Health and Fitness

Sebelius To GOP: 'Don't Get Wrong Impression' About Obama Health Summit

Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz reports: "A day after President Barack Obama invited Republicans in Congress to a bipartisan health care summit, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said no one should get the wrong impression. "A lot of people ask if this is starting over (on a health overhaul), the answer is absolutely not, " she said Monday in a talk at the AcademyHealth policy conference in Washington" (Galewitz, 2/8). Read entire article. This information was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with kind permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives and sign up for email delivery at kaiserhealthnews.org. © Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

RNC Chair Steele, Former Rep. Ford Discuss Abortion, Health Reform At Forum

Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele and potential Democratic Senate candidate Harold Ford at a University of Arkansas at Little Rock forum on Thursday discussed a range of issues, including abortion and health care reform, the AP/Baxter Bulletin reports. Ford, a former member of Congress who represented Tennessee, is considering challenging Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in the Democratic primary. During a question-and-answer portion of the forum, Steele and Ford were asked about abortion rights, which is an "issue that has vexed both of them politically, " the AP/Bulletin reports. Ford described himself as "pro-choice" but also said that he is opposed to abortion later in pregnancy. The AP/Bulletin reports that Ford has been targeted for giving contradictory explanations of his position on abortion-rights. Steele, who has received conservative criticism for saying that abortion is an "individual choice, " said that he supports the Republican Party platform's opposition to abortion.

Pay-For-Performance In Healthcare

Although the idea of pay-for-performance (P4P) is popular among healthcare policy makers and private insurers, the results do not necessarily translate to the patient. A new study from the RAND Journal of Economics analyzes performance reports from medical groups who worked with a large network HMO which has been compiling quality data since 1993, pre-P4P. Lead researcher Kathleen J. Mullen says, "In the end, we failed to find evidence that a large P4P initiative either resulted in major improvement in quality or notable disruption in care.". So how did policy makers and medical providers arrive at this miscalculation? A 2003 RAND study by Elizabeth McGlynn and colleagues found that on average American patients receive only fifty-five percent of recommended care. P4P seemed to be the answer to better quality care and effective preventative medicine. The P4P reimbursement program rewards healthcare providers with bonuses for high marks in areas of preventative medicine (e.g., blood sugar testing for diabetics, cervical and breast cancer screenings for at-risk patients).

Today's OpEds: Questioning Transparency, The Bipartisan Summit And Starting Anew

Claims Of Backroom Deals A Distraction Politico Hours of health care debate were broadcast on C-SPAN for the dozen or so Americans who were watching. Some of the negotiations were not broadcast, but why demand of the health reform bill a level of transparency not required of any other legislation? Does anyone know what is in the most recent farm bill, which costs two-thirds as much as the health reform legislation will? (Timothy Stoltzfus Jost, 2/9). The Summit Gambit The Wall Street Journal The true White House purpose is to create a Republican foil. ObamaCare has sunk under its own weight, so the idea is to revive it by suggesting that the choice is between it and GOP ideas. This helps explain why the President and his budget director, Peter Orszag, have gone out of their way to trash Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan's reform 'road map' in recent days for 'cutting' Medicare (2/9). Fix Health Care Now Or Pay Later Jackson [Tennessee] Sun The health care reform plan put forth by the Obama administration is all but dead in Washington.

Budget Issues: Kansas To Downsize Hospitals For Disabled; Nevada May Cut Enrollment In Programs For Mentally Ill And Seniors

Kansas Health Institute reports on downsizing at hospitals for the developmentally disabled: "Admissions to Kansas Neurological Institute will be halted this summer and restricted at Parsons State Hospital, the state's top welfare agency official said today. Don Jordan, secretary of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, announced those decisions Monday before the House Social Services Budget Committee. Last year, the state's two hospitals for people with developmental disabilities recorded 20 admissions - two at KNI; 18 at Parsons. ... Jordan said he expects the moves to take about three years. A committee made up of hospital officials and advocates for the developmentally disabled will spend the summer developing new admission standards for the hospitals." The move comes after Gov. Mark Parkinson ordered state officials to identify patients who could be moved safely into community settings. Meanwhile, family members worry "that many medically fragile residents would not survive in community settings" (Ranney, 2/8).

Nurses Blast 39 Anthem Blue Cross Rate Hike Stronger Medicine Needed To End Insurance Abuses

The nation's largest union and professional organization of registered nurses, National Nurses United, joined the national condemnation of Anthem Blue Cross for imposing rate hikes of up to 39 percent for Californians with individual policies, but said the outrage must "go beyond words to action to end insurance abuses once and for all." "Anthem's disgraceful behavior may be particularly offensive, but it is not out of character for an industry engages systemically in price gouging and denial of care, " said NNU Co-president Deborah Burger, RN. "Condemnation is well deserved, but not enough. We need stronger medicine to cure what ails our healthcare system by removing the ability of insurance companies to indiscriminately price people out of access to care, and routinely deny claims they don't want to pay. "The best way to achieve that goal would be expanding Medicare to cover everyone, which would retain our private delivery system, more effectively control healthcare costs, guarantee choice and access to care for everyone, and put patients, their families, and their doctors in charge of their care, not insurance bureaucrats, " Burger said.

Insurer To Take New Role In Assessing Cancer Treatments

UnitedHealthcare, one of the nation's biggest insurance companies, has decided to take a more active role in the care of its policy holders who are being treated for several types of cancer, The Wall Street Journal reports. The company "has started sending doctors individualized reports assessing their treatment of breast, lung and colorectal cancer patients. The reports show that while breast-cancer patients generally receive care that conforms to professional protocols, treatments given for colorectal and lung cancer tend to fail to meet expert recommendations more often." Cancer patients cost the firm $2.5 billion a year, a number surpassed only by the costs of cardiovascular disease treatment and orthopedic surgeries. "The company says its goal is not to rank or reward medical practitioners. Rather, it hopes that drawing doctors' attention to how their treatments might vary from medical protocol will reduce unnecessary care that doesn't improve health and raises health-care costs" (Johnson, 2/9).

Obama: 'Take Time' On Health Reform, Democrats Haggle On Next Steps

ABC News : "Summoning the message back that once mobilized his grass-roots campaign, the president spoke tonight in front of the same people - Organizing for America and DNC members - whose poll show some are feeling somewhat discouraged by the first year of the Obama administration. ... The president outlined in broad strokes what he'd like to see happen [on health reform]. 'What I'd like to do is have a meeting where I'm sitting with the Republicans, sitting with the Democrats. Sitting with health care experts. And let's just go through these bills. Their ideas, our ideas, let's walk thought them in a methodical way so the American people can see and compare.'" "He added that while he wants 'to take our time, ' the key though, is to 'not let the moment slip away' on health care" (Miller, 2/4). Politico : "A White House aide could not provide any further details on whether such a meeting (with Republicans) was in the works. в Obama appeared to be sketching out a strategy that involves putting Republicans on the spot, and if they decline to take a meaningful role, Democrats will push ahead with a vote regardless.

Ending Antitrust Exemption For Insurers May Not Affect Consumers, Analysts Say

Kaiser Health News : "Proponents say that the legislation would spur competition among insurers and bring down costs for consumers. Reps. Tom Perriello, D-Va., and Betsy Markey, D-Colo., who are sponsoring the bill, said in a press release it would 'end special treatment for the insurance industry that allows them to fix prices, collude with each other, and set their own markets without fear of being investigated.' But many antitrust experts say that ending the exemption -- by repealing the 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act -- wouldn't significantly increase competition or reduce premiums." The federal government is already "responsible for antitrust enforcement involving mergers and acquisitions" for insurers (Gold, 2/8). McClatchy : The antitrust bill is part of an effort by House Democratic leaders "to start moving pieces of the [health reform] bill that they think can win approval. They also figured that simply having the debate - televised on C-SPAN and covered by the news media - would get the public re-engaged.

The Anti-Trust Exemption For Health Insurers: Meaningful Or Not?

Kaiser Health News staff writer Jenny Gold writes about legislation to repeal this exemption. "With comprehensive health care legislation foundering in Congress, the House is turning to a narrower piece of legislation that lawmakers hope has widespread, populist appeal: repealing the antitrust exemption for health and medical liability insurers. ... But many antitrust experts say that ending the exemption -- by repealing the 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act -- wouldn't significantly increase competition or reduce premiums" (Kaiser Health News). Read entire story. This information was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with kind permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives and sign up for email delivery at kaiserhealthnews.org. © Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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