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KHN First Edition: Aug. 4, 2015


First Edition

Tuesday, August 04, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Half Of Nation’s Hospitals Fail Again To Escape Medicare’s Readmission Penalties
KHN staff writer Jordan Rau reports: "Once again, the majority of the nation’s hospitals are being penalized by Medicare for having patients frequently return within a month of discharge — this time losing a combined $420 million, government records show. In the fourth year of federal readmission penalties, 2,592 hospitals will receive lower payments for every Medicare patient that stays in the hospital — readmitted or not — starting in October." (Rau, 8/3)

Kaiser Health News: Competition Improves Obamacare Choices In Rural Northern California
Justine Bartolone reports: "People who live in rural Northern California will see more choice and competition in the health insurance marketplace next year, giving consumers a better chance of finding a plan — and a doctor — that can meet their needs. The changes, announced last week by the state’s Affordable Care Act marketplace Covered California, will now allow some consumers to cross state lines for care. That means Californians living near the Oregon or Nevada borders can get subsidies to buy plans that pay for care in those states, something that previously was not allowed." (Bartolone, 8/4)

The Washington Post: Republican Effort To Strip Planned Parenthood Funding Stalls In Senate
The 53-46 procedural vote fell short of the 60 ayes needed to proceed with a bill that would immediately stop funding for the beleaguered women’s health-care provider. But the willingness of GOP leaders to bring the measure to a vote showed the new political importance of a social issue that had been sidelined just a month ago and heralded higher-stakes showdowns to come. (DeBonis, 8/3)

Politico: GOP: Planned Parenthood Fight To Go On
Republicans are divided over whether they should use this fall’s government funding bill to attack Planned Parenthood — and risk a high-stakes shutdown fight — after Senate Democrats blocked a standalone bill to defund the organization on Monday evening. (Everett and Bresnahan, 8/3)

The Wall Street Journal: Planned Parenthood Bill Stalls in Senate
A measure that would strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding stalled Monday in the Senate, casting doubt on prospects for hobbling the women’s health organization. The 53-46 vote blocked a motion to begin debate on the bill, which would prevent the government from funding Planned Parenthood, one of the nation’s largest providers of reproductive health care. (Stanley Becker, 8/3)

The New York Times: Planned Parenthood Leader Defends Group As Senate Blocks Bill To End Its Funding
As president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards tries to keep perspective while the group faces one of its biggest political crises. After all, she said on Monday, the founder, Margaret Sanger, was arrested 99 years ago for pamphleteering about birth control. “There hasn’t been a moment in our history, when we were pushing forward on reproductive health care rights and access for women, that someone wasn’t after us,” Ms. Richards said in an interview. (Calmes, 8/3)

Politico: Hillary Clinton Comes Out In Support Of Planned Parenthood
Hillary Clinton is making her position on Planned Parenthood very clear: She is in full support of the organization. “I’m proud to stand with Planned Parenthood, I’ll never stop fighting to protect the ability and right of every woman in this country to make her own health decisions,” Clinton said in a video released Monday. (Collins, 8/3)

The New York Times: Obama Administration Urges States To Cut Health Insurers’ Requests For Big Rate Increases
Hoping to avoid another political uproar over the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration is trying to persuade states to cut back big rate increases requested by many health insurance companies for 2016. In calling for aggressive regulation of rates, federal officials are setting up a potential clash with insurers. Some carriers said they paid out more in claims than they collected in premiums last year, so they lost money on policies sold in the new public marketplaces. After finding that new customers were sicker than expected, some health plans have sought increases of 10 percent to 40 percent or more. (Pear, 8/3)

The Washington Post: Some Federal Retirees Could Face Extra-Large Jump In Medicare Premiums
Hundreds of thousands of federal retirees could pay higher Medicare premiums in 2016 than most other enrollees will pay due to a combination of low inflation and a quirk in the law. Most of those retired under the Civil Service Retirement System are excluded from a “hold harmless” provision that keeps an individual’s Medicare Part B premium steady if his or her Social Security benefit does not rise enough to cover the increase in those premiums. (Yoder, 8/4)

The Center for Public Integrity: Obamacare Research Institute Plans To Spend $3.5 Billion, But Critics Question Its Worth
Business has been brisk at the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute or, PCORI, as it is known. The institute was created by Congress under the Affordable Care Act to figure out what medical treatments work best — measures largely AWOL from the nation’s health care delivery system. Since 2012, PCORI has committed just over $1 billion to 591 “comparative effectiveness” contracts to find some answers, with much more spending to come. Money has thus far gone to researchers and medical schools, advocacy groups and even the insurance industry’s lobbying group, which snagged $500,000. (Schulte, 8/4)

The Washington Post: Long-Term Care Insurance Rates Go Up For New Federal Enrollees — With No Warning
Premiums in the long-term care insurance program for federal and military personnel, retirees and certain family members have increased, with no prior notice, for those newly purchasing coverage. The Office of Personnel Management has said that rates rose as of Aug. 1 for new enrollees in the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program, which offers in-home and nursing home care benefits for those with certain physical or mental incapacities. (Yoder, 8/3)

ProPublica: Feds: More Scrutiny Needed Of Nursing Home Errors Involving Blood Thinner
The federal government is asking health inspectors nationwide to be on the lookout for errors by nursing homes in managing the blood thinner Coumadin, including those that lead to patient hospitalizations and deaths. In a memo sent last month to state health departments, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services cited a report by ProPublica and The Washington Post that focused on the harm caused by homes’ failure to manage the drug. (Ornstein, 8/3)

Los Angeles Times: Crowded GOP Presidential Field Races Through Campaign Forum
A Republican presidential forum on Monday felt more like speed dating than a typical political event. Candidates faced rapid-fire questions and spent a few minutes in the hot seat before being rotated offstage. ... The 14 who showed up offered near unanimous agreement on talking points popular with Republican voters: Obamacare must be repealed. Planned Parenthood must be cut off from federal funds. President Obama’s proposed agreement with Iran to curb that nation’s ability to acquire a nuclear weapon jeopardizes Americans. (Mehta, 8/3)

The Wall Street Journal: Tenet Healthcare Loss Widens
Tenet Healthcare Corp. said its second-quarter loss widened as the hospital operator was hit by $136 million in write-downs, restructuring charges, acquisition-related costs and other one-time items. However, excluding such items, per-share earnings beat expectations, while revenue topped Wall Street views. The company’s guidance for the current quarter also was above analysts’ predictions. (Stynes, 8/3)

The Wall Street Journal: Community Health Plans Spinoff, Reports Jump In Earnings
Community Health Systems Inc. raised its earnings guidance for the year as its second-quarter profit more than doubled thanks to its acquisition of Health Management Associates Inc. Separately, the hospital operator also announced plans to spin off a group of 38 hospitals and Quorum Health Resources LLC, its hospital management and consulting business. (Jaramillo, 8/3)

The New York Times: ‘Sex Never Dies,’ But A Medicare Option For Older Men Does
On July 1, however, Medicare stopped covering vacuum erection devices, the result of legislation Congress passed in December. Since 2006, Congress has banned Medicare Part D coverage of medications for erectile dysfunction, too, after Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, scoffed at “lifestyle drugs” and said taxpayers wouldn’t foot the tab for “Grandpa’s Viagra.” That leaves millions of men with no Medicare option for what we used to call impotence, except far more expensive and invasive penile implant surgery. (Span, 8/4)

The Wall Street Journal: What Picky Eating Might Mean For Children Later
Children’s picky eating may not be as harmless as is commonly believed. A new study found that moderate and severe cases of selective eating were associated with elevated symptoms of anxiety and depression in later years. Moderate cases also were associated with symptoms of separation anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. (Reddy, 8/3)

NPR: Could Your Child's Picky Eating Be A Sign Of Depression?
One of the frequent trials of parenthood is dealing with a picky eater. About 20 percent of children ages 2 to 6 have such a narrow idea of what they want to eat that it can make mealtime a battleground. A study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics shows that, in extreme cases, picky eating can be associated with deeper trouble, such as depression or social anxiety. (Harris, 8/3)

The New York Times: Solitary Confinement: Punished For Life
Dr. Haney’s interviews offer the first systematic look at inmates isolated from normal human contact for much of their adult lives and the profound losses that such confinement appears to produce. The interviews, conducted over the last two years as part of a lawsuit over prolonged solitary confinement at Pelican Bay, have not yet been written up as a formal study or reviewed by other researchers. But Dr. Haney’s work provides a vivid portrait of men so severely isolated that, to use Dr. Haney’s term, they have undergone a “social death.” (Goode, 8/3)

The New York Times: Expert Panel Withholds Support For Early Autism Screening
For years experts have urged physicians to screen infants and toddlers for autism in order to begin treatment as early as possible. But now an influential panel of experts has concluded there is not enough evidence to recommend universal autism screening of young children. The findings, from a draft proposal by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force published Monday, are already causing consternation among specialists who work with autistic children. (Caryn Rabin, 8/3)

Navy Times: Navy Changing Body-Fat Rules, Fitness Assessment
The Navy is shaking up its body composition assessment, increasing body fat limits for sailors, moving away from career-ending punishments for failures and taking a deeper look at how it measures health in general. The shifts are a new direction in the fitness program designed to move away from a punitive system to one that encourages year-round fitness, with a focus on helping those struggling to stay fit. (Faram and Myers, 8/3)

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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