First Edition: October 14, 2010

Today’s headlines examine the Obama administration’s efforts to work with insurers to keep coverage options for children, the latest campaign news on the health overhaul and a major government crackdown on a Medicare fraud ring.    

Republican Pollster Opposes ‘Repeal And Replace’ Health Law Strategy 
As the November elections approach, House Republican leaders are trying to capitalize on public dislike of the new health law – about half of voters oppose it – by vowing to “repeal and replace” it. But that’s a risky approach for individual GOP candidates, warns Republican pollster Bill McInturff (Kaiser Health News/The Washington Post).

HHS: No Double Standard For Kids’ Insurance Policies 
Health insurers can’t have different rules for selling individual policies for children with medical problems than for healthy kids, the Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday (Kaiser Health News).

Fear + Worry = Fewer Kids Getting Vaccinated
After years of steady progress, the percentage of 2 year olds in private health plans being immunized dropped last year, according to a report released Wednesday by an industry watchdog group. The study by the National Committee on Quality Assurance, which measures how well health plans ensure that members receive appropriate care, found a “disturbing” drop in the rates of vaccination (Kaiser Health News)

The Health Reform (Almost) Everyone Loves 
In this column for Kaiser Health News, Michael L. Millenson writes: “Come with me to the land of happy health reform. It is a place where Republicans and Democrats find common ground, a place where physicians, hospitals and health insurers sit together as partners, a place where criticism is respectful, not rancorous. It is the world of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs)” (Kaiser Health News).

HHS Says Insurers Can’t Make It Harder To Enroll Sick Kids 
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Wednesday that health insurers can’t make it harder to enroll sick children. The plans can, however, charge higher premiums for children with pre-existing conditions in states where that’s permitted (The Hill).

U.S. To Let Insurers Raise Fees For Sick Children 
The Obama administration, aiming to encourage health insurance companies to offer child-only policies, said Wednesday that they could charge higher premiums for coverage of children with serious medical problems, if state law allowed it (The New York Times).

In Election Ads, Democrats Silent On New Health Law 
Ads touting the new health law are mostly being run by opponents of the measure as they try to feed on its more unpopular aspects, particularly the requirement that nearly all Americans have insurance starting in 2014 (NPR).

Medicare Actuary: Reform Will Cost Some Seniors 
A Medicare official concedes that seniors may have to dig deeper into their wallets next year thanks to the health care law. The new analysis obtained by POLITICO finds the health care overhaul will result in increased out-of-pocket costs for seniors on Medicare Advantage plans (Politico).

Rep. Scott Murphy Runs On Health Care 
Freshman Rep. Scott Murphy, locked in a tight re-election contest in upstate New York, released a political advertisement Wednesday that may be the election season’s most aggressive embrace of the health care law passed by Congress this year (The Wall Street Journal).

California Insurance Commissioner To Gain More Power From Federal Healthcare Law 
Two state assemblymen not much known beyond their districts are vying for a statewide office that has ample authority over automobile, home and life insurance coverage and is getting more power from the landmark federal healthcare law (Los Angeles Times).

52 Arrested In Sweeping Medicare Fraud Case 
Authorities arrested more than two dozen Los Angeles-area residents early Wednesday for their alleged roles in a nationwide scheme to bilk Medicare out of more than $160 million. The investigation, dubbed Diagnosis Dollars, resulted in the arrests of 52 people across the U.S. in what authorities described as “the largest Medicare fraud scheme ever perpetrated by a single criminal enterprise” (Los Angeles Times).

Medicare Scheme Netted $35 Million, Officials Say 
An Armenian-American crime ring defrauded Medicare of more than $35 million by using stolen doctor and patient identities and setting up dozens of phony clinics coast-to-coast, according to federal indictments unsealed Wednesday (The Wall Street Journal).

Real Patients, Real Doctors, Fake Everything Else 
In the universe of fake limbs and needless neck braces more typical of Medicare fraud, few cases have appeared more brazenly absurd, and few were as ambitious. By inventing 118 bogus health clinics in 25 states, prosecutors said, a band of Armenian-American gangsters billed Medicare for more than $100 million, and managed to collect $35 million over at least four years (The New York Times).

Anthem Blue Cross Parent Accused Of Misrepresenting Cancellation Practices 
Los Angeles city prosecutors Wednesday accused the parent company of insurance giant Anthem Blue Cross of California of falsely stating that it had changed its procedures for canceling the policies of patients after they become sick (Los Angeles Times).

FDA Finds Heparin Maker Violations 
A major U.S. heparin wholesaler received a complaint from a corporate customer about a contaminated batch of blood thinner in October 2008, but didn’t investigate for almost a year, according to a recent Food and Drug Administration notice to the company (The Wall Street Journal).

Report: Vaccination Rates Drop For Kids Covered By Private Insurance 
A new report shows that vaccination rates among two-year-olds covered by private insurance plans dipped by almost four percentage points last year (The Wall Street Journal).

Group Seeks Food Label That Highlights Harmful Nutrients 
Tell us how your products are bad for us. That is the message to the food industry from a team of health specialists who said Wednesday in a report that easy-to-grasp nutrition information on the front of food packages should focus on the nutrients most responsible for obesity and chronic diseases: calories, saturated fat, trans fat and sodium (The New York Times).

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