First Edition: July 22, 2010

Today's headlines reflect news about health reform implementation activities, health information technology and sparring opinions about the Massachusetts experience.

New Rules Guarantee Patients' Right To Appeal Insurance Claim Denials
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz and Michelle Andrews, working in collaboration with The Washington Post, report on new rules being issued today by the Obama administration. "The regulations guarantee consumers the right to appeal denials — directly to their insurers and then, if necessary, to external review boards" (Kaiser Health News).

KHN Column -- Massachusetts Shows Federal Reform Headed For Trouble
In this Kaiser Health News column, Grace-Marie Turner writes that Massachusetts’ health reform has increased demand without increasing the supply of health care providers, it continues to keep people in the dark about the true cost of health care and health insurance, and has not changed incentives for people to seek more affordable options or for a truly competitive marketplace. Washington’s health overhaul law has the same structural flaws (Kaiser Health News). 

KHN Column – Dispatch From Massachusetts: The Individual Mandate Is Working
In his latest Kaiser Health News column, Austin Frakt writes: "In Massachusetts, the individual mandate requiring state residents to buy health insurance is working. Yet, a similar requirement remains among the more controversial elements of the new national health reform law. Opponents of the mandate resent being required to purchase a product they may not want. Proponents claim that the mandate is necessary to prevent an unraveling of the broader set of reforms in the law. But will it work? It is in Massachusetts, and that should give reform advocates some confidence" (Kaiser Health News).

Proposed Deficit Remedy: The Healthcare 'Public Option'
As both political parties worry about the growing federal deficit, an unlikely proposal is returning from last year's divisive healthcare debate: the "public option." Creating a major government health insurance program was roundly rejected last year, but 128 House Democrats are pushing to reconsider the idea, contending that it would hold down federal spending (Los Angeles Times).

Health Care Choices Fall To States
Congress has left some of the most difficult decisions about health care reform to state insurance commissioners — handing a group of relatively obscure officials enormous power over the implementation of the law and the success or failure of President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement (Politico).

Consumer Group: Insurers Kept Surplus While Hiking Premiums
Non-profit Blue Cross and Blue Shield health plans stockpiled billions of dollars during the past decade, yet continued to hit consumers with double-digit premium increases, Consumers Union found in an analysis of 10 of the plans' finances (USA Today).

AMA Weighs In On 'Meaningful Use' Requirements For E-Records
When we wrote about the response to the government’s final "meaningful use" requirements for electronic medical records, there was a notable absence: the American Medical Association (The Wall Street Journal’s Health Blog).

Firms Ready For Health IT Push
Technology companies are ramping up their health care businesses ahead of an expected influx of equipment orders from hospitals and doctors who want to start using electronic health records (Politico).

Florida Doctors To Consider Splitting Ties With AMA Over Healthcare Reform
The Florida Medical Association is scheduled to consider the issue at its annual meeting next month. The House of Delegates of the Florida Medical Association is scheduled to consider a resolution severing ties with the American Medical Association because of its support for the healthcare reform law (The Hill’s Healthwatch).

Quest For New L.A. County Health Chief Is Slow Going
It has seemed mission impossible: hiring someone to run Los Angeles County's mammoth, troubled health department. For more than two years, the task of heading a $3.5-billion agency that serves the county's neediest and sickest patients has fallen to an interim director who has made it clear that he does not want the top job permanently (Los Angeles Times).

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