What’s New in Health Care Reform: June 8

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What's New in Health Care Reform provides an overview of the past week’s news, updates, and commentary in health care reform and utilization management.


For Doctors and Patients, 'Veterans Choice' Often Means Long Waits

Health care providers are frustrated with the program, which makes it hard to keep them in the network. Without enough providers to see them, vets end up waiting anyway. Or, in Morrow-Bradley's case, the vets get the care and the doctors don't get paid in a timely fashion, if at all. Via NPR.

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NIH to Get $2 Billion More in Senate 2017 Spending Bill

The National Institutes of Health would receive a pay bump of about $2 billion in the Senate bill funding the Department of Health and Human Services and the Labor Department for 2017, giving it a $34 billion budget, according to sources familiar with the negotiations. The Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill is scheduled to receive a markup and vote soon. The NIH received a funding bump of $2 billion in the omnibus funding bill that passed in December last year, raising its budget from $30 billion to $32 billion. Via Morning Consult. 

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GOP Appropriators to Allow Obamacare Funding on HHS Spending Bill

The Senate spending bill to fund the Department of Health and Human Services and the Labor Department in 2017 will maintain Affordable Care Act funding, according to a senior GOP aide. “We will fund all of the things we need to fund to try to keep it bipartisan,” the aide told Morning Consult, adding that this means some Republicans, specifically Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), will accuse appropriators of funding Obamacare. Via  Morning Consult.

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Factors Beyond Coverage Limit Mental Health Care Access

If you’re one of the nearly 44 million Americans estimated to have a mental health condition, the 2010 health law is supposed to help you get treatment. Yet actually getting that help depends, new research suggests, on who you are and, to an extent, on your racial background. While more people overall are getting mental health care, it’s still harder to do if you are not white. Via Kaiser Health News.

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Despite New Access to Health Insurance, Drug-Treatment Rates for Ex-Offenders Barely Changed

The portion of released prisoners with addiction problems who lacked medical insurance fell sharply after the health law’s Medicaid expansion took effect, but drug-treatment rates for ex-offenders barely budged, a new study shows. Twenty-eight percent of ex-inmates with drug-use disorders were without health coverage in 2014, down from about 38 percent in the years before that, according to researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The study was published June 6 in Health Affairs, an academic journal. Via Kaiser Health News.

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House Calls are Coming Back. This May Mean Better Care for the Elderly.

Looking for ways to save money and improve care, Medicare officials are returning to an old-fashioned idea: house calls. But the experiment, called Independence at Home, is more than a throwback to the way medicine was practiced decades ago, when the doctor arrived at the patient’s door carrying a big black bag. Done right and paid right, house calls could prove to be a better way of treating very sick, elderly patients while they can still live at home. Via Washington Post.

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Why Lower ACA Exchange Enrollment May Not Be a Bad Thing

The federal government cheered the 2016 open-enrollment period as more than 12.7 million Americans signed up for health insurance, but a closer look at the data reveals that many individual counties recorded precipitous annual declines in plan selections. Via Modern Healthcare.

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North Carolina Blue Cross and Blue Shield Sues U.S. Over Health-Care Payments

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina sued the federal government, becoming the latest health insurer to claim it is owed money under the Affordable Care Act. The suit, filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., says the U.S. failed to live up to obligation to pay the insurer more than $147 million owed under an ACA program known as “risk corridors,” which aimed to limit the financial risks borne by insurers entering the new health-law markets. Via Wall Street Journal.

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HR Executives See Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Sustaining

Employer-sponsored health insurance is likely to remain in place for an extended period of time, about two dozen chief human resources officers told researchers with the American Health Policy Institute, according to a new report. The executives say health insurance helps recruit employees, and then keeps them healthy and on the job. More than half of the insured people in the U.S. are covered through their employer. Via Morning Consult.

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Health Insurance Mega-Deals Aren't Winning Over a Key Party: Large Employers

Federal and state insurance regulators are determining the fate of the pending health insurance mergers, and many large employers won't be disappointed if officials torpedo the deals. Several surveys of Fortune 500 companies and other big employers reveal nervousness that the reduced competition among health insurers will mean higher health care costs for them. Via Modern Healthcare.

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Andy Tofilon

Andy Tofilon is a Marketing Segment Manager at Mayo Medical Laboratories. He leads strategies for corporate communications, public relations, and new media innovations. Andy has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2003. Outside of work, Andy can be found running, hiking, snapping photos, and most importantly, spending time with his family.