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KHN First Edition: August 3, 2015


First Edition

Monday, August 03, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

Kaiser Health News: Fetal Tissue Attack Is Latest Tactic In Long GOP Fight Against Planned Parenthood
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Rovner reports: "Republican calls to defund Planned Parenthood over its alleged handling of fetal tissue for research are louder than ever. But they are just the latest in a decades-long drive to halt federal support for the group. This round of attacks aims squarely at the collection of fetal tissue, an issue that had been mostly settled — with broad bipartisan support — in the early 1990s. Among those who voted to allow federal funding for fetal tissue research was now-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky." (Rovner, 8/3)

Kaiser Health News: Advocates Say Mental Health ‘Parity’ Law Is Not Fulfilling Its Promise
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jenny Gold reports: "When Michael Kamins opened the letter from his insurer, he was enraged. His 20-year old son recently had been hospitalized twice with bipolar disorder and rescued from the brink of suicide, he said. Now, the insurer said he had improved and it was no longer medically necessary for the young man to see his psychiatrist two times a week. The company would pay for two visits per month. 'There was steam coming out of my ears,' Kamins recalled, his face reddening at the memory of that day in June 2012. 'This is my kid’s life!'" (Gold, 8/3)

The New York Times: Bigger May Be Better For Health Insurers, But Doubts Remain For Consumers
Deals among the nation’s largest health insurers in recent weeks have been almost head-spinning. But whatever the details, if the combinations are finalized, the result will be an industry dominated by three colossal insurers. Consumer advocates, policy experts and former regulators say that what may be good for the insurers may not be good for consumers, especially in the wake of a similar frenzy of deal-making among hospitals and doctors’ groups. (Abelson, 8/2)

The Associated Press: 5 Things About Congress' Fight Over Planned Parenthood
Republicans will likely lose Monday's Senate showdown over halting federal aid to Planned Parenthood. Yet the political offensive by abortion foes has just started, prompted by a batch of unsettling videos that has focused attention on the group's little-noticed practice of providing fetal tissue to researchers. (Fram, 8/3)

Politico: Defund Planned Parenthood? Not So Easy
Republicans may find that defunding Planned Parenthood is harder than it looks. Even if they manage to overcome the political obstacles — big ones like a Democratic filibuster, a presidential veto, or a battle royale over shutting down the government —they may still collide with Medicaid law. The fight could leap from Congress to the courts. (Pradhan, 8/3)

Reuters: Planned Parenthood Fight Hits Congress, Wider Impact Unclear
Women's health group Planned Parenthood, under attack by anti-abortionists posting hidden-camera videos online, will be the focus of a partisan showdown on Monday in the U.S. Senate, with any wider influence on voters from the charge still unclear. Congressional Republicans are trying to cut off Planned Parenthood's federal funding. The effort followed the release of videos by the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, that have reinvigorated America's abortion debate as the 2016 presidential campaign shifts into high gear. (8/3)

The Washington Post: In Controversial VA Bill, A Little-Noticed Boon For Whistleblowers
The House’s passage of a measure last week that would give the government more power to fire poor performers at the Department of Veterans Affairs was poisonous for federal employee unions and Democrats. But the bill contains a little-noticed change that lawmakers in both parties have clamored for, particularly after last year’s coverup of long wait times for veterans needing medical care. The measure would give whistleblowers some of the strongest protections in history — and make sure that supervisors who punish them for reporting wrongdoing are themselves punished. (Rein, 8/3)

The Wall Street Journal: An Unexpected Spike For Medicare Premiums?
Unless the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services intervenes, some Medicare beneficiaries will face a steep increase in their 2016 premiums, even as the vast majority of Medicare recipients pay no increase at all. Medicare’s trustees projected in a recent report that for about 30% of the program’s beneficiaries, 2016 premiums would rise by 52% for Part B, which covers doctor visits and other types of outpatient care. The projected increases result from a little-noticed intersection between the rules governing Medicare and Social Security. (Tergesen, 7/31)

Los Angeles Times: Variety Of Medical Scopes Pose The Risk Of Serious Infection
A doctor reported in December that a medical scope commonly used to examine patients' lungs had infected 14 people with a superbug that kills half its victims. Yet another type of scope, used to see inside the bladder, sickened three patients with a different bacteria in March, according to a nurse. The device was sent to the manufacturer, which found "foreign substances" inside despite cleaning. (sen, 8/2)

The Associated Press: NY Health Exchange Says 2.1 Million Enrolled For Coverage
New York's health exchange reports connecting 2.1 million residents to health coverage following its second open enrollment period, including 89 percent who said they were uninsured when they applied. Exchange Executive Director Donna Frescatore says the second year's enrollment built on the first year's base. Totals include 415,352 enrollees through commercial plans, 159,716 in the state's Child Health Plus program and 1,568,345 in government-funded Medicaid. (8/2)

The New York Times: New Orleans Hospital Is Replaced, With Hope Of Preserving Its Mission
After Hurricane Katrina, the shrunken medical staff of the state-owned Charity Hospital worked out of tents, an abandoned Lord & Taylor department store and eventually a cramped interim hospital with scaled-back services. As best they could, they continued Charity’s centuries-old mission of caring for poor and uninsured residents, mostly black, whom other hospitals typically turned away. Nearly a decade after the storm, the staff made one last move on Saturday, into a $1.1 billion replacement hospital with a pointedly different name, University Medical Center New Orleans. Built largely with federal disaster funds, and run by a private operator under contract with the state, the hospital is being held up as the centerpiece of a much-improved health care system for the poor here. (Goodnough, 8/1)

The Associated Press: Charity Hospital Replacement Opens Saturday In New Orleans
Ten years after the levees and floodwalls broke during Hurricane Katrina and flooded New Orleans, the Big Easy finally has a full-scale hospital again — a new Charity hospital. At 6 a.m. Saturday, the new 2.3 million-square-foot University Medical Center New Orleans, built with $1.1 billion of federal, state and private rebuilding money, ambulances and medical staff began the transfer of 131 patients into the new hospital for its first day of operations. Orchestrating the move required closing down streets as ambulances take patients into the facility. (Burdeau, 8/1)

Los Angeles Times: Providence And St. Joseph Hospital Chains Are In Talks To Merge
Two major Catholic hospital systems with a big presence across the Southland — Providence Health & Services and St. Joseph Health — want to join forces amid an industrywide consolidation drive. The two health systems said Friday that they had signed a letter of intent to merge into a single organization. But they cautioned that discussions are in the "very early stages" and details about a partnership might not be finalized for several months. (Shively and Terhune, 7/31)

The New York Times: Puerto Ricans Brace For Crisis In Health Care
The first visible sign that the health care system in Puerto Rico was seriously in trouble was when a steady stream of doctors — more than 3,000 in five years — began to leave the island for more lucrative, less stressful jobs on the mainland. Now, as Puerto Rico faces another hefty cut to a popular Medicare program and grapples with an alarming shortage of Medicaid funds, its health care system is headed for an all-out crisis, which could further undermine the island’s gutted economy. (Alvarez and Goodnough, 8/2)

The New York Times: New York City Starts Moving Tenants From ‘Three-Quarter’ Homes, But Others Are Left Behind
The Sleep Inn in Brooklyn is newly built, featuring rooms with tasteful flower pictures, mini-refrigerators and fresh towels. Many of its first patrons have never stayed in such a nice place. One said he felt as if he was in the sitcom “The Jeffersons,” “movin’ on up,” as the show’s theme song says. Another said it felt like the Trump Plaza. They are hardly typical hotel guests. On public assistance or federal disability, many struggle with addiction to drugs or alcohol. Some are mentally ill; others, simply homeless. The city moved them to the hotel to relieve overcrowding at so-called three-quarter homes, as part of its response to an investigation by The New York Times published in May. (Barker, 8/2)

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent operating program of the Kaiser Family Foundation. (c) 2014 Kaiser Health News. All rights reserved.

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