First Edition: January 10, 2014

Today's headlines include reports about Maryland's plan to reduce hospital spending.

Kaiser Health News: Maryland's Bold Hospital Spending Plan Gets Federal Blessing
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jay Hancock reports: "Maryland officials have reached what analysts say is an unprecedented deal to limit medical spending and abandon decades of expensively paying hospitals for each extra procedure they perform. If the plan works, Maryland hospitals will be financially rewarded for keeping people out of the hospital -;a once unimaginable arrangement" (Hancock, 1/10). Read the story

Kaiser Health News: Obamacare Giving Big Boost To Georgia's Health IT Industry
WABE's Jim Burress, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "Politically, Georgia is fighting the health law at every turn. Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, has chosen not to expand Medicaid, and the state's insurance commissioner publically vowed to obstruct the Affordable Care Act. But that doesn't mean Georgia isn't seeing a financial benefit from the law" (Burress, 1/9). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Some Breast Cancer Drugs To Be Free For High-Risk Women
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Phil Galewitz reports: "Starting next September, women at increased risk for breast cancer will be able to get some drugs shown to help prevent the disease without a co-pay, the Obama administration said Thursday. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended last September that clinicians give medications such as tamoxifen or raloxifene to such women to reduce their risk of the disease. Under the Affordable Care Act, items or services rated A or B by the independent review board of physicians and academics must be covered by insurers without a co-pay or deductible. Insurers are given a year to make the change" (Galewitz, 1/9). Check out what else is on the blog.

Kaiser Health News: New Providers Face Obstacles in Texas Women's Health Program
The Texas Tribune's Becca Aaronson, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News, reports: "Since ousting Planned Parenthood clinics from the Women's Health Program, which provides cancer screening, well-woman exams and contraception for low-income women, Texas leaders have made a concerted effort to recruit physician groups to fill the void. They also widened the services covered, adding testing and some limited treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. But unlike specialty family planning clinics, physician groups generally don't receive additional government funding to help low-income women access services not expressly covered by the program -- and that has created obstacles for both providers and patients" (Aaronson, 1/9). Read the story.

Los Angeles Times: Silence Suggests Supreme Court Divided Over Contraception Case
The surprising silence coming from the Supreme Court over the last week on a challenge to Obamacare by a group of Colorado nuns suggests justices are divided over what to with the complicated dispute. On New Year's Eve, Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted a temporary stay to the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Roman Catholic nonprofit charity that was seeking relief from an Affordable Care Act requirement that it formally request an exemption from offering contraceptives to its employees as part of its health plan (Savage, 1/9).

The Washington Post: Md. Expected To Approve Retroactive Health Insurance For Some
Maryland lawmakers are expected to quickly approve emergency legislation sponsored by the administration of Gov. Martin O'Malley that would provide retroactive health insurance to residents who tried to sign up for coverage through the state's new exchange, encountered problems and were left uninsured (Johnson and Wagner, 1/9).

The Washington Post: Maryland's Plan To Upend Health Care Spending
The Obama administration is set to announce Friday an ambitious health-care experiment that will make Maryland a test case for whether aggressive government regulation of medical prices can dramatically cut health spending. Under the experiment, Maryland will cap hospital spending and set prices -; and, if all goes as planned, cut $330 million in federal spending. The new plan, which has been under negotiation for more than a year, could leave Maryland looking more like Germany and Switzerland, which aggressively regulate prices, than its neighboring states. And it could serve as a model - or cautionary tale - for other states looking to follow in its footsteps (Kliff, 1/10).

The New York Times' Your Money Adviser: Understanding New Rules That Widen Mental Health Coverage
Long-awaited improvements in insurance coverage for mental conditions and addictions are expected to become more widely available this year as a result of two major steps that the Obama administration has taken. The president's signature Affordable Care Act includes mental health care and substance abuse treatment among its 10 "essential" benefits, which means plans sold on the public health care exchanges must include coverage (Carrns, 1/9).

The Washington Post: House Set To Vote On Security Bill
House lawmakers are set to vote Friday on a proposal designed to address potential security breaches on the Web site as Republicans seek to keep political attention focused on concerns with the ongoing rollout of the new federal health-care law (O'Keefe and Eilperin, 1/10).

The Washington Post's The Fact Checker: How Did Rand Paul's Son End Up On Medicaid? 
This is an odd story-;the saga of how Rand Paul's oldest son tried to get health insurance via the Kentucky version of Obamacare, and ended up on Medicaid, the federal-state health-care program for the poor. Paul held up the card on television to prove it, saying the system was "a mess." Our colleagues at PolitiFact beat us to the punch with a comprehensive look at what Paul says happened-;and ultimately concluded it was a "he-said-she-said" situation that could not be fully adjudicated. Let's take a close look, and see if Paul's story adds up (Kessler, 1/10).

The Washington Post: Showdown Vote Ahead On Senate Democrats' Bill To Extend Jobless Benefits
Regardless of the outcome Monday, House Republicans signaled skepticism because most of the budget savings come from what they consider a gimmick. Reid's plan would draw $17 billion in savings by extending for one additional year portions of the mandatory spending cuts, known as sequestration. That would represent a cut to funds for Medicare providers, but it would not be implemented until 2024 -; a frequent complaint from House conservatives, who dislike it when spending in the near term is offset by cuts that will happen years from now (Kane, 1/9).

The New York Times: Reid's Uncompromising Power Play In Senate Rankles Republicans
With his strong-armed change to the filibuster rule and an iron-fisted control of the Senate floor, Senator Harry Reid has engaged in the greatest consolidation of congressional power since Newt Gingrich ruled the House, unleashing a bitterness that may derail efforts to extend unemployment insurance. … Mr. Reid's brutish style matters beyond the marbled chamber of the Senate. Senate legislation has increasingly turned into a battle over amendments and Mr. Reid's uncompromising control over the process. The six Republicans who voted to take up the unemployment bill on Tuesday expected at least to be allowed votes on their amendments to shape the legislation. Instead, Mr. Reid dismissed all Republican proposals as unacceptable and then proposed his own new unemployment deal. Under it, benefits would be extended until mid-November of this year, and paid for largely by extending a 2 percent cut to Medicare health providers in 2024. Republicans were outraged, and an obscure procedural fight is likely to leave up to three million out-of-work Americans without benefits (Weisman, 1/9).

The New York Times: Gillespie, Former Republican Chairman, Readies To Run For Senate In Virginia
He begins the race as a pronounced underdog. Mr. Warner, a former governor now in his first Senate term, is the most popular politician in Virginia, and has $7.1 million in his campaign account and access to millions from his personal fortune. But Republicans in the state believe that, because of resistance to the new health law and President Obama's declining popularity, they have an opportunity to at least make the race competitive (Martin, 1/9).

Los Angeles Times: GOP Candidate Tim Donnelly Slams Gov. Jerry Brown's Budget Plan
Brown on Thursday morning unveiled a $155-billion budget proposal that would increase general fund spending by more than 8%, to $106.8 billion. With his administration projecting a $4.2-billion surplus at the end of June, Brown called for setting up a $1.6-billion rainy-day reserve fund, and for paying down $11 billion of the state's debt. The proposal calls for a $10-billion infusion into schools and community colleges to make up for years of cutbacks, $1 billion in new money for higher education to ward off new tuition increases, and $670 million more for the state's public healthcare system to deal with new enrollees because of the federal healthcare overhaul (Mehta, 1/9).

Los Angeles Times: Gov. Brown's Overcrowding Plan Alters Parole For Elderly, Sick Felons
Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to at least partly comply with a federal court order to reduce prison overcrowding could make several thousand felons eligible for release, and free hundreds of them in the first six months. The governor's budget proposal, released Thursday, announces plans to immediately expand parole eligibility for inmates who are sick or mentally impaired, and creates a new parole program for the elderly. The governor also is, on his own, increasing the time some repeat offenders can reduce their sentences with good behavior (St. John, 1/9). 

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from 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.



The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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