First Edition: May 7, 2013

Today's headlines include reports about two new studies exploring whether the slowdown in the nation's health spending growth rates is, in fact, due more to structural changes in the health ystem than to the economy.

Kaiser Health News: Doctors' Diagnostic Errors Are Often Not Mentioned But Can Take A Serious Toll
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, in collaboration with The Washington Post, Sandra G. Boodman writes: "Recent studies underscore the extent and potential impact of such errors. A 2009 report funded by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that 28 percent of 583 diagnostic mistakes reported anonymously by doctors were life-threatening or had resulted in death or permanent disability. A meta-analysis published last year in the journal BMJ Quality & Safety found that fatal diagnostic errors in U.S. intensive care units appear to equal the 40,500 deaths that result each year from breast cancer. And a new study of 190 errors at a VA hospital system in Texas found that many errors involved common diseases such as pneumonia and urinary tract infections; 87 percent had the potential for 'considerable to severe harm' including 'inevitable death'" (Boodman, 5/7). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Health Law's Medicaid Expansion And Online Marketplaces Offer Veterans New Care Options
In her latest Kaiser Health News consumer column, Michelle Andrews writes: "Military veterans will have more health insurance options under the Affordable Care Act, but some vets, like many Americans, may still struggle to find affordable, accessible care that meets their needs. Roughly 40 percent of the 22.3 million military veterans receive health-care services from the Veterans Health Administration, which operates a nationwide network of medical centers, hospitals and clinics" (Andrews, 5/6). Read the column.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: 2 Studies Assert Lower Spending Growth Is Due To Structural Health Changes; Boston Children's Hospital Creates 'Living' Practice Guidelines
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Jordan Rau writes about the findings of two studies regarding the nation's lower spending growth: "Two new studies assert that the country's unusual slowdown in health spending growth rates may be due more to structural changes in the health care system than to the lagging economy, and thus could continue even after business picks up" (Rau, 5/7).

Also on Capsules, Julie Appleby reports on Boston Children's Hospital's practice guidelines: "Now, though, Boston Children's Hospital says it has found a way to create guidelines that have reduced costs and variation in care while improving patient outcomes – all without angering doctors. Called SCAMPS, the program aims to standardize care for a variety of medical conditions – all while allowing its guidelines to evolve as new information is collected and analyzed, according to a paper published Monday in the journal Health Affairs" (Appleby, 5/6). Check out what else is on the blog.

The New York Times: New Worries For Democrats On Health Law
As the administration struggles to put in place the final, complex piece of President Obama's signature health care law, an endeavor on a scale not seen since Medicare's creation nearly a half-century ago, Democrats are worried that major snags will be exploited by Republicans in next year's midterm elections (Calmes, 5/6).

USA Today: Next Year Heralds Major Changes In Nation's Health Care
Within the next 12 months, consumers could get a quick check-up at the pharmacy, text glucose levels to a doctor through a smart-phone app or earn bonuses for treadmill time from their employer--all as the nation grapples with growing health care costs (Kennedy, 5/6).

The Washington Post’s Fact Checker: Is Long Beach Really Limiting The Hours Of 1,600 Workers Because Of 'Obamacare'?
Just one day after the Los Angeles Times published an article titled "Part-timers to lose pay amid health act's new math," one of its factoids became a frequently-mentioned talking point for Republicans. Indeed, the Republican National Committee "War Room" e-mailed the article to subscribers on its listserve the morning it was published. … Certainly employers are trying to figure out how they are impacted by the new law, but in general politicians should be careful about drawing policy implications from anecdotes. Already, in fact, some employers, such as Darden Restaurants Inc., have pulled back from cutting hours because of a public backlash that affected sales. No one can really judge what employers do or do not do until there is some hard data after the law has been implemented. But we were curious about what’s going on in Long Beach because the Times article was a bit contradictory (Kessler, 5/6).

The Washington Post's Wonk Blog: Obamacare Could Lower Premiums In New York, New Study Finds
There's pretty widespread acknowledgement that, under Obamacare, many in the individual market will see premiums go up. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has acknowledged this, as have other top Democrats. That's the case in most of the country — but not in New York State. There, the state is actually expecting some big changes likely to lower health premiums, according to a new analysis prepared for the New York Health Benefits Exchange (Kliff, 5/6).

The Washington Post: How 'Political Intelligence' Can Come From Congress Itself
On the same morning a congressional staffer told investors in a private call that odds were improving for a government decision that would help medical insurers, trading spiked in a major health-care company. The private call, arranged by a consulting firm called Capitol Street, took place the morning of March 18. At 11:05 a.m., a certain form of speculative trading in Humana, the health insurer, jumped. That day, there was nearly 10 times as much volume as any day in the previous two weeks (Yang, Hamburger and El Boghdady, 5/6).

The New York Times: Slowdown In Health Costs' Rise May Last As Economy Revives
One of the economic mysteries of the last few years has been the bigger-than-expected slowdown in health spending, a trend that promises to bolster wages and help close the wide federal deficit over the long term — but only if it persists (Lowrey, 5/6).

The Wall Street Journal: Muted Health-Expense Growth May Persist
Two new economic analyses suggest a recent slowdown in health-spending growth may reflect lasting change due to fundamental shifts in how health care is delivered and paid for. The findings come as economists and policy experts debate whether the damped growth is a temporary phenomenon tied to the recession and its aftermath or is more linked to permanent changes, such as increased efficiency among health-care providers (Mathews, 5/6).

NPR: Why A Slowdown In Health Spending Is Starting To Look Real
While not solved, the growth in health spending has definitely slowed. That's the consensus of a series of studies out in the past few week. The latest bunch are in this month's issue of the policy journal Health Affairs (Rovner, 5/6).

Politico: Will Health Care cost Slowdown Last?
Maybe health care won’t bankrupt the country after all. A dramatic slowdown in the growth of health care spending in recent years could be here to stay, according to two studies published Monday by Health Affairs (Norman, 5/7).

Politico: Study: Cuts To Medicare Trim Costs To Insurers
When Medicare payment rates for hospital inpatient care are cut, do insurers end up paying more? A new study published Monday in Health Affairs finds they don't — contradicting the well-known "cost shifting" theory (Smith, 5/7).

The New York Times: Psychiatry's Guide Is Out Of Touch With Science, Experts Say
Just weeks before the long-awaited publication of a new edition of the so-called bible of mental disorders, the federal government's most prominent psychiatric expert has said the book suffers from a scientific "lack of validity." The expert, Dr. Thomas R. Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, said in an interview Monday that his goal was to reshape the direction of psychiatric research to focus on biology, genetics and neuroscience so that scientists can define disorders by their causes, rather than their symptoms (Belluck and Carey, 5/6).

The Wall Street Journal: FDA Seeks Cancer Warning For Use Of Tanning Beds
Federal health regulators moved to tighten oversight of tanning beds and said people younger than age 18 shouldn't use the beds at all. The move comes amid growing evidence that indoor tanning is linked to melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, in young people. Tanning beds continue to be used by millions of teenagers (Dooren, 5/6).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Medicaid Contractor Sues Jindal Administration In La., Over Scrapping Of $200M Deal
A Maryland-based company whose nearly $200 million Medicaid contract was canceled amid an ongoing federal investigation sued Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration Monday for terminating the deal (5/6).

Check out all of Kaiser Health News' e-mail options including First Edition and Breaking News alerts on our Subscriptions page.

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.