Weekly Dose of Health News

In this week’s summary: The latest developments in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act; a new report details ways to save hundreds of billions of dollarsin healthcare cost; and more.

But before we get to this week’s news, please take a moment to read this special announcement about the Medicare Rx Access Network.

The Medicare Rx Access Network is a part of New York Health Works and consists of organizations focused on Medicare Part D.  The Medicare Rx Access Network of New York is comprised of patient advocacy organizations, professional associations, social service and senior related organizations that are committed to educating New Yorkers about Medicare Part D and fighting to protect this critical program.

 Medicare Rx Access Network:

– Helps people with open enrollment for Medicare Part D.

-Works on legislative issues as they arise.

– Informs Members about legislative changes to Medicare that may affect them.

– Provides members with the opportunity to sign on to group letters and other efforts to protect Medicare Part D.

 – Puts our Members in contact with one another to help build successful relationships and support networks.

 If you or your organization would like to be a part of the Medicare Rx Access Network, please contact me at [email protected]

Here’s this week’s health news…

Affordable Care Act

In a move to appease critics, the Department of Health and Human Services revealed a simplified application for health insurance benefits under the Affordable Care Act. USA Today reports that the form has been reduced by two-thirds to make it less complex. An online version of the form will further shorten the application based on a person’s answers (Kennedy, 4/29).

The New York Times explores the complexities of implementing the provisions of the Affordable Care Act.  Among the challenges: pushing states to set up insurance marketplaces and expand Medicaid programs, monitoring  insurance companies as they issue new rate schedules, measuring the law’s effects on small-business hiring, and coaxing healthy young people to buy coverage so the system works economically for everyone else (Harwood, 4/29).

The Affordable Care Act faces another legal challenge.  The Wall Street Journal reports that opponents of the health-care overhaul have filed a new lawsuit on behalf of four individuals and three employers in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The complaint focuses on the Act’s distribution of federal subsidies for Americans to purchase insurance, and whether people can get them if they live in one of the 33 states that have refused to set up their own insurance exchanges (Radnofsky, 5/2).

Beginning in January of 2014, millions of low-income adults will gain health insurance through Medicaid under the terms of the Affordable Care Act.  A new study, called the Oregon Health Insurance Experiment , provides some insight on how access to Medicaid coverage will change the lives of the individuals who will have access to care.  The study is the first time that a randomized controlled design was used to evaluate Medicaid in the United States.  The study’s results new research suggests the government insurance plan for the poor has only a mixed record of improving health. However, the results also showed that Medicaid beneficiaries are less likely than the uninsured to have catastrophic medical expenses and significantly less likely to suffer from depression.

Brookings Report

A new report from the Brookings Institute  recommends how the federal government could save more than $300 billion in healthcare costs over the next 10 years with more integrated care and a move to a risk-based payment system. The report recommends transforming Medicare into a “Medicare comprehensive-care” system in which providers receive a capitated payment influenced by care quality and patient outcome. The authors estimate the federal government would save $120 billion from 2019-23 alone.

Emergency Contraception

The Washington Post  highlights the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to make the emergency contraceptive pill Plan B more available to women by lowering the access age and moving the drug out from behind the pharmacy counter. Last month a federal court judge had ruled that the drug had to be made available over the counter to women of all ages. The Obama administration filed an appeal on Wednesday seeking to overturn the lower court’s decision. The appeal was filed the day after the Food and Drug Administration lowered the age for which the product can be purchased without a prescription from 17 to 15 (Kliff, 5/1).