Healthcare News May 9, 2012

  • OVERNIGHT HEALTH: GOP budget bill under fire for cuts to children

    Advocates opened up a new front in the fight against the House GOP’s budget cuts: the interests of U.S. children. The children’s advocacy group First Focus estimated Tuesday that the House Budget Committee’s sequester-replacement bill would amount to “tens of billions of dollars” in cuts to programs that fund healthcare, insurance and nutrition assistance for children.

    The attack was compounded by a letter to members of Congress from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which said the reconciliation package fails a “basic moral test.” The Reverend Stephen E. Blaire, who leads a conference committee on Human Development, asked for a “circle of protection around programs that serve poor and vulnerable people and communities.”

    “Poor and vulnerable people do not have powerful lobbyists to advocate their interests, but they have the most compelling needs,” he wrote.

    The letter cited cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and changes to the Child Tax Credit as especially harmful.

  • Franken chides embattled medical debt collector for dragging feet on questions

    Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) scolded one of the largest U.S. medical debt collectors for twice missing deadlines to defend its practices, which allegedly include pressuring patients to pay for emergency medical care before they receive it.

    “I am disappointed that Accretive [Health] still has not responded to my letter,” Franken wrote CEO Mary Tolan on Tuesday.

    “[P]lease send me, without further delay, those parts of Accretive’s response that are currently complete.”

    Accretive came under fire two weeks ago after the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office released an investigation suggesting it may have violated federal law with allegedly aggressive practices to get patients to settle up.

  • House GOP freshman to defend Planned Parenthood at presser

    Rep. Robert Dold’s defense is unusual in a year when Republicans have tried to defund the organization.

  • Study: States should limit number of plans in exchanges

    States should use their new insurance exchanges to narrow down the number of plans consumers can choose from, according to an analysis published in the journal Health Affairs.

    The article says states should follow Massachusetts’s example as they create their exchanges. A hands-on exchange with the power to set standards on top of the federal healthcare law will help prevent consumers from being “overwhelmed” by the process of buying insurance, the authors wrote.

    The lead author of the Health Affairs piece is Rosemarie Day, a former deputy director of Massachusetts’s exchange. The state established its own exchange as part of then-Gov. Mitt Romney’s 2006 healthcare law, which formed the basis for President Obama’s 2010 reforms.

    Day said consumers in Massachusetts preferred choosing from a handful of carefully vetted, clearly described healthcare plans. She said there is less evidence for the model used in Utah, where any plan that meets certain minimum standards can participate in the exchange.

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