American helmer Terrence Malick makes movies that come dangerously close to a three-hour run time, and his creations like The Thin Red Line and A Tree of Life can be abstract, confounding and confusing. But as much as Malick may be a viewer’s nightmare, he can, at the same time, be a jury’s delight. In 2011, he won the Palm dÓr for A Tree of Life. Nobody can deny he is enormously talented, but he is also frighteningly mystifying. However, his latest title, A Hidden Life, which played as part of the Cannes 2019 Competition, has a less abstract narrative, though it leaves behind unanswered questions. Based on a true story, set during World War II, A Hidden Life talks about an Austrian man, married with children. But the man’s often puzzling conscience takes him to the Nazi guillotine. Running three hours, the film is gorgeous to look at, and DOP Jorg Widmer captures the Austrian landscape in its its lush splendour. The undulating lands, the imposing mountains and the lively streams add beauty to a story whose climax is all but predictable. But, yes, I am sure there must have been some in the audience who would have wished for a happier end.Shot in northern Austria, which may not be far from where the classic, The Sound of Music, was filmed, A Hidden Life begins with a black-and-white footage of Hitler’s rise and his arrogant invasions. Later, it settles down to a more personal format.Franz Jagerstatter (August Diehl) and his wife, Franziska (Valerie Pachner), have a farm. But after the German takeover, Franz is called for military duty, and he goes just like everybody else. But when he is called upon to swear his allegiance to Hitler, he flat refuses. Warned by his local priest not to get into this kind of defiant mode (“Your sacrifice will benefit no one”), Franz remains steadfast in his commitment to his conscience. A Hidden Life has its problems. It seems highly incredible that a man like Franz, who loves his wife and brood of daughters, would put his own life in peril, knowing full well that defying the Fuhrer could mean death. Malick never explains the reasons for Franz’s stand. At best, they seem fuzzy, and he is never allowed to explain to his family the reason for his dogged pursuit — opposing Hitler. We are left in the dark why the man internalises his struggle, and often the movie begins to look like a silent work. With 173 minutes at hand, Malick could have offered a more convincing view Franz’s life. He was certainly not interested in being a martyr. He adored his family. But did his love and loyalty for Austria overshadow his responsibility towards his mother, wife and children? Malick never tells us.(Author, commentator and movie critic Gautaman Bhaskaran has covered Cannes close to three decades) A Hidden LifeCannes 2019Cannes Film Festival 2019Terrence Malick First Published: May 21, 2019, 4:55 PM IST
New Delhi: More than a thousand voters in Delhi’s Kasturba Nagar would have lost their right to exercise their franchise had the Election Commission gone ahead with a proposal to close down a polling booth in the area.According to Delhi Chief Electoral Officer Ranbir Singh, the government accommodations in Kasturba Nagar, which comes under the New Delhi parliamentary constituency, were redeveloped and residents of the area were shifted to other areas. This necessitated the need for the Delhi CEO to write to the Election Commission about the polling station in that area not being needed anymore, Singh said.”We had sent a proposal to the EC saying polling station number 1 under which that area fell is not needed. The EC asked us to issue a public notice saying if voters there were willing to vote, they will facilitate it,” Singh said.The Delhi CEO got the polling done and of 1079 registered voters from the locality, 300 turned up till 1 pm, officials said.Delhi recorded 60.21 per cent voter turnout till 6 pm on Sunday. delhidelhi-lok-sabha-elections-2019election commissionLok Sabha elections 2019 First Published: May 13, 2019, 7:32 AM IST
Andhra Pradesh Election Result 2019: It’s disappointment all around for Chandrababu Naidu who is on his way out as the CM of Andhra, giving way to YSR Congress chief Jaganmohan Reddy. The YSR Congress is racing to a brute majority in the Assembly with 144 leads so farm while the TDP is ahead in only 30 of the 175 seats in the Assembly. Jagan Reddy has the upper hand in Lok Sabha results too, with his party leading in 20 seats. Celebrations are underway at the YSRCP party office in Amaravati. Slogans of ‘Jagan CM, Bye Bye Naidu’ can be heard reverberating around the party office. This was the first general and Assembly election to be held in the state after its bifurcation five years ago and after Naidu walked out of the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance.Follow all the live updates from the Lok Sabha elections results here: Here are the key developments in the state:Jana Sena chief Pawan Kalyan lost both his seats Gajuwaka and Bhimavaram.Film director Ram Gopal Varma has congratulated YSR Congress Party chief YS Jagan Mohan Reddy on his party’s victory in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. A known critic of TDP supremo N Chandrababu Naidu, he also alleged “lies” and “corruption” were the reasons for the “death” of the ruling party in the state.Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao congratulates YSRCP chief Jagan Reddy on winning a huge mandate in Andhra Pradesh.Armed with massive leads in the state, Jagan Reddy took to Facebook announcing his victory as that of the people. “This is the victory of people of Andhra Pradesh,” he posted. Jagan Reddy’s YSRCP is headed for a big win in 20 Lok Sabha seats as well, including Araku, Amalapuram, Kadappa, Nellore, Tirupati, Guntur. Naidu’s TDP, on the other hand, is ahead in four seats, including Kakinada, Vijaywada, Rajahmundry, Bapatla. Sources said that the YSRCP camp is already finalising dates for Jagan Reddy’s swearing-in as the new Andhra Chief Minister and a meeting for the same will be held on May 25. Headache is mounting for Chandrababu Naidu with his son Nara Lokesh also trailing in Mangalagiri to BJP’s Alla Rama Krishna Reddy. Interestingly, actor Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena has picked up the lead in one assembly seat. A strong anti-incumbency, caste and corruption were the major factors when voters marched to polling booths for the simultaneous election on April 11. Soaring heat, faulty EVMs and VVPAT glitches stretched the polling late into the night on election day, following which CM Chandrababu Naidu lodged a complaint with the Election Commission.Hotels in Amarvati are reportedly packed as supporters of both leaders have made the capital city their home ahead of the results. Andhra Pradeshandhra-pradesh-elections-2019arvind kejriwalBahujan samaj party First Published: May 23, 2019, 10:50 AM IST
Thiruvananthapuram: After the Lok Sabha poll drubbing in Kerala, where the LDF could win only a single seat, the ruling CPI(M) on Wednesday admitted the entry of two women into the Sabarimala temple did cause a “big impact” at the hustings.This was stated in a post-poll evaluation report, prepared by the party’s central committee and discussed during the two-day state committee meeting here on Sunday and Monday, excerpts of which were published in party mouthpiece “Deshabhimani” on Wednesday. A day after the human wall of women was organised by the ruling front on January 1, two women had trekked the holy hills and offered prayers at the Sabarimala temple.This was much used by the Opposition Congress-led UDF and the BJP during the election campaign, creating a “big impact” among party sympathisers, it was stated in the report.This is the first time that the CPI(M) has openly admitted the entry of the two women — Bindu and Kanakadurga (both in their forties) — into the Lord Ayyappa temple on January 2 had contributed to the Front’s defeat.The Supreme Court had on September 28 last year allowed women of all age groups to offer prayers at the Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala, where earlier women and girls in the menstrual age were forbidden.Protests had broken out in the state after the LDF government decided to implement the verdict.Earlier, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had stated that Sabarimala women’s entry issue was not the reason for the ruling Left front’s rout in the LS polls and had claimed that many voted for Congress-led UDF, which won 19 seats, expecting it to form the government at the Centre.While the CPI(M) and the LDF government decided to favour the SC court verdict, the Congress and the BJP first supported and later changed their stance.They launched a “vicious” campaign against the LDF and succeeded in attracting the section of voters close to LDF, the report stated.The fear that the BJP would ride to power at the Centre once again, created a pro-UDF wave among secular minds and led to votes being polled in favour of the UDF, it said.The report said the CPI(M) failed to read the pulse of the people, which was a “serious” flaw.Though there was good acceptance of the LDF government’s performance among people, it, however, was not reflected in the poll outcome and this needed to be examined.The report also stated that at the centre there was a need to form a secular government for which there was need to strengthen the Left presence.However, the LDF could not garner the confidence of the electorate.To ensure the defeat of CPI(M) and the LDF, the report alleged that in Thiruvananthapuram, Attingal, Pathnamthitta, Thrissur and Palakkad, the BJP gave a share of their votes in favour of UDF.The report said even though it was the Left party which was at the receiving end of political violence in the state, the UDF, the BJP and the media succeeded in unleashing a campaign blaming the CPI(M) and LDF for the same.Despite a chunk of its votes going to the UDF kitty, the BJP could garner 15.56 per cent votes and this has created a “big scare”, it said adding to stall the saffron party’s growth in the state, there is need to put up a united fight and be patient.In some party strongholds, there has been an erosion in the votebank, and it needs to be examined why despite the party’s efforts and the good performance of the government, the party failed to expand it voter base.The report stated the party had failed to attract youngsters and wanted it to tap social media like the BJP.It also expressed anguish over the erosion in its traditional votebank in its strongholds CPI(M)DeshabhimaniKerala Chief Minister Pinarayi VijayanKerala CPM First Published: June 26, 2019, 6:20 PM IST
Have you ever wanted to take a supermassive black hole’s view of the galaxy? Then you’re in luck. Researchers at NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have released a stunning, immersive video that let you view the Milky Way as if you were sitting right in the center of the galaxy.If you view the video on YouTube, you can see 360 degrees of beautiful galactic activity created from a combination of supercomputer simulations and data from Chandra. If you have a high-definition display, then fire it up, as the visualization is available in Ultra HD — up to 8K definition. Or if you’re on a smartphone, move the phone around to see different areas of the movie. And if you have a VR headset, then you’re in for a treat, as you can explore the visualizations in virtual reality.At the center of the galaxy sits a supermassive black hole creating enormous gravitational forces, and around which matter in the Milky Way rotates. The visualization shows the stellar giants which live nearby, in a region called Sagittarius A* located a few light-years away. These stellar giants create powerful winds which have a key role in star formation. They also push material like dust and gas toward the supermassive black hole, feeding it a steady supply of matter.When winds from the massive stars in this region collide, they form clumps of material which fall back toward Sagittarius A* along with low-density gases. The gases emit X-rays, which the Chandra telescope can detect in order to work out how matter is moving in this distant and very active location. Gases start off moving slowly toward Sagittarius A*, then pick up speed as they move closer to the galactic center. Flashes of X-rays are given off when clumps of gas collide, causing the gas to rapidly heat before cooling again.The visualization show the processes in this busy region in action: The blues and cyans represent X-ray emissions from hot gas, which reaches a blistering temperature of tens of millions of degrees, the red shows ultraviolet emissions which are given off by relatively cooler gas with temperatures in the range of tens of thousands of degrees, and the yellow shows the areas of cooler gas which has the highest densities.The visualization was first presented by Dr. Christopher Russell of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (Pontifical Catholic University) at the 17th meeting of the High-Energy Astrophysics (HEAD) of the American Astronomical Society. Editors’ Recommendations How do you kill a jellyfish galaxy? With a supermassive black hole Supermassive black hole resides inside a supermassive galaxy Milky Way’s supermassive black hole is wrapped in a vast mantle of cool gas Practically perfect in every way: Hubble shows galaxy with amazing symmetry Russia launches X-ray observatory capable of locating thousands of black holes
Editors’ Recommendations Oppo RX17 Pro review Notch no more: The era of the in-display smartphone selfie camera has arrived Oppo Reno 10x Zoom hands-on review OnePlus 7 Pro review Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL review Oppo has revealed impressive new technology that hides a smartphone’s selfie camera beneath the display itself — taking its devices another step closer to providing an entirely unspoiled and completely immersive viewing experience. The company showed its Under-Screen Camera, or USC, for the first time at MWC Shanghai 2019, and explained some of the technical challenges around making it.Many will be concerned about the camera’s ability to take good photos when set under the screen. Oppo took steps to make sure the sensor gets enough light, but the transparency of the screen itself introduced problems with glare, haze, color inaccuracies, noise, and diffraction. To combat this, Oppo has made the section of screen above the camera from a custom piece of highly transparent material, then redesigned the pixel structure to ensure none of these light problems are encountered.Next, Oppo decided on a bigger sensor with a larger aperture, and bigger pixels, so the camera could make best use of the light it gets. Software in the phone deals with some of the harder problems: a haze-removal algorithm increases sharpness, a new HDR algorithm balances exposure, and a special white balance algorithm keeps the colors in check. The camera will take photos worthy of any other selfie camera, says Oppo, and adds that it will have a portrait mode, a beauty mode, and different filters as you’d expect. 1. Oppo’s USC, or Under Screen Camera. 2. USC means no notch, bezels, or pop-up camera This no-compromise approach is to be expected; but Oppo also mentions an interesting side benefit of the USC — a higher degree of water resistance, due to the USC allowing a complete, true unibody design. Using a USC also means the notch, hole-punch camera, or pop-up cameras are no longer the only solutions to retaining a selfie camera on bezel-less smartphone designs.The Under-Screen Camera is the result of several years hard work at Oppo. The project began in 2017, with development officially starting in May 2018, and now with the official reveal in Shanghai, it has become the first company to demonstrate what’s expected to become an industry trend. Xiaomi is already hot on Oppo’s heels with in-display camera tech, and we expect others to show off similar tech too.When will you see the first Oppo phone with a USC? Oppo says it will release a phone with the camera in the near future, but has not been more precise. Oppo sells smartphones in China, other parts of Asia, Europe, and in the U.K.. It does not sell smartphones in the U.S.
While still a contentious topic, benchmarks are still popular and widely used, more as a common point of reference and a launchpad for discussion. While they may or may not reflect real world use, they can come pretty close to giving users an idea of what they’re in for. And those waiting for LG’s “true” 2017 flagship might be in for a treat. The LG V30 has just popped up at Geekbench, just a month shy of its official unveiling, and it has some pretty sweet numbers to boast of. On the one hand, it’s not that surprising to see the LG V30 get some high scores in Geekbench’s single and multi core tests. After all, it’s running on the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 835. But not all smartphones are made equal, even when they’re using the same processor. The “LG-H932PR” believed to be the LG V30 got a score of 1899 in the single-core test and 6350 in the multi-core test, putting it in the top 3 of Geekbench’s Android chart.To put things into perspective, the Galaxy S8 and S8+ occupy the top spots but with one important caveat. Only the Exynos 8895 models get those high scores. The Snapdragon 835 variants actually perform poorly in Geekbench’s tests, scoring even way below Huawei’s P10 with its Kirin 960 CPU, which itself scores lower than the LG V30. The only other smartphone to beat the V30’s score is the Xiaomi Mi 6, which also uses a Snapdragon 835. The Mi 6, however, only has a Full HD screen and gets 6 GB of RAM, which helps in the overall performance of the phone.So the LG V30 is poised to be one of the top performing smartphones this year. At least if you take into account Geekbench’s scores and nothing else. While performance is an important aspect of a phone’s usability, it isn’t the only one either.Much of the LG V30 has already been leaked, so there won’t be much of a surprise left when LG unveils it on 31st August. The Geekbench entry confirms the somewhat disappointing 4 GB of RAM only. It is expected to have the same 18:9 FullVision Display tech as the LG G6, except on a larger scale. The only question left really is whether LG has indeed traded in its second screen for an OLED panel and whether its dual cameras will finally redeem LG’s name on DxOMark’s charts.VIA: Telefoon.nl
It’s not really that hard to imagine how unforgettable that experience can be. The skywalk, which stretches 266 meters in length, is situated 1,180 meters above ground. The skywalk’s floors are all glass, alternating between clear and frosted ones. You’d have to be really brave to make the trek, but even the bravest probably didn’t sign up for a simulated near-death experience.One of the glass floor panels is actually “fake”, in the sense that it’s a high-tech display with pressure sensors. The moment some unsuspecting tourist steps on it, it will play a simulation of breaking glass, with matching sound effects to make the experience complete. While it’s fake, the resulting emotional distress, even for the bravest of the brave, is probably not worth the “extra zing”. A lot of things these days can be faked with the right hardware and digital tools. But while many of them are usually employed for harmless fun and laughs, some might have less than pleasant effects on people. In China’s northern Hebei Province sits the Taihang Mountain range, about 1,500 to 2,000 meters high. And somewhere in the middle of that is a skywalk with glass panels for floors. And, for some “extra zing”, the administrators of that tourist attraction deemed it wise to introduce a “special effect” in the form of breaking glass. Unsurprisingly, there was quite an uproar about the unannounced new experience. That prompted the local government to issue an apology and make the promotional video above to assure would-be trekkers that its’ all fake and in the name of a more memorable experience. Oh, and that the skywalk is checked daily for actual cracking glass.
Audi’s iconic sports car wasn’t just chosen at random by Square Enix; the vehicle appeared in the CGI film Kingsglaive Final Fantasy XV, which serves as a prequel to new game. Thus the game developer turned to the German auto maker to bring the Audi R8 ‘Star of Lucis’ edition to life.Aside from the name and “special edition” designation, the R8 features several FF15-inspired design elements, including unique wheels with the Lucis emblem, a pattern design on the side panels, and a Ultrossic Black paint job. Underneath all that, however, it’s a fairly standard R8, with a 610-horsepower 5.2-liter V10 engine, 7-speed transmission, and the ability to go from 0-100km/h to just 3.2 seconds. Managing to get the car will be much more difficult than picking up the game at your favorite retailer, and that’s not just because of the price. Square Enix is only giving fans the chance to buy the Audi R8 through a raffle held on FF15‘s November 21st launch date. If you think you’ll be lucky (and have the money to back up the bid), you can sign up on Audi Japan’s website, just know that it doesn’t include a copy of the game or the Kingsglaive movie. Story TimelineKingsglaive Final Fantasy 15 movie sees trailer, release date revealedFinal Fantasy 15’s DLC season pass gets detailedNo season pass with Final Fantasy 15’s $270 Ultimate Collector’s EditionFinal Fantasy 15 will be equal parts open-world and linearSony outs special PS4 Final Fantasy XV Luna Edition, new PS Vita colors After spending what seems like forever in development, Final Fantasy XV is actually getting released later this month. After announcing a number of special edition packages for the game, including a $270 Ultimate Collector’s Edition, developer Square Enix has one last unique item for die-hard fans of the RPG series: an actual, real-world FF15-themed car. But it’s not just any car, it’s a one-of-a-kind Audi R8 with an asking price of $470,000. SOURCE Audi Japan
The Samsung Galaxy S10 is now official, and of course, the phone’s triple rear-camera is getting a lot of attention. In fact, that camera was one of the first things Samsung dove into during today’s presentation in San Francisco. The camera segment of the show wasn’t entirely focused on specifications, though, as Samsung had some app partnerships to announce as well. Story TimelineSamsung Galaxy S10 hands-on: Family of FourSamsung Galaxy S10 pricing and release: S10e, S10, S10+ and S10 5GWhat you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G The first of these partnerships is with Adobe, which Samsung says is making a special version of Adobe Premiere Rush CC that’s been optimized for the Galaxy S10. With Premiere Rush CC, you can edit videos directly on your phone, which cuts a step or two out of the editing process. Samsung even brought Brazilian YouTubers Coisa de Nerd on stage to demo Premiere Rush CC on the Galaxy S10, and though the demo was brief, the software seems to run well enough on Samsung’s newest flagship.Previously, Premiere Rush CC was an app that was only available on iOS devices, so getting Adobe to make a customized version for Galaxy phones is a pretty big deal for Samsung. Adobe and Samsung say that Premiere Rush CC will be launching for Galaxy phones later this year, but it looks like we’ll be waiting a while longer to learn which Galaxy phones aside from the S10 will support it and when, specifically, it’ll release.Samsung also revealed today that it’s partnered with Instagram to add an Instagram mode to the Galaxy S10’s camera. Using this new mode, you can begin editing with Instagram’s tools, add stickers or hashtags, and jump into Stories right from the S10’s camera app, which seems like a great addition for people who use social network frequently. Just how deep that integration goes is unknown, but the demo Instagram head Adam Mosseri gave on stage made it seem like there’s a lot of functionality to take advantage of.Finally, Samsung announced that it’s opened up the S10’s camera SDK to app developers, so now when you open your phone’s camera in third-party apps, it should perform just as well as it does in the default camera app. Snapchat, Snow, and Line are three of the companies that will be using the Galaxy Camera SDK in their own apps, and we’re sure we’ll hear about more soon enough. Stay tuned!
In less than a month, Samsung will take the veils off its third flagship of the year, with the Galaxy Fold taking the place of second. By now, however, almost everything about it has been unofficially revealed by rumors and leaks. Of course, those are all unofficial, no matter how credible the source may be. It’s still unofficial but leaksters don’t have anything on the FCC who may have given the public the closest it could get to official confirmation. The sighting at the FCC doesn’t really add anything new. But considering all communication devices have to pass by the US regulatory body before launching, it’s pretty much considered to be the real thing. Unlike China’s equivalent TENAA, FCC filings don’t always reveal juicy details but this is one exception.Images show the external design of the Galaxy Note 10, along with the changes that have already been rumored. There’s the lack of a headphone jack, the first among the Galaxy S and Note lines, and the absence of a fingerprint scanner in lieu of an in-screen one.The most notable, of course, is the triple camera setup shoved off to the corner. Despite the long bump, it wasn’t enough to fit a fourth camera to the side that may just be a depth sensor or, better yet, a 3D time-of-flight sensor. No heart rate sensor there either.Not evident in the photos is the small punch-hole camera in the center of the face. The Galaxy Note 10 is set to be announced on August 7 and it might come with the Galaxy Watch Active 2.
States And The Health Law: Action On Insurance Exchanges, Medicaid Expansion This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. The Associated Press and other news outlets report on state action on the health law’s insurance exchanges as well as the Medicaid expansion. The Associated Press: New Health Insurance Market Opens In Washington State In OctoberAnother aspect of President Barack Obama’s health care law will go from concept to reality this fall as Washington state residents who don’t have health insurance will become eligible for Medicaid or gain access to a new insurance exchange. Some questions and answers on where the health care law stands in Washington state (Blankinship, 1/29).MPR News: MN Insurance Exchange Info Website LaunchesThe state budget office has launched a website about how a health insurance exchange will work in Minnesota. Officials project at least 1 million Minnesotans will use the exchange to comparison shop for health insurance policies or enroll in Medicaid starting in October. Until now it’s been difficult to find complete information about this key part of the federal health care law. State Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter said the site is a work in progress. “What it does right now is give people a simple take on what the exchange can do for them; what some of the costs might be with the calculator; a nice little video to help explain what the exchange does; and ultimately, add ability for people to get insurance come next October,” Schowalter said (Stawicki, 1/29).The Associated Press: Q&A: Taking Look At Georgia’s New Health Care FundamentalsThe 2010 federal health insurance overhaul, commonly called the Affordable Care Act, expands access to health insurance in two major ways. The first is through insurance exchanges where individuals can shop for policies from private insurance firms. Secondly, the law gives states the option to expand the Medicaid insurance program that provides coverage to low-income Americans (Barrow, 1/30).The Associated Press: Uninsured Children Expected To Grow Medicaid RollsThe analyst hired by the state to estimate the impact of the federal health care law told Indiana lawmakers Tuesday that an unintended consequence could unearth tens of thousands of children who qualify for Medicaid but are not enrolled. Rob Damler, an actuary for Milliman Inc. in Indianapolis, told members of the House Ways and Means Committee that residents are expected to grow the state’s rolls in the coming years as the individual mandate forces low-income residents into federal coverage (LoBianco, 1/29). Health News Florida: Sen. Garcia Now Open To Medicaid ExpansionWhen Florida sued to overturn the Affordable Care Act, lawmakers targeted a piece of the law that would have forced Florida to make Medicaid available to more than a million uninsured Floridians. The U. S. Supreme Court upheld most of the act, but it made Medicaid expansion optional (Mack, 1/29).The Miami Herald: Study: Medicaid Expansion May Save State MoneyFlorida would save money over the next decade — not lose billions as Gov. Rick Scott has argued — by accepting Medicaid expansion under federal healthcare reforms, according to a detailed economic study. Miami-Dade legislators and healthcare industry leaders, getting together on Monday, heard about the report by Georgetown University — the most positive yet on a highly debated provision of what is often called Obamacare (Dorschner, 1/29).The Associated Press: Democratic Lawmakers Seek To Increase Iowa MedicaidA push that Democratic lawmakers initiated Tuesday to expand Medicaid in Iowa would likely translate into new or improved health benefits for thousands of the state’s low-income residents. Broadening the program could mean that people like Terri White, a 51-year-old widow from Fort Dodge, would for the first time have comprehensive health insurance (Lucey, 1/30). The Associated Press: Medicaid Could Boost Mississippi Health JobsRepublican Gov. Phil Bryant wants to create more health care jobs in Mississippi, one of the poorest and most medically under-served states in the nation. He also opposes putting more Mississippi residents on Medicaid under the federal health care law that Democratic President Barack Obama signed in 2010, even with the federal government paying most of the cost (Pettus, 1/29).
Long-Term Care: Expense, Emotions Part Of Planning Dilemma In other news, NPR explores the nation’s high disability rate. The New York Times: Expense And Emotions In Preparing For Long-Term CareThe emotional impact of witnessing the decline of a family member or helping to care for one is often the reason people seek coverage for long-term care, people who work in the aging field say (Carrns, 3/25).The Fiscal Times: The Health Care Dilemma That Could Bankrupt WomenNancy S. Buck, a 62-year-old divorced woman from Aurora, Colorado, wants to purchase long-term health care insurance because she doesn’t want to be a financial burden on her children. But right now, that’s not possible, since she’s self-employed, earns only $20,000 a year (too much to qualify for Medicaid), and can barely afford the $450-a-month payment for basic health insurance…As difficult as it has been for single women like Buck to afford long-term health care insurance, it’s about to get harder (Halpert, 3/25).NPR: Unfit for Work: The Startling Rise Of Disability In America (A four-part series)In the past three decades, the number of Americans who are on disability has skyrocketed. The rise has come even as medical advances have allowed many more people to remain on the job, and new laws have banned workplace discrimination against the disabled. Every month, 14 million people now get a disability check from the government (Joffe-Walt, 3/26). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. The New York Times: Is Obamacare Too Complicated to Succeed? The Affordable Care Act has been under siege since before it even had a name. Some on the right saw it as government overreach. Some on the left considered it better for insurance companies than for consumers. As many of the law’s provisions take effect over the next year, we’re hearing from both sides all over again. This time the theme is that the law is too complex. … Read the discussion (5/29). Bloomberg: One Way Obamacare May Already Be WorkingThere was a time when all anyone in Washington wanted to talk about was “bending the health-care cost curve.” Forget covering the uninsured — the ultimate test of the Affordable Care Act would be the trajectory of health care costs. But Washington has a short memory. That whole “curve” thing was years ago. … Yet quietly, the cost curve has begun to bend (Ezra Klein, 5/29).New England Journal Of Medicine: Failure To Launch? The Independent Payment Advisory Board’s Uncertain ProspectsControversy has followed the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) since its inception. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) established the IPAB as a 15-member, nonelected board. Among other duties, the IPAB is empowered to recommend changes to Medicare if projected per-beneficiary spending growth exceeds specified targets. … Regardless of the IPAB’s future, one thing is clear: rather than removing politics from Medicare, the board’s difficult early journey has underscored just how entrenched politics are in health care policy (Jonathan Oberlander and Marisa Morrison, 5/29). CNN: Myths About ObamacareThis is a critical time for the law. For better or worse, the Republican Party, for the most part, stands in total opposition to Obamacare. … they believe that letting the law fail, spectacularly, is the quickest way to get rid of that. Because of this, few, if any, opponents of the law are willing to make any concessions or changes to it at all. This is a relatively new thing when it comes to major legislation. Past laws on this scale, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicare, and Social Security were amended and changed years and even months after being passed (Dr. Aaron Carroll, 5/29). Washington Post: Wonkblog: As Obamacare Starts, Health Insurers Are Just Guessing Each week brings new data from a new state on the premiums insurers intend to charge on the exchanges. Some weeks bring revised data from old states. But it’s worth stepping back and keeping two things in mind. The first is that all these numbers are simply guesses. Really. That’s it. California’s numbers are guesses. Maryland’s numbers are guesses. Oregon’s numbers are guesses. Vermont’s numbers are just guesses. Everyone is just guessing (Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas, 5/30).Fox News: George W. Bush Vision’s For HealthDo you ever wonder how long our current president of the United States will continue to blame the prior administration for our current economy and blame the Iraq War for our current foreign policy concerns? For a study in contrasts, I spent some time last week with our most recent former president, George W. Bush, … It was clear that he believes that preventing disease by staying fit is the place to start, but emphasized, “there’s no law you can pass to get people off the couch.” Bush’s emphasis is on a personal responsibility for health rather than extending an expensive, easily overused and comprehensive insurance program to more and more people (Dr. Marc Siegel, 5/28).The Washington Post: Getting D.C. Children The Mental Health They Need The Children’s Law Center has estimated that at least 5,000 District children are going without needed mental health services, with consequences ranging from truancy to crime to unemployment. It’s important that the District raise the grade on getting these children the help they require (5/29).Columbus Dispatch: Medicaid Expansion Crucial To Mentally Ill Ohio’s mentally ill will be among those hurt most if lawmakers refuse to expand Medicaid under the federal health care law. A report being released today by the National Alliance for Mental Illness found 1 in 4 Ohioans who would gain subsidized health coverage suffer from mental illness. Ohio is among 16 states still undecided about expansion, and of those, only one has a higher rate — Nebraska, where 30 percent have mental illness (Catherine Candisky, 5/30).Raleigh News & Observer: NC Senate Budget Plan Pushes Pregnant Women Out Of Medicaid Largely unnoticed and unremarked in the budget recently passed by the N.C. Senate was a troubling reduction in the eligibility of pregnant women for the state’s Medicaid program. While Republicans have made it clear they don’t want to accept federal money to expand the state’s Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act, this attempt to cut eligibility levels for women currently on Medicaid marks a new effort to limit health options for low-income North Carolinians (Adam Searing, 5/30).New England Journal Of Medicine: The Sunshine Act — Effects On Physicians The new Physician Payments Sunshine Act requires public reporting of payments to physicians and teaching hospitals from pharmaceutical and medical device companies, as well as reporting of certain ownership interests. … It will allow more informed and engaged health care consumers to choose physicians using this information along with publicly available quality and resource-utilization data. The program seeks to balance the value of data transparency against its possible effects on innovation or CME (Dr. Shantanu Agrawal, Niall Brennan and Dr. Peter Budetti, 5/30).CNN: Bring Medical Misdeeds Into The LightBy the time he was finally arrested in late 2003, Charles Cullen, a nurse, had murdered at least 40 patients, and perhaps hundreds, in nine different hospitals and a nursing home in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. … His victims were chosen indiscriminately: a priest, a recovering breast cancer patient, even a teenager. These were not mercy killings. Many of Cullen’s victims were improving and on the verge of being discharged from the hospital. … This ought to be shocking. But can any of us who work in hospitals and academic medical centers honestly say, “This could never happen at my institution”? I doubt it (Dr. Carl Elliot, 5/30).Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Spend Money On Universal Care Not Costly ExchangeThe complexity of implementing and understanding the reforms required under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) also known as Obamacare, has become more apparent in recent days. Health Care for All Colorado, the state’s leading advocacy group for a universal public single-payer system, contends that this complexity will lead not only to unnecessary confusion for patients and caregivers but also to increased costs for premiums and other administrative costs that will continue to drive the cost of health care ever higher (Dr. Thomas Gottlieb, 5/29). Viewpoints: Obamacare Is Already Working; George W. Bush On ‘Personal Responsibility’
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including an announcement coming today for a new VA secretary and expectations for a Supreme Court decision on the challenge to the health law’s contraceptive mandate by two for-profit companies.Kaiser Health News: Retooling Hospitals, One Data Point At A TimeKaiser Health News staff writer Julie Appleby, working in collaboration with USA Today, reports: “When a car rolls off an assembly line, the automaker knows exactly what parts, labor and facilities cost. Not so in health care, and now some health executives are trying to change that. Although U.S. hospitals account for the single largest chunk of the nation’s $2.7 trillion in health spending, few of them can say how much it actually costs them to care for every patient they admit. … Today, the [University of] Utah health system is one of a handful in the nation with a data system that can track cost and quality for every one of its 26,000 patients. That data is shared with doctors and nurses for further input about ways to streamline cost and improve care (Appleby, 6/30).Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Washington And Other States See New Insurers On ExchangesCapital Public Radio’s Pauline Bartolone, working in collaboration with Kaiser Health News andNPR, reports on the expansion of Washington’s online insurance marketplace: “Washington State’s health insurance exchange is looking to be an attractive marketplace for new health insurance carriers, according to an early analysis of insurer premium rate filings by McKinsey & Company. Four new insurers have applied to sell individual policies in the state’s exchange next year, making Washington among the states with the highest number of new exchange entrants of the 12 states where preliminary 2015 rates have been filed, according to McKinsey. If insurance regulators approve the new carriers, Washington will have 12 insurers on the exchange in 2015, up from eight participating this year” (Bartolone, 6/30). Check out what else is on the blog.The Washington Post: Bob McDonald, Former P&G Chief, To Be Obama’s Nominee To Lead Veterans AffairsPresident Obama on Monday will nominate Bob McDonald, a West Point graduate who served as the chief executive of Procter & Gamble, to take over as head of the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs, according to White House officials. The unorthodox pick of a retired corporate executive whose former company produces iconic household products such as Tide detergent and Charmin toilet paper — rather than a former military general — underscores the serious management problems facing the agency charged with serving more than 8 million veterans a year (Eilperin, 6/29).The New York Times: Pick For V.A. Is Former Corporate ChiefPresident Obama on Monday intends to nominate Robert A. McDonald, a former chief executive of Procter & Gamble, to be the next secretary of Veterans Affairs, a White House official said Sunday, betting that a global corporate officer can turn around a government health system that has been rocked by allegations of mismanagement. … “This is definitely a surprising pick,” said Paul Rieckhoff, the chief executive and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “McDonald is not a name that was on anyone’s radar over the last few weeks. His branding background may prove helpful because there are few organizations in America with a worse reputation toward customers than the V.A. right now” (Shear and Oppel, 6/29).The Wall Street Journal: Ex-Procter & Gamble CEO To Be Nominated As VA SecretaryThe White House said Mr. McDonald would bring gravitas and well-honed management skills to the troubled department, which is struggling to address an array of systemic problems. Mr. McDonald, 61 years old, is a veteran and a West Point graduate, but his limited military experience is unusual for the VA post (McCain Nelson and Kesling, 6/29).Politico: Barack Obama Taps Ex-Procter And Gamble Exec Robert McDonald To Lead VAA graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, McDonald rose from an entry-level job to CEO of Procter and Gamble over more than three decades at the company. He spent four years as CEO before leaving in mid-2013 amid cost-cutting at the Fortune 500 company (Epstein, 6/29).USA Today: Obama To Name New VA ChiefMcDonald, 61, was with Procter & Gamble for 33 years. As CEO, he oversaw more than 120,000 employees, with operations around the world, selling products in more than 180 countries and more than 2.5 million stores, reaching more than 5 billion customers (Jackson and Zoroya, 6/29).Los Angeles Times: Obama Selects Former Procter & Gamble Chief To Lead Veterans Affairs In nominating Bob McDonald as the next secretary of Veterans Affairs, President Obama is recruiting a West Point graduate with experience in running a big corporation — Procter & Gamble — to turn around a department whose failure to provide timely care to veterans has caused a political furor. If confirmed by the Senate, McDonald would succeed Eric K. Shinseki, a retired four-star Army general who stepped down last month amid a scandal in which VA employees falsified records to cover up long waits for medical appointments (Simon, 6/29).Reuters: Obama To Nominate Former P&G CEO Bob McDonald As Veterans SecretaryU.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner called McDonald “a good man, a veteran, and a strong leader with decades of experience in the private sector. With those traits, he’s the kind of person who is capable of implementing the kind of dramatic systemic change that is badly needed and long overdue at the VA” (Holland, 6/29).The Associated Press: Ex P&G Head Obama Choice To Lead Veterans AffairsSenate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said in a statement that he looked forward to meeting with McDonald next week to get his views on issues he views as important. Among them, Sanders said in a statement, “The VA needs significantly improved transparency and accountability and it needs an increased number of doctors, nurses and other medical staff so that all eligible veterans get high-quality health care in a timely manner” (Pace, 6/29).The New York Times: Report Finds Health Unit Of V.A. Needs OverhaulThe Veterans Health Administration has a corrosive culture that has led to poor management, a history of retaliation toward employees, cumbersome and outdated technology, and a shortage of doctors, nurses and physical space to treat its patients, according to a review presented to President Obama on Friday by one of his top advisers on veterans’ issues. Mr. Obama called last month for the review of the Veterans Health Administration, a part of the Department of Veterans Affairs, just days before he accepted the resignation of the Veterans Affairs secretary, Eric Shinseki (Shear and Oppel, 6/27).The Wall Street Journal: White House Review Of VA Finds ‘Corrosive Culture,’ Poor ManagementA White House review of the VA health system points to a culture that has degraded the timely delivery of care and requires a restructuring to improve transparency and accountability. Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson and Rob Nabors, White House deputy chief of staff, told President Barack Obama on Friday that significant further action was needed to address systemic problems (McCain Nelson and Kesling, 6/27).Politico: White House Report: Overhaul VA’s ‘Corrosive Culture’The Department of Veterans Affairs’ “corrosive culture” can only be fixed by a near overhaul of the system, charged a report delivered to President Barack Obama on Friday. The report, authored by a top White House official, said the department needs to be “restructured and reformed” and shared a scathing view of a corrupt and poorly-managed agency keen to protect itself over the care of veterans (French, 6/27).Los Angeles Times: White House Report Says VA Has ‘Significant’ And ‘Systemic Failures’The VA suffers from “significant and chronic systemic failures” that must be addressed by department leadership, according to a White House report delivered to President Obama on Friday, giving urgency to congressional legislation aimed at reducing veterans’ wait times for healthcare and holding officials more accountable. Among the problems cited are a “corrosive culture” that has led to personnel problems within the Department of Veterans Affairs, exacerbated by poor management and a history of retaliation toward employees raising issues (Simon, 6/27).The Hill: WH Report Finds ‘Corrosive Culture’ At VAThe report written by Rob Nabors, the president’s deputy chief of staff, paints a bleak picture of operations within the department. It says the agency needs to take “significant further action” to address “systematic problems” with providing health service for former service members. “It is clear that there are significant and chronic systemic failures that must be addressed by the leadership at the VA,” Nabors says in his report, presented to President Obama on Friday (Sink, 6/27).The New York Times: In Military Care, A Pattern Of Errors But Not ScrutinyThe Zeppa case is emblematic of persistent lapses in protecting patients that emerged from an examination by The New York Times of the nation’s military hospitals, the hub of a sprawling medical network — entirely separate from the scandal-plagued veterans system — that cares for the 1.6 million active-duty service members and their families. … From 2011 to 2013, medical workers reported 239 unexpected deaths, but only 100 inquiries were forwarded to the Pentagon’s patient-safety center, where analysts recommend how to improve care. Cases involving permanent harm often remained unexamined as well. At the same time, by several measures considered crucial barometers of patient safety, the military system has consistently had higher than expected rates of harm and complications in two central parts of its business — maternity care and surgery (LaFraniere and Lehren, 6/28).Politico: Kathleen Sebelius: I ‘Made Some Mistakes’Former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius acknowledged Friday that she made mistakes leading up to the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, worrying too much about whether there’d be a market for Obamacare and spending “too little time clearly on the technology side.” “I sure made some mistakes along the way in terms of focusing on some things and not on others,” she said at the Aspen Ideas Festival. Instead of confirming what she was being told about HealthCare.gov’s readiness “was actually accurate and getting enough eyes and ears on that,” she said she concentrated on the insurers, consumers and regulators who needed to come together in the health exchanges (Villacorta, 6/27).The Hill: Lawmaker Presses HHS For Small-Business Health Insurance DataA top GOP lawmaker pushed the administration Friday to release enrollment data measuring the success of the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) under ObamaCare. Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), chairman of the House Small Business Committee, issued a statement expressing frustration that the Department of Health and Human Services has repeatedly failed to provide the requested data. “It’s astonishing how little information has been disclosed about a law in which the taxpayers are investing billions. What is the Administration hiding?” Graves asked (Al-Faruque, 6/27).The New York Times: Medical Boards Draft Plan To Ease Path To Out-of-State And Online TreatmentOfficials representing state medical boards across the country have drafted a model law that would make it much easier for doctors licensed in one state to treat patients in other states, whether in person, by videoconference or online. The plan, representing the biggest change in medical licensing in decades, opens the door to greater use of telemedicine and could alleviate the doctor shortage, a growing problem as millions of people gain insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act (Pear, 6/29).Los Angeles Times: Confusion Over Doctor Lists Is Costly For Obamacare Enrollees In StateFrustration and legal challenges over the network of doctors and hospitals for Obamacare patients have marred an otherwise successful rollout of the federal healthcare law in California. Limiting the number of medical providers was part of an effort by insurers to hold down premiums. But confusion over the new plans has led to unforeseen medical bills for some patients and prompted a state investigation. More complaints are surfacing as patients start to use their new coverage bought through Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange (Terhune, 6/28).The Hill: Sebelius: Hobby Lobby Case About More Than ObamaCareFormer Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Friday that if the Supreme Court rules against ObamaCare’s contraception mandate next week, it will have “huge” implications that go far beyond the healthcare law. Sebelius said a ruling against the law could allow employers maximum discretion to avoid following laws they say go against their religious beliefs. “I do think this issue is far beyond contraception coverage in the Affordable Care Act,” she said. “This really is about whether or not employers based on religious views can pick and choose which federal laws to follow and not follow” (Al-Faruque, 6/27).The Wall Street Journal: Religious Business Owners Brace For High Court’s Contraception RulingReligious business owners and women’s groups braced for Monday’s expected Supreme Court ruling on an Affordable Care Act contraception-coverage requirement that could outline the flexibility owners of for-profit enterprises have in exercising religious beliefs. … The contraception decision could have immediate consequences for a high-profile provision of the Affordable Care Act, two years after the court upheld the law’s requirement that most Americans obtain health insurance (Radnofsky, 6/29).Reuters: On Eve Of Court Ruling, Americans Oppose Contraceptive Ban: Reuters/Ipsos PollA majority of Americans oppose letting employers, based on their religious views, exclude certain contraceptives from workers’ insurance coverage, says a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll ahead of a U.S. Supreme Court decision expected on Monday. In one of the most closely watched cases of the year, the nine-member court will weigh whether for-profit corporations may raise religious objections to a mandate in President Barack Obama’s signature 2010 healthcare law that their insurance cover contraceptives. … The Reuters/Ipsos poll of 10,693 people was conducted April 28-June 20, 2014 (Biskupic, 6/29).Politico: Hobby Lobby Decision: Nine Justices To WatchShortly after 10 a.m. Monday, the Supreme Court will issue its much-anticipated decision on the religious freedom challenge businesses have brought against the Obamacare contraception mandate. … A win for the White House would help officials ensure that employer coverage is consistent, but employers would still be able to opt out of coverage altogether by paying a fine. A win for Hobby Lobby would mean other businesses with a small number of owners could opt out of aspects of Obamacare coverage, possibly leaving employees on their own to pay for particular drugs or procedures (Gerstein, 6/30).The Hill: McConnell: I’d Fight To Limit AbortionsSenate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promised Saturday to focus more attention on limiting abortions if Republicans take control of the Senate in November. Speaking to the National Right to Life Convention in his home state of Kentucky, the Senate’s top Republican suggested Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has blocked the upper-chamber from voting on bills that would limit women’s rights to abortion, according to conservative website Townhall.com. But McConnell said he would push abortion-limiting legislation to pressure President Obama to take a stand on the issue (Devaney, 6/28).The New York Times: Cuomo Plan Seeks To End New York’s AIDS EpidemicBorrowing an idea from leading AIDS researchers, the Cuomo administration said on Friday that it had developed a plan to aggressively identify, track and treat people with H.I.V. infection with the aim of reducing new infection to the point that by 2020, AIDS would no longer reach epidemic levels in New York State. … The state’s acting health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, said on Friday that he believed that by 2020, New York could reduce its annual incidence of new H.I.V. infections to about 750 from the current 3,000, bringing the number of new cases below the number of annual deaths, or as he put it, “bending the curve” in the direction of ending the epidemic in the state (Hartocollis, 6/28).The Wall Street Journal: Cuomo Unveils New Effort To Reduce HIV/AIDS CasesNew York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday announced an initiative to bring new HIV/AIDS cases below epidemic levels in the state by 2020. The plan calls for more aggressive testing, treatment and tracking of the disease. “The state of New York was ground zero of HIV/AIDs when the crisis hit 30 years ago,” Mr. Cuomo said in remarks before walking in New York City’s gay-pride parade. “It’s fitting that New York could be the state that is the most aggressive in eradicating the disease” (Vilensky, 6/30).The Associated Press: Cuomo: Boost HIV Tests, Treatment To End EpidemicNew York state can end its three-decade HIV crisis by the year 2020, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday as he announced an ambitious plan to deliver a knockout blow to the epidemic by boosting testing, reducing new infections and expanding treatment. The governor said the state is aiming to reduce new HIV diagnoses to 750 by the end of the decade — about the same number of tuberculosis cases seen in New York City each year — down from 3,000 expected this year and 14,000 new cases of the disease in 1993 (Klepper, 6/29).The Associated Press: Many Challenges Face Ex-Inmates Living With HIVSeveral times each month, a white bus picks up newly released ex-inmates at New York’s Rikers Island jail complex and drives into Harlem, where helping hands await at a transition program run by a nonprofit called the Fortune Society. These new arrivals face the myriad challenges confronting anyone leaving jail or prison — and a daunting additional one. They have HIV (Crary, 6/28).Check out all of Kaiser Health News’ e-mail options including First Edition and Breaking News alerts on our Subscriptions page. First Edition: June 30, 2014
A top Department of Veterans Affairs official asked senators Tuesday to pass legislation that would allow the agency to shift some funds for private, non-VA care to pay for expensive hepatitis C drugs and further adjust eligibility criteria for a program that Congress created last year known as the Choice program. Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson presented the requests to the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee at a hearing Tuesday afternoon. (Adams, 5/12) When Donald Siefken drove up to the Seattle VA hospital emergency room earlier this year with a broken foot, all he asked for was a little help getting inside. Instead, a hospital employee who answered Siefken’s cellphone call told him to call 911 himself, then hung up on him, Siefken said. Frustrated to tears, the 64-year-old retired truck driver and Army vet from Kennewick placed the emergency call while parked just feet away from the ER entrance. (Kamb, 5/12) Lawmakers from both parties said Tuesday they will not divert money from a new health care law to pay for a half-finished hospital in Denver that now is expected to cost more than $1.7 billion — nearly triple an estimate the Department of Veterans Affairs gave last year. The VA is asking Congress to redirect $730 million from the new Veterans Choice Act to complete the long-delayed hospital. The law was passed last year in response to a scandal over long waiting times for veterans seeking health care and falsified records to cover up the delays. (5/12) The Associated Press: Lawmakers To VA: Find Another Way To Pay For Denver Hospital The ongoing debate over the cost of prescription drugs took another twist as U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT.) has asked the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to use emergency powers to break – or override – the patents on high-priced hepatitis C medicines sold by several drug makers, including Gilead Sciences. The new hepatitis C treatments cure more than 90% of those infected and, in the U.S., cost from $63,000 to $94,500, depending upon the drug and regimen, before any discounts. Gilead markets Sovaldi and Harvoni, while AbbVie sells Viekera Pak. (Silverman, 5/12) In an effort to retain talented women, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus will unveil a proposal Wednesday that calls for doubling the amount of paid maternity leave that sailors and Marines can take to 12 weeks. Mabus will detail the proposal during a speech at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, according to a senior Navy official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to disclose the proposal ahead of the official announcement. (Vergakis, 5/12) High Costs Of Hep C Meds Are Breaking VA Budget To tackle the problem, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., suggested to the Department of Veterans Affairs that it use its emergency powers to override patents on the new, more expensive hepatitis C drugs. And a VA official asked senators to allow the agency to shift funds to pay for the treatments. In other budget news, lawmakers refused a VA request to redirect money to pay for an unfinished hospital near Denver. In other military health news, a Seattle VA hospital apologizes for turning away a vet with a broken foot. And the Navy Secretary proposes doubling paid maternity leave – The Wall Street Journal’s Pharmalot: Sanders Asks VA To Break Patents On Gilead And AbbVie Hep C Drugs The Associated Press: Navy Secretary To Propose Doubling Maternity Leave CQ Healthbeat: VA Seeks More Money For Hepatitis Drugs, New Choice Criteria The Seattle Times: Seattle VA Hospital Strands Veteran Outside ER This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
Forbes: Hospitals Pad Cash Cushion Thanks To Obamacare, Medicaid Expansion Nonprofit Hospitals Build ‘Solid Financial Cushion,’ Financial Analysis Finds The report by Fitch Ratings says most hospitals had higher volumes in 2015 because of patients’ increased coverage under the federal health law and the growing number of people covered by Medicare and Medicaid. This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. The Fiscal Times: Rising Federal Health Care Costs Could Widen The Generation Gap A new Obama administration report out this week showing that federal government spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare surged in 2014 by 11.7 percent after years of relative stability is rekindling a controversy over generational disparities in the government’s spending priorities. While a considerable chunk of the $844 billion of federal health care spending last year went for children and younger adults, Medicare spending for seniors hit a total of $618.7 billion in 2014 and accounted for 20 percent of total health expenditures. (Pianin, 12/4) A new report from Fitch Ratings shows the outlook for nonprofit hospitals, which makeup the bulk of the nation’s inpatient health facilities, have built a “solid financial cushion to absorb potential operating volatility” in 2016. “Clinical volumes in 2015 were higher than anticipated, primarily reflecting the benefits of increased coverage under the ACA, as well as growth in the Medicare population and a higher level of activity from commercial beneficiaries,” Fitch said in its report. “Providers in Medicaid expansion states experienced particularly higher clinical volumes with material reductions in charity care and bad debt expense. Clinical volumes from Medicare and commercial payors were also fairly solid with inpatient admissions holding steady year over year and higher levels of outpatient activity.” (Japsen, 12/6) A group seeking to lead a broad national effort by consumers to make health care more affordable and available has formed in Washington, contending that even with more widespread insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, many people cannot obtain the care they need. Partners for Better Care claims it already represents 10 million patients through affiliations with other advocacy groups such as AIDS United, the Parkinson’s Action Network and United Cerebral Palsy. The organization also is hoping to enlist larger health care advocacy groups. (Bernstein, 12/4) The Washington Post: New Patient Coalition Aims To Take On Cost Of Health Care, Access To Quality Treatment