First Edition: March 4, 2014

Today's headlines include highlights and themes from President Barack Obama's 2015 budget to be released today.  

Kaiser Health News: L.A. County Officials Told Inspectors To Cut Short Nursing Home Probes
Kaiser Health News staff writer Anna Gorman, working in collaboration with the Los Angeles Daily News, reports: "Facing a backlog of hundreds of health and safety complaints about nursing homes, Los Angeles County public health officials told inspectors to close cases without fully investigating them, according to internal documents and interviews" (Gorman, 3/3). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Health Law Provides No Guarantees Of Access To Midwives, Birthing Centers
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "Insurance coverage for maternity care is required in most individual and small group plans under the federal health law, extending such coverage to plans where it used to be rare. But for women who are interested in services provided by midwives and birthing centers, there are no coverage guarantees, despite the law’s provisions that prohibit insurers from discriminating against licensed medical providers" (Andrews, 3/4). Read the column.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: 60,000 With HIV Left Uninsured In States Not Expanding Medicaid
Now on Kaiser Health News’ blog, Jenny Gold reports: "The Affordable Care Act is generally a win for people living with HIV and AIDS, about 30 percent of whom are uninsured. It offers new health insurance options — both private and public — to a group that had been largely locked out of the individual insurance market because of rules about preexisting conditions. In 2010, just 17 percent of people with HIV and AIDS have private insurance, compared to 65 percent of the general U.S. population. Many others are low-income and childless, making them ineligible for Medicaid in most states" (Gold, 3/4) Check out what else is on the blog.

The Washington Post: Poll: Democrats’ Advantage On Key Issues Is Not Translating To A Midterm-Election Edge
Majorities of Americans continue to disapprove of the president's handling of the economy and of the implementation of his signature health-care law. But after a noticeable decline late last year after the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act, attitudes about his handling of the law have stabilized over the first months of this year. Despite the problems with the health-care law’s implementation, Democrats maintain an edge over Republicans on which party Americans trust to deal with the issue, by a margin of 44 percent to 36 percent (Balz and Clement, 3/4).

The New York Times: Conservative Group Counters Criticism Of Ad Against Health Law
Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group being challenged by Democrats over the content of its ads attacking the health care law, is pushing back with a new commercial that will begin airing Tuesday in Michigan. The commercial features Julie Boonstra, a Michigan woman who was the subject of an earlier ad, in which she said she had lost the health plan that she preferred for treatment of her leukemia and was facing higher costs because of the health care law (Hulse, 3/3).

The Wall Street Journal’s Real Time Economics: Obamacare Effects Account For Most of Income, Spending Increases
The Affordable Care Act, President Barack Barack Obama’s signature health law, is already boosting household income and spending. … On the incomes side, the law’s expanded coverage boosted Medicaid benefits by an estimated $19.2 billion, according to Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. The ACA also offered several refundable tax credits, including health insurance premium subsidies, which added up to $14.7 billion (Sparshott, 3/3).

Los Angeles Times: Obama Launches Final Push For Healthcare Sign-Ups
President Obama is scheduled to hold a town hall meeting with Latinos this week in an attempt to boost enrollment in the healthcare law's new insurance marketplaces before an end-of-the-month deadline. The meeting set for Thursday is part of a March push by the White House to drive sign-ups (Parsons, 3/3).

Politico: Viva Obamacare? President Obama Makes Spanish Media Push
According to White House officials, the president will appear for the first half of the hourlong televised event, answering questions that attendees submit in advance. During the second half experts will take in-depth questions about the law and its impact on the Latino community, which has a far higher uninsurance rate than the nation overall (Cheney, 3/3).

NPR: Flagging Down Taxi Drivers To Sign Up For Obamacare
Dan Ware has been driving a taxicab in Chicago for more than a decade, but he still doesn't have what many jobs offer: health insurance. "I'm without health coverage," he says. And that's not unusual, says Chicago Public Health Commissioner Bechara Choucair. "What we know in Chicago is that around 70 percent of taxi drivers are uninsured," Choucair says (Corley, 3/4).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Lower Medicaid Signups Seen In Health Law Study
It’s one of the most impressive statistics about the new health care law. The Obama administration says more than 8.9 million people have been, quote “determined eligible” for Medicaid from Oct. 1 through the end of January. But a new study Monday from Avalere Health estimates the actual number of new sign-ups could be much lower, between 2.4 million and 3.5 million (3/3).

The New York Times: Crackdown Proposed To Prevent Illegal Immigrants From Obtaining Medicare
The Obama administration is planning new steps to prevent people in the country illegally from obtaining Medicare after finding that tens of thousands were improperly receiving benefits. In President Obama’s budget for 2015, to be unveiled on Tuesday, and in new regulations, the administration proposes to remove illegal immigrants from the Medicare rolls and explicitly require citizenship or lawful presence in the United States as a condition of getting Medicare (Pear, 3/3).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Obama’s 2015 Budget Appeals To Democrats
The success that Washington has had in curbing spending over the past several years has come mostly at the expense of “discretionary” spending for agency operating budgets approved by Congress each year. The $521 billion defense budget for this year amounts to 3.5 percent of the size of the economy, according to the Congressional Budget Office, down from 5.4 percent of gross domestic product 40 years ago. Discretionary spending on nondefense programs has dropped from 3.9 percent in 1974 to 3.4 percent today. Meanwhile, autopilot spending on benefit programs like Social Security, Medicare, food stamps and insurance subsidies under the new health care law are growing rapidly as a percentage of the economy (3/3).

The Washington Post: In Budget Proposal, Obama To Seek More Money For Anti-Poverty Programs
The Obama administration budget to be released Tuesday will set the stage for an election-year debate over government’s role in creating economic opportunity, with President Obama calling for more federal spending to help the poor and Republicans charging that such programs waste money and foster dependency. With his budget still being drafted, Ryan declined to say which programs would get the ax. But his report argues that the nearly $800 billion the federal government spends on anti-poverty programs each year should be trimmed. In last year’s GOP budget blueprint, Ryan proposed to sharply slow spending on domestic social programs, such as Medicaid, food stamps and Pell grants for college students (Goldfarb and Costa, 3/3).

ProPublica/NPR: Drugmakers Slash Spending On Doctors' Sales Talks
Some of the nation's largest pharmaceutical companies have dramatically reduced payments to health professionals for promotional speeches amid heightened public scrutiny of such spending, a ProPublica analysis shows. Eli Lilly & Co.'s payments to speakers dropped by 55 percent, from $47.9 million in 2011 to $21.6 million in 2012 (Ornstein, Sagara and Grochowski Jones, 3/4).

The Wall Street Journal: Supreme Court Takes Omnicare Challenge To Securities Suit
The plaintiff investors allege Omnicare stated falsely it had complied with relevant laws in its 2005 Securities and Exchange Commission registration to sell more than 12 million shares. The lawsuit alleges Omnicare effectively hid from investors that it paid kickbacks to nursing homes, received kickbacks from drug companies and submitted false claims to Medicare and Medicaid (Kendall, 3/3).

Los Angeles Times: Nearly 1 In 5 Had Mental Illness Before Enlisting In Army, Study Says
Nearly 1 in 5 U.S. soldiers had a common mental illness, such as depression, panic disorder or ADHD, before enlisting in the Army, according to a new study that raises questions about the military's assessment and screening of recruits (Zarembo, 3/3).

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