, If Not Stopped, Will Stifle
This is nothing more than a tax on U.S. medical innovation, and it will hit states like Minnesota hard. These medical-technology companies will be forced to reduce investments in the industry's lifeblood: research and development (Erik Paulsen, 6/6).

The Washington Post: Unions Are Driving A Wedge Between Democrats
One portion of the progressive coalition — public-sector unions — used the good economic times of the 1990s and 2000s to lock in generous health and pension benefits at the state and local level through collective bargaining. ... But the Great Recession dried up revenues, making health and pension commitments unsustainable, forcing some states into fiscal crisis (Michael Gerson, 6/6).

JAMA: It’s Time to Remake Medicaid
Rather than a single federal-state program for 3 quite different groups, it would make more sense to transfer the disabled and elderly into a revamped Medicaid program that is run by the states with a federal allotment or block grant and much greater state flexibility. Because health care services for these U.S. patients need to be integrated with a range of government and community-based services at the local level, it makes much more sense for those to be organized at the state and local levels without a plethora of federal rules (Stuart Butler, 6/6).

New England Journal of Medicine: The Health Care Jobs Fallacy
The goal of improving health and economic well-being does not go hand in hand with rising employment in health care. It is tempting to think that rising health care employment is a boon, but if the same outcomes can be achieved with lower employment and fewer resources, that leaves extra money to devote to other important public and private priorities such as education, infrastructure, food, shelter, and retirement savings (Katherine Baicker and Amitabh Chandra, 6/6).

The Wall Street Journal: The Obama-Romney Jobs Debate
This week a new television ad from President Obama's re-election campaign says that as Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney had "one of the worst economic records in the country." It's hard to dispute that characterization when you consider the long-term impact of Mr. Romney's health-care reform and the federal legislation it inspired (6/6).

Hartford Courant: Catholic Institutions Ignore Individuals’ Rights
The issue goes beyond providing access to birth-control pills, although that's important enough -- and often necessary to treat medical conditions from fibroid tumors to painful menstrual cramps. Catholic institutions such as universities and non-profit agencies provide health coverage to as many as 700,000 employees, many of them non-Catholic. Surveys show that coverage is all over the map (Maura Casey, 6/6).

Boston Globe: Sweet Deal For Soda
There’s no good reason for soda to be sales-tax free. It’s not an essential item, like milk or clothing. Whether we drink it or not, soda is bad for us. ... And yet our state is one of only 12 in the country that essentially subsidize soda, forgoing sales taxes to make it cheaper than it should be — and thus easier to guzzle in huge quantities (Yvone Abraham, 6/7).

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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.