As Hyperactivity Diagnoses Rise, Concerns Grow About Overmedication Of Children

Topics: Public Health, Quality, Health Disparities

Apr 01, 2013

New CDC data shows that nearly one in five boys have a medical diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Other public health issues highlighted by news outlets include stroke risks in younger people, prescription-drug deaths and OSHA policies.

The New York Times: More Diagnoses Of Hyperactivity In New C.D.C. Data
Nearly one in five high school age boys in the United States and 11 percent of school-age children over all have received a medical diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to new data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These rates reflect a marked rise over the last decade and could fuel growing concern among many doctors that the A.D.H.D. diagnosis and its medication are overused in American children (Schwarz and Cohen, 3/31).

NPR: As Stroke Risk Rises Among Younger Adults, So Does Early Death
Most people (including a lot of doctors) think of a stroke as something that happens to old people. But the rate is increasing among those in their 50s, 40s and even younger (Knox, 4/1).

Los Angeles Times: Prescription Drug-Related Deaths Continue To Rise In U.S.
Despite efforts by law enforcement and public health officials to curb prescription drug abuse, drug-related deaths in the United States have continued to rise, the latest data show. Figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that drug fatalities increased 3% in 2010, the most recent year for which complete data are available. Preliminary data for 2011 indicate the trend has continued (Glover and Girion, 3/29).

The New York Times: As OSHA Emphasizes Safety, Long-Term Health Risks Fester
OSHA, the watchdog agency that many Americans love to hate and industry often faults as overzealous, has largely ignored long-term threats. Partly out of pragmatism, the agency created by President Richard M. Nixon to give greater attention to health issues has largely done the opposite. OSHA devotes most of its budget and attention to responding to here-and-now dangers rather than preventing the silent, slow killers that, in the end, take far more lives. Over the past four decades, the agency has written new standards with exposure limits for 16 of the most deadly workplace hazards, including lead, asbestos and arsenic. But for the tens of thousands of other dangerous substances American workers handle each day, employers are largely left to decide what exposure level is safe (Urbina, 3/30).

English: Percent of Youth 4-17 ever diagnosed ...

English: Percent of Youth 4-17 ever diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: National Survey of Children’s Health, 2003 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Concerns Raised About Effect Of Medicare’s Readmission Penalty

English: Created by vectorizing Image:Medicare...

English: Created by vectorizing Image:Medicare and Medicaid GDP Chart.png with Inkscape (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Image representing New York Times as depicted ...

Image via CrunchBase

Topics: Delivery of Care, Health Costs, Hospitals, Marketplace, Medicare, States

Apr 01, 2013

The New York Times explores the new policy that penalizes hospitals if they have too many patients return within 30 days. Meanwhile, in Maryland, officials are weighing an ambitious plan to control hospital costs.

The New York Times: Hospitals Question Medicare Rules On Readmissions
While federal statistics show the effort is beginning to reduce costly and unnecessary readmissions, a growing chorus of critics is asking whether the government policy, which penalizes hospitals that have high readmission rates, is unfair. They are also questioning whether hospitals should be responsible for managing the personal lives of patients once they are released — or whether they should focus on other ways to improve care (Abelson, 3/29).

Kaiser Health News: Maryland’s Tough New Hospital Spending Proposal Seen As ‘Nationally Significant’
Maryland officials have proposed what analysts call the most ambitious initiative in the country to control soaring medical spending, a plan that would bring relief to employers and consumers footing the bill while bluntly challenging the state’s powerful hospital industry. The blueprint, which needs the Obama administration’s approval, would use Maryland’s unique rate-setting system to keep hospital spending from growing no faster than the overall economy — roughly half its recent rate of increase (Hancock, 4/1).

In other health industry news, federal officials release more details about hospital problems and a federal watchdog focuses on Medicare spending for equipment.

The Associated Press: Reports Of Hospital Mistakes Now Available Online
At St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, (Oregon) employees failed to notice that a cleaning machine was accidentally reprogrammed to leave out the disinfection cycle. Eighteen patients received colonoscopies with scopes that had been only rinsed with water and alcohol. … Hospitals make mistakes. When they are reported — by patients, employees or family members — state and federal officials investigate. Now, for the first time, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) has released those inspection reports for hospitals nationwide from the past two years. The release was in response to requests from the Association of Health Care Journalists, which has compiled them into a searchable database available to the public
(Peterson, 3/31).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: IG Report Slaps Medicare For Not Recouping More Overpayment For Equipment
Medicare has made nearly $70 million in overpayments to suppliers of consumer medical equipment and more than half of that money is unlikely to be recovered, according to a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General (Carey, 4/1).

This is part of Kaiser Health News’ Daily Report – a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day’s news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.

States Boost Laws, Regulations Governing Abortion

English: Histogram of abortions by gestational...

English: Histogram of abortions by gestational age for the United States in 2004. Horizontal axis is weeks and vertical axis is thousands of abortions. Data is taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated version of Image:US abortion by gestational age 2002 histogram.svg, but data is almost identical. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Time series of induced abortions in Norway

Time series of induced abortions in Norway (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Topics: Delivery of Care, Women’s Health, Politics, States

Apr 01, 2013

States have passed a record number of abortion bills since 2011, including curbs on clinics and chemically induced abortions, and in North Dakota, a ban on abortions as early as six weeks. On the other side, New York and Washington are weighing measures to ensure abortion rights.

The Wall Street Journal: States Harden Views Over Laws Governing Abortion
States are becoming increasingly polarized over abortion, as some legislatures pass ever-tighter restrictions on the procedure while others consider stronger legal protections for it, advocates on both sides say. … At the same time, Washington state is weighing a measure that would require all insurers doing business in new health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act to reimburse women for abortions. And New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is seeking to update his state’s laws to clarify that women can obtain an abortion late in pregnancy if they have a medical reason (Radnofsky, 3/31).

The Associated Press: Abortion Clinics Need License, Check For Coercion
Michigan abortion clinics will need a state license and must check to make sure women are not being bullied or pressured into getting an abortion under a new law that took effect Sunday. Other regulations make clearer the proper disposal of fetal remains, after anti-abortion advocates expressed concern some were not disposed of with dignity (Eggert, 3/31).

In Montana, lawmakers are seeking to cut funding to some organizations that provide women’s health care.

The Associated Press: Women’s Health Funding Faces Cuts: House Budget Excludes $4.5M For Title X Funds
When Jennifer Strickley first learned she had ovarian cancer, it was Planned Parenthood that detected the disease. She had been going to a clinic in Billings (Montana) for about a decade, as the discounts on Pap tests, contraception and regular checkups provided an essential break for the single mom working without health insurance as a waitress to support her two kids … Strickley is one of 26,000 Montanans who rely upon clinics that receive federal family planning and preventive health funds in the form of Title X. … But the Montana House unanimously passed a state budget that excludes these funds — some $4.5 million — accounting for 30 percent of the budgets for 20 community clinics and five Planned Parenthood Clinics in the state (4/1).

This is part of Kaiser Health News‘ Daily Report – a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day’s news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.

What The Health Law’s Future Holds

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Topics: Health Costs, Insurance, Marketplace, Health Reform, Uninsured

Mar 25, 2013

At the health law’s three-year mark, news outlets look ahead to the major provisions slated to take effect in 2014, exploring their impact on insurance premiums and who might be left uncovered.

Politico: No Simple Procedure: Putting The Affordable Care Act Into Practice
Welcome to the eye of the Obamacare storm. This year represents a deceptively calm interlude — after the partisan war whoops of “repeal and replace,” and before 2014, when millions of Americans are supposed to get covered under the health care law. It’s a year of nuts and bolts, trying to get many complicated moving parts in place for a policy that large swaths of the country still oppose (Cheney, 3/24).

The Hill: On Third Anniversary, Obama Touts Health Law‘s Benefits
President Obama on Saturday touted his landmark healthcare reform law on its third anniversary, but cautioned that there was “more work to do to implement” its provisions (Mali, 3/23).

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Obamacare’s Effect On Premiums Debated
With full rollout of President Barack Obama’s health care law just months away, attention is shifting from political battles to how it will affect health insurance premiums for millions of Americans. Some experts and studies predict sticker shock for people with individual coverage, who include about 5 percent of Georgians, though others say the fears are overblown. Workers with employer-based insurance, as well as those on Medicare and Medicaid, are expected to feel less financial fallout (Markiewicz and Williams, 3/24).

MPR News: U Study: After Reform, 1 In 10 Poor Will Lack Health Plan
A University of Minnesota study says 1 out of every 10 low-income people living in the state will still lack access to government health care coverage, despite the Medicaid expansion under the federal health care law. The law expands government coverage, said researcher Lynn Blewett, but there will still be low-income people without access to coverage: illegal immigrants, who are excluded from government programs, and some residents who are in the United States legally but have not been here long enough (Stawicki, 3/24).

The Medicare Newsgroup: CMS Innovation Center Continues Testing, Waiting for Results
With the goal of improving quality and cutting costs, the Affordable Care Act established The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation (Innovation Center) in January 2011 to test new methods of care delivery. However, the Innovation Center’s initiatives remain in the early stages of implementation and testing, according the December 2012 Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services‘ (CMS) “Report to Congress” on the Innovation Center’s progress (Solana, 3/22).

This is part of Kaiser Health News‘ Daily Report – a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day’s news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.

Health Care In The States Officials Unveil More Details Of Colo. Exchange Funding


Health-Insurance-rates (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Eric Whitney, Colorado Public Radio

March 22nd, 2013, 2:35 PM

A week after approving a tax on health insurance policies, Colorado officials are offering more details of their plans to fund the state’s health insurance exchange after federal backing runs out in 2014.

Last week the state’s exchange board approved, with broad support,  a 1.4 percent fee on all policies sold in the exchange. This week the board asked state lawmakers for the right to charge health plans up to $1.80 per member per month for up to three years to fund start-up costs.

That bill also asks for up to $5 million in state tax credits for insurers that contribute a like amount to the exchange. That’s one of the mechanisms currently used to fund Colorado’s high risk insurance plan, which will be shut down when the Affordable Care Act’s ban on denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions takes effect in 2014.

The goal is create multiple revenue streams and keep prices as low as possible for consumers. The board can create some of those streams, including some fees, on its own. Others require legislation.

The board thinks it will cost $22 million to $24 million per year to run the exchange. State law says the exchange can’t use any state tax revenue.

The state’s health insurance plans say they’re OK with the new fees and proposed tax credit.

“The idea of having a wide and broad funding structure for the exchange is important to carriers,” said Mark Reece, associate director of the Colorado Association of Health Plans. “This bill adequately meets that … assessment structure we’ve been looking for.”

Reece conditioned his organization’s support on additional details that remain to be worked out with the bill’s Democratic co-sponsor, Beth McCann.

Business groups, including the local chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses and Colorado Competitive Council, also voiced support for the bill, and for the exchange as a means of increasing coverage and competition in the state’s insurance markets.

Two consumer groups also testified in favor of the temporary per member per month assessment and tax credits for insurers supporting the exchange. No one testified against the bill.

No lawmakers expressed opposition to the bill upon its introduction, but no vote was taken. The committee hearing the bill laid it over to give its sponsor more time to work out details with interested parties.

This story is part of a collaboration that includes Colorado Public Radio, NPR and Kaiser Health News.

Minn. Governor Moves Forward On Insurance Exchange, Shifts Oversight

Topics: States, Politics, Health Reform, Marketplace, Insurance

Sep 19, 2012

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is shifting responsibility for a key part of the federal health overhaul in his state — a health insurance exchange — to a different state agency. He’s also moving forward on implementing the exchange, he said Tuesday.

Minnesota Public Radio: Citing Potential Conflicts Of Interest, Dayton Moves Insurance Exchange To Budget Office
Gov. Mark Dayton is changing the leadership of the administration’s work on a key part of the federal health care law in Minnesota — the insurance exchange. The governor is shifting the project’s oversight from the Department of Commerce to the state Management and Budget office. The move follows complaints that the Commerce Department was too secretive in developing an the health insurance marketplace, and questions of possible conflict of interest for the department (Stawicki, 9/18).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Dayton Moving Ahead On Health Insurance Exchange
Gov. Mark Dayton told legislative leaders Tuesday that he will seek federal approval to move forward on a Minnesota-made health insurance exchange, but he sought to assure Republican opponents that he will defer important policy decisions until after the November election. Dayton also said he was shifting responsibility for leading the “next phase” of the exchange to a new state agency. The actions are a sign of continued movement to set up a state-run exchange, a key component of President Obama’s health care law. The exchanges are scheduled to launch nationwide in 2014 and aim to be competitive marketplaces for individuals and small businesses to comparison shop for health insurance (Crosby, 9/18).

(St. Paul) Pioneer Press: Minnesota Health Exchange Planning Shifted To New Agency
The Dayton administration is shifting responsibility for creating Minnesota’s health insurance exchange to a new state agency. The move by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton follows weeks of criticism from business leaders that they couldn’t get enough information about the project from the Commerce Department. The planning job will now fall to Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner James Showalter, according to a Tuesday, Sept. 18, letter from Dayton to legislative leaders (Snowbeck, 9/18).

And in California —

California Healthline: Exchange Narrows Name List To Four
At yesterday’s meeting of the state’s Health Benefit Exchange board, Chris Kelly, the exchange’s senior advisor for marketing and outreach, presented the four finalists in the project to pick a new name for the exchange — the name that will be used to market the exchange’s choices and services. “We brought forward about 13 names last time [at the Aug. 23 board meeting],” Kelly said, “including Wellquest and, of course, Avocado — that is still a crowd favorite.” Kelly prefaced his presentation by reiterating that each proposed name includes a marketing package with a unique logo and tagline — “a voice of its own,” as Kelly put it (Gorn, 9/19).

This is part of Kaiser Health News’ Daily Report – a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day’s news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.

House Panel To Consider Health Law Change That Would Help Brokers

Topics: Health Costs, Insurance, Marketplace, Politics, Health Reform

Sep 19, 2012

A House committee is preparing a bill that would change the health law’s medical loss ratio provision to exclude brokers’ fees from counting as administrative costs.

The Hill: House Panel Readies Bill To Alter Health Law’s Medical Loss Ratio
A feature of President Obama’s healthcare law often touted by Democrats would change under a House bill now ready for mark-up. The measure (H.R. 1206) from Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) would alter the law’s medical loss ratio (MLR) by excluding insurance brokers’ fees from counting as administrative costs under the requirement. The medical loss ratio mandates that insurers spend no less than about 80 percent of their premiums on medical care rather than administrative costs or profit, or rebate the difference to policyholders. Democrats and the Obama administration have praised the policy for producing more than $1 billion in consumer rebates this year (Viebeck, 9/18).

Meanwhile, a Senate subcommittee releases a report questioning the oversight of disability benefits –

The Hill: Report: Disability Benefits Wrongly Awarded
Lax oversight is leading the government to approve disability benefits for people who can’t prove that they’re disabled, according to a report released Tuesday by a Senate subcommittee. The report, spearheaded by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), says more than a quarter of disability claims are approved despite inadequate or conflicting information. That doesn’t necessarily mean all of those claims should have been rejected, Coburn said at a hearing Tuesday — but some unfounded approvals are surely slipping through the cracks of an inadequate review process. The report does not address people who might have been wrongly denied disability benefits (Baker, 9/18).

This is part of Kaiser Health News’ Daily Report – a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day’s news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.