Kaiser Health News Original Stories

4. Political Cartoon: 'Ignite The Night?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Ignite The Night?'" by Paul Fell.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


U.S. Chamber takes
On global task: Beating back
Anti-smoking laws.

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Health Law Issues And Implementation

5. Insure Tennessee's Push For Medicaid Expansion Reinvigorated By Supreme Court Decision

Meanwhile, the National Journal examines the extent to which the Obama administration will go to advance efforts to expand the health insurance program for low-income people -- a central aspect of the Affordable Care Act.

Chattanooga Times Free Press: Insure Tennessee Supporters Renew Push For Medicaid Expansion
Fresh off last week's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld one key provision of the federal Affordable Care Act, supporters of Gov. Bill Haslam's failed Insure Tennessee plan are renewing their push to pass the Medicaid expansion to an estimated 280,000 low-income Tennesseans. Backers of the plan, including state Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., business leaders and others filled an auditorium at St. Thomas Midtown Hospital in Nashville on Monday for a news conference. ... Republican-controlled Senate committees twice rejected Haslam's Insure Tennessee plan last session. Some lawmakers' objections included the uncertainty of the health insurance exchange issue. (Sher, 6/29)

The Nashville Tennessean: Insure TN 'Not Perfect,' Would Reduce Worry Of ER Costs
A patient came to Siloam Family Health Center with a two-day-old gunshot wound to the abdomen. The man hadn't been to the emergency room for two reasons, said Dr. Morgan Wills, president and CEO of the clinic. A native of Vietnam, the wounded man was concerned about someone not speaking his language, and he wanted to go somewhere offering affordable care. (Fletcher, 6/29)

National Journal: How Far Is Obama Willing To Go To Expand Medicaid?
After the law survived its latest potentially devastating legal challenge, Medicaid expansion will be a legacy-defining issue for the president during his last 18 months, one that will determine whether Obamacare achieves its full, desired impact. But how far can—and will—his administration go to achieve that goal? ... The administration has made ample use of that carrot as it has negotiated with GOP-led states to expand Medicaid. But it also is trying the stick, fighting with Florida this year over Medicaid expansion and federal funding for the uninsured while warning Texas that it could do the same there next year. ... But the agency has its limits. It has denied state requests to require people below the poverty line to pay premiums, as well as to limit benefits packages. One redline for the administration is requiring Medicaid enrollees to work or look for work. (Scott, 6/29)

6. Court Order Will Allow Some Charities To Skip Federal Birth Control Coverage Requirement

The order will be in effect until the Supreme Court decides whether to hear an appeal filed by the nonprofit organizations. In other health law implementation news, an Urban Institute report looks at pricing by co-op plans and Medicaid insurers and finds they are among the cheapest available on state exchanges where they do business. Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, is leading an attack on the Internal Revenue Service's penalties.

The New York Times: Court Lets Some Charities Avoid Rules On Birth Control Coverage
The Supreme Court issued an order on Monday that allows certain nonprofit religious groups to avoid compliance with federal rules concerning insurance coverage of contraceptives for women. The order bars the Obama administration from enforcing the rules against the religious groups and church officials until the court decides whether to hear an appeal they filed this year. (Pear, 6/29)

CQ Roll Call: Grassley Leads Attack On IRS Health Law Penalties
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, has taken the lead on a new bipartisan proposal aimed at preserving traditional health reimbursement plans for small businesses and protecting them against stiff daily penalties that go into effect Wednesday under an Internal Revenue Service plan for enforcing the health care overhaul. (Ota, 6/29)


7. Looming 'Cadillac Tax' Adds To Pressure To Cut Employee Health Benefits

Also in the news, the Society of Human Resource Management finds in its annual survey of employee perks that wellness programs are becoming more common.

The Wall Street Journal's CFO Journal: Pressure To Cut Employee Benefits Threatens Labor Peace
In all, major employers have about 400,000 union workers whose contracts are up for negotiation this year. They include the Detroit auto makers, whose workforces have a combined 140,000 members of the United Auto Workers; a group of railroad operators including CSX Corp., with 142,000 union employees; and telecom companies like Verizon Communications Inc., which is in talks with about 40,000 wireline workers. Most labor talks involve some head-butting over benefits. But what’s different this time, corporate finance chiefs say, are a looming “Cadillac tax” on health-care plans and pension burdens that are dragging down profits. At New York-based Verizon, executives want to “redesign and reshape” health plans in a bid to cut overall cost, said Fran Shammo, chief financial officer. (Monga and Johnson, 6/30)

The Washington Post: The Workplace Perks That Are In — And Out
In its latest annual survey of what's in and what's out in the world of employee perks, the Society of Human Resource Management found that wellness benefits are only increasing in prevalence. For years, companies have been doing things like offering smoking cessation programs and rewarding employees with discounts for taking health assessments. But Evren Esen, director of survey programs for SHRM, said this year's data show that a greater range of benefits are quickly "becoming more integrated into the organizational fabric of companies." (McGregor, 6/29)

And from WBUR, a look at increased availability of health benefits for same-sex couples -

8. Americans Say They'd Like To Talk To Their Doctors Via Email, Facebook

A survey conducted by Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health shows that many Americans would like to chat with their doctors the same way they talk with friends and family. Other studies show continuing health care disparities for blacks and efforts to overhaul medical school entrance exams to find students attuned to issues like the social determinants of health.

The Huffington Post: Communicating With Your Doctor On Facebook May Be The Future Of Healthcare
We communicate with our friends, our families and our coworkers via email and Facebook, and apparently, most Americans also wish that they could keep in touch with their health care providers this way. A national survey of 2,252 pharmacy customers conducted by Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health highlights the gap between what patients want from their health care providers in terms of communication and engagement, and what they're actually getting. ... Lee emphasized that of course, it's critical to safeguard patient information. But "Health care organizations need to figure out how to take advantage of resources like Facebook," she added.(Gregoire, 6/29)

The Huffington Post: The Quality Of Health Care You Receive Likely Depends On Your Skin Color
Unequal health care continues to be a serious problem for black Americans. More than a decade after the Institute of Medicine issued a landmark report showing that minority patients were less likely to receive the same quality health care as white patients, racial and ethnic disparities continue to plague the U.S. health care system. That report, which was published in 2002, indicated that even when both groups had similar insurance or the same ability to pay for care, black patients received inferior treatment to white patients. This still hold true, according to our investigation into dozens of studies about black health across multiple disciplines. (Schumaker, 6/29)

NPR: Medical School Hopefuls Grapple With Overhauled Entrance Exam
It's T minus four days until exam day, and Travis Driscoll is practically living at his desk. "Each day, I'm easily here for five hours," he says. "I haven't done much of anything else but studying for the last two months." Driscoll is one of 13,000 medical school applicants across the U.S. taking the new Medical College Admissions Test, or MCAT. He's got stacks of science books on his desk to help him prepare, and a rainbow of biochemistry charts pasted to the walls: glycolysis, citric acid cycle, electron transport chain, mitosis, meiosis and DNA replication. (Dembosky, 6/29)

Public Health And Education

9. Advocacy Groups Sue FDA For Trial Data From Its Accelerated Review Of Hep C Drugs

The approval process for Gilead's Sovaldi and Harvoni was fast tracked by the Food and Drug Administration due to the medications' breakthrough designation, but two health groups want the clinical trial records to see if there were gaps in drug efficacy or unidentified side effects. Meanwhile, the New York Times' reports on how the tobacco lobby is turning to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to fight a new wave of anti-smoking legislation around the world.

The Wall Street Journal's Pharmalot: FDA Is Sued By Advocacy Groups That Want Gilead Hepatitis C Trial Data
File this under ‘Show me the data.’ A pair of public health advocacy organizations has filed a lawsuit against the FDA, claiming the agency failed to release clinical trial data for Gilead Sciences’ hepatitis C treatments on a timely basis. And the move is only the latest installment in an ongoing drama in which researchers and patient advocates have tussled with drug makers and regulators over access to such information. (Silverman, 6/29)