First Edition: May 30, 2014

Today's headlines include the latest reports about the problems with the VA health system.   

Kaiser Health News: FAQ: VA And Military Care Are Different, But Often Confused
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Rovner reports: "It's not just veterans who are having trouble with health care. Now the health system for active duty military is under the microscope, too. Longstanding issues with an overburdened system for caring for the nation's veterans have burst into the news recently, particularly with allegations of fraudulent record-keeping to hide the size of the waiting list for care at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System" (Rovner, 5/29). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: A Reader Asks: Can I Cancel My Marketplace Plan If My Boss Decides To Offer Coverage?
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews answers this reader's question (5/20). Read her response.

Kaiser Health News: Frustrated By The Affordable Care Act, One Family Opts Out
Houston Public Media's Carrie Feibel, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "The Robinson family of Dallas, Texas started out pretty excited about their new insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act. Nick Robinson turned to Obamacare after he lost his job last summer. He had been working as a youth pastor, and the job included benefits that covered him, his two young daughters, and his wife Rachel, a wedding photographer. Nick says he wasn't too nervous at first, because everyone was healthy. Then, he recalls, they found out Rachel was pregnant" (Feibel, 5/30). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Most Americans Say The Health Law Has Not Affected Their Families: Poll
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Mary Agnes Carey reports: "More than four years after enactment of the health law, six in 10 Americans say neither they nor their families have been affected by the sweeping measure, according to a poll released Friday. Among those who say the law has impacted them, Republicans are much more likely to say their families have been hurt by the law (37 percent) than helped (5 percent), while Democrats are more likely to say their families have been helped (26 percent) than hurt (8 percent), according to The Kaiser Family Foundation's monthly tracking poll (Carey, 5/30). Check out what else is on the blog.

Los Angeles Times: VA Chief Eric Shinseki Pledges Urgent Healthcare Fixes
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki called in leaders of key veterans groups Thursday and pledged to keep VA hospitals open nights and weekends if necessary to set up speedy appointments for veterans whose long waits for medical care have triggered a growing crisis at the massive agency (Simon and Hennessey-Fiske, 5/29).

The Washington Post: Calls For VA Secretary Eric Shinseki To Resign Intensify Following Watchdog Report
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki made an impassioned case Thursday to Democratic lawmakers and veterans groups that he can repair the Department of Veterans Affairs, even as calls for his resignation mounted and support from the White House appeared to wane. The White House skirted questions about whether President Obama still has confidence in Shinseki's ability to lead the department and a spokesman said the president is withholding judgment about who is responsible for the department's failings until he reviews pending investigations of what went wrong (Jaffe and O'Keefe, 5/29).

The Wall Street Journal: VA's Eric Shinseki Under Fire Amid Scandal
During his 38-year military career, Eric Shinseki recovered from losing half of his right foot to a land mine in Vietnam, went on to be awarded the Bronze Star for valor in combat and became the Army's chief of staff. His latest battle is to stave off bipartisan criticism long enough to rehabilitate the Department of Veterans Affairs after a report Wednesday that swayed many of his former supporters in Congress to begin calling for his resignation (Kesling and Nissenbaum, 5/29).

The New York Times: Doctor Shortage Is Cited In Delays At V.A. Hospitals
Appalled by what she saw, Dr. Hollenbeck filed a whistle-blower complaint and changed jobs. A subsequent investigation by the Department of Veterans Affairs concluded last fall that indeed the Jackson hospital did not have enough primary care doctors, resulting in nurse practitioners' handling far too many complex cases and in numerous complaints from veterans about delayed care. "It was unethical to put us in that position," Dr. Hollenbeck said of the overstressed primary care unit in Jackson. "Your heart gets broken" (Oppei and Goodnough, 5/29). 

The Associated Press: Analysis: Seeking Political Gain Over VA Issues
Republicans and Democrats alike want it both ways when it comes to any misdeeds at veterans hospitals, each side accusing the other of seeking unseemly political gain from the misfortune of the nation's warriors, while simultaneously maneuvering for an advantage in midterm elections (5/30).

The Associated Press: Q &A: How Do US Veterans Get Health Care? 
The Department of Veterans Affairs, which oversees pensions, education, health care and other benefits for veterans and their families, faces allegations about treatment delays and falsified records at its hospitals around the country. The aging network of hospitals and clinics -; the VA opened its first new medical center in 17 years in 2012 -; is one of the world's largest integrated health care systems (5/30).

The New York Times: Bias Claims For Insurers In Coverage of H.I.V.
Health care advocates said on Thursday that four insurers offering plans in the new federal marketplace discriminated against people with H.I.V. or AIDS by requiring them to pay high out-of-pocket costs for drugs to treat H.I.V., including generic medications (Thomas, 5/29).

The Wall Street Journal: Insurers Accused Of Discriminating Against People With HIV
The complaint says the four insurers put every HIV drug, even older generics, in the highest tier in their drug formularies, requiring patients to pay as much as 50% of the cost themselves. HIV advocacy organizations have said the issue isn't specific to Florida and they believe a decision would influence plans across the country (Radnofsky, 5/29).

The Associated Press: Complaint Accuses 4 Fla. Insurers Of Discrimination
Two health organizations filed a complaint with federal health officials Thursday alleging some Florida insurance companies are violating the Affordable Care Act by structuring their insurance plans in a way that discourage consumers with HIV and AIDS from choosing those plans (5/29).

The Washington Post: Va. Republican Offers Plan To End Medicaid Deadlock
A key Republican ally in Gov. Terry McAuliffe's bid to expand health coverage for the poor offered a plan Thursday to a break a months-long deadlock on the issue. But he also split with the governor by questioning McAuliffe's power to keep government running without a budget or to expand Medicaid on his own. Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr. (R-Augusta) offered a proposal to end the General Assembly's budget-Medicaid stalemate, which threatens to shut down state government if it is not resolved by July 1, the start of the new fiscal year (Vozzella, 5/29).

The Associated Press: Senators Offers Compromise On Medicaid Impasses
Republican state Sen. Emmett Hanger of Augusta proposed Thursday changing how the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission votes on whether to expand Medicaid eligibility. Under current law, no expansion can take place unless the commission votes for it. Hanger is proposing that eligibility expand automatically unless actively voted against by the commission (5/29).

The Associated Press: Oregon: Suit Sought Over Health Site
Gov. John Kitzhaber asked the state attorney general to sue the company that built the state's online health insurance enrollment system, the failure of which resulted in multiple investigations (5/29).

The Washington Post: Republicans Are Three Times More Likely Than Democrats To Say They Know Someone Who Was Hurt By Obamacare
Thirty-four percent of Republicans say they personally know someone who lost health-insurance coverage, lost their job or had their hours cut because of the Affordable Care Act, according to a poll released today by the Kaiser Family Foundation (Fuller, 5/30).

The Wall Street Journal: Burning Insurance Question: Are 'Vapers' Smokers?
Federal regulators are weighing whether health insurers who participate in Affordable Care Act exchanges can levy a tobacco surcharge on e-cigarette users, the latest point of debate over the products' health risks. The 2010 health law allows insurers in individual and small group markets to charge tobacco users as much as 50% more in premiums. But it doesn't specify whether that includes users of electronic cigarettes, battery-powered devices that turn nicotine liquid into vapor (Armour, 5/29).

NPR: Medicare Frequently Overpays Doctors For Patients' Visits
Medicare spent $6.7 billion too much for office visits and other patient evaluations in 2010, according to a report from the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services. But in its reply to the findings, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs Medicare, said it doesn't plan to review the billings of doctors who almost always charge for the most expensive visits because it isn't cost-effective to do so (Ornstein, 5/29).

NPR: Rep. Murphy Aims For Mental Health Bill To Pass Before Next Shooting
The latest mass shooting has lawmakers on Capitol Hill talking again about overhauling the mental health system. On Thursday, psychologists and others urged Congress to do more (Sullivan, 5/30).

NPR: Doctors Say They Would Shun Aggressive Treatment When Near Death
In fact, nearly 9 in 10 young physicians just finishing up their residencies or fellowships wouldn't want to receive life-prolonging CPR or cardiac life support if they were terminally ill and their heart or breathing stopped, a Stanford University School of Medicine survey finds (Hobson, 5/29).

The Associated Press: Medtronic Settles Whistleblower Lawsuit For $9.9M
Medical device maker Medtronic Inc. will pay the U.S. Department of Justice $9.9 million to settle a lawsuit that accused the company of giving doctors gifts in return for using its defibrillators and pacemakers. Medtronic has not admitted any wrongdoing as a result of the settlement. The lawsuit unsealed this week accused Medtronic of funneling "millions of dollars in unrestricted grant money to physicians" to get them to encourage the use of Medtronic defibrillators and pacemakers (5/29).

Los Angeles Times: State A Step Closer To Minimum Wage Hike, Paid Sick Leave
Legislators moved Thursday to further hike the state's minimum wage and to guarantee workers three paid sick days a year, despite opposition from the California Chamber of Commerce, which labeled both proposals "job killers" (Mason and McGreevy, 5/29).

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.Net.
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