Kaiser Health News Original Stories

2. Political Cartoon: 'Asking Price?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Asking Price?'" by Nate Beeler, The Columbus Dispatch.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


Women's health issues?
Mr. Bush has his own one:
Foot-in-mouth disease.

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3. ER Wait Times, Penalties, Noise Levels: Now Yelp Pairs Data On Providers With User Reviews

ProPublica teams up with Yelp to help consumers make informed health care choices by adding objective government information and ratings on hospitals, nursing homes and dialysis clinics to the website's existing, more subjective, user-driven reviews.

NPR/ProPublica: On Yelp, Doctors Get Reviewed Like Restaurants — And It Rankles
Dental patients really don't like Western Dental. Not its Anaheim, Calif., clinic: "I hate this place!!!" one reviewer wrote on the rating site Yelp. Or one of its locations in Phoenix: "Learn from my terrible experience and stay far, far away." In fact, the chain of low-cost dental clinics, which has more Yelp reviews than any other health provider, has been repeatedly, often brutally, panned in some 3,000 online critiques — 379 include the word "horrible." Its average rating: 1.8 out of 5 stars. (Ornstein, 8/6)

The Washington Post: You Can Now Look Up ER Wait Times, Hospital Noise Levels And Nursing Home Fines On Yelp
Yelp is adding a ton of health-care data to its review pages for medical businesses to give consumers more access to government information on hospitals, nursing homes and dialysis clinics. Consumers can now look up a hospital emergency room's average wait time, fines paid by a nursing home, or how often patients getting dialysis treatment are readmitted to a hospital because of treatment-related infections or other problems. (Sun, 8/5)

Los Angeles Times: Yelp Adds Healthcare Data For Hospitals, Nursing Homes To Reviews
Yelp has launched a new feature that adds healthcare information to its online reviews pages for hospitals, nursing homes and dialysis clinics. The San Francisco company said Wednesday that it will provide statistics for 4,600 hospitals, 15,000 nursing homes and 6,300 dialysis clinics in the U.S. The information is compiled by ProPublica from their own research and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and will be updated quarterly. (Chang, 8/5)

USA Today: Yelp, ProPublica Pair To Give Consumers More Data On Health Care Facilities
Just as Yelp can give you advice on which restaurant to go to for the best burgers, now it can give you advice on which hospital to go to for the shortest emergency room waiting time. Yelp announced Wednesday that it has joined forces with ProPublica, a non-profit investigative news organization, to incorporate additional statistics onto the Yelp pages of more than 25,000 medical treatment facilities pages. (Thadani, 8/5)

CNN Money: Yelp Adds Medicare Data To Hospital Reviews
How fast is delivery? How fast is an ER visit? Both questions can now be answered through Yelp. The company added data from Medicare and Medicaid, as well as independent research and opinion surveys, for nearly 26,000 hospitals, nursing homes, and dialysis clinics to its reviews site on Wednesday. (King, 8/5)

Modern Healthcare: How Does Your Hospital Rate On Yelp?
The online consumer review company Yelp is entering the high-stakes world of gauging patient satisfaction. Yelp will offer quality statistics for hospitals, nursing homes and dialysis clinics during a time when metrics are being scrutinized for their usefulness and accuracy. (Muchmore, 8/5)

4. CVS Says It Will Cut Viagra, Weight Loss Remedy And Other Drugs From Insurance Coverage

The decision by the nation's second-biggest pharmacy benefit manager comes as insurers are challenging the steeply rising costs of new medications.

Reuters: CVS Strips Viagra, Other Top Drugs, From Insurance Coverage
CVS Health Corp., which operates the nation's second-biggest pharmacy benefit manager, said that next year it will exclude an additional 31 prescription medicines from insurance coverage, including Viagra and widely used treatments for diabetes and multiple sclerosis. The 2016 excluded drugs, disclosed on Wednesday, also include Vivus Inc.'s weight loss treatment Qsymia, which last week was excluded from the 2016 formulary of CVS rival Express Scripts Holding Co. Vivus officials could not immediately be reached for comment. Pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, which administer drug benefits for employers and health plans and also run large mail-order pharmacies, have been challenging the rising cost of new medications. When drugs are knocked off their formularies, patients may have to pay full price for them. PBMs often keep or dump a product depending on whether they can obtain favorable pricing. (Pierson and Berkrot, 8/5)

Also in the news were earnings reports from HCA and WellCare.

Reuters: HCA Expects Obamacare Benefit To Taper Off For Rest Of 2015
Hospital operator HCA Holdings Inc, the largest U.S. for-profit hospital operator, suggested benefits from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would taper off over the rest of the year, a warning that weighed on the stocks of hospital operators. The signature healthcare law, popularly called Obamacare, covers medical insurance for Americans and has helped in boosting business for various hospitals and insurers. (Shaji, 8/5)

Modern Healthcare: WellCare Rises After Solid Quarter Of Medicaid Contract Wins
WellCare posted a second-quarter turnaround of almost $60 million after the Tampa, Fla.-based health insurer secured state Medicaid contracts and lowered the costs of its Medicare Part D drug plans. WellCare has struggled the past two years with stagnant health plan growth. The insurer predominantly treats Medicare and Medicaid populations, giving it little room for error to keep a profit. (Herman, 8/5)

Campaign 2016

5. Abortion, Health Law, Entitlement Spending May Be Among Topics Of GOP Debate

As the Republican candidates for president gather in Cleveland, news reports explore some of the issues that may come up tonight.

USA Today: GOP 2016 Hopefuls Gather For First Debate
The stage is set, the players are assembling, and the plot focuses on a character who has never been in this kind of show before. Donald Trump is at the center of Thursday's Republican debate in Cleveland, while more experienced rivals try to figure out how to deal with the novice candidate who sits atop most GOP polls. ... Republicans may also be quizzed about how they plan to repeal and replace President Obama's health care plan, how they would change the battle against the Islamic State, and how they could end federal funding for Planned Parenthood. (Jackson, 8/6)

The Washington Post: The Top 10 Issues You’ll Likely Hear About In Thursday’s Debate
With abortion, guns and the Iran nuclear deal dominating the national news cycle, Republican presidential candidates definitely won't run out of things to talk about in Thursday's debate. ... A little-known anti-abortion-rights activist group released several videos over the course of the last few weeks showing Planned Parenthood officials talking casually about the procurement of organs from aborted fetuses. Planned Parenthood officials denied doing anything wrong -- the implication is the organs were being sold -- but apologized for their tone. ... Americans have been able to buy health insurance on state- and federally run private exchanges since October 2013, when the hallmark piece of the president's Obama's 2010 health-care law, known as Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act, went into effect. Meanwhile, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives has voted at least 50 times to defund or repeal the law and parts of it. (Phillips, 8/6)

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Pushing Policy In The Age Of The Donald
It’s always hard to get candidates to address important but unglamorous issues like the federal debt, but it is particularly tough heading into Thursday’s Cleveland GOP debate where all eyes are turning the theatrical, combative real estate magnate at center stage. Fix the Debt, an anti-deficit budget group, is giving it the old college try. ... The group is warning about the dangers of the $18 trillion national debt because it is still growing even though the short-term federal deficit has declined. They are trying to raise political awareness in the presidential campaign because Congress seems to have lost interest in curbing the long-term growth of government entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security. (Hook, 8/5)

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Bush, Clinton Spar Over Planned Parenthood
Funding for Planned Parenthood Federation of America is emerging as a polarizing subject in the presidential election after Republican candidate Jeb Bush was slammed by Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton for comments he made about funding women’s health. Mr. Bush, a former Florida governor, spoke Tuesday at the Southern Baptist Convention following the release of a fifth undercover video on Planned Parenthood providing fetal tissue for medical research. He said, “I’m not sure we need a half a billion dollars for women’s health.” He later said he misspoke, and was referring to the roughly $528 million the organization received last year in government funds. The bulk of that came from federal money, including Medicaid and a family planning program. (Armour, 8///5)

Politico: GOPers Frustrated By Jeb Bush Gaffe
Democratic critics of Jeb Bush’s ad-lib Tuesday about cutting women’s health spending were joined by conservatives, who are annoyed that the inartful statement may undermine their efforts to finally score a win against Planned Parenthood. Despite his swift damage control efforts, Bush’s casual aside Tuesday afternoon that “I’m not sure we need a half a billion dollars for women’s health programs” threw the Democratic attack machine into overdrive. (Stokols, 8/5)

Capitol Hill Watch

6. Congressional Republicans Scramble Over Strategy To Defund Planned Parenthood

Stopping federal support for the organization is a hot topic among GOP lawmakers, but some congressional leaders are wary that it could become mired in upcoming tax and budget issues. Meanwhile, news outlets explore some of the key issues surrounding fetal tissue research.