Consumer

House Republicans quietly deepened recommended budget savings from the government's chief health care program for the poor by about $140 billion in recent weeks to offset part of the cost of higher payments to doctors who treat Medicare patients, according to officials familiar with the tradeoff.

The maneuver comes as Republicans in both houses struggle with competing priorities, in this case a desire to stabilize what is widely viewed as a dysfunctional system of provider payments under Medicare, while pursuing a 10-year goal of balancing the budget.

U.S. House of Representatives

A budding bipartisan deal to shelter physicians from Medicare cuts, championed by the House's two top leaders, is drawing powerful allies including the American Medical Association and a rainbow of conservative and liberal groups.

HealthCare.gov

The Obama administration said Friday it's making progress trying to correct a tax-form error that affected 820,000 customers of HealthCare.gov.

Administration officials said 740,000 corrected forms have gone out to consumers in the federal insurance marketplace, and another 80,000 will be mailed next week.

Health officials say thousands of consumers are still waiting to receive a corrected tax form detailing the amount of subsidies they received to help pay their monthly premiums.

AP

  A Florida Senate committee's action casts doubt on whether Floridians will be able to buy whiskey in the same grocery store aisles as beer and wine.

The Regulated Industries Committee amended a bill Wednesday that would have allowed retailers to combine their liquor and grocery sales in the same store. The bill now allows only a connecting door between a grocery store and its affiliated liquor store.

Committee Chairman Rob Bradley said the 11-1 vote on the amendment convinces him the bill won't make it out of the Senate this year.

Millions of runners are searching for a new challenge. They want something with more danger and fun than a traditional marathon event.

Bipartisan House leaders are working on a $213 billion plan to permanently change how doctors are paid for treating Medicare patients, a costly problem that's vexed Congress for years, a document circulating among lawmakers showed Tuesday.

Many of the plan's details had already been disclosed by lobbyists, legislators and congressional aides. But some particulars were new, such as setting a 2020 starting point for higher out-of-pocket expenses for people buying new Medigap policies, which cover costs not insured by Medicare.

HealthCare.gov

Florida ranks No. 2 in the nation in the rate of residents without health insurance, but that figure has declined since 2010.

Figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Tuesday show that Florida had an uninsured rate of 24.3 percent in 2013. Only Texas had a higher rate at 24.8 percent.

The lowest rate was 4.3 percent in Massachusetts.

Despite the high ranking, Florida's uninsured rate has declined since 2010 when it was 25.3 percent.

Many scientists are failing to live up to a 2007 law that requires them to report the results of their clinical trials to a public website, according to a study in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.

HealthCare.gov

Nearly 8 million people could lose up to $24 billion a year in health insurance subsidies in a Supreme Court case threatening President Barack Obama's law, according to a government report released Tuesday.

The estimates by The Associated Press show what's at stake in the case. The biggest potential loser would be Florida, with nearly 1.5 million residents getting an average of $294 a month. That works to $440 million a month currently, or up to $5.2 billion a year for the state. The subsidies are delivered in the form of tax credits.

A law that allows rural hospitals to bill Medicare for rehabilitation services for seniors at higher rates than nursing homes and other facilities has led to billions of dollars in extra government spending, federal investigators say.

Most patients could have been moved to a skilled-nursing facility within 35 miles of the hospital at about one-fourth the cost, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' inspector general said in a report released Monday.

Boss May Be Able To Force You To Buy Insurance

Mar 10, 2015

Under the health law, large employers that don’t offer their full-time workers comprehensive, affordable health insurance face a fine. But some employers are taking it a step further and requiring workers to buy the company insurance, whether they want it or not. Many workers may have no choice but to comply.

Some workers are not pleased. One disgruntled reader wrote to Kaiser Health News: “My employer is requiring me to purchase health insurance and is automatically taking the premium out of my paycheck even though I don’t want to sign up for health insurance. Is this legal?”

Wikimedia Commons

Federal health officials have approved the first lower-cost copy of a biotech drug to reach the U.S. market, a long-awaited milestone that could generate billions in savings for insurers, doctors and patients.

Biotech drugs are powerful, injected medicines produced in living cells. They are typically much more expensive than traditional chemical-based drugs.

Technology entrepreneur Jonathan Bush says he was recently watching a patient move from a hospital to a nursing home. The patient's information was in an electronic medical record, or EMR. And getting the patient's records from the hospital to the nursing home, Bush says, wasn't exactly drag and drop.

"These two guys then type — I kid you not — the printout from the brand new EMR into their EMR, so that their fax server can fax it to the bloody nursing home," Bush says.

Round 2 in the legal battle over Obamacare hits the Supreme Court's intellectual boxing ring Wednesday.

In one corner is the Obama administration, backed by the nation's hospitals, insurance companies, physician associations and other groups like Catholic Charities and the American Cancer Society.

In the other corner are conservative groups, backed by politicians who fought in Congress to prevent the bill from being adopted.

The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that it is requiring drugmakers to warn patients that testosterone products may increase the risk for heart attacks and strokes.

Testosterone replacements are approved to treat men with low testosterone related to medical problems, such as genetic deficiencies, chemotherapy or damaged testicles.

U.S. House of Representatives

Congressional Republicans sent a message Monday that they hope the Supreme Court and voters will hear: They have ideas to keep the country's health care system from crumbling if the justices obliterate a bedrock feature of President Barack Obama's heath care law.

The U.S. Supreme Court this week hears a challenge to President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. If successful, the lawsuit would cripple Obama's prized domestic achievement, a program that has brought the U.S. as close as it has ever come to universal health care.

The Affordable Care Act passed Congress in 2010 without a single Republican vote in favor.

An explanation of the legal case:

Four Words Determine the Law's Future

Miami Beach police arrested Antonio Giansante Thursday for possessing and promoting child pornography. 

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a state regulatory board made up mostly of dentists violated federal law against unfair competition when it tried to prevent lower-cost competitors in other fields from offering teeth-whitening services. 

By a 6-3 vote, the justices rejected arguments from the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners that it was acting in the best interests of consumers when it pressured nondentists to get out of the lucrative trade in teeth-whitening services.

The sleek hospital tower that Johns Hopkins Medicine built in 2012 has the frills of a luxury hotel, including a meditation garden, 500 works of art, free wi-fi and a library of books, games and audio.

Gerbils are a beloved classroom pet, but they might also be deadly killers. A study now claims that gerbils helped bring bubonic plague to Medieval Europe and contributed to the deaths of millions.

Plague is caused by bacteria (Yersinia pestis) found in rodents, and the fleas that live on rodents. The rodent that's usually Suspect Zero is the rat.

Babies at high risk for becoming allergic to peanuts are much less likely to develop the allergy if they are regularly fed foods containing the legumes starting in their first year of life.

That's according to a big new study released Monday involving hundreds of British babies. The researchers found that those who consumed the equivalent of about 4 heaping teaspoons of peanut butter each week, starting when they were between 4 and 11 months old, were about 80 percent less likely to develop a peanut allergy by their fifth birthday.

Wikimedia Commons

America's biggest tobacco companies say they are ready and willing to pass along factual public health information about cigarettes.

But they say they will not go along with being forced to underwrite an ad campaign that would have the companies brand themselves as liars.

Department of Veteran's Affairs

Far fewer veterans than expected are taking advantage of a new law aimed at making it easier for them to get private health care and avoid the long waits that have plagued Department of Veterans Affairs facilities nationwide.

Only 27,000 veterans have made appointments for private medical care since the VA started mailing out "Choice Cards" in November, the VA said in a report to Congress this month.

"Is this doctor in my insurance network?" is one of the key questions people ask when considering whether to see a particular doctor. Unfortunately, in some cases the answer may not be a simple yes or no.

While much of the attention in the ongoing measles outbreak has focused on student vaccination requirements and exemptions, less attention has been paid to another group in the nation's classrooms: Teachers and staff members, who, by and large, are not required to be vaccinated.

In most states, there is no law dictating which vaccines teachers and school staff workers are required to get. Some states provide a list of recommended vaccines, but there is no requirement or follow-up for teachers to receive them.

For 15 years, Carla Price and her husband's sex life was great. But then things began to change.

"Before, I would want to have sex," says Price, who is 50 and lives in central Missouri. "But over the years my sexual desire has just dwindled to nothing."

Price has no idea why. She's healthy. She's not really stressed out about anything. And she's still totally crazy about her husband.

"It's not that our relationship got boring," Price says. "Because it's actually the opposite — we became closer as we got older together."

HealthCare.gov

After a computer glitch got patched up, supporters of President Barack Obama's health care law were out in force Sunday trying to get uninsured people signed up by the official deadline for 2015 coverage.

The effort had the trappings of a get-out-the-vote drive, with email reminders, telephone calls and squads of community-level volunteers.

"You can't avoid it: TV, radio, church, wife, kids, co-workers," said Ramiro Hernandez, a previously uninsured truck repair shop owner who enrolled himself and his family in Joliet, Illinois, on Saturday.

Nursing Homes Graded On Tougher Scale

Feb 16, 2015

Starting immediately, the federal government is making it harder for nursing homes to get top grades on a public report card, in part by increasing scrutiny of their use of anti-psychotic drugs and raising the bar on an array of quality measures.

U.S. Navy

Veterans' health care is a "high risk" budget issue that threatens to cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars unless longstanding problems are addressed, government auditors warned Wednesday.

The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office said health care costs at the Department of Veterans Affairs have nearly tripled since 2002 — to more than $59 billion a year — as a result of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the aging of Vietnam-era veterans.

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