First Edition: March 26, 2013

Today's headlines include reports about a new study estimating how the health law  will impact medical claims costs.  

Kaiser Health News: Economic Changes Hurt The Bottom Line For Rural Ga. Hospitals
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Georgia Health News’ Andy Miller writes: "In the small Georgia town of Demorest, Habersham Medical Center, like many rural hospitals, has seen its patient base change in a way that hurts its bottom line. As unemployment in the northeast Georgia mountains remains stubbornly high, more of the hospital’s patients have no health insurance. Among those patients with private coverage, an increasing number have high-deductible policies, which means that patients must pay all or a large portion of the bills out of pocket. And a large share of patients have Medicaid, the federal-state program for low-income people that often doesn't reimburse enough to cover the cost of services, hospital officials say" (Miller, 3/27). Read the story.

Los Angeles Times: Survey: U.S. Medical Costs Top Other Developed Nations'
An average day in a U.S. hospital cost $4,287 last year. It was less than $1,000 in New Zealand, France, South Africa and Spain. That's one of several cost comparisons reported Tuesday in an annual report by the International Federation of Health Plans, an industry trade group. The London organization surveyed its member companies in 12 different countries to gauge the variation in medical prices (Terhune, 3/26).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Study Estimates State-By-State Change In Medical Claims Costs Under Obama Health Overhaul Law
A study by the Society of Actuaries estimates the new federal health care law will raise claims costs nationally by an average of 32 percent per person in the individual health insurance market by 2017 (3/27).

USA Today/The Associated Press: Study: Health Overhaul To Raise Claims Costs 32%
While some states will see medical claims costs per person decline, the report prepared by the Society of Actuaries concluded that the overwhelming majority will see double-digit increases in their individual health insurance markets, where people purchase coverage directly from insurers. The disparities are striking. By 2017, the estimated increase would be 62% for California, about 80% for Ohio, more than 20% for Florida and 67% for Maryland. Much of the reason for the higher claims costs is that sicker people are expected to join the pool, the report said (3/26).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: DC Officials Say Actuarial Study On Health Overhaul
Costs Uses Flawed Data
A study that shows medical claims costs will increase by more than 50 percent for District of Columbia residents under the federal health care overhaul is inaccurate in part because it dramatically overstates the number of city residents who lack insurance, district officials said Tuesday (3/26).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: State Official Disputes Study Citing  Potential 67 Percent Hike In Medical Claims Costs
Medical claims costs in Maryland could jump 67 percent for residents' individual policies by 2017 under the federal health care overhaul, according to a study released Tuesday by the nation's leading group of financial risk analysts. But a Maryland official said the study is flawed, because it doesn't consider state-level policy decisions that will have a big impact on costs (3/26).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Study: Claims Costs That Drive Premiums Will Rise 32 Percent In Under Health Law
A new study finds that insurance companies will have to pay out an average of 32 percent more for medical claims under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. What does that mean for you? (3/27).

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Sebelius: Some Could See Insurance Premiums Rise
Some people purchasing new insurance policies for themselves this fall could see premiums rise because of requirements in the health-care law, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters Tuesday. Ms. Sebelius's remarks come weeks before insurers are expected to begin releasing rates for plans that start on Jan. 1, 2014, when key provisions of the health law kick in (Radnofsky, 3/26).

Reuters/The New York Times: Health Official Acknowledges That Costs May Rise
President Obama's top health care adviser acknowledged on Tuesday that costs could rise in the individual health insurance market, particularly for men and younger people, because of provisions of the landmark 2010 health care measure due to take effect next year (3/26).

USA Today: White House Warns Cutting Medicare Will Shift Costs
If Congress addresses the nation's budget deficit by cutting Medicare, that will simply shift health care costs to the private sector and not address the underlying issues, Obama administration officials said Tuesday at a White House briefing. "If you only focus on Medicare, you shift the costs," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, adding that Medicare and Medicaid are not the reason health costs are going up (Kennedy, 3/26).

Politico: It's Not Just A Marriage Issue; It's The Insurance
The federal Defense of Marriage Act, under review by the high court this week, allows states to ignore gay marriages or unions sanctioned outside their borders, and it excludes legally married gay couples from the same protections offered to heterosexual couples under federal health programs, like Medicare, Medicaid and the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. The result is thousands of same-sex couples facing more limited access to health insurance and steeper costs for coverage than their heterosexual counterparts (Cheney, 3/27).

The Wall Street Journal: Warning Over Doctor-Run Groups
A federal agency issued a special fraud alert about physician-owned distributorships—commercial entities run by doctors that have proliferated in the fields of orthopedic and spine surgery—calling them "inherently suspect" and warning they "pose dangers to patient safety" (Carreyrou, 3/26).

The New York Times: New Prostate Cancer Tests Could Reduce False Alarms
Sophisticated new prostate cancer tests are coming to market that might supplement the unreliable P.S.A. test, potentially saving tens of thousands of men each year from unnecessary biopsies, operations and radiation treatments (Pollack, 3/26).

The New York Times: Plan To Allow Investment In 2 Hospitals Is Dropped
A proposal to allow for-profit investment in two hospitals in New York State has been dropped from the budget, an unexpected setback to a push to open health care systems to private investors for the first time (Bernstein, 3/26).

The New York Times: New Laws Ban Most Abortions In North Dakota
Gov. Jack Dalrymple of North Dakota approved the nation’s toughest abortion restrictions on Tuesday, signing into law a measure that would ban nearly all abortions and inviting a legal showdown over just how much states can limit access to the procedure (Eligon and Eckholm, 3/26).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: North Dakota GOP Governor Signs Bill Banning Most Abortions As Early As 6 Weeks Into Pregnancy
The Republican governor signed three anti-abortion measures on Tuesday — including one banning abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, or when a heartbeat can be detected. By doing so, Dalrymple positioned his oil-rich state as a primary battleground in the decades-old fight over abortion rights (3/27).

The Wall Street Journal: North Dakota Adopts Strict Abortion Law
The law, which prohibits an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, is expected to face a court challenge from abortion-rights advocates who say it conflicts with U.S. Supreme Court rulings. Gov. Jack Dalrymple, a Republican, said it is unclear whether the law would survive a court challenge, but that it stands as "a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries" of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's 40-year-old abortion rights ruling (Peters, 3/26).

Los Angeles Times: Following In Dr. George Tiller’s Footsteps
The clinic had been closed for nearly four years. Two weeks before the clinic's reopening, Burkhart pushes open the silver double doors to the empty surgical room. Her pace slows. A sadness flickers across her eyes. This room has been a symbol for decades of a fierce national fight over abortion, and that battle is about to return to her city, her doorstep. But then, just as quickly, she shakes it off. The political activist in her takes over. There is work to be done (Deam, 3/26).

Politico: Activists Push Abortion Issue Forward
Anti-abortion activists are pushing earlier and earlier bans on abortion, with at least one state outlawing the procedure at the first sign of a detectable heartbeat. Arkansas’s new law limits most abortions at 12 weeks, and a North Dakota law signed by the governor Tuesday bans most after six weeks (Smith, 3/26).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: La. Health Secretary A No-show At His Department’s Budget Hearing Amid Ongoing Investigations
Lawmakers seeking more information about the Jindal administration’s cancellation of a nearly $200 million Medicaid contract amid an ongoing criminal investigation were told Tuesday that administration leaders were advised against discussing it. The now-scrapped contract for Medicaid claims processing and bill payment had been awarded to CNSI, a Maryland-based company that once employed Gov. Bobby Jindal’s health secretary, Bruce Greenstein (3/26).

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