First Edition: February 21, 2012

Today's health policy headlines include reports about how the Supreme Court's consideration of the health law could prolong the fight over the sweeping measure.

Kaiser Health News: Hospitals Demand Payment Upfront From ER Patients With Routine Problems
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz, working in collaboration with The Washington Post, reports: "Last year, about 80,000 emergency-room patients at hospitals owned by HCA, the nation's largest for-profit hospital chain, left without treatment after being told they would have to first pay $150 because they did not have a true emergency. Led by the Nashville-based HCA, a growing number of hospitals have implemented the pay-first policy in an effort to divert patients with routine illnesses from the ER after they undergo a federally required screening" (Galewitz, 2/20).

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Insurance Coverage Might Steer Women to Costlier - But More Effective –Birth Control
In her latest Kaiser Health News consumer column, Michelle Andrews writes: "In the heated debate over to what extent religiously affiliated employers should be required to provide free contraception for workers, no one has talked much about what methods are available to women who want to prevent pregnancy and how their choices might change if cost were removed from the equation. But it's an important subject" (Andrews, 2/20).

Kaiser Health News: Seniors Need To Reevaluate Their Needs For Popular Medical Treatments: The KHN Interview
Writing for Kaiser Health News, in collaboration with The Washington Post, Judy Graham has a conversation with Nortin Hadler, a professor of medicine and microbiology/immunology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been warning for years about the lack of evidence supporting many popular medical treatments and tests (Graham, 2/21).

Kaiser Health News: FAQ: The 'Doc Fix' Dilemma
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey provides updated information about the "doc fix": “Now that Congress has passed legislation to avert drastic payment cuts to physicians who treat Medicare patients, attention is turning to what will happen when the temporary solution expires at the end of this year (Carey, 2/17).

Kaiser Health News also tracked the weekend’s health policy headlines, including reports about campaign trail talk regarding the Obama administration’s contraception policy and the White House push back on prenatal testing.

USA Today: Court Action Could Prolong Health Care Fight
Next month's challenge to the Obama-sponsored health care law could affect the care available to most Americans, alter the balance of power between Washington and the states and remain a flash point through this presidential campaign (Biskupic, 2/21).

The New York Times: Catholic Hospitals Expand, Religious Strings Attached
As Roman Catholic leaders and government officials clash over the proper role of religion and reproductive health, shifts in health care economics are magnifying the tension. Financially stronger Catholic-sponsored medical centers are increasingly joining with smaller secular hospitals, in some cases limiting access to treatments like contraception, abortion and sterilization (Abelson, 2/20).

The Washington Post: Birth Control As Election Issue? Why?
[E]lections have a way of becoming national conversations, often unwieldy ones. ... As is often the case in these matters, a variety of seemingly disparate issues get all tangled up — the Commerce Clause and Catholic doctrine, religious freedom and the right to privacy, feminism and liberty and conscience — at a time of economic uncertainty and vast demographic and societal transition (Gerhart, 2/20). 

The Associated Press/USA Today: Evangelicals Join Catholics In Opposing Birth Control Rule
A group of evangelical pastors on Monday joined Roman Catholic clergy who oppose an Obama administration requirement that employees of religiously affiliated businesses receive birth control coverage (2/20).

The Washington Post: Different States' Contraceptive Rules Leave Employers Room To Maneuver
When California adopted a law in 1999 requiring health insurance plans to include birth control if they cover prescription drugs, Catholic Charities of Sacramento was determined to fight (Aizenman and Sun, 2/19).

Los Angeles Times: A Push To Train More Primary-Care Doctors
[N]ew medical schools are opening with an emphasis on primary care and others are changing their curricula to boost the number of graduates interested in the field. Medical school professors are pairing students with family doctors and assigning them to community clinics so they see firsthand what it's like to practice preventive care and manage chronic diseases (Gorman, 2/19).

Los Angeles Times: 10 Counties Expand Medical Coverage For Low-Income Residents
Nearly two years before the federal health reform law kicks in, 10 California counties have expanded medical coverage to more than 250,000 people who were previously uninsured, according to new state data (Gorman, 2/18).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Women Protest Anti-Abortion Bills In Va. By Locking Arms, Standing Mute Outside State Capitol
Hundreds of women locked arms and stood mute outside the Virginia State Capitol on Monday to protest a wave of anti-abortion legislation coursing through the General Assembly (2/20).

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This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.