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Health Value Of Apple's Watch Questioned

Kaiser Health News - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 9:28am

Health care professionals say there is little evidence the new watch surpasses gadgets already on the market, although more health features may be in store, Reuters reports. Meanwhile, The Associated Press examines tensions between Silicon Valley tech giants and government regulators.

Reuters: Health Developers, Doctors Want To See More From Apple's Watch
Technology pundits were quick to predict the demise of most fitness wristbands and smartwatches when Apple Inc launched its Apple Watch. But healthcare professionals and fitness junkies were left wanting to see more. Observers say there is little evidence for now that the device's fitness capabilities surpass the competition. Others, hoping for groundbreaking health features from a company whose Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook spoke of how sensors are "set to explode," were left wondering what's in store for the product. Two people familiar with Apple's plans told Reuters the company is planning to unveil richer health features and additional sensors in later versions, the first iteration not hitting the market until early 2015(Farr, 9/11).

The Associated Press: Silicon Valley Struggles To Speak FDA’s Language
Silicon Valley is pouring billions into gadgets and apps designed to transform health care. But the tech giants that have famously disrupted so many industries are now facing their own unexpected disruption: regulation. Before tech companies can turn America's smartphones into portable medical suites, they must meet the rigorous standards of the Food and Drug Administration ... "This is a culture war," says Steve Grossman, a longtime FDA consultant to companies. "Silicon Valley is used to just bringing their products straight to the market and any regulatory scheme that involves scrutiny and delay is alien to them”  (Perrone, 9/12).

The Associated Press: 23AndMe CEO Navigates Health Regulation
No Silicon Valley company better embodies the promise and the pitfalls of working in health care than DNA testing firm 23andMe. ... CEO Anne Wojcicki laid out a bold plan to make genetic testing affordable to the general public, while simultaneously building a massive archive of DNA results for use in medical research. More than 700,000 people have used the company's test kit ... But last November, the Food and Drug Administration ordered the company to stop marketing its personalized health reports, which purported to tell customers if they were genetically predisposed to more than 250 diseases and medical conditions. Now, 23andMe is working to win FDA clearance for its health tests one at a time, a process that will take years. Wojcicki spoke to The Associated Press about operating under FDA oversight and the future of her company (Perrone, 9/11).

Also, companies mining health data spur privacy concerns -

Bloomberg: Did You Know You Had Diabetes? It's All Over The Internet
Dan Abate doesn't have diabetes nor is he aware of any obvious link to the disease. Try telling that to data miners. The 42-year-old information technology worker's name recently showed up in a database of millions of people with "diabetes interest" sold by Acxiom Corp., one of the world's biggest data brokers. One buyer, data reseller Exact Data, posted Abate's name and address online, along with 100 others, under the header Sample Diabetes Mailing List. ... Tapping social media, health-related phone apps and medical websites, data aggregators are scooping up bits and pieces of tens of millions of Americans’ medical histories. Even a purchase at the pharmacy can land a shopper on a health list (Pettypiece and Robertson, 9/11).

Categories: Health Care

OTC Birth Control Issue Triggers Debate, Campaign Ads

Kaiser Health News - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 9:25am

Planned Parenthood Votes is stepping into the fray with new ads arguing that a policy now being embraced by some GOP candidates -- over-the-counter availability of birth control pills -- is more expensive for women.

NPR: Changing Tack, GOP Candidates Support Better Access To Birth Control
A string of Republican candidates for Senate are supporting an issue usually associated with Democrats: increased access to contraception (Liasson, 9/12).

Politico Pro: Planned Parenthood Fires Back With $900K Ad Buy In Colorado, North Carolina
Planned Parenthood Votes will launch its first TV ads of the year today, a nearly million-dollar buy aimed at countering Republican Senate candidates who recently embraced making oral contraception available over the counter and boosting Democratic incumbents Kay Hagan and Mark Udall. The group casts this proposal, newly popular with some GOP candidates, as more expensive for women with a $500,000 buy in the Raleigh, N.C., market and a $400,000 buy in the Denver market (Hammon, 9/12).

Also in the news -

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Apparent Retail Glitch Triggers Copays For Birth Control
CVS Health is investigating a potential glitch in its drug pricing system that appears to have charged women copayments for prescription birth control – though the scope of the error remains currently unclear. The problem came to the attention of Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., after one of her staffers attempted to buy generic prescription birth control in Washington D.C. and was charged a $20 copay (Luthra, 9/11).

Categories: Health Care

State Highlights: States Want Home Care Worker Wage Changes Delayed; Ga. Delays Nursing Home Rate Hike

Kaiser Health News - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 9:24am

A selection of health policy stories from Georgia, California, Texas, Minnesota, Colorado, Ohio, New York, Illinois and Florida.

CQ Healthbeat: States Push For Delay In Wage Protections For Home Care Workers
State officials that argued against providing overtime and minimum wage protections to the nation’s 2 million home care workers are asking the Department of Labor to push back a Jan. 1 start date for the policy to take effect. State Medicaid officials concerned that their costs will rise are asking for a delay and tweaks to the policy, even though the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services finalized the rule a year ago. A final rule is often the best opportunity for major revisions to a proposed policy before it takes effect. The Department of Labor regulation guarantees federal labor protections to workers who help seniors and people with disabilities live in their homes. Home care workers had been exempt from those protections because their jobs were classified in the same category as babysitters. The rule affects workers who help elderly or frail people with activities such as dressing, eating meals, bathing, and taking medication, among others (Adams, 9/11).

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: State Stalls Obscure Nursing Home Rate Hike
The head of the state’s community health agency on Thursday pulled from consideration a special reimbursement increase for select nursing homes that would have rewarded some of Georgia’s biggest campaign donors (Salzer, 9/11).

Georgia Health News: Nursing Home Rate Change Put On Hold
A health agency commissioner Thursday pulled off the table a controversial rate change that would benefit the state’s nursing home industry. It was designed to pay extra money to companies that bought Georgia nursing homes between Jan. 1, 2012, and June 30 of this year, because of the costs that new owners bear in upgrading the facilities. Clyde Reese, commissioner of the Department of Community Health, told the agency’s board that he wants to spend more time reviewing the rate hike. The payment idea, Reese said, has “definite merit.’’ But he said he would like to change the methodology so that it would reward a broader range of nursing homes, with faster reimbursement, for upgrades they make (Miller, 9/11).

California Healthline: L.A. County Aims To Transform Health Care With New EHR System
Los Angeles County's Department of Health Services is installing a new countywide electronic health record system that officials say could end up being a model for other health care organizations across the country. An L.A. County Civil Grand Jury report examined the initiative this summer, assessing how EHR implementation and integration of EHR systems and data among county departments could set the pace for development of a countywide health information exchange for both private and public providers (Stuckey, 9/11).

NPR: A Doctor Who Performed Abortions In South Texas Makes His Case
In a Brownsville family clinic, a powerfully built, bald doctor treats a never-ending line of sick and injured patients. He has been practicing for nearly four decades, but family medicine is not his calling. He seems an unlikely doctor to perform abortions. The son of an Army officer, he grew up in a deeply religious family in rural Texas. His career path was shaped by an experience in medical school in the early '70s. A young woman whose uterus had been accidentally pierced by a backroom abortionist bled to death in front of him. After Roe v. Wade was decided, the young doctor devoted his career to helping poor and working-class women terminate their unwanted pregnancies in South Texas (Goodwyn, 9/11).

Los Angeles Times: Skid Row Sweep Finds Many Homeless With Medical, Psychiatric Needs
A joint city-county sweep of skid row last month to provide sanitation and social services identified more than 100 homeless people in need of immediate medical and mental health care, officials said Wednesday. Eighty homeless people received medical attention for scabies, wounds and other conditions during the August operation and 27 were referred to mental health services, City Councilman Jose Huizar said in a statement (Holland, 9/11).

Sacramento Bee: Support Plummets For California Health Initiatives
Support for a pair of health-related ballot initiatives is eroding, though a large portion of voters remain undecided eight weeks before the Nov. 4 election, according to the latest Field Poll. Forty-one percent of likely voters say they would support Proposition 45, while 26 percent would vote against the initiative requiring health insurance rate changes to be approved by the state’s elected insurance commissioner. A growing proportion, 33 percent, are undecided. When asked about Proposition 46, which would mandate random drug testing of doctors and quadruple the state’s $250,000 limit on medical malpractice awards, just 34 percent of voters say they are inclined to vote yes and 37 percent are preparing to vote no. Twenty-nine percent are undecided (Cadelago, 9/11).

Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Cargill Foundation Grant Takes Aim At Rural Nursing Shortage
In an effort to draw more nurses to rural Minnesota to care for the elderly, the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation has made a $1.9 million grant to pay for classes, internships and work bonuses to nursing students. The grant, announced Thursday by Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and senior housing and services nonprofit Ecumen, runs for two years, with some of the work bonuses running longer (McKinney, 9/11).

Health News Colorado: Anthem Partners With Mountain Hospitals To Drive Rates Down 8 Percent
Rates for health insurance in Colorado’s mountain resort communities -- which notoriously have been the highest in the country this year -- are heading down for 2015 with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Colorado’s announcement today that it will sell a new product for residents in four pricey resort counties. The preemptive move aims squarely at Kaiser Permanente, which has announced plans to expand into mountain resort regions in 2016 (McCrimmon, 9/11).

The Associated Press: Ohio: Law Against Lies Is Nullified
The case began in the 2010 congressional race after Steve Driehaus, a congressman at the time, filed a complaint when the Susan B. Anthony List planned to post billboards claiming the Democrat’s support for President Obama’s health care overhaul equated with support for abortion, even though he opposed abortion. Judge Black had said earlier that the anti-abortion group did not have standing to sue, and an appeals court agreed. But the Supreme Court said the challenge should be considered (9/11).

CNN: 9/11 Responders With Rare Cancer Denied Insurance Coverage
According to the most recent data from the World Trade Center Health Program, there are nearly 3,000 cases of cancer among firefighters, police officers, contractors and civilians who worked or lived near the site of the attacks. A growing number are being diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer, but some -- including [John] Meyers -- are being denied insurance coverage because their cancers were diagnosed too soon after 9/11 (Smith, 9/11).

Stateline: States Seek To Protect Student Athletes From Concussions, Heat Stroke
When Georgia public high schools were asked several years ago to devise a policy to govern sports activities during periods of high heat and humidity, one school’s proposal stood out: It pledged to scale back workouts when the heat index reached 140. Those who understood the heat index, the combined effects of air temperature and humidity, weren’t sure whether to be appalled or amused. “If you hit a heat index of 140,” said Bud Cooper, a sports medicine researcher at the University of Georgia who examined all the proposed policies, “you’d basically be sitting in the Sahara Desert.” The policy reflected an old-school, “no pain, no gain” philosophy, a view that athletes need to be pushed to their physical limits -- or beyond them -- if they and their teams are to realize their full potential (Ollove, 9/12).

Chicago Sun Times: Illinois’ Largest Health System Getting Bigger
Illinois’ largest health system is about to get even bigger. Downers Grove-based Advocate Health Care, one of the largest systems in the country, on Friday announced plans to merge with NorthShore University HealthSystem to create a health system with 16 hospitals, 4,438 beds and 45,000 employees. The combined system would also have a new name: Advocate NorthShore Health Partners. Both hospital systems said consolidation is necessary to stay competitive amid health care reform and other market trends (Thomas, 9/12).

Health News Florida: Home Care Firm Rules Medicaid Market
It’s much too soon to say whether this summer’s flood of Florida Medicaid patients into private managed-care plans will accomplish the state’s goals of improving access to care and saving money. But one result is already clear: The overhaul is concentrating power in the hands of specialty companies over which the state has no direct control.  Some say one such company has essentially taken over home care services and equipment. Univita Health, based in Miramar, has tied up so much of the market for Florida Medicaid health plans that many in the industry call it a monopoly. Managed care plans contract with Univita to manage their home-care business, even though the company itself is a provider of home-care and equipment to the same health plans (Gentry, 9/11).

Categories: Health Care

House Approves Bill To Extend Some Plans That Don't Meet Health Law Standards

Kaiser Health News - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 9:24am

The legislation would allow people to use the once-canceled policies through 2018. However, the measure is not expected to get a vote in the Senate.

Politico: House Returns To Anti-Obamacare Votes
House Republicans on Thursday returned to the Obamacare well for another vote against the law, this time to allow consumers to stay on once-canceled plans until 2019. The House approved the bill, 247-167, with the support of all Republicans and 25 Democrats. It was the first vote on the health care law since April (Haberkorn, 9/11).

Modern Healthcare: House Backs Bill Extending Small-Group Plans That Violate ACA
Legislation that would allow insurers to continue selling small-group plans that don't comply with the coverage requirements of the federal health care law through 2018 cleared the House with bipartisan support on Wednesday. But there is practically no chance the proposal will be taken up this year by the Democratic-controlled Senate (Demko, 9/11).

CBS News: Rob Portman: Obamacare Repeal Still Atop Senate Republicans’ To-Do List
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, vice chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Thursday that if Republicans take the Senate in November, he suspects that repealing President Obama's signature Affordable Care Act will be a policy priority. "I suspect we will vote to repeal early -- to put on record the fact that we Republicans think it's a bad policy and we think it's hurting our constituents," he said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast. "We think health care costs should be going down, not up. We think people should be able to keep insurance that they had. We're worried about the fact that the next shoe to drop is going to be employer coverage” (Alemany, 9/11).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Portman: Four Things A GOP Senate Could Do Quickly
Another early item on a GOP Senate’s agenda is oft-debated legislation to repeal the 2010 health care law, Mr. Portman said, but he hoped that it would be followed by other measures to replace the law with other health measures. President Obama, in fundraising events for Democrats this year, has made a big plea for keeping the Senate in Democratic hands to keep a check on Republican obstructionism (Hook, 9/11).

Categories: Health Care

Groups Get $3.2 Million To Enroll Minorities In Obamacare

Kaiser Health News - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 9:23am

Federal health officials award grants to 13 community organizations to sign up racial and ethnic minorities in health plans through online insurance marketplaces. Meanwhile, a group of South Florida hospitals raises money to help low-income patients pay their insurance premiums, and Massachusetts details plans to re-enroll 450,000 residents.

The Hill: HHS Pledges More Funds To Enroll Minorities In Obamacare
Federal health officials announced $3.2 million in new funding to help racial and ethnic minorities enroll in health coverage under ObamaCare.  The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Office of Minority Health awarded grants to 13 organizations that will help educate and encourage minority communities to sign up for health plans through the marketplaces. The grantees — which include universities, community health centers, nonprofits and charities — fall under the Partnership to Increase Coverage in Communities (PICC), an initiative devoted to increasing minority enrollment in health insurance (Hill, 9/11).

WBUR: How Mass. Plans To Re-Enroll 450,000 Residents In Health Insurance
All of the estimated 450,000 Massachusetts residents who get health insurance through the Health Connector or MassHealth — some of whom have been in a confusing phase of temporary coverage this year — will soon begin the process of applying for coverage for 2015. If the state's new health insurance website is up and running — which the Patrick administration promises it will be — then residents will be able to beginning applying online Nov. 15. If the website still isn't working, or using a computer isn't convenient, then you’ll have to fill out a paper application (Bebinger, 9/11).

The Associated Press: Hospitals Mull Paying Patient Insurance Premiums
A group of South Florida hospitals is trying to raise $5 million to donate to a foundation that would pay one year's worth of health insurance premiums for thousands of low-income consumers who bought insurance under the Affordable Care Act. But insurance companies bristle at the idea, saying it poses a conflict of interest. It's an effort to keep consumers covered and ensure hospitals get paid for treating them, said Linda Quick, president of the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association. It's unclear whether the program will be ready when open enrollment begins in November, but it should be ready before the enrollment period concludes in February (Kennedy, 9/11).

Related KHN coverage: Hospitals Seek To Help Consumers With Obamacare Premiums (Appleby, 8/14).

Categories: Health Care

Health Costs Inch Up As Coverage Expands

Kaiser Health News - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 9:23am

According to the Census Bureau's Quarterly Services Survey, total revenue at health care and social-assistance firms rose 3 percent in the second quarter of the year. But analysts described the increase as modest.

The Wall Street Journal: Health-Care Spending Picks Up
The sprawling U.S. health-care industry saw revenue rebound last quarter, a sign that stronger spending at hospitals and medical offices could help boost U.S. economic growth to its highest level in eight years. Total revenue at health-care and social-assistance firms rose 3% in the second quarter from the first three months of the year, the Commerce Department said Thursday in its Quarterly Services Survey. Hospital revenue rose 2.8% from the first quarter and revenue at physician offices jumped 4.1% (Leubsdorf, 9/11).

Kaiser Health News: Census Bureau: Health Costs Inch Up As Obamacare Kicks In
Doctors and hospitals treated more patients and collected more payments in the spring as millions gained insurance coverage under the health law, new figures from the government show. But analysts called the second-quarter increases modest and said there is little evidence to suggest that wider coverage and a recovering economy are pushing health spending growth to the painful levels of a decade ago (Hancock, 9/11).

Categories: Health Care

Viewpoints: Ebola Takes Us To 'Uncharted Waters'; The Failure Of Workplace 'Wellness' Programs

Kaiser Health News - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 9:22am

The New York Times: What We're Afraid To Say About Ebola
There have been more than 4,300 cases and 2,300 deaths over the past six months. Last week, the World Health Organization warned that, by early October, there may be thousands of new cases per week in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria. What is not getting said publicly, despite briefings and discussions in the inner circles of the world’s public health agencies, is that we are in totally uncharted waters and that Mother Nature is the only force in charge of the crisis at this time (Michael T. Osterholm, 9/11). 

The Washington Post: The World Yawns As Ebola Takes Hold In West Africa
The United States has the expertise and the personnel to get this outbreak under control. This week there were encouraging signs that the U.S. government was starting to take it more seriously and scale up the response (Richard E. Besser, 9/11). 

The Wall Street Journal: Doctoring In The Age Of Obamacare
It has been four years since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, so I thought it may be useful to provide the perspective of a physician providing daily medical care. I am an endocrinologist in Washington, D.C., and have been in solo private practice for 17 years after seven years at an academic institution. Since 1990, the practice of medicine has changed significantly, seldom for the better (Dr. Mark Sklar, 9/11).

The New York Times’ The Upshot: Do Workplace Wellness Programs Work? Usually Not
Most news coverage of the new Kaiser Family Foundation annual survey on employer-sponsored health plans has focused on the fact that growth in premiums in 2013 was as low as it has ever been in the 16 years of the survey. But buried in the details of the report are some interesting insights into how employers think about controlling health care costs. One example is that they're very fond of workplace wellness programs. This is surprising, because while such programs sound great, research shows they rarely work as advertised (Austin Frakt and Aaron E. Carroll, 9/11). 

The New York Times' Taking Note: Want An Abortion In Missouri? Wait 72 Hours.
Missouri’s Republican-controlled state Legislature on Wednesday imposed a 72-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion, overriding a veto of the measure in July by the state’s Democratic governor, Jay Nixon. Governor Nixon criticized the legislation’s tripling of the state's 24-hour waiting period as "extreme and disrespectful" to women’s rights and well-being. He was especially troubled by the absence of any exception for victims of rape and incest (Dorothy J. Samuels, 9/11). 

The Washington Post: Whatever Its Motive, CVS Does The Right Thing By Ending Cigarette Sales
CVS stopped selling cigarettes last week. The move may be little more than a business calculation for the pharmacy chain. But it is one worth cheering: It makes the sale of cigarettes less ubiquitous, and it shows that, after decades of effort, smoking is getting the stigma it deserves (9/11). 

Categories: Health Care

Report: State Decisions Determine How Residents Fare Under Obamacare

Kaiser Health News - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 9:21am

The report by a Yale University economist found it difficult to generalize about the health law's impact because it varies greatly state by state.

The Washington Post’s Wonkblog: Measuring The Impact Of States’ Obamacare Decisions
The early story of the Affordable Care Act can be challenging to generalize sometimes because so much of it depends on decisions made at the state level — both before and during implementation of the ACA. Did states defer to a federal-run exchange, or did they set up their own? In the states that built their own insurance marketplaces, did the Web site actually work? Did they expand Medicaid programs to low-income adults? Did they temporarily let people keep their old health plans? (Millman, 9/11).

The Wall Street Journal’s Real Time Economics: Obamacare Participants Worse Off, But Don’t Blame Washington — Blame States, Paper Says
The president’s health-care law has made participants in most states worse off, but the result may reflect decisions made in state capitals, not the broader policy, a new study from a Yale University economist found. The average enrollee in a health plan made available under the Affordable Care Act saw individual welfare decline in 35 states, according to the study Amanda Kowalski presented Thursday at the Brookings Institution in Washington. The report found the majority of those states either handed over at least part of the rollout to the federal government or were crippled by technology glitches (Morath, 9/11).

Categories: Health Care

Research Roundup: Prevention Services For Seniors; Drug Shortages

Kaiser Health News - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 9:21am

Each week, KHN compiles a selection of recently released health policy studies and briefs.

UCLA Center For Health Policy Research: Bringing It To The Community: Successful Programs That Increase The Use Of Clinical Preventive Services By Vulnerable Older Populations 
This policy brief reports the findings of a systematic review conducted by the Community Health Innovations in Prevention for Seniors (CHIPS) project. ... Clinical preventive services such as colorectal cancer screening and pneumococcal immunization can help reduce rates of premature death and disability. Yet, many older adults are not receiving the full set of clinical preventive services that have been proven effective and are considered "high value" in terms of their costs per life saved. Rates are particularly low among racial and ethnic minority older adults compared to national goals. ... Evidence from the CHIPS program review shows that community organizations are able to increase access to and receipt of clinical preventive services by diverse, and often underserved, older adults (Frank, Kietzman, and Wallace, 9/5).

JAMA Internal Medicine: Use Of Medications Of Questionable Benefit In Advanced Dementia
Advanced dementia is characterized by severe cognitive impairment and complete functional dependence. Patients' goals of care should guide the prescribing of medication during such terminal illness. Medications that do not promote the primary goal of care should be minimized. ... Of 5406 nursing home residents with advanced dementia, 2911 (53.9%) received at least 1 medication with questionable benefit. ... The mean ... 90-day expenditure for medications with questionable benefit was $816..., accounting for 35.2% of the total average 90-day medication expenditures for residents with advanced dementia who were prescribed these medications (Tija et al., 9/8).

JAMA Internal Medicine: Quality Of Care For Elderly Patients Hospitalized For Pneumonia In The United States, 2006 to 2010
Nearly every US acute care hospital reports publicly on adherence to recommended processes of care for patients hospitalized with pneumonia. However, it remains uncertain how much performance of these process measures has improved over time .... Annual performance rates for 7 pneumonia processes of care and an all-or-none composite of these measures; and 30-day, all-cause mortality and hospital readmission, adjusted for patient and hospital characteristics [were analyzed.] ... Performance of processes of care for elderly patients hospitalized for pneumonia improved substantially from 2006 to 2010. Adjusted 30-day mortality declined slightly ... primarily owing to improved survival among non-ICU patients (Lee et al., 9/8).

Health Affairs: Drug Shortages
From 2005 to 2010 the number of reported drug shortages almost tripled. These shortages were especially acute with regard to generic sterile injectable drugs that can be critical and life-saving to patients fighting cancer, combatting an infectious disease, or undergoing surgery. ... health care officials and elected leaders have taken steps to mitigate drug shortages .... But recent news coverage of shortages ... has once again brought attention to the issue. ... One of the most cited reasons ... is low reimbursement rates from Medicare Part B that were initiated ... in 2003. It is theorized that these lower payments incentivized both physicians and manufacturers to switch to higher-cost drugs, thereby reducing investment in cheaper generic drugs, leading to "growing market concentration" and eventual drug shortages (Stencel, 9/11).

Journal of the American Medical Association/The Kaiser Family Foundation: Visualizing Health Policy: The Role Of Medicare Advantage
This Visualizing Health Policy [infographic] provides a snapshot of the role of Medicare Advantage plans, an alternative to traditional Medicare, including information about the proportion of Medicare beneficiaries who are enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans, geographic differences in Medicare Advantage penetration, the trend of increasing enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans, and the concentration of enrollment within a small number of firms and affiliates. It also shows the extent that Medicare has been paying more for beneficiaries in Medicare Advantage plans than for those in traditional Medicare, although that payment differential is projected to decline (Jacobson et al., 9/9).

George Washington University/Kaiser Family Foundation: Community Health Centers: A 2012 Profile And Spotlight On Implications Of State Medicaid Expansion Decisions
In 2012, nearly 1,200 federally funded community health centers were providing access to care for a predominantly low-income population in medically underserved areas across the country. As health insurance coverage expands under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the demand for primary care increases, the role of health centers is likely to increase, and the ACA's large investment in the health center program provides new resources ... This brief provides a pre-ACA snapshot of health centers that can help in understanding the impact of state decisions about the ACA Medicaid expansion on health centers as health reform unfolds in the coming years (Shin and Paradise et al., 9/5).

Policy, Politics & Nursing Practice: What Does Nurse Turnover Rate Mean And What Is The Rate?
Registered nurse turnover is an important indicator of the nurse job market. ... The RN Work Project is a 10-year panel study of new nurses. Data were collected from the new nurses, rather than from a specific organization. About 17.5% of new nurses leave their first job within 1 year of starting their jobs. Consistent and accurate measurement of turnover is an important step in addressing organizational work environments and policies about the nursing workforce (Kovner, et al., 8/25).

British Medical Journal: Appraisal Of Evidence Base For Introduction Of New Implants In Hip And Knee Replacement: A Systematic Review Of Five Widely Used Device Technologies
The five selected innovations comprised three in total hip replacement (ceramic-on-ceramic bearings, modular femoral necks, and uncemented monoblock cups) and two in total knee replacement (high flexion knee replacement and gender specific knee replacement). ... We did not find convincing high quality evidence supporting the use of five substantial, well known, and already implemented device innovations in orthopaedics. Moreover, existing devices may be safer to use in total hip or knee replacement. Improved regulation and professional society oversight are necessary to prevent patients from being further exposed to these and future innovations introduced without proper evidence of improved clinical efficacy and safety (Nieuwenhuijse et al., 9/9).

The Kaiser Family Foundation: How Does Where You Work Affect Your Contraceptive Coverage?
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires most private health insurance plans to provide coverage for a broad range of preventive services including Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved prescription contraceptives and services for women. Since the implementation of this provision in 2012, some nonprofit and for profit employers with religious objections to contraceptives have brought legal challenges to this rule. For many women today, their contraceptive coverage depends on their employer or when they purchased their individual insurance plan. [An infographic and text on women's questions about coverage.] (9/8). 

Here is a selection of news coverage of other recent research:

Medscape: Intensive Interventions Reduce Readmissions Globally
High-intensity interventions, including care coordination by a nurse, a home visit within 3 days of discharge, and coordination between hospitals and primary care, reduced readmission rates between 5% and 13% up to 1 year after discharge for chronically ill patients, according to study findings published in the September issue of Health Affairs. Only high-intensity interventions reduced readmission rates in the short term (30 days or fewer after discharge), whereas standard transitional care procedures targeted toward those at high risk for poor outcomes were effective for both the intermediate term (31 - 180 days after discharge) and long term (181 - 365 days) (Frellick, 9/8).

Reuters: Depression More Common For Cancer Patients, But Rarely Treated
Three new studies by researchers at the Universities of Oxford and Edinburgh in the U.K. reveal that three-quarters of depressed cancer patients are not receiving treatment for depression. The researchers also found that serious depression is more common for cancer patients than for the general population, and varies by type of cancer. They also tested a new treatment program, with mental health care integrated into cancer treatment, which was much more effective at reducing depression and improving quality of life than current treatments, they found (Doyle, 9/5).

The Associated Press: Study: Rise In ER Visits After Medicaid Expansion
Many people newly insured by Medicaid under the federal health care law are seeking treatment in hospital emergency rooms, one of the most expensive medical settings, a study released Monday concludes. The analysis by the Colorado Hospital Association provides a real-time glimpse at how the nation's newest social program is working (Alonso-Zaldivar, 9/8).

Reuters: Most Asthmatic Kids Lack Health Management Plans At School
In Chicago, most kids with asthma or food allergies don’t have a health management form on file at school, a new study shows. The problem is typical of other cities, too, experts say – and it puts these children at risk (Doyle, 9/8).

The Associated Press: Study: Screening May Benefit Heavy-Smoking Seniors
Some current or former heavy smokers may benefit from a new lung cancer test even if they're 65 or older — although they experience more false alarms, suggests an analysis that comes as Medicare is debating whether to pay for the scans (Neergaard, 9/8).

Reuters: Race And Poverty Tied To Thyroid Surgery Outcomes
Minorities and the poor tend to have worse access to the most experienced thyroid surgeons and hospitals than white or more affluent patients, according to a new study. The research doesn't delve into why the differences in access exist, but the results suggest the disparity may lead to poorer outcomes for some groups (Seaman, 9/10).

Denver Post: Medicare Patients Less Likely To Receive Best Treatment For Some Strokes, Study Finds
Medicare patients might face a conscious or unconscious bias that could mean their stroke is more likely to end in death or long-term disability than patients with private insurance, according to a study announced Sept. 10 by the University of Florida. Researchers found that Medicare patients are likely to have access to surgical treatment for a type of stroke, subarachnoid hemorrhage, that affects about 30,000 Americans a year. Subarachnoid hemorrhage is bleeding in the area between the brain and the thin tissues that cover the brain. It accounts for 5 percent of all strokes, according to the American Heart Association. Surgical intervention can mean the difference between full recovery and disability, even death, the study authors said (Draper, 9/10).

Modern Healthcare: Most Hospitals Overuse Antibiotics, Premier Finds
Hospitals continue to overuse antibiotics despite warnings that pervasive use can lead to drug resistance and cause billions of dollars in excess healthcare costs, according to a retrospective analysis of 505 hospital members of the Premier health alliance (Rice, 9/10).  

Categories: Health Care

Political Cartoon: 'Hypocritic Oath?'

Kaiser Health News - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 9:20am

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Hypocritic Oath?" by Darrin Bell.

And here's today's health policy haiku:

BIRTH CONTROL PILLS, COST-SHARING AND RETAIL CONFUSION

Copays don't apply
to the pill. Except they might
if you don't watch out.
-Anonymous

If you have a health policy haiku to share, please send it to us at http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/ContactUs.aspx and let us know if you want to include your name. Keep in mind that we give extra points if you link back to a KHN original story.

Categories: Health Care

American Bar Association Magna Carta Traveling Exhibition – Pic of the Week

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 9:02am

The American Bar Association traveling exhibition, Magna Carta: Enduring Legacy 1215-2015, debuted at their annual meeting in Boston on August 8, 2014. [Photo by David S. Mao]

On August 8, the American Bar Association debuted the traveling exhibition, Magna Carta: Enduring Legacy 1215-2015, at their annual meeting in Boston.  Nathan Dorn gave a “pop-up speech” at the conference’s expo to discuss how the narrative and images came together to tell the story of 800 years of Magna Carta.  Law Librarian of Congress David S. Mao greeted visitors to the traveling exhibition and discussed the Law Library’s collections.

The first few banners present historical context for the creation of Magna Carta in England while the next few banners present the impact of Magna Carta’s principles on the fledgling colonies of the United States.  The last half of the exhibition is dedicated to the individual liberties – such as due process of law, trial by jury, and the writ of habeas corpus – that found a permanent home in the American founding documents.

Check out the dates and locations to see if the traveling exhibit is coming to a venue near you!

Categories: Research & Litigation

First Edition: September 12, 2014

Kaiser Health News - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 7:13am

Today's headlines include reports about various health law political and policy developments.  

Kaiser Health News: Census Bureau: Health Costs Inch Up As Obamacare Kicks In
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jay Hancock reports: “Doctors and hospitals treated more patients and collected more payments in the spring as millions gained insurance coverage under the health law, new figures from the government show. But analysts called the second-quarter increases modest and said there is little evidence to suggest that wider coverage and a recovering economy are pushing health spending growth to the painful levels of a decade ago” (Hancock, 9/11). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Health Law Shows Little Effect In Lowering Children's Uninsured Rate, Study Finds
Kaiser Health News’ consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: “The uninsured rate for kids under age 18 hasn’t budged under the health law, according to a new study, even though they’re subject to the law’s requirement to have insurance just as their parents and older siblings are. Many of those children are likely eligible for coverage under Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program” (Andrews, 9/12). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Apparent Retail Glitch Triggers Copays For Birth Control
Now on Kaiser Health News’ blog, Shefali Luthra reports: “CVS Health is investigating a potential glitch in its drug pricing system that appears to have charged women copayments for prescription birth control – though the scope of the error remains currently unclear. The problem came to the attention of Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., after one of her staffers attempted to buy generic prescription birth control in Washington D.C. and was charged a $20 copay” (Luthra, 9/11). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Washington Post’s Wonkblog: Measuring The Impact Of States’ Obamacare Decisions
The early story of the Affordable Care Act can be challenging to generalize sometimes because so much of it depends on decisions made at the state level — both before and during implementation of the ACA. Did states defer to a federal-run exchange, or did they set up their own? In the states that built their own insurance marketplaces, did the Web site actually work? Did they expand Medicaid programs to low-income adults? Did they temporarily let people keep their old health plans? (Millman, 9/11).

The Wall Street Journal’s Real Time Economics: Obamacare Participants Worse Off, But Don’t Blame Washington — Blame States, Paper Says
The president’s health-care law has made participants in most states worse off, but the result may reflect decisions made in state capitals, not the broader policy, a new study from a Yale University economist found. The average enrollee in a health plan made available under the Affordable Care Act saw individual welfare decline in 35 states, according to the study Amanda Kowalski presented Thursday at the Brookings Institution in Washington. The report found the majority of those states either handed over at least part of the rollout to the federal government or were crippled by technology glitches (Morath, 9/11).

The Wall Street Journal: Health-Care Spending Picks Up
The sprawling U.S. health-care industry saw revenue rebound last quarter, a sign that stronger spending at hospitals and medical offices could help boost U.S. economic growth to its highest level in eight years. Total revenue at health-care and social-assistance firms rose 3% in the second quarter from the first three months of the year, the Commerce Department said Thursday in its Quarterly Services Survey. Hospital revenue rose 2.8% from the first quarter and revenue at physician offices jumped 4.1% (Leubsdorf, 9/11).

Politico: House Returns To Anti-Obamacare Votes
House Republicans on Thursday returned to the Obamacare well for another vote against the law, this time to allow consumers to stay on once-canceled plans until 2019. The House approved the bill, 247-167, with the support of all Republicans and 25 Democrats. It was the first vote on the health care law since April (Haberkorn, 9/11).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Portman: Four Things A GOP Senate Could Do Quickly
Another early item on a GOP Senate’s agenda is oft-debated legislation to repeal the 2010 health care law, Mr. Portman said, but he hoped that it would be followed by other measures to replace the law with other health measures. President Obama, in fundraising events for Democrats this year, has made a big plea for keeping the Senate in Democratic hands to keep a check on Republican obstructionism (Hook, 9/11).

NPR: Changing Tack, GOP Candidates Support Better Access To Birth Control
A string of Republican candidates for Senate are supporting an issue usually associated with Democrats: increased access to contraception (Liasson, 9/12).

NPR: A Doctor Who Performed Abortions In South Texas Makes His Case
In a Brownsville family clinic, a powerfully built, bald doctor treats a never-ending line of sick and injured patients. He has been practicing for nearly four decades, but family medicine is not his calling. He seems an unlikely doctor to perform abortions. The son of an Army officer, he grew up in a deeply religious family in rural Texas. His career path was shaped by an experience in medical school in the early '70s. A young woman whose uterus had been accidentally pierced by a backroom abortionist bled to death in front of him. After Roe v. Wade was decided, the young doctor devoted his career to helping poor and working-class women terminate their unwanted pregnancies in South Texas (Goodwyn, 9/11).

Los Angeles Times: Skid Row Sweep Finds Many Homeless With Medical, Psychiatric Needs
A joint city-county sweep of skid row last month to provide sanitation and social services identified more than 100 homeless people in need of immediate medical and mental health care, officials said Wednesday. Eighty homeless people received medical attention for scabies, wounds and other conditions during the August operation and 27 were referred to mental health services, City Councilman Jose Huizar said in a statement (Holland, 9/11).

The Associated Press: Ohio: Law Against Lies Is Nullified
The case began in the 2010 congressional race after Steve Driehaus, a congressman at the time, filed a complaint when the Susan B. Anthony List planned to post billboards claiming the Democrat’s support for President Obama’s health care overhaul equated with support for abortion, even though he opposed abortion. Judge Black had said earlier that the anti-abortion group did not have standing to sue, and an appeals court agreed. But the Supreme Court said the challenge should be considered (9/11).

Check out all of Kaiser Health News' e-mail options including First Edition and Breaking News alerts on our Subscriptions page. 

Categories: Health Care

Health Law Shows Little Effect In Lowering Children's Uninsured Rate, Study Finds

Kaiser Health News - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 5:04am

The uninsured rate for kids under age 18 hasn’t budged under the health law, according to a new study, even though they’re subject to the law’s requirement to have insurance just as their parents and older siblings are. Many of those children are likely eligible for coverage under Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

The Urban Institute's health reform monitoring survey analyzed data on approximately 2,500 children, comparing the uninsured rate in June 2014 with the previous year, before the health insurance marketplaces opened and the individual mandate took effect. It found that rates remained statistically unchanged at just over 7 percent for both time periods.

Part of the explanation is that even before the health law passed, the uninsured rate for children was already quite low, says Genevieve Kenney, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and the lead author of the study. Rates had been declining for years, pushed lower by expansions in coverage for children under state Medicaid and CHIP.

In addition, the study doesn't reflect state variations. The rates for kids may well be declining in states that expanded Medicaid coverage to adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level (about $16,000 for an individual), as parents sign their kids up at the same time that they enroll in coverage themselves. But four states with large concentrations of uninsured children – Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Texas – are not expanding their Medicaid programs.

More than 80 percent of the uninsured children in the survey are likely eligible for Medicaid or CHIP because their families have incomes at or below 250 percent of the poverty level ($49,475 for a family of three). The median income threshold for Medicaid/CHIP across all states is 255 percent of poverty, Kenney says.

More From This Series Insuring Your Health

Parents of uninsured children should keep in mind that they can sign their kids up for Medicaid/CHIP at any time through healthcare.gov. There’s no open enrollment period.

In addition, income thresholds for the program are higher than many people realize, says Kenney. In 19 states, children in families with incomes over 300 percent of the federal poverty level could qualify for Medicaid or CHIP ($59,370 for a family of three), according to the study.

Please contact Kaiser Health News to send comments or ideas for future topics for the Insuring Your Health column.

Categories: Health Care

Census Bureau: Health Costs Inch Up As Obamacare Kicks In

Kaiser Health News - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 4:00pm

Doctors and hospitals treated more patients and collected more payments in the spring as millions gained insurance coverage under the health law, new figures from the government show.

But analysts called the second-quarter increases modest and said there is little evidence to suggest that wider coverage and a recovering economy are pushing health spending growth to the painful levels of a decade ago.

Thursday's results from the Census Bureau's survey of service industries join other recent cost indicators that "are quite a bit lower than what the folks at CMS were projecting," said Charles Roehrig, director of the Center for Sustainable Health Spending at the Altarum Institute, a nonprofit research and consulting outfit. "And they're lower than what we were expecting as well."

CMS is the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the government's main health care bookkeeper. Last week CMS projected that health-expenditure growth would accelerate to 5.6 percent this year from an estimated 3.6 percent in 2013.

But health and social spending as measured by the Census Bureau grew by only 3.7 percent from the second quarter of 2013 to the same quarter of 2014. Hospital revenue increased 4.9 percent during the same period. Revenue for physician offices barely budged, growing by only 0.6 percent. Medical lab revenue rose 1.9 percent.

The report is far from being the last word. It doesn't include spending on prescription drugs, which has been rising this year thanks to new  very expensive medicines for hepatitis C.

And while the Census Bureau’s year-over-year results for the second quarter show tame cost trends, the increase from the first quarter to the second was more substantial. Total health and social spending rose at an annual rate of more than 12 percent from first quarter to the next. If sustained, such acceleration would raise alarms and actuaries' blood pressure.

But some who follow costs closely don't think the pace will continue.

First, health spending suffered a mini-crash over the winter, as bad storms kept people away from caregivers. Hospitals and doctors billed less from January to March than they did last fall. Part of the second-quarter recovery may just have been catch-up, analysts said.

At the same time, many people covered through the health law's online marketplaces didn't sign up until close to the deadline at the end of March. Much of the spring increase may represent a one-time surge as those folks sought treatment for previously neglected conditions.

For those reasons, the year-over-year results for the second quarter may give a better indication of longer-term cost trends than the change from the first quarter to the second, Roehrig said.

Estimates vary, but no one disputes the idea that the Affordable Care Act's health insurance marketplaces and expansion of Medicaid for the poor have added millions of previously uninsured people to coverage rosters this year.

History and logic suggest that expanded coverage and an improving economy will boost long-term, national health expenditures from their average growth rate of 3.7 percent during the past five years. (That’s spending by everybody -- government programs, employer insurance, commercial plans and consumers paying out-of-pocket.)

But so far the speedup seems nowhere close to the near-double-digit rates in the early 2000s.

Larry Levitt, senior vice president for the Kaiser Family Foundation, called Thursday's Census data "murky and imperfect results that are consistent with the idea that health spending is starting to grow a bit more quickly." (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Foundation.)

Categories: Health Care

Understanding Next Week's Census Figures on Poverty and Inequality

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 3:43pm
On September 16, the Census Bureau will release official statistics on poverty and inequality in 2013.  Several points are worth noting in advance of the release. As in Other Recent Recoveries, Poverty Has Been Slow to Improve Over time, poverty rates tend to move roughly in tandem with economic indicators, which generally improved slightly in 2013.  The economy added 2 million jobs, the share of non-elderly adults with jobs edged up, and an index of total hours worked by all workers …
Categories: Benefits, Poverty

Understanding the Census Bureau's Upcoming Health Insurance Coverage Estimates

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 3:40pm
The Census Bureau will release estimates on September 16 of the number and share of Americans without health coverage in 2013, based on its annual Current Population Survey (CPS).  While the CPS is the most widely used source of health coverage information, significant changes in its health coverage questions instituted for 2013 — the result of a multi-year Census initiative to improve the reliability and accuracy of the survey’s health coverage estimates — mean that the 2013 results …
Categories: Benefits, Poverty

Tackling Autism In Babies? Small Study An ‘Absolute Miracle,’ Says Mom

CommonHealth (WBUR) - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 11:29am

Megan says the experimental trial she participated in with her daughter Isabel was “an absolute miracle,” transforming the child from a troubled baby who looked headed for autism to a typical, happy preschooler.

Research out this week suggests that it’s never too early to begin therapy to treat some of the defining symptoms of autism. Karen Weintraub reports on the promising new findings in USA Today under the headline, “Study: Autism Signs In Babies Can Be Erased:”

In a small pilot study — the first to look at starting therapy in babies this young — researchers at the University of California Davis’ MIND Institute, began treating 7 babies who showed symptoms likely to turn into autism later. By their third birthdays, five of the children no longer exhibited any symptoms of autism, and a sixth was diagnosed with mild autism.

Because the study was so small, and autism cannot reliably be diagnosed in infancy, the researchers stopped short of calling the treatment a breakthrough. But they said they will be following up with a larger study, which they hoped would confirm the results.

One mother involved in the trial described the treatment as “an absolute miracle” for her daughter, Isabel. The mother, Megan, asked not to be fully identified, but talked openly about the trial and its benefits for her family.

At nine months old, Isabel wouldn’t turn her head when someone walked into a room calling her name. She never babbled, Megan said. She was physically delayed in fine and gross motor skills, and didn’t seem to know how to play with toys. All those are signs commonly seen in children who go on to be diagnosed with autism.

Megan heard about the trial through her pediatrician and the family – including Isabel’s dad and her older brother – moved from the Seattle area to Sacramento, so they could participate in the study.

In 12 weekly sessions, lead researcher Sally Rogers coached Megan and her husband John as they played with baby Isabel. Where most children will smile or giggle when happy, Isabel’s facial expressions didn’t change much; where others might cry if scared by a loud sound, Isabel rarely reacted to anything in her environment. But Rogers showed them that Isabel might glance over quickly when she was interested or look at her hands when something was too loud or overwhelming – cues that Megan and John could take to do more or less of whatever they were doing.

Once they learned to “speak” Isabel’s language, Megan said she and John were able to react to her and engage with their baby for the first time. Eventually, through this interaction, Isabel learned that she could communicate – and have fun doing it. That primed her to learn even more, Megan said.

Megan said she and her husband would never have figured out what to do without the coaching.

Isabel’s cues were too subtle, she said, and she and John needed to be taught the progressive steps so they could take Isabel through each one in turn.

“As she got farther along, there would be more spontaneous learning, but that’s because she had laid the groundwork,” Megan said.

Shortly after turning three in April, Isabel was assessed again, and was deemed to be a perfectly typical toddler. “She was at least average in every category,” her mother said. “In some areas, she was months and months ahead – even in some of her language skills. That was pretty mind-blowing.”

Even if Isabel hadn’t improved so much, the trial would have been worthwhile, Megan said, because it allowed her to feel like she was doing whatever she could to help her child.

Now, parenting Isabel has become much more fun, Megan said, and Isabel now adores and plays all sorts of games with her big brother.

“It’s just a rich time,” Megan said. “We’re discovering who she is and watching her personality blossom from being completely shut down. Just now we were at the park and she was a little dragon breathing fire.”

Categories: Health Care

Browse Law Library of Congress Content by Jurisdiction

In Custodia Legis - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 10:47am

We recently started to do some user testing on our website, Law.gov.  It has been interesting to listen to the feedback because I know the answers and sometimes people are close but miss what I can clearly see.  I’m sitting in my office occasionally saying things to the screen (while my phone is muted). I have sat in on user testing in the past with Jill MacNeice for Congress.gov and am really thankful that she can help us on the Law Library’s website now too.

One thing that I keep thinking about is how we have a lot of content in a variety of packages.  There is the Guide to Law Online, the Global Legal Monitor, Legal Topics, and In Custodia Legis to name a few.  We’ve spent some time updating our metadata so you can find our content easier via search, but we do not really have a good way to browse across all content from, for example, a jurisdiction.  One of our questions is to find something on adoption from Turkey, but users do not know if they should go to the Guide to Law Online or possibly the Global Legal Monitor.  They must know to go to the Legal Topics section.

As a way to test how useful this would be, I’m adding a partial sample jurisdiction browse list below.  When you select one, you will see results from across all of our content.  Let me know what you think in the comments.  Would it be useful to have a similar list broken down by topics?  Would you click on a browse list of topics or jurisdictions from our homepage?

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

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Categories: Research & Litigation

Employer Health Coverage Costs Show Modest Growth, But Worker Out-Of-Pocket Expenses Jump

Kaiser Health News - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 10:03am

The findings, based on a poll of employers conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust, also note that the availability of employer-sponsored health coverage was holding steady. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Foundation.)

The Wall Street Journal: Cost Of Employer Health Coverage Shows Muted Growth
The increase was slightly less than the 4 percent seen last year, according to the annual poll of employers performed by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation along with the Health Research & Educational Trust, a nonprofit affiliated with the American Hospital Association. The share of the family-plan premium borne by employees was $4,823, or 29 percent of the total, the same percentage as last year. The total annual cost of employer coverage for an individual was $6,025 in the 2014 survey, up 2 percent, a difference that wasn't statistically significant (Mathews, 9/10). 

Los Angeles Times: Employer Health Rates Rise 3%, Worker Deductibles Top $1,200
Those results reflect a recent trend of slower growth in health care costs. But many employers and health-policy experts predict bigger increases for 2015 and beyond as the economy recovers (Terhune, 9/10). 

Politico: Workplace Insurance Coverage Levels Steady In Year One Of Obamacare
It’s only year one of the Obamacare exchanges, and the findings won’t quell the debate about how businesses will respond in the coming years to new requirements and more regulatory and economic changes to the health industry. But the steady availability of employer-sponsored coverage and the “extraordinarily modest” premium rise indicate that predictions that “the sky would fall” under Obamacare have not come to pass, said Drew Altman, president of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, which conducted the study with the Health Research and Education Trust (Norman, 9/10).

Kaiser Health News: Family Insurance Premiums Rise Modestly For 3rd Year, Survey Finds
While both critics and supporters of the Affordable Care Act are likely to find fodder for their positions, the report portrays 2014 as a relatively stable year for employer coverage, with little change in the type of plans offered or their costs. The percentage of firms offering health benefits (55 percent) and the percentage of workers covered at those firms (62 percent) were statistically unchanged from 2013, despite predictions of the law’s critics that many firms would drop coverage (Appleby, 9/10).

USA Today: Employer Health Plan Deductibles See Big 5-Year Jump
A report out today puts numbers behind what hit many workers when they signed up for health insurance during open enrollment last year: deductible shock. Premiums for employer-paid insurance are up 3 percent this year, but deductibles are up nearly 50 percent since 2009, the report by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows (O’Donnell, 9/10). 

Reuters: U.S. Health Premiums Creep Up, But Out-Of-pocket Costs Jump
U.S. health insurance premiums are going up only 3 percent this year, to an average of $16,834 for a family. Workers will pay about 20 percent of that cost, or $4,823, according to a study released on Wednesday. The Kaiser Family Foundation's 2014 Employer Health Benefits report says that rate increases are slowing from recession highs that ran far above inflation rates. In the past 10 years, health care premiums rose a cumulative total of 69 percent. However, the big leap in deductibles offsets the good news for consumers (Pinsker, 9/10).

McClatchy: Job-Based Health Premiums Increasing Slowly, Deductibles Faster
Average premiums for job-based family health coverage are up just 3 percent this year, while the cost of single coverage rose only 2 percent, continuing a sustained trend of moderate growth in insurance costs, according to a nationwide survey of more than 2,000 businesses. The slowdown in premium growth is good news for the estimated 150 million Americans with employer-sponsored health coverage (Pugh, 9/10).

NBC News: Average Health Insurance Premiums Rise Slightly
Insurance companies raised their rates for premiums by about 3 percent this year for people covered by employer health insurance, which includes most Americans, according to a new report. The average family premium is $16,834, and the average employee pays $4,823 of that. “Premiums increased more slowly over the past five years than the preceding five years (26 percent vs. 34 percent) and well below the annual double-digit increases recorded in the late 1990s and early 2000s,” the Kaiser Family Foundation, which conducted the survey, said in a statement. Eighty percent of all covered workers must pay an average deductible of $1,217 (Fox, 9/10).

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Employer Health Insurance Up Moderately This Year, Survey Finds
The average annual cost of employer-sponsored health insurance for a family rose three percent this year to $16,834, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported in its 2014 survey of employer health benefits released Wednesday. Of that, employees pay on average $4,823 a year towards the cost (Markiewicz, 9/10).

In related news -

Des Moines Register: Employers Stick With Health Insurance
Most Iowa employers continue to offer health insurance to their workers, even though costs keep rising and headaches keep multiplying, a new survey shows. Some critics of the federal Affordable Care Act predicted that many employers would drop insurance because the 2010 law included new regulations and costs. But that is not happening in a big way in Iowa, according to the annual survey of 1,002 employers that Lind is releasing today. In fact, the overall percentage of Iowa employers offering coverage ticked up from 77 percent in 2013 to 81 percent this year (Leys, 9/11).

Categories: Health Care

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