First Edition: June 30, 2012

Today's headlines include recent reports about both the policies and politics related to the health law's implementation.  

Kaiser Health News: Tennessee Cuts Medicaid Benefit Funding For Some Long-Term Care Patients
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, in collaboration with The Washington Post, Guy Gugliotta writes: "In a unique experiment being watched nationally, Tennessee is revising its Medicaid long-term care options to make it harder for certain low-income elderly people to qualify for state-paid nursing home care" (Gugliotta, 7/29). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Gold Medal Mention For U.K. National Health Service; New Funds Could Shorten AIDS Drug Waiting Lists
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Lexie Verdon reports on how health care played into the Olympics' opening ceremony: "The opening ceremony for the London Olympics Friday night was full of surprises: The 'queen' parachuting with James Bond into the Olympic stadium, an appearance by the evil Voldemort of Harry Potter fame. But maybe the most surprising for health wonks was the tribute to the National Health Service (NHS). That last salute came in a whimsical segment that organizers said honored 'two of Britain's greatest achievements: its amazing body of children's literature and its National Health Service.' It was part of the highly choreographed section of the program that explored British history and achievements" (Verdon, 7/29).

Also on the blog, WABE's Jim Burress, working in collaboration with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports on AIDS drug waiting lists: "The Obama administration announced nearly $80 million in grants to increase access to HIV/AIDS care across the United States last week – but will it be enough to eliminate waiting lists for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program?" (Burress, 7/28). Check out what else is on the blog.

Kaiser Health News also tracked weekend health policy headlines, including thoughts from Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court's health law ruling (7/29).

NPR: Affordable Care Act's Insurance Rebates In The Mail
Robert Siegel talks with Julie Rovner about an immediate effect of the new health care law — rebate checks — how they vary, and why some insurers owe Americans money (Rovner and Siegel, 7/27).

The Washington Post: Health Insurance Mandate Faces Huge Resistance In Oklahoma
The Supreme Court may have declared that the government can order Americans to get health insurance, but that doesn't mean they're going to sign up. Nowhere is that more evident than Oklahoma, a conservative state with an independent streak and a disdain for the strong arm of government. The state cannot even get residents to comply with car insurance laws; roughly a quarter of the drivers here lack it, one of the highest rates in the country (Somashekhar, 7/29).

Politico: GOP May Let Contraception Rule Take Effect Without A Fight
This spring, Republicans were on a mission: repeal the Obama administration's rule to require employers to cover birth control. House Speaker John Boehner even stood on the floor of the House in February and promised that Congress would act. "This attack by the federal government on religious freedom in our country must not stand and will not stand," Boehner said. But now, with the rule set to take effect Wednesday — part of the "Obamacare" law the GOP hates so much — the fiery repeal rhetoric has fizzled. In fact, few on Capitol Hill are saying anything about it at all (Haberkorn and Smith, 7/27).

NPR: GOP Says Coverage For The Uninsured Is No Longer The Priority
For decades, the primary goal of those who would fix the U.S. health system has been to help people without insurance get coverage. Now, it seems, all that may be changing. At least some top Republicans are trying to steer the health debate away from the problem of the uninsured. The shift in emphasis is a subtle one, but it's noticeable (Rovner, 7/27).

The Washington Post: Rep. Dave Camp Patiently Pursues Tax Reform
Then there's the politically explosive question of whether to generate extra cash to help rein in the national debt, as Democrats and bipartisan budget experts demand. Most Republicans are hostile to that idea, but Camp has shown some flexibility. Last fall, as a member of the deficit-reduction "supercommittee," he entered talks with Baucus over a reform plan that would have raised $600 billion over 10 years in exchange for significant reductions in Social Security and Medicare spending (Montgomery, 7/28).

Los Angeles Times: Annual Retainer Fee Buys Patients More Time With Their Doctors
Frustrated with a changing healthcare system that has resulted in longer work days and less time with patients, a growing number of doctors in California and across the nation are turning to a new type of practice — concierge medicine (Gorman, 7/29).

The New York Times: Doctor Shortage Likely To Worsen With Health Law
The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that in 2015 the country will have 62,900 fewer doctors than needed. And that number will more than double by 2025, as the expansion of insurance coverage and the aging of baby boomers drive up demand for care. Even without the health care law, the shortfall of doctors in 2025 would still exceed 100,000. Health experts, including many who support the law, say there is little that the government or the medical profession will be able to do to close the gap by 2014, when the law begins extending coverage to about 30 million Americans. It typically takes a decade to train a doctor (Lowrey and Pear, 7/28).

The Wall Street Journal's Real Time Economics: White House Projects Larger Savings On Big-Ticket Items In New Report
Buried in the White House's annual "mid-session review" budget update on Friday are some steep reductions in projected spending for some of the government's largest expenditures — Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and interest on the debt. The White House on Friday updated its outlook for the U.S. economy, forecasting that the unemployment rate would be lower and deficits would be smaller than the Obama administration previously expected. The White House, however, lowered its projection for economic growth, saying it sees the U.S. economy growing 2.3% in 2012 and 2.7% in 2013. Previously, the White House expected growth of 2.7% in 2012 and 3% in 2013 (Paletta, 7/27).

The New York Times: The Short Life And Lonely Death Of Sabrina Seelig
She arrived by ambulance at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, long regarded as one of the most troubled hospitals in the city, at 11:05 a.m. on May 30, 2007, conscious and alert but complaining of vomiting and dizziness. She was given a sedative that put her into a deep sleep, and her wrists were tied to the bed. None of her friends or relatives knew that she was there, and medical records show no measurements of her vital signs for hours that afternoon, suggesting that she was left unattended by the medical staff. By that evening she was brain damaged and on life support, with little hope of recovering. She died six days later (Hartocolis, 7/28).

The Washington Post: Virginia Abortion Clinics Left Wondering If They Must Pay For New State Requirements
The General Assembly voted last year to require the guidelines, which were quickly adopted by the state's Board of Health. In a surprise move, the panel later exempted the state's existing clinics. ... But Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) refused to sign off on the board's decision, arguing that it lacked the legal authority to exclude the operating clinics. Cuccinelli's legal opinion has led to confusion — and uncertainty — among many of those who lead the state's 22 clinics that perform abortions, because it's unclear how the board would interpret his position (Kumar, 7/28).

The Wall Street Journal: McKesson To Pay $151 Million To Settle Drug-Pricing
McKesson, the nation's largest drug wholesaler by revenue, deliberately drove up the prices of some 1,400 brand-name drugs from 2001 to 2009, state and federal officials alleged in a lawsuit. Prices for some widely used blockbuster drugs, like Pfizer Inc.'s Lipitor or Eli Lilly & Co.'s Prozac, rose by as much as 25%, causing Medicaid programs to overpay by millions, state officials said (Martin,7/27).

The Associated Press: 29 States Settle Medicaid Rx Drug Overpayment Case
California and 28 other states have reached a $151 million settlement in a lawsuit alleging one of the country's largest drug wholesalers inflated prescription drug prices, costing the states' Medicaid programs millions in overpayments. California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced the settlement with San Francisco-based McKesson Corp. on Friday. In California, Harris says the overpayments went on from 2001 through 2009 (7/27).

The Wall Street Journal: Court Backs Crackdown On Drug Officials
A federal appeals court backed the Obama administration's drive to levy greater punishments on pharmaceutical executives tied to corporate wrongdoing, saying the administration could effectively derail the executives' careers by barring them from doing business with federal programs including Medicare (Kendall, 7/27).

The Washington Post: Rebranding St. Elizabeths
After nearly 30 years, four mayors, and countless proposals, the redevelopment of the District's historic, now-shuttered St. Elizabeths mental health institution is finally underway. But District officials have identified one last hurdle to its transformation — and it's strictly mental. Over the next few years, the city plans to work with developers to build an educational campus, housing, and retail on the eastern portion of the grounds. But after more than a century as a walled sanctuary for the likes of John Hinckley Jr. and the Mount Pleasant sniper, St. Elizabeths has something of an image problem (Shin, 7/28).

Politico: Battling AIDS By Stepping Up Retention In Care
Two stubborn problems dog efforts to stem the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States: how to find the HIV-positive people who are outside the health care system and how to keep HIV patients in treatment once they start (Norman, 7/29). 

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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.