A project of the Galen Institute

Commentary

Northwestern Mutual team
Forbes magazine
Wed, 2014-08-27
"Bill Jacobs spent four nights in a hospital in Florida battling pneumonia. His kids visited each day, fluffed his pillows, brought his favorite Sudoku puzzles and got regular updates from his nurses and doctors. Imagine their surprise when they found out that their 86-year-old father was never actually admitted; instead, he was treated as an outpatient under what Medicare refers to as “observation status.” What difference does that make? Actually, more than you might think. If your parents are on Medicare, the difference between being considered an inpatient or an observation patient could be thousands of dollars out of their pocket, if not more. First, Medicare Part A will cover all hospital services, less the deductible, but only if you’re admitted to the hospital as an inpatient. The one-time deductible covers all hospital services for the first 60 days in the hospital. Doctors’ charges are covered under Medicare Part B.
Richard Knox
WBUR
Wed, 2014-08-27
"Every day in intensive care units across the country, patients get aggressive, expensive treatment their caregivers know is not going to save their lives or make them better. California researchers now report this so-called “futile” care has a hidden price: It’s crowding out other patients who could otherwise survive, recover and get back to living their lives. Their study, in Critical Care Medicine, shows that patients who could benefit from intensive care in UCLA’s teaching hospital are having to wait hours and even days in the emergency room and in nearby community hospitals because ICU beds are occupied by patients receiving futile care.
Peter Loftus
Wall Street Journal
Wed, 2014-08-27
"File this under ‘how ironic.’ Drug makers are asking for more transparency from the government agency that is requiring them to be more transparent about how much they pay doctors. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, is calling on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to further explain why the agency has removed one-third of the payment information from an online database that is due to be made public by Sept. 30. Earlier this month, CMS said it would withhold about one-third of the payment data from the so-called “Open Payments” system. The agency also said it would return the records to drug makers because they were “intermingled,” including the erroneous linking of payment information for some doctors to still other doctors with similar names.
Julie Appleby
Kaiser Health News
Wed, 2014-08-27
"While average compensation for top health insurance executives hit $5.4 million each last year, a little-noticed provision in the federal health law sharply reduced insurers’ ability to shield much of that pay from corporate taxes, says a report out today. As a result, insurers owed at least $72 million more to the U.S. Treasury last year, said the Institute for Policy Studies, a liberal think tank in Washington D.C. Researchers analyzed the compensation of 57 executives at the 10 largest publicly traded health plans, finding they earned a combined $300 million in 2013. Insurers were able to deduct 27 percent of that from their taxes as a business expense, estimates the report. Before the health law, 96 percent would have been deductible."
Katrina Trinko
The Daily Signal
Wed, 2014-08-27
"Planned Parenthood Action Fund released today a t-shirt designed by actress Scarlett Johansson that targets the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision. The front of the pink t-shirt reads “Hey Politicians! The 1950s called…” and the back reads, “They want their sexism back!” “When I heard that some politicians were cheering the Supreme Court’s decision to give bosses the right to interfere in our access to birth control, I thought I had woken up in another decade,” explained Johansson in a statement. “Like many of my friends, I was appalled by the thought of men taking away women’s ability to make our own personal health care decisions,” she added. Um … what? Let’s look at some facts, beginning with that the Hobby Lobby decision was fairly narrow.
Jonathan Bernstein
Bloomberg View
Tue, 2014-08-26
"E.J. Dionne has a nice column pointing out that while “Obamacare” remains unpopular, most of the provisions are well-liked, and thus Democrats should run on the issue. As regular readers know, I certainly agree that the individual components of reform are far more popular than reform overall. However, the column's headline -- “Obamacare has growing support, even if its name does not” -- isn't really buttressed by the article. Actually, support for key provisions of the law, including coverage of pre-existing conditions, health-insurance exchanges offering subsidies to middle-income policy holders and Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, have always polled well. Moreover caution is always in order with issue polling. When these kinds of polls show public opinion fractured, it’s tempting to believe that one side or the other represents voters' “true” support. That’s the wrong way to interpret such polls. Yes, the ACA polls badly while most of its components poll well.
Julie Rovner
Kaiser Health News
Tue, 2014-08-26
"Those who favor women being guaranteed no-cost birth control coverage under their health insurance say the new rules for nonprofit religious organizations issued by the Obama administration simply put into force what the Supreme Court suggested last month. A demonstrator holding up a sign outside the Supreme Court in Washington in June 2014. The Obama administration announced new measures last week to allow religious nonprofits and some companies to opt out of paying for birth control for female employees while still ensuring those employees have access to contraception. (Photo by Pablo Martinez Mosivais/AP) “We interpret what [the administration] did to be putting into effect that order,” said Judy Waxman, vice president for health and reproductive rights at the National Women’s Law Center.
Julie Appleby
Kaiser Health News
Mon, 2014-08-25
"As more Americans gain insurance under the federal health law, hospitals are rethinking their charity programs, with some scaling back help for those who could have signed up for coverage but didn’t. The move is prompted by concerns that offering free or discounted care to low-income, uninsured patients might dissuade them from getting government-subsidized coverage. It also reflects hospitals’ strong financial interest in having more patients covered by insurance as the federal government makes big cuts in funding for uncompensated care. If a patient is eligible to purchase subsidized coverage through the law’s online marketplaces but doesn’t sign up, should hospitals “provide charity care on the same level of generosity as they were previously?” asks Peter Cunningham, a health policy expert at Virginia Commonwealth University. Most hospitals are still wrestling with that question, but a few have changed their programs, Cunningham says."
Owen Covington
Triad Business Journal
Mon, 2014-08-25
"Listing to a panel discussion sponsored by the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce Tuesday morning, I heard reference to a metaphor for the Affordable Care Act that I've heard a number of time before — the three-legged stool. Describing the different core components of the health care reform law, three primary tenets offer their support to the law, with, each complementing and reliant upon the others, and the stool falling over if one of the legs falters. They are: guaranteed issue and community rating (meaning an insurer can't deny coverage or charge astronomical rates coverage because of pre-existing conditions), the individual mandate (everyone must have coverage or face a fine) and subsidies (financial assistance from the federal government to help low-income consumers can pay for coverage). I've sat in on numerous, similar discussions, and had heard the metaphor before.
Jonathan Easley
Morning Consult
Mon, 2014-08-25
"From Halbig to Sovaldi, this summer was a busy one for health policy and politics. We’ve made it easy to catch up, collecting all of the top stories you clicked on over the past few months. Together, they tell a story about the state of healthcare in the U.S., and offer clues as to where things may be headed when Congress returns in the fall. Among them: The political battle over Obmacare has become more complicated for Republicans since the government cleaned up the Healthcare.gov mess, and with midterm elections around the corner, the focus will be on how much either party continues to attack or ignore the law. There are policy, legal and business matters to be settled as well – the employer mandate is under attack from the left and the right, the courts have been a wildcard for the health law to this point and could continue to be so, and employers and employees are finding themselves wading through the on-the-ground impacts of the law.

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