Today's headlines include reports about state level action regarding health law and consumer protections.
Kaiser Health News: NYU Langone Has Reopened, But Can It Regain Market Share?
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jenny Gold, working in collaboration with NPR, reports: "As of mid-January, most of NYU is up and running again, including the labor and delivery unit. But the question still looms whether NYU will lose some of the patients and even doctors who sought refuge at NYU's biggest competitors after the storm. If that happens, the storm could end up having a long term impact on NYU's valuable share of the fiercely competitive health care market in New York City" (Gold, 2/1).
Kaiser Health News: Tick, Tock: Administration Misses Some Health Law Deadlines
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz reports: "The programs, slated to take effect Jan. 1, were supposed to increase fees to primary care doctors who treat Medicaid patients, give states more federal funding if they eliminate Medicaid co-pays for preventive services and experiment with changes to how doctors and hospitals are paid by Medicare. The administration also has delayed giving states guidance on a new coverage option known as the 'basic health program,' designed to help low and moderate-income people who don't qualify for Medicaid" (Galewitz, 1/31).
Kaiser Health News: Capsules: State Action Needed To Guarantee Health Law Protections, Says Report
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Julie Appleby reports: "Lawmakers in most states better get busy if they want authority to enforce key provisions of the federal health law that go into effect next year. That's the takeaway message from a report by the Commonwealth Fund showing that only 11 states and the District of Columbia have passed rules needed to implement the law" (Appleby, 2/1).
The New York Times: Report Faults High Fees For Out-Of-Network Care
A health insurance industry report to be released on Friday highlights the exorbitant fees charged by some doctors to out-of-network patients like Mr. Gonzalez. The report, by America's Health Insurance Plans, or AHIP, contrasts some of the highest bills charged by non-network providers in 30 states with Medicare rates for the same services. Some of the charges, the insurers assert, are 30, 40 or nearly 100 times greater than Medicare rates (Rabin, 1/31).
Los Angeles Times: Small Surgeries, Huge Markups
Nationwide, some insurers have begun to challenge these bills from outpatient centers. Last year, a unit of insurance giant Aetna Inc. sued several surgery centers in Northern California and accused them of overbilling the insurer more than $20 million. It has pursued similar actions against providers in New Jersey and Texas. Other insurers such as UnitedHealth Group Inc. have filed similar suits in California (Terhune, 1/31).
Politico: The New Campaign: Obamacare For America
Several former White House staffers have found a new way to promote Obamacare: They're spending millions of dollars in secret corporate and union cash, and they're harnessing grass-roots tactics to some of the biggest names in the health care industry. Organizing for Action, the successor to President Barack Obama's presidential campaign, and Enroll America, a group led by two former Obama staffers that features several insurance company bigwigs on its board, are planning to unleash the same grass-roots mobilization and sophisticated micro-targeting tactics seen in the 2012 campaign (Haberkorn and Vogel, 2/1).
The New York Times: Focus On Mental Health Laws To Curb Violence Is Unfair, Some Say
Legislation to revise existing mental health laws is under consideration in at least a half-dozen states, including Colorado, Oregon and Ohio. A New York bill requiring mental health practitioners to warn the authorities about potentially dangerous patients was signed into law on Jan. 15. In Washington, President Obama has ordered "a national dialogue" on mental health, and a variety of bills addressing mental health issues are percolating on Capitol Hill. But critics say that this focus unfairly singles out people with serious mental illness, who studies indicate are involved in only about 4 percent of violent crimes and are 11 or more times as likely than the general population to be the victims of violent crime (Goode and Healy, 1/31).
The Wall Street Journal: Aetna's Profit Is Halved On Charges, Higher Costs
This will be something of a transition year for managed-care firms as they gear up for major changes under the health-care overhaul law that start in 2014, such as expanded coverage to millions of Americans through state-based exchanges and an extended Medicaid program. Aetna is also working toward closing on the purchase of Coventry Health Care Inc. through a cash-and-stock deal that was valued at $5.7 billion when it was announced in August (Kamp, 1/31).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Health Insurer Aetna's 4th-Quarter Profit Sinks 49 Pct As Medical Costs, Charges Pile Up
Aetna's fourth-quarter net income sank 49 percent as higher medical costs squeezed profitability for the insurer's commercial health coverage, and several one-time expenses chipped away at the bottom line (1/31).
Politico: McDermott Won't Retreat On Health Care
In Jim McDermott's ideal world, health reform would have meant a single-payer health care system. But in Jim McDermott's real world, he'll happily defend President Barack Obama's health care law -; and defend is precisely what he expects to do in his new post as the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee (Cunningham, 2/1).
Los Angeles Times: Survey Finds Strong Support For Gun Control, More Mental Healthcare
New survey results published Thursday by the New England Journal of Medicine show that a majority of Americans -- gun owners and non-owners alike -- support stricter measures to keep handguns from people under 21 and to block ownership of any guns for 10 years by those who have perpetrated domestic violence, brandished a weapon in a threatening manner, or committed two or more drug- or alcohol-related crimes. But a murkier picture emerged when Americans were asked about keeping guns out of the hands of those with mental illness (Healy, 1/31).
Los Angeles Times: Most States Lack Healthcare Consumer Protection Laws
Nearly 4 out of 5 states have not enacted laws essential to enforcing new consumer protections in President Obama's healthcare law, less than a year before it is supposed to be fully implemented, a new survey indicates. Millions of Americans still stand to benefit in 2014 from protections in the Affordable Care Act, such as a new guarantee that consumers with preexisting medical conditions cannot be denied coverage (Levey, 1/31).
Los Angeles Times: Support for Healthcare Overhaul Reaches All-Time High In New Poll
Support for President Obama's healthcare overhaul is at an all-time high in California, according to a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California. The survey, released Wednesday, found that 55% of Californians back the changes to the nation's healthcare system under the federal Affordable Care Act, up 8 percentage points since last March (Mishak, 1/31).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Democrats Criticize Cuccinelli For Comments In His Book On Medicare, Social Security
Democratic lawmakers on Thursday denounced Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's remarks in his new book about government programs like Medicare and Social Security. The gubernatorial candidate's book, "The Last Line of Defense: The New Fight for American Liberty," will be released Feb. 12. But according to media reports on excerpts from the book, Cuccinelli writes that politicians bolster their power by creating benefits that make people dependent on the government (1/31).
NPR: Should Medicare Pay For Alzheimer's Scans?
Researchers have embraced the drug as a tool to gauge these so-called amyloid plaques in the brain. They've already found that amyloid shows up years before people start having problems with memory or thinking. But is the test appropriate for widespread clinical use? A panel of advisers grappled with that question Wednesday at a public meeting to consider whether Medicare should pay for the test (Hensley, 1/31).
The Wall Street Journal: AstraZenaca, Bristol-Myers Deepen Diabetes Alliance
AstraZeneca PLC and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. have deepened their diabetes-drug partnership by merging their diabetes marketing teams and moving them to a new U.S. headquarters separate from either company, AstraZeneca's new chief executive, Pascal Soriot, said in an interview (Whalen and Hodgson, 1/31).
The Washington Post: Republican Bolling Makes Case For Expanding Medicaid In Va.
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling on Thursday came out in favor of expanding Virginia's Medicaid program, carving out another position that sets him apart from Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and a Republican rival for governor (Vozzella, 1/31).
Los Angeles Times: Glendale Memorial Hospital Employees Protest Planned Layoffs
Nurses, technicians and other employees gathered outside Glendale Memorial Hospital on Thursday morning to protest planned layoffs. The hospital last week announced plans to lay off an undetermined number of employees, citing an increase in the number of uninsured patients caused by the lengthy economic recession and cuts in government insurance programs (Wells, 1/31).
Politico: Abortion Coverage: The New Battleground For States
Conservative states may have lost their bid to kill Obamacare, but they're winning the battle on another front: abortion coverage. At least 20 states have banned or restricted the coverage of abortion procedures -; including coverage in private insurance plans -; revealing a new battleground in the arduous task of carrying out the controversial national health care law (Smith, 1/31).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Arkansas Senate Passes Legislation That Would Ban Abortions As Early As 6 Weeks Into Pregnancy
The Arkansas Senate voted Thursday to prohibit most abortions if a heartbeat is detected, ignoring warnings from opponents that banning the procedure as early as six weeks into a pregnancy would invite lawsuits. If enacted, the ban would be the most stringent in the nation. The Ohio House passed a similar ban in 2011, but it was sidelined in the Senate last year over concerns that it might be found unconstitutional. Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe told reporters Thursday that's the same concern that he's researching (1/31).
This article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.