First Edition: October 19, 2010

Today's major health policy headlines include reports about the latest developments in Virginia's court challenge against the health law, a U.S. government lawsuit targeting Michigan Blue Cross Blue Shield for anti-trust activities and a study about the Department of Health and Human Services' Hospital Compare.

Campaign Claims: Health Law Myths And Facts
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Appleby and The Washington Post's N.C. Aizenman report: "The debate that preceded passage of the health-care overhaul resumed as a heated issue in the midterm elections. Politicians and advocacy groups seeking repeal of the law are making dramatic claims about the its cost and effects. How valid are they? We evaluate some of the most common criticisms" (Kaiser Health News). 

When Hospital Checklists Don't Tell The Whole Story
Kaiser Health News staff writer Aimee Miles reports: "The whole idea behind HHS' Hospital Compare is simple: patients can shop around by putting in their zip codes and the website churns out a list of nearby hospitals, with detail on available services, care outcomes, patient satisfaction ratings and more. The aim: to help consumers – and companies that pay for their care - make informed decisions about where to seek medical care; and to pressure hospitals to improve the quality of their services. But a report that appeared today in the Archives of Surgery says the website isn't helping Medicare beneficiaries in need of certain high-risk surgery find better facilities" (Kaiser Health News).

States, Insurers Angle To Meet Spending Rules
State officials are considering how they're going to ask the federal government to scale back a key piece of the Democrats' health care overhaul (Politico).

Judge Says He Will Rule On Va. Health-Care Challenge By End Of The Year
A federal judge said Monday that he will rule on Virginia's constitutional challenge to the federal health-care law by the end of the year, a key legal test for the sweeping legislation (The Washington Post).

Ruling On Health Law Is Due By End Of Year
A federal judge said Monday that he would rule by the end of the year on the constitutionality of the new health care law, as lawyers for the Obama administration and the Commonwealth of Virginia debated whether the entire 2,700-page act should be invalidated if a key provision is struck down (The New York Times).

Judge To Rule By Year End In Virginia Health-Care Suit
A federal judge said Monday that he would rule before year's end on whether the health overhaul violates the Constitution, and he seemed sympathetic to the plaintiff's core argument (The Wall Street Journal).

Healthcare Roundup: Lawsuits Look More Like Practice For High Court
Virginia's challenge to the constitutionality of the new health reform law kicked off Monday in a Richmond courtroom, where Federal District Judge Henry Hudson heard the first round of oral arguments from both the state and the Obama administration (The Hill’s Healthwatch).

Rare Political Species: Dems Who Tout Health Law
It happens so rarely, it makes news: A few Democratic candidates have started to run television ads daring to defend President Barack Obama's health care overhaul (The Associated Press).

Select Dems Embrace Health Care Law
After weeks of avoiding the health care overhaul on the campaign trail, some Democrats are out bragging about the law in the final run-up to the mid-term elections (Politico).

U.S. Sues Michigan Blue Cross Over Pricing
The Justice Department sued Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan on Monday, asserting that the company, the state's dominant health insurer, had violated antitrust laws and secured a huge competitive advantage by forcing hospitals to charge higher prices to Blue Cross’s rivals (The New York Times).

US Sues Michigan Blue Cross Blue Shield
The Justice Department alleged Monday in a lawsuit that Michigan Blue Cross Blue Shield is discouraging competition by engaging in practices that raise hospital prices, conduct an assistant attorney general vowed to challenge anywhere else it is found in the United States (The Associated Press).

Michigan's Blue Cross Sued Over Pacts With Hospitals
The Justice Department sued Michigan's Blue Cross Blue Shield health-insurance company Monday, charging that it unlawfully hobbled rivals through anticompetitive agreements with hospitals that likely raised health-care costs and insurance premiums for state residents (The Wall Street Journal).

Feds Accuse Mich. Blue Cross Of Anticompetitive Contracts
The U.S. Justice Department sued Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan on Monday, accusing the state's dominant health insurer of driving up prices for consumers with anti-competitive practices (USA Today).

Citing Health Care Law, Boeing Pares Employee Plan
Aerospace giant Boeing is joining the list of companies that say the new health care law could have a potential downside for their workers (The Associated Press).

Boeing Increases Employee Health-Insurance Fees, Cites Cost Pressures
Responding to what it says are rapidly rising costs, including some as a result of the new health-care bill, Boeing Co. plans to increase the price of employee health insurance for its non-union workforce over the next few years (The Wall Street Journal).

Berwick Urges Collaborative Approach To Healthcare Improvement
The head of Medicare on Monday reiterated the agency's strategy for improving the nation's healthcare system. But success, warned Donald Berwick, will depend on how well government and the private sector work together toward common goals (The Hill’s Healthwatch).

Don't Put Too Much Stock In The Government's Hospital Compare Website, Researchers Say
If a surgical procedure is in your future, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would like to make your life a little easier by helping you choose a hospital with a good safety record. Its Hospital Compare website allows you to search hospitals in your area and see whether they do a good job of some seemingly important things, like giving patients antibiotics when they're supposed to and heading off dangerous blood clots (Los Angeles Times).

Medicare Faulted On Surgery Evaluation
Researchers are casting doubt on Medicare's methods for trying to reduce surgical deaths and complications, suggesting the agency focus more on actual outcomes of surgeries than on how operations are conducted (The Wall Street Journal).

Prescription For Prestige
The Harvard brand, unrivaled in education, is also prized by the pharmaceutical industry as a powerful tool in promoting drugs. Its allure is evident in a new analysis of all publicly reported industry payments to physicians (The Boston Globe).

Villaraigosa Introduces Pension Reform Proposal
With Los Angeles facing a $320-million budget shortfall next year, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa backed on Monday what he termed a "landmark proposal" to reform "out of control" pension costs and retiree health benefits for newly hired city police officers and firefighters (Los Angeles Times).

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