First Edition: April 19, 2011

Today's headlines include a report about new guidelines that will allow an earlier definition of Alzeheimer's and associated legislation that would make key, related changes in Medicare cost codes. 

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: People Who Donate Organs For Transplants Can Have Difficulty Getting Insurance
In her latest Kaiser Health News consumer column, Michelle Andrews writes: "Most people would agree that donating an organ to someone in need is a selfless act. There's no medical upside in giving up one of your kidneys or part of your liver, lung or pancreas. It's a risk people take so that someone else -- often but not always a loved one in desperate need -- may live a better, longer life" (Andrews, 4/18).

Kaiser Health News: HHS Will 'Hold Ourselves Accountable' On Plan to Lessen Health Disparities – The KHN Interview
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey talked to Dr. Garth Graham, HHS deputy assistant secretary for minority health, about  the department's recently unveiled a comprehensive strategy to reduce health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities (Carey, 4/18).

Kaiser Health News Guest Opinion: ACO Fairy Tale Faces A Rupelstiltskin Moment
In his latest Kaiser Health News column, Michael Millenson writes: "The government's long-awaited draft regulations on Accountable Care Organizations have brought a dose of ugly reality to a concept that's always seemed coated with a patina of pixie dust. Unless those regs are substantially changed before the clock strikes Jan. 1, 2012 -- the statutory date for ACO implementation -- Cinderella's going to turn back into a scullery maid and the horse-drawn carriage transporting her to the Health System Transformation Ball will be revealed as nothing more than four mice and a pumpkin" (4/19).

The New York Times: Guidelines Allow Earlier Definition Of Alzeheimer's
The drive to diagnose Alzheimer's before it has progressed into profound dementia is also reflected in a bill introduced in Congress this month, which would create specific Medicare cost codes for Alzheimer's diagnosis, including steps involving discussions between the patient's doctor and caregivers, a recognition that keeping family members well-informed can result in better planning and care (Belluck, 4/19).

The Hill: Budget's Effect On Health Law Unclear
The CRS report obtained by The Hill says that neither the budget resolution nor the "Roadmap to Prosperity" that preceded it "provided sufficient detail regarding specific provisions that would be repealed or retained to determine the disposition of [numerous] provisions." The House approved Ryan's budget last week in a party-line vote. Some effects from the Ryan budget are clear: The Republican budget retains a half-trillion dollars in cuts to Medicare payments, for example (Pecquet, 4/18).

The Wall Street Journal: Social Security Talks Benefit From Quiet
Amid political fireworks over Medicare, both President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans have left themselves room to negotiate on another thorny problem: What to do about Social Security. The question is whether partisan bickering, combined with divisions within each party, will get in the way (Meckler, 4/18).

The Washington Post: In Montana And Elsewhere, Planned Parenthood Serves Broad Function
House Republicans were eager to cut off money to the organization, which is the nation’s largest abortion provider and a political force in Washington. President Obama blocked the effort, but groups that oppose abortion rights have vowed to raise the issue again and, in the meantime, are pushing for congressional hearings. Planned Parenthood and its backers say that it serves a broader function than performing abortions, particularly in rural and medically underserved communities where the group has most of its clinics (Somashekhar, 4/18).

NPR: Changes Sought After Death At Calif. Mental Hospital
Earlier this month, NPR reported on the dramatic increase in violence at California's state psychiatric hospitals. At Napa State Hospital, an employee was killed last year, allegedly by a patient. Now, less than six months later, there has been another death at the hospital in Napa. This time, though, it was a patient who died (Jaffe, 4/19).

Los Angeles Times: Couple's Health Insurance Choices Are Bad And Worse
Stuart and Cathy Selter recently learned that Anthem Blue Cross is cutting off sales of their plan, which costs them about $1,500 a month with a $2,500 deductible. They can either stick with that plan and pay higher premiums or switch to another plan with a higher deductible (David Lazarus, 4/19).

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