President Obama has acknowledged the fumbled rollout of his signature health care law has hurt his credibility and that of fellow Democrats. He offered a minor change to the law in hopes of calming Democratic nerves, and beating back bigger changes proposed by House Republicans.
The health care fix announced by President Obama on Thursday may be good news for some consumers, but it creates a big headache for insurance companies and regulators. An insurance industry trade group warns the last-minute change could destabilize the market and lead to higher premiums.
While the health law's insurance markets are still struggling to get off the ground, the Obama administration is moving ahead with its second year of meting out bonuses and penalties to hospitals based on the quality of their care. This year, there are more losers than winners.
Medicare has raised payment rates to 1,231 hospitals based on two-dozen quality measurements, including surveys of patient satisfaction and — for the first time — death rates. Another 1,451 hospitals are being paid less for each Medicare patient they treat for the year that began Oct. 1.
Food labels have become battlegrounds. Just last week, voters in Washington state narrowly defeated a measure that would have required food manufacturers to reveal whether their products contain genetically modified ingredients.
Supporters of the initiative — and similar proposals in other states — say that consumers have a right to know what they're eating.
But there are lots of things we might want to know about our food. So what belongs on the label?
President Barack Obama has signed legislation giving financial incentives to states to stockpile emergency medications in schools that could save lives in the cases of allergic reactions. The deaths of two girls in Illinois and Virginia from severe food allergies helped spur efforts to get schools to stockpile epinephrine.
Epinephrine is considered the first-line treatment for people with severe allergies. The medication is administered by injection through preloaded EpiPens. The measure was co-sponsored by Illinois Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk.
Remember when President Obama said, "If you like your health plan you can keep it?" Now it's more like, "If you like your health plan you can keep it — for another year, and only if your insurance company says it's OK."
It's not clear whether the administration's proposal to let insurers extend the policies they've been canceling for the past couple of months will solve the president's political problem. But it's sure not going over very well with the insurance industry.
When Typhoon Haiyan hit last Friday, parts of the country were already in desperate shape following a magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck October 15. The epicenter of that quake was under the island province of Bohol southeast of Tacloban. Since then, a number of makeshift medical facilities have been set up to treat patients with a wide range of issues.
One of the nation's largest and oldest children's hospitals is cracking down on parents who bring their kids herbs, extracts or other dietary supplements.
In what it describes as a break from other hospitals, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, or CHOP, last month removed most dietary supplements from its list of approved medicines, and established new policies for administering them.
Most women know all too well the pain and discomfort of a urinary tract infection. They also know they'll probably have to trek to the doctor for a urine analysis so they can get a prescription for antibiotics.
Surely there's got to be a better way.
The first step for women with a history of urinary tract infections may be skipping a standard test isn't that good at spotting bladder infections anyway.
I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Coming up, we're in the thick of football season but increasingly, fans are worrying about how their favorite players are faring after their playing days are over. Now, there's a new plan to address that, and the head of the NFL Players Association will be joining us later in the program to tell us more about that - as well as, of course, his take on the allegations of bullying in the Miami Dolphins locker room. That's later.
LISTEN: The president's news conference and NPR coverage of it
President Obama announced Thursday that Americans who have had their health insurance plans canceled because of his Affordable Care Act can keep those plans for another year if they wish.
Those cancellations — most effective on Jan. 1 — have sparked intense criticism of the ACA, in part because the president pledged many times that if Americans liked the health plans they had, they wouldn't have to give them up under the terms of his program.
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
And I'm Steve Inskeep. Let's hear next from a defender of Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act. Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman of California is on the line. Congressman, welcome back to the program.
REPRESENTATIVE HENRY WAXMAN: Thank you. Pleased to be with you.
The Obama administration says just about 100,000 people managed to choose health plans through the federal and state health exchanges during their first month of the program. Critics say that shows the law is failing. But most analysts say the first month's numbers wouldn't have meant very much, even if the federal website had been working properly.
On Sept. 28, just days before enrollment opened for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, this outreach event was hosted by Planned Parenthood for the Latino community in Los Angeles. But in the first month of the troubled HealthCare.gov website saw just a fraction of those expected to sign up had managed to do so.
As technical problems with the government's new health insurance marketplace slow the pace of sign-up, a variety of "fixes" have been proposed. But some of these would create their own challenges. In rough order from least to most disruptive, here are some of the ideas:
1) Fix the website on schedule This is everyone's favorite idea. The Obama administration says it hopes to have HealthCare.gov working smoothly for most users by the end of November, though it's not clear that target will be met.
Todd Park, U.S. chief technology officer, answers questions in a House Oversight Committee hearing about problems with the federal HealthCare.gov site. One Democrat on the committee called the hearing "a kangaroo court."
Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 5:46 pm
A House oversight hearing examining the troubled start of HealthCare.gov was contentious from the start Wednesday, as Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., sought to cut short the opening remarks of one of the first officials to speak, Frank Baitman, the deputy assistant secretary for Information Technology in the Department of Health and Human Services.
Issa, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, asked Baitman to conclude his statement, noting that the panel's time was short. The interruption came as Baitman discussed the work of his agency to save taxpayers money.
New cholesterol guidelines are out and the bottom line is millions of Americans will be told they should be taking a cholesterol-lowering drug and millions will be told that they can stop. The new guidance comes from the nation's two leading groups of heart specialists. It's a big departure from the advice Americans have been getting for decades to get their cholesterol levels down to a certain number.
As NPR's Richard Knox reports, the new emphasis is on whether you fit into one of four risk groups.
President Barack Obama speaks in Boston about the Affordable Care Act. Obama and his supporters have often said the health care law would allow half of single Americans under 35 to get insurance for less than $50 a month.
Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 5:47 pm
More than 106,000 Americans selected health plans in the first reporting period of open enrollment for the new health insurance marketplace, according to data released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services.
That number is only "about 20 percent of the government's October target," as NPR's Scott Horsley reports for our Newscast unit.
Less than 27,000 people used the federal HealthCare.gov site to select a plan. The overall number includes enrollments made via federal and state marketplaces from Oct. 1 to Nov. 2, the agency says.
Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 6:07 am
The computer coders who made healthcare.gov may not have had the best of e-commerce in mind. The site looks like something melded together by a dozen government bureaucracies, and is so bad, it's driven away online shoppers. But a group of coders in Silicon Valley says it doesn't have to be this way. They've created healthsherpa.com.
Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 1:57 pm
In Washington this week, calls to fix the problem of people getting insurance cancellation notices are getting louder and coming from all sides. But turning back the clock on health insurance cancellations turns out to be a lot harder than it sounds.
Congressman Aaron Schock, R-Peoria, gathered at an auto body shop in Springfield with businessmen and women upset about their health insurance premiums rising, which they blame on the Affordable Care Act.
After Republicans' efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act did not work, Congressman Aaron Schock says lawmakers need to lift requirements on insurance policies. Today (Nov. 11) he toured his district, in an attempt to prove his point.
Congressman Aaron Schock, R - Peoria, says the Affordable Care Act was supposed to make health insurance more affordable, "and yet millions of Americans are seeing their health insurance do exactly the opposite -- and that is to go up."
Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 1:57 pm
After decades of cajoling Americans to know their cholesterol level and get it down as low as possible, the nation's leading heart specialists are changing course.
Cholesterol is still important. But new guidelines published Tuesday afternoon throw out the notion that a specific blood cholesterol level should automatically trigger treatment with cholesterol-lowering drugs.
In an effort to stop a spate of gonorrhea outbreaks, at least one public health department in the Pacific Northwest is offering a helpful service to infected patients: anonymous notification of former sexual partners.
That's right. A government worker will track down and contact each ex for you. Awkward for all concerned? Yes. But at a time when gonorrhea is becoming stubbornly drug-resistant, health officials see it as time — and embarrassment — well spent.
Originally published on Tue November 12, 2013 7:11 pm
If at first you don't succeed, try again.
That's the message from the White House on Tuesday, with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) asking more than 275,000 people who tried and failed to sign up for health plans on the stalled HealthCare.gov website to give it another shot.