First Edition: October 7, 2011

In today's headlines, reports about what the Institute of Medicine recommends in terms of the criteria and methods the Department of Health and Human Services should follow in developing the health law's essential benefits package.

Kaiser Health News: Advisory Panel Says Essential Benefits Package Must Be Affordable
Kaiser Health News staff writers Phil Galewitz and Julie Appleby report: "The government moved a step closer Friday toward defining what 'essential benefits' would be offered by companies selling coverage to millions of Americans in new insurance exchanges. In a 297-page report, the Institute of Medicine, a federal advisory panel, laid out criteria and methods the Department of Health and Human Services should use in developing the package. But, as expected, the report left to HHS the job of deciding specific benefits" (Galewitz and Appleby, 10/6).

Kaiser Health News: Disparities Cloud Health Improvements In Past Decade, Report Finds
Kaiser Health News staff writer Christian Torres reports: "Minority and low-income groups continue to be less likely to have a regular source of health care when compared to the general population, despite efforts over the past decade to remedy the situation. This and other health disparities persist across race, ethnicity, income level and education, according to the final review of Healthy People 2010, which was released Thursday" (Torres, 10/6).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Researchers Push For More Action On Health Disparities
Now on Capsules, KHN's news blog, Shefali S. Kulkarni writes about the focus of a special issues of Health Affairs: "As Susan Dentzer, the editor in chief of the journal Health Affairs, was opening a public briefing today on a special issue dedicated to the state of health care disparities in the country, she warned the audience members they 'might need a strong dose of Valium' to handle some of the bleak assessments of the racial gap in care." Check out what else is on the blog.

The New York Times: Panel Says U.S. Should Weigh Cost In Deciding 'Essential Health Benefits'
The National Academy of Sciences said Thursday that the federal government should explicitly consider cost as a factor in deciding what health benefits must be provided by insurance plans under President Obama's health care overhaul, and it said the cost of any new benefits should be "offset by savings" elsewhere in the health care system (Pear, 10/6).

The Washington Post: Health-Care Law Benefits Must Be Limited To Ensure Affordability, Panel Says
An advisory panel of experts on Thursday recommended that the Obama administration emphasize affordability over breadth of coverage when it comes to implementing a key insurance provision of the 2010 health-care law. Obama officials charged with stipulating what "essential benefits" many health plans will have to cover should make it a priority to keep premiums reasonable, even if that means allowing plans to be less comprehensive, counseled the committee of the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine (IOM) (Aizenman, 10/6).

The Wall Street Journal: Panel Urges Affordable Health Plans
Requirements for health-insurance plans offered through new government-run exchanges should be tailored to what small businesses can afford, a key report to the Obama administration recommended. The report-;from the Institute of Medicine, an independent board that advises the government on health policy-;will play a pivotal role in determining how the Department of Health and Human Services decides what benefits must be covered under plans offered on state-run insurance exchanges starting in 2014 (Radnofsky, 10/7).

The New York Times: U.S. Panel Says No  To Prostate Screening For Healthy Men
Healthy men should no longer receive a P.S.A. blood test to screen for prostate cancer because the test does not save lives over all and often leads to more tests and treatments that needlessly cause pain, impotence and incontinence in many, a key government health panel has decided (Harris, 10/6).

Los Angeles Times: Key Panel Will Urge Men To Skip Prostate Screening, Reports Say
The task force, which sets disease prevention policies for the federal government, is scheduled to issue its new recommendations Tuesday, according to the Santa Monica-based Prostate Cancer Foundation. But the New York Times and a weekly newsletter known as the Cancer Letter reported Thursday that the task force would change its position on the widely used PSA test to recommend that men under age 75 forgo it (Roan and Brown, 10/6).

The Washington Post: Healthy Men Don't Need PSA Testing For Prostate Cancer, Panel Says
Most men should not routinely get a widely used blood test to check for prostate cancer because the exam does not save lives and leads to too much unnecessary anxiety, surgery and complications, a federal task force has concluded. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which triggered a firestorm of controversy in 2009 when it raised questions about routine mammography for breast cancer, will propose downgrading its recommendations for prostate-specific antigen (PSA) for prostate cancer on Tuesday, wading into what is perhaps the most contentious and important issue in men's health (Stein, 10/6).

The Wall Street Journal: Panel Faults Widely Used Prostate-Cancer Test
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force will recommend a "D" rating for prostate specific antigen, or PSA, testing, said a person familiar with the draft document. A "D" rating means "there is moderate or high certainty that the service has no net benefit or that the harms outweigh the benefits," according to the group's website. It also is a recommendation to "discourage use" of test or treatment. The task force is set to make its proposal Tuesday, and then allow for a four-week comment period before issuing a final recommendation (Dooren and Burton, 10/7).

The Wall Street Journal: State Pushed To Help A Union
The Cuomo administration leaned on a reluctant Bloomberg administration to execute a Medicaid deal that had been quietly brokered between the governor's office and a powerful union, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, according to people familiar with the matter. The governor's office and the state's largest health-care workers union reached out to the city after the Cuomo administration in the spring agreed to a $50 million bailout of an 1199SEIU health-insurance fund and needed to increase the Medicaid reimbursement rate for home-care services to pay for it. The state's support for the fund was a crucial priority for the union, which endorsed the governor's budget and spent millions of dollars urging lawmakers to adopt it (Gershman, 10/7).

The Wall Street Journal: Trading Art For Health Care
The 34-year-old New York artist is one of more than 100 musicians, painters and performers taking part in the second annual O+ Festival in Kingston this weekend. Named for the blood type, the festival allows artists to barter works and performances for health care in the form of back adjustments, blood work, dental fillings and eye exams (Rothbaum, 10/7).


http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis 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.

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