Archive for July, 2012

Today’s Headlines – July 31, 2012

Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including forward-looking reports about what the Medicaid expansion might look like if the GOP controls Congress and the White House, as well as how insurers are planning to use an expected tax reform effort to nix fees their industry will otherwise face under the health law.

Los Angeles Times: Medicaid Could Be Scaled Back Sharply Under GOP Plans
Nearly half a century after President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicaid into law, conservative critics of the massive government health insurance program for the poor are readying a new push to dramatically scale it back if Republicans control the White House and Congress next year (Levey, 7/30).

The New York Times: Insurance Rebates Seen As Selling Point For Health Law
The law requires insurers to give out annual rebates by Aug. 1, starting this year, if less than 80 percent of the premium dollars they collect go toward medical care. For insurers covering large employers, the threshold is 85 percent. As a result, insurers will pay out $1.1 billion this year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, although most of it will not go to individuals. The average rebate will be $151 per household, with the highest in Vermont ($807 per family), Alaska ($622) and Alabama ($518). No rebates will be issued in New Mexico or Rhode Island, because insurers there met the 80/20 requirement (Goodnough, 7/30).

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Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Medicaid Expansion Favored In General, Less So Near Home, Survey Finds

Americans are broadly supportive of the health care law’s expansion of Medicaid to cover millions of uninsured people, according to a¬ new poll.¬† But they are less enthusiastic about expanding it in their own states¬†after they realize state taxpayers will pick up some of the cost.

Last month the¬ U.S. Supreme Court upheld most of the Affordable Care Act, but allowed states to opt out of the law’s plan to¬†enlarge Medicaid, the state-federal health program for the poor. The law directed states to cover those earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $14,800 for individuals and $25,400 for a family of three, far above the levels currently covered by Medicaid in most states. Officials in several Republican states, including Florida, Louisiana and Texas, have said they don’t want to participate.

Nationally, two out of three people surveyed by the Kaiser Family Foundation said they had a favorable view of expanding Medicaid to cover more low-income uninsured adults. (KHN is an independent program of the foundation.) As has been the case with the law generally, the views reflected partisan viewpoints, with 87 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of independents favoring the expansion. Among Republicans 39 percent favored the expansion as a general concept, more than three times as many as said they like the law.

However, support dissipated — especially among Republicans –¬†when people were asked whether their own state should participate and were told state taxpayers would eventually pay a tenth of the cost. When the question was phrased that way, only 49 percent favored their own state expanding Medicaid, while 43 percent said their state should keep the program unchanged. Two-thirds of Republicans opposed expanding Medicaid in their own state.


Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

The CBO’s New Medicaid Numbers And The Cost Of Saving Lives

This week, the¬†Congressional Budget Office updated its numbers on the cost of the health law, the Affordable Care Act. The verdict? Now that the Supreme Court has overturned part of the Medicaid expansion –¬†thereby allowing¬†states to¬†opt out of this¬†portion of the overhaul¬†without penalty, the law‚Äôs cost will likely be around $84 billion lower over 11 years than previously estimated.

The score from the CBO had bloggers writing about what fate inclusion of the new numbers hold for coverage for the poor in America, and sounding off about a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine that found expanding Medicaid saved lives in three states.

Matt Salo, at the Health Affairs Blog, writes that the finding from the CBO might not be the last word from federal policymakers on the subject: ‚ÄúUltimately state-level dynamics, such as the nuances of individual Medicaid programs, the Medicaid-Exchange interactions, and state fiscal conditions, combined with the Administration‚Äôs decisions about the optional aspects of the expansion will require policymakers to repeatedly revisit these estimates. ‚Ķ The ACA offers states many incentives.¬† Nonetheless, the reality is that for some states, the Medicaid expansion may not necessarily or immediately be a ‚Äúno-brainer‚ÄĚ as some have suggested. ‚Ķ While numerous entities are tracking state officials‚Äô public statements about the Medicaid expansion, it is likely the decisions will shift dramatically over time for both policy and political reasons‚ÄĚ (7/25).


Monday, July 30th, 2012

Health Coverage ‘A New Part Of The Conversation’ After Tragedy

Health insurance is getting almost as much attention as the debate over gun control in the aftermath of the Aurora, Colo., theater shootings, amid reports that some of the most grievously injured lack coverage.

‚ÄúThis does seem like a new part of the conversation‚ÄĚ following a tragedy, said Dr. Ned Calonge, president and CEO of the Colorado Trust, a health care advocacy group.

Fifty-eight injured were taken to area hospitals after the shootings in the midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.” ¬†The most seriously wounded continue to fight for their lives and may face medical bills in the hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars.¬† Among them is 23-year-old Caleb Medley, who is in an induced coma after being shot in the head, and whose wife, Katie, gave birth to their first child last week. The couple has no health insurance, and their friends and family are raising money online to pay¬†their medical bills.

Like Medley, many of the victims are between the ages of¬†19 and 34 ‚Äď a group with a 28 percent uninsurance rate in Colorado, the highest among any age group, according to a 2011 survey by Calonge‚Äôs group.


Monday, July 30th, 2012

Today’s Headlines – July 30, 2012

Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including recent reports about both the policies and politics related to the health law’s implementation.

NPR: Affordable Care Act’s Insurance Rebates In The Mail
Robert Siegel talks with Julie Rovner about an immediate effect of the new health care law ‚ÄĒ rebate checks ‚ÄĒ how they vary, and why some insurers owe Americans money (Rovner and Siegel, 7/27).

The Washington Post: Health Insurance Mandate Faces Huge Resistance In Oklahoma
The Supreme Court may have declared that the government can order Americans to get health insurance, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to sign up. Nowhere is that more evident than Oklahoma, a conservative state with an independent streak and a disdain for the strong arm of government. The state cannot even get residents to comply with car insurance laws; roughly a quarter of the drivers here lack it, one of the highest rates in the country (Somashekhar, 7/29).

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Monday, July 30th, 2012

U.K. National Health Service Gets Gold Medal Mention At Olympics

Performers pay tribute to the National Health Service during the Opening Ceremony in London (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images).

The opening ceremony for the London Olympics Friday night was full of surprises: The “queen” parachuting with James Bond into the Olympic stadium, an appearance by the evil Voldemort of Harry Potter fame. But maybe the most surprising for health wonks was the tribute to the National Health Service (NHS).

That last salute¬†came in a whimsical segment that organizers said honored “two of Britain’s greatest achievements: its amazing body of children’s literature and its National Health Service.” It was part of the highly choreographed section of the program that explored British history and achievements.

Academy Award filmmaker Danny Boyle, who was the artistic director for the opening ceremony, cast 600 dancers in the tribute that featured scores of children on hospital beds that were transformed into trampolines.¬† They were supervised by nurses in bright blue dresses with white aprons and doctors. The adults were largely volunteers who are employed in their regular lives by the NHS. As the children fell asleep, their dreams turned into nightmares with villains from British children’s literature. But Mary Poppins arrived shortly to calm the situation.

In a media guide, the ceremony organizers said, “The NHS is the institution which more than any other unites our nation. It was founded just after World War II on Aneurin Bevan‚Äôs famous principle, ‚ÄėNo society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.’ ”

The publicly funded program offers health care to millions of British residents and employs 1.7 million people. But even the revered NHS is coming under pressure and some health care experts are calling for overhauling parts of the service.

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

New Funds Could Shorten AIDS Drug Waiting Lists

The Obama administration announced nearly $80 million in grants to increase access to HIV/AIDS care across the United States last week ‚Äď but will it be enough to eliminate waiting lists for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program?

Advocates aren’t sure. The program, known as ADAP, provides a safety net for people with HIV who cannot afford the drugs they need to fight the virus.

For the past few years, ADAP demand has outpaced funding. Nationwide, 1,800 people are now on a waitlist, with Georgia and Virginia accounting for more than half of those cases.

Murray Penner of the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors says it is hard to tell if the new funding will be enough to handle states’ waitlists. He thinks they will disappear, but only for a year or two.

“It’s very difficult to predict these things because there are so many variables that go into the serving of individuals that need medications,” Penner said.


Saturday, July 28th, 2012

GOP Says Coverage For The Uninsured Is Not Their Priority

This story comes from our partner¬ ‚Äės Shots blog.

For decades, the primary goal of those who would fix the U.S. health system has been to help people without insurance get coverage. Now, it seems, all that may be changing. At least some top Republicans are trying to steer the health debate away from the problem of the uninsured.

Sen. McConnell (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The shift in emphasis is a subtle one, but it’s noticeable.

Take this exchange between¬ Fox News Sunday¬†host Chris Wallace and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)¬ earlier this month, just after the Supreme Court upheld most of President Obama’s health law.

Wallace: “What specifically are you going to do to provide universal coverage to the 30 million people who are uninsured?”

McConnell: “That is not the issue. … The question is how can you go step by step to improve the American health care system? It is already the finest health care system in the world.”

Wallace: “But you don’t think that 30 million people who are uninsured is an issue?”

McConnell: “Let me tell you what we’re not going to do. We’re not going to turn the American health care system into a Western European system. That is exactly what is at the heart of Obamacare. They want to have the federal government take over all of American health care.”


Friday, July 27th, 2012

Religious Health Care; ‘The Big Lie’ About Expanding Medicaid

KHN’s Matthew Fleming selected these interesting articles from around the Web for weekend reading options.

The Atlantic: A Christian Alternative To Health Insurance
The Affordable Care Act has a section that exempts members of health care sharing ministries from purchasing insurance. The Amish, Mennonite, Christian Science and Indian tribe communities also are exempt from the penalty that will be incurred on Americans who fail to purchase health insurance by 2014. Since the law was passed in 2010, membership for Medi-Share and Samaritan Ministries has risen by about 40 percent.¬† Christian health sharing ministries are largely unregulated, except by themselves. This means members cannot go to an insurance commissioner with a complaint, rates aren’t reviewed by an independent regulator, and there is no way to ensure they are following anti-discrimination laws (Kimberly Leonard, 7/20).


Friday, July 27th, 2012

Today’s Headlines – July 27, 2012

Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including reports about a new effort launched by the Obama administration and insurers to fight health care fraud.

The New York Times: Hospitals Are Worried About Cut In Fund For The Uninsured
President Obama’s health care law is putting new strains on some of the nation’s most hard-pressed hospitals, by cutting aid they use to pay for emergency care for illegal immigrants, which they have long been required to provide (Bernstein, 7/26).

The New York Times: For Big Drug Companies, A Headache Looms
It would seem a business executive’s dream: legally pay a competitor to keep its product off the market for years. Congress has failed to stop it, and for more than a decade generic drug makers and big-name pharmaceutical companies have been winning court rulings that allowed it. Until this month (Wyatt, 7/26).

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Friday, July 27th, 2012

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