First Edition: August 26, 2013

Today's headlines include reports about the ongoing battles between those who support the implementation of the health law, and those who oppose it. 

Kaiser Health News: Bare Bones Health Plans Expected To Survive Health Law
Kaiser Health News staff writers Jay Hancock and Julie Appleby, working in collaboration with The Washington Post, reports: "Consumer Reports calls it ‘junk health insurance.’ A California regulator described them as 'skeleton policies.' To an expert from the American Cancer Society, they ‘are a perfect example of why health care reform is so crucial.’ They are bare-bones health plans, and critics say they could leave consumers who become seriously ill on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars in medical costs. The Affordable Care Act was supposed to do away with them" (Hancock and Appleby, 8/25). Read the story and the related sidebar.

Kaiser Health News: Kids With Costly Medical Issues Get Help, But Not Enough
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jenny Gold, working in collaboration with NPR, reports: "Katie Doderer is a very poised 15-year-old with short blond hair and a wide smile. She's a straight A student who loves singing, dancing and performing in musicals. This could be considered something of a miracle. 'I have a complex medical condition known as congenital central hyperventilation – blah — syndrome. CCHS,' Katie explains, stumbling on the full name of her malady. 'Basically my brain doesn't tell me to breathe. So I am reliant on a mechanical ventilator'" (Gold, 8/26). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: No Shopping Zone: Medicare Is Not Part Of New Insurance Marketplaces
Reporting for Kaiser Health News and working in collaboration with USA Today, Susan Jaffe writes: "While the Obama administration is stepping up efforts encouraging uninsured Americans to enroll in health coverage from the new online insurance marketplaces, officials are planning a campaign to convince millions of seniors to please stay away – don't call and don't sign up" (Jaffe, 8/25). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News also tracked weekend health policy headlines, including reports about the ongoing health law "defunding" controversy (8/25).

The Washington Post: States Scramble To Get Health-Care Law's Insurance Marketplaces Up And Running
With a key deadline approaching, state officials across the country are scrambling to get the Affordable Care Act’s complex computer systems up and running, reviewing contingency plans and, in some places, preparing for delays. Oct. 1 is the scheduled launch date for the health-care law’s insurance marketplaces ...  Some officials in charge of setting up the systems say that the tight deadlines have forced them to take shortcuts when it comes to testing and that some of the bells and whistles will not be ready (Kliff and Somashekhar, 8/24).

Politico: The Holy War Over Obamacare
As in politics, the religious world is riven by the health law. Sympathetic faith organizations that see an opportunity to live up to their God-given mission to aid the poor are stepping up to White House efforts to get people covered. Evangelicals and conservative congregations view Obamacare as an affront to their values and personal freedoms. Each side is mobilizing its flock — both evangelicals and liberal denominations are using a different kind of bully pulpit to build support for their point of view (Cheney, 8/23).

Politico: Obama Invokes Romney On Obamacare
Turning back the clock to 2012, President Barack Obama took a shot at defeated rival Mitt Romney. Speaking about how funding education ought to be a bipartisan idea during remarks in Scranton, Pa., Obama suggested the same should be the case with his signature health care law (Epstein, 8/23).

NPR's SHOTS Blog: Doctors Fleeing Medicare? Not So Fast, Feds Say
Are doctors so fed up with Medicare's stagnant pay and bureaucratic rules that they're bailing out of the program? Short answer: Yes, some are. Long answer: Not as many as you might have thought. ... some analysts at the Department of Health and Human Services just ran the numbers ... [and] found that the proportion of docs taking new patients has held pretty steady for Medicare in recent years — rising about 3 percentage points, actually, to 90.7 percent in 2012 from 87.9 percent in 2005 (Hensley, 8/23).

NPR: Hospice Doctor Helps Families Navigate The End Of Life
Dr. David Casarett is the director of hospice care at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He works with families as they try to navigate end-of-life decisions. At least once a week, Casarett says, one of his patients expresses a desire to end his or her own life. "It's a reminder to me that I have to stop whatever I was doing ... and sit back down to try to find out what is motivating that request," he says. "Is it really a carefully thought out desire to die, or is it, as it is unfortunately many times, a cry for help?" (8/25).

The Washington Post: Huge Shortage Of Caregivers Looms For Baby Boomers, Report Says
Americans should expect an enormous shortage in caregivers for older people in the coming decades, with a dearth of friends and family members available to care for the baby-boom generation as it ages, according to a report released Monday by AARP (Bahrampour, 8/26).

The New York Times: How To Charge $546 For Six Liters Of Saltwater
Luckily for anyone who has ever needed an IV bag to replenish lost fluids or to receive medication, it is also one of the least expensive. The average manufacturer's price, according to government data, has fluctuated in recent years from 44 cents to $1 (Bernstein, 8/25).

The New York Times: Amgen Said to Be Near Deal to Buy Onyx for $10.5 Billion
Amgen is close to a deal to buy Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc., a maker drugs to fight cancer, for about $10.5 billion, people briefed on the matter said on Saturday. A deal — in which Amgen would pay about $125 a share — could be announced as soon as Monday, though these people cautioned that talks are continuing and could still fall apart. If a transaction is completed, it would be the latest of many in the health care industry, especially as drug makers look to add to their offerings (De La Merced and Pollack, 8/24).

Los Angeles Times: Raising Money To Ensure Women Have Access To Abortions
Sarah Tuttle led her bowling team to a fourth-place finish in a nationwide tournament this April that raised $553,133 to help low-income women seeking abortions. "Some people fundraise to fight breast cancer; I fundraise for abortion access," said Tuttle, a hot line operator and board member for the Lilith Fund, a Texas nonprofit that helps women pay for abortions. "It's about having access to abortion and that not being about economics." Representatives from such abortion rights organizations say new restrictions are disproportionately affecting women whose income is below the poverty line, about 42% of those who have abortions (Villeneuve, 8/25).

The Washington Post: Reston Firm Helps Health-Care Providers ID High-Risk Patients
In health care, not all patients are equal. Some need costly treatment while others are relatively healthy, so providers must often decide who requires more attention and resources (Ravindranath, 8/25).  

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