First Edition: May 2, 2013

Today's headlines include reports about a new study detailing how expanded Medicaid access impacts beneficiaries' utilization of health care services and their overall physical health.

Kaiser Health News: The Arkansas Medicaid Model: What You Need To Know About The 'Private Option'
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jay Hancock reports: "The Obama administration wanted Republican states to accept the health law's Medicaid expansion pretty much as is. Republicans wanted Medicaid money in no-strings block grants. Arkansas has broached what could be a deal-making compromise, giving Washington the increased coverage for the poor it wants and Republicans something that looks less like government and more like business" (Hancock, 5/1). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Expanding Medicaid Didn't Lead To Big Health Gains In Oregon, Study Finds
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Alvin Tran reports: "Although expanding Medicaid coverage to some low-income Oregon residents substantially improved their mental health and reduced financial strains on them, it didn't significantly boost their physical health, according to a study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine" (Tran, 5/1). Check out what else is new on the blog.

The New York Times: Florida Runs Out of Time On Medicaid
Prospects for Medicaid expansion in Florida, which was embraced, improbably, by the state's Republican governor in February, are all but dead this year (Alvarez and Sexton, 5/1).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Fewer Carriers Than Expected Apply For Illinois Health Marketplace; Raises National Concerns
Only six insurance carriers have told the state of Illinois they want to sell a combined 165 health policies on the state's online insurance marketplace under the nation's new health care law — numbers far lower than expected, raising concerns the trend will hold true across the country. Fewer health plans could mean less competition and possibly higher premium prices. Officials in President Barack Obama's home state had anticipated some 260 health plans would be offered by 16 different insurance carriers, based on a survey the Illinois Department of Insurance conducted last fall (5/1).

The New York Times: Medicaid Access Increases Use of Care, Study Finds
Come January, millions of low-income adults will gain health insurance coverage through Medicaid in one of the farthest-reaching provisions of the Obama health care law. How will that change their finances, spending habits, use of available medical services and — most important — their health? New results from a landmark study, released on Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine, go a long way toward answering those questions. The study, called the Oregon Health Study, compares thousands of low-income people in Oregon who received access to Medicaid with an identical population that did not (Lowrey, 5/1).

The Washington Post's Wonk Blog: Study: Medicaid Reduces Financial Hardship, Doesn't Quickly Improve Physical Health
The research uses data from Oregon, where the state held a lottery among low-income adults in 2008 for a limited Medicaid expansion. Of the 90,000 people who applied, 10,000 ultimately gained coverage. The lottery gave researchers a unique opportunity to conduct the first randomized experiment on Medicaid coverage, by studying those who gained insurance through the lottery and comparing them against a similar group of adults who did not (Kliff, 5/1).

Los Angeles Times: Medicaid Has Mixed Record On Improving Health For The Poor, Study Says
As state leaders debate whether to expand their Medicaid programs next year under President Obama's healthcare law, new research suggests the government insurance plan for the poor has only a mixed record of improving health. Medicaid beneficiaries are less likely than the uninsured to have catastrophic medical expenses and significantly less likely to suffer from depression, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found (Levey, 5/1).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Study: Depression Rates For Uninsured Dropped With Medicaid Rates
If you're uninsured, getting on Medicaid clearly improves your mental health, but it doesn't seem to make much difference in physical conditions such as high blood pressure. The counterintuitive findings by researchers at Harvard and MIT, from an experiment involving low-income, able-bodied Oregonians, appear in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine. The study offers a twist for states weighing a major Medicaid expansion under President Barack Obama's health care law, to serve a similar population of adults around the country (5/1).

The Washington Post: SEC Subpoenas Firm, Individuals In A Case Of Leaked Information
The Securities and Exchange Commission has issued subpoenas to a firm and individuals in connection with the leak last month of a federal funding decision that appeared to cause a surge in stock trading of several major health companies. The move deepens the government's scrutiny of the growing "political intelligence" industry, which has been thriving on delivering valuable information from Washington to investors. … The latest case emerged April 1 when Height Securities, a Washington-based stock brokerage firm, alerted its clients that the government would soon make a decision favoring private health insurers who participate in a Medicare program (Hamburger and ElBoghdady, 5/1).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Small Businesses May Get Sticker Shock, Little Clarity From 1st Health Insurance Rate Requests
Small businesses, especially those that are required, for the first time, to start providing coverage under the Affordable Care Act have been waiting for some clue about how much it will cost. Many are worried that paying for health care will hurt profits and have held back on hiring, spending or expanding. The information that’s been released to date is providing some insight, but not enough for small businesses to be comfortable about making big financial moves (5/1).

The Washington Post: Postal Temps To Gain Health Insurance Under ObamaCare
The Postal Service next year will offer healthcare coverage to its temporary employees to comply with the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare. The agency announced on Monday that it would pay United Healthcare an estimated $239 million annually to provide coverage for about 35,000 “non-career employees” (Hicks, 5/2).

Los Angeles Times: California Deems UnitedHealth Rate Hikes Unreasonable
California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said the nation's largest health insurer, UnitedHealth Group Inc., is imposing unreasonable rate hikes on about 5,000 small businesses. Jones said Wednesday that UnitedHealth couldn't justify the average annual increase of nearly 8%, which reflects both higher premiums and a reduction in benefits (Terhune, 5/1).

The Wall Street Journal: Poor Prognosis For Privacy
The sharing of Americans' health information is set to explode in coming years, with millions of patients' medical records converted to electronic form and analyzed by health-care providers, insurers, regulators and researchers. That has prompted concerns over privacy—and now, new federal rules that aim to give patients more control over their information are posing technical and administrative problems for the doctors and hospitals that have to implement them. … The new rules are part of a revision of the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA. They went into effect in March, but providers have until Sept. 23 to comply. One key new provision requires doctors and hospitals not to disclose medical information to a patient's insurer if the patient requests it and pays for the services out-of-pocket (Beck, 5/1).

The Washington Post: Obama Administration Plans To Appeal Plan B Ruling
The Justice Department filed notice late Wednesday that it will challenge a federal court decision requiring the government to make emergency contraceptives available over the counter to women of all ages. … In federal court documents, the Justice Department argued that Korman overstepped his authority in ordering the FDA to make emergency contraceptives available to all women over the counter (Kliff, 5/1).

Politico: Plan B Appeal Angers White House Allies
President Barack Obama's administration on Wednesday angered allies in women's groups by appealing a judge's ruling that the morning-after pill must be available over the counter to girls of all ages. The administration has argued that the pill should not be readily available to young teens, so the appeal is consistent with that position (Smith, 5/1).

NPR: Obama Administration Appeals Judge's Order On Plan B
The Obama administration filed an appeal Wednesday of a U.S. district court ruling that ordered it to end all age restrictions on the Plan B emergency contraceptive pill. The move came a day after the Food and Drug Administration lowered the age for which the product can be purchased without a prescription from 17 to 15 (Rovner, 5/1).

Los Angeles Times: Government Will Appeal Plan B Emergency Birth Control Ruling
U.S. District Judge Edward Korman … who has harshly criticized government health officials for their handling of the so-called morning after pill, ordered that all levonorgestrel-based emergency contraceptives like Plan B One-Step be made available, over the counter, beginning next Monday (Morin, 5/1).

The New York Times: More Releases Of Ailing Prisoners Are Urged
The federal prison system does not allow the parole of inmates before their sentences are completed, but in the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, Congress authorized the bureau to request that a judge reduce an inmate's sentence for "extraordinary and compelling" circumstances. Such compassionate release does not have to be for reasons of terminal illness, but it generally is (Savage, 5/1).

Los Angeles Times: Coalition Working On Ballot Measure To Limit Prescription Drug Abuse
Fearing lawmakers may fail to pass a package of medical reform bills, a coalition of consumer groups and trial lawyers is mounting a campaign to put before voters an even more ambitious slate of initiatives aimed at curbing prescription drug abuse and holding doctors more accountable for misconduct (Glover and Girion, 5/1).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Fort Detrick Critics Hail Md. Law Requiring State Scrutiny Of Cancer Cluster Investigations
Critics of Fort Detrick in Frederick are hailing a bill requiring closer scrutiny of cancer cluster investigations. Gov. Martin O'Malley is set to sign the measure Thursday in Annapolis. It requires an appointed workgroup to examine the state's process for investigating suspected cancer clusters (5/2). 

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