Computex won’t be taking place until the end of May but Acer wants to get a head start from the flood of announcements that might come. The manufacturer has just announced four new devices that caters to different types of users and different needs. The Acer Nitro 5 is designed for “casual gamers” while the Acer Spin 1 offers a lightweight convertible for workers on the go. The Acer Iconia Tab 10 bills itself as the entertainment tablet with its Quantum Dot screen while the Iconia One 10 is made for serious business with its two micro USB ports. The Acer Nitro 5 casual gaming laptop will be available in July with a starting price of $799. The Acer Spin 1 convertible, on the other hand, goes on sale in the same month for a lot lower, at $329. No details have been revealed yet regarding the two Android tablets. “Casual gaming notebook” is probably a new class that we should get used to hearing. It’s practically a new, made-up category of notebooks that have just enough muscle for some types of games but won’t be able to compete with dedicated, bulkier, and more expensive gaming laptops. In the Acer Nitro 5, that translates to a 7th gen Intel Core i7 or i5 with the entry-level NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti, or an AMD A-Series FX, A12, or A10 Plus with a Radeon RX550. The Acer Inconia One 10, on the other, sports two micro USB ports, both with OTG support. For those times when one just doesn’t cut it. This allows users to attach any supported peripheral while the tablet charges. In theory, this turns the Iconia One 10 into a potential mobile workstation, especially with Android 7.0 Nougat’s split-screen functionality. In practice, the quad-core MediaTek processor might be its bottleneck. Whichever CPU and GPU combo you choose, you get a 15.6-inch 1920×1080 IPS screen for video and Dolby Audio Premium for sound. RAM can go all the way up to 32 GB, while storage can be a combination of a 512 GB SSD and 2 TB HDD at max.For the less gaming inclined, the Acer Spin 1 promise a more fashionable portable computer, at the cost of a lot of power. Inside will be an Intel Pentium or Celeron processor with 4 GB of RAM and 32 to 128 GB of eMMC storage. The 11.6-inch Full HD screen can bend over backwards, turning the notebook into a tablet or tent. It might sound like a Windows 10 S convertible, but the Spin 1 doesn’t skimp on software. It runs a full version of Windows 10, bringing all the features and power the platform offers. That includes Windows Ink, which goes hand in hand with the optional Acer Active Stylus.Acer hasn’t forgotten its Android faithful and comes bearing two rather unconventional tablets. Take, for example, the Acer Iconia Tab 10, perhaps the first and only tablet that crams a Quantum Dot display inside a 10-inch panel. Built for entertainment, the 9 mm thin tablet also has four speakers for a premium audio experience.
While the Pixel 2 and new Home speakers are definitely the stars of Google’s latest show, the tie that bind them isn’t going left behind. Google Assistant, the one common feature across all of Google’s fresh new batch of devices, may not have been under the spotlight that long, but its arriving with a big bang and a whole lot of new features. Including, at long last, the ability to change Assistant to use a male voice. It’s more than just a personal preference. Some see it as a sign of equality and fairness. All the major AI assistants, for one reason or another, use a female voice, whether it sounds robotic or not. While some like Alexa and Cortana have obvious fixed genders attached to them, others don’t. Apple already allows users to change Siri’s voice to that of a male for quite some time now, and it’s about time that Google followed suit.It’s not immediately evident how to change Google Assistant to use a male voice, almost as if Google only begrudgingly conceded this feature. The new setting doesn’t exactly let you pick between “Female” and “Male”, only “Voice I” and “Voice II”, respectively. The latter replaces the default feminine voice with one that is deeper. It also applies the setting to all your devices connected to the same Google account.That’s not all that’s new, of course. Google Assistant is finally expanding the languages it knows. It’s been a long time coming, but it can finally speak and understand languages other than English (US, UK, and Australian accents). It can now do German, French, Japanese, Korean, and Canadian, both the French and the English kind. All that’s left is for developers of Assistant apps and actions to support those languages too.Google Assistant now also speaks other kinds of languages, too. The language of smart home devices and streaming services. Google Assistant is getting more integrations with Nest, which is also owned by Google. You will be able to do more than just change temperatures on the Nest Learning Thermostat. Soon, you’ll also be able to see what your Nest Cameras see, tell you whose at the door with Nest Hello, and turn on your alarm system with Nest Secure. All by using only your voice.Google Home owners have always been able to control Spotify from their speakers, but that’s not the only place that Google Assistant calls home. Starting now, you will also be able to do the same on your Android smartphone. Just say “OK Google, play Spotify” any time, anywhere and you will be able to enjoy your favorite tunes away from Home.Last and somewhat the least, there is now a Google Assistant app on Google Play Store. But before you go wild about that, it’s actually not a standalone app for Assistant. Instead, it just installs a widget you can add to your home screen, in case you find it inconvenient to launch Assistant from other places.Google has made it no secret that AI and machine learning is its new obsession, and Google Assistant is the user-facing interface to all of that. Now available on almost all of Google’s different devices and platforms, not to mention integrating with third-party platforms, it has the potential to become what pundits and even conspiracists have been looking for: Google OS.
This somewhat unexpected statement came on the heels of ZTE revealing its own take on the foldable smartphone idea, the ZTE Axon M pictured above. While not exactly the foldable dream, ZTE’s take is safer, a bit more practical, and, more importantly, now available for purchase.Yu has been coy about the approach that Huawei will take in that space. Lenovo has already shown its hand, with a tablet that folds into a phone with the display facing out.It’s similar to the Axon M except, of course, it uses one continuous screen rather than two. Samsung, on the other hand, is expected to have one that folds with the display tucked inside instead.All that the Huawei chief exec is willing to say is that they are using two screens but that, like ZTE, they still have a gap in between. They’re goal is to make that gap disappear to give off the illusion of one large whole screen instead of two. How it plans to execute on that is anyone’s guess.While Huawei has had its fair share of innovation in the smartphone space, displays haven’t exactly been one of them. Depending on how and, perhaps just as important, when it pulls this foldable phone off, it could give Huawei the publicity boost it needs to aim for the top spot that it so greatly desires.VIA: CNET If 2017 was the year of nearly bezel-less phones and 18:9 screens, 2018 could be defined by foldable devices. That might very well be the trend next year if the forward-looking statements from two of the world’s biggest smartphone makers truly come to pass. Samsung has already made it known that it’s long awaited and speculated foldable phone could make a debut next year. Now Huawei CEO Richard Yu is chiming in, saying that it, too, has a working prototype and that its foldable smartphone might be ready in 2018 as well. Story TimelineSamsung foldable phone to launch 2018, says DJ KohThe ZTE Axon M has twin displays and we’ve a lot of questions
Android users have it easy compared to iOS when it comes to notifications. It is worlds easier to get rid of notifications, including all notifications. Unfortunately, it’s also too easy to get rid of a notification accidentally with a misplaced swipe. If you find yourself doing that a lot, then this simple and free Unnotification app for Android might be for you. The only catch is that it requires you to be on Android Oreo. Sorry, still no luck for iOS users. We’ve all probably been there, whatever platform you’re on. You see an interesting, sometimes even important notification and because of the human frailty, you accidentally swipe instead of simply tapping on the notification. And whatever platform you’re on, including Windows, once that’s gone, it’s gone.Thankfully, someone at Google seemed to have had enough and decided to do something about it. OK, that’s not actually the case. It just so happens that Google added a new API to Android that, for whatever reasons the developer had, recorded a notification that was dismissed and, more importantly how it was dismissed. That is, it can distinguish between a notification that was manually swiped away or automatically removed by the app or other things.Unnotification hooks into this API to offer the user a chance to undo that notification he or she just swiped away. When a user swipes a notification away manually, Unnotification will pop up a notification with options to undo the action or ignore it. The app also keeps a log of past notifications, in case the last notification wasn’t what you were looking for.AdChoices广告Unfortunately, the new notification APIs only got included in Android 8.0 Oreo, so this app will only work on devices with that version. Or to be more precise, Oreo added the ability to differentiate between different notifications dismissals. If Unnotifcation was made to work on older Android versions, it would catch any and all dismissals, which would get annoying and pointless really quick. Unnotification is free on Google Play store. While it does have an in-app purchase, it doesn’t unlock anything and is simply a way to tip the developer for making such an app.
There’s not a whole lot to go off when it comes to the rumor we’re working with today. Supply chain whispers and notes from China. Not that notes from China aren’t particularly trustworthy – but we’re dealing with third-hand information here. That said, the possibilities in a 3x camera lens iPhone are interesting enough to consider even outside the confines of solidified source proof. Above you’ll see a photo of the Huawei P20 Pro via the iFixit teardown released earlier this morning.Some iPhones have one lens, others have two. It seemed absurd that Apple would move beyond one lens when the concept first hit real smartphones – but here we are. It also seemed like madness to think Apple would release two iPhones at the same time – but they’ve already surpassed that. Why not throw convention out the window and continue to ramp up?In our Huawei P20 Pro hands-on feature you’ll find the full 3x lens camera array in effect. Huawei’s Pro version of the P20 has a Leica Triple Camera. That’s a RGB color sensor at 40-megapixels and f/1.8, a monochrome sensor at 20-megapixels and f/1.6, and an 8-megapixel telephoto sensor. AdChoices广告What’s it going to take for Apple to add another lens? Not a whole lot, really. Not when Huawei’s already proven the tech can be produced this far in advance of Apple’s likely manufacturing time for this year’s iPhone collection. If what UDN suggests on supply chains is true, Apple will also release several of the most significant iPhone X features to the rest of the iPhone family – with LCD panels still in place. That’ll make devices more appealing while keeping with the “less expensive” mindset that comes with a $700 phone (instead of $999 and up). Apple’s next iPhone might well add another camera lens to its back if today’s rumors have anything to say about it. With the iPhone X already stretching the limits of the front of the phone, we’re now to understand that Apple’s considering pushing the boundaries of the back. While the Apple x Samsung battle fueled headlines in the past, it might just be time that Apple’s most interesting rival switched to Huawei.
TicPods Free also manage to pack noise cancellation tech into the ear pieces, which feature a design said to be inherently noise-isolating. There’s IPX5 water resistance, support for voice assistants, and in-ear detection. The latter feature is convenient for users in public; when one earbud is removed, the audio is automatically paused, then resumes when the earbud is replaced.Of interest are TicPods Free’s various “intuitive” controls, which are comprised of gesture-based functions such as double-tapping to answer a call. Wearers can slide their finger up and down the ear pieces to adjust audio volume and long press to reject calls, as well. AdChoices广告The team behind TicPods Free are seeking funding on the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, where an early bird unit is offered for $79 USD. That’s 38-percent off the anticipated retail price; shipments to backers are expected to start this upcoming July. Other pledge options are also available, including an Indiegogo Special for $99 at 23-percent off retail.SOURCE: Indiegogo A new pair of truly wireless earbuds will hopefully hit the market soon, and they’re called TicPods Free. The somewhat unfortunate name aside, TicPods are an attractive alternative to AirPods for Android owners, promising interactive functionality that includes taps for answering calls. The model boast both noise isolation and noise-cancelling tech, in-ear detection, and more. TicPods aren’t exclusive to Android; they also support iOS, according to the team behind them, and are a bit cheaper than AirPods. The model, which is introduced in highly saturated colors including deep orange, offer up to 18 hours of run time per charge, the “catch” being that the run time includes the charge provided by the battery case, too.
AMD Ryzen CPUs that come with Radeon Vega GPUs aren’t exactly new, with the first non-Pro batch announced last February. In fact, these second gen AMD Ryzen Pro processors aren’t completely new either. They’re still based on AMD’s first gen Zen architecture, which means four cores with four or eight threads versus the 6 to 8 cores of the new Zen+ architecture announced last April.What makes these new Ryzen Pro chips “Pro” is mostly the increased security and supply guarantees. Think of it like the new Ryzen with Radeon Vega GPU for corporate customers. That is, in fact, the Ryzen Pro’s primary target market. But since the first gen required businesses and companies to buy a separate graphics card, the Ryzen Pro didn’t really make for an appealing option.That’s the second thing that’s different with this second gen Pro processors. This time, AMD made sure that there are OEM partners that will be putting its new CPU/GPU combos in their products. Dell, HP, and Lenovo, have announced new variants of several computers, both notebook and desktops, powered by these new AMD Ryzen Pro chips.AdChoices广告AMD has ben aggressively pushing into Intel’s strongholds, reclaiming its title of being a more affordable alternative to the status quo. But with its integration of Radeon Vega GPUs for both consumer and enterprise computers, it may have just gotten an edge over its long-time rival. Onboard graphics chips have earned a not so good reputation for being near useless beyond basic display capabilities. That reputation is partly thanks to Intel who, until recently, hasn’t exactly given its built-in GPUs much love. AMD, in contrast, is playing up its Radeon property, acquired from old NVIDIA rival ATI, to boost both its images and its graphics chops. It is putting those chops to work on the second gen Ryzen PRO processors for notebooks and desktops. And this time, AMD made sure it has some OEMs to cheer it on.
Just recently Samsung released a short ad that mocked the iPhone X’s slower download speeds, at least compared to the Galaxy S9. That ad based its boast on Ookla’s recent “Speedtest Intelligence” report. Now that same report is being used by Qualcomm to also flaunt its latest Snapdragon 845 with its latest X20 LTE modem. But while it specifically mentions Intel LTE modems as the target of its campaign, it is also making a slight jab at its latest new enemy: Apple. Right off the bat, some will dismiss or contest the very foundations of the claims. Ookla is best known for its Speedtest utility whose accuracy and veracity has been debated time and again. Some will even point out how unscientific the testing method is, considering it’s all user-initiated. On the other hand, these will be the speeds that users will experience and they might better believe what they’re experiencing on their device rather than some scientific test done under controlled conditions.Unsurprisingly, Ookla’s report shows that Android phones running on the Snapdragon 845 outperformed other phones in upload and download speeds as well as latency. Qualcomm singles out the Intel XMM7840 and XMM7360, as these are the modems Intel is pushing to mobile devices. And, of course, the only phones using these are Apple’s iPhones.Anyone following the back and forth between Qualcomm and Apple should probably have an idea what’s really going on. Qualcomm has just recently tried to get the US International Trade Commission to block iPhones with Intel modems due to patent infringement. Now it is seemingly trying to convince users that they are losing out on having iPhones with Intel LTE modems rather than just having Qualcomm’s. Interestingly, Qualcomm also singles out AT&T and T-Mobile.This will undoubtedly raise Apple’s eyebrow and might even have the opposite effect. Apple is already looking into completely pushing Qualcomm’s chips out of its iPhones and iPads, with the LTE modem being the last part. Apple is, of course, also suing Qualcomm over patents as well as shady business practices and this is just one way the chipmaker might be trying to get back at it.
Story TimelineMicrosoft Surface Headphones revealed with Cortana built-inMicrosoft Surface Headphones first impressions and hands-on Microsoft’s surprise device at its latest Surface event wasn’t a new PC, tablet or otherwise. Most of those have leaked already beforehand. What most didn’t expect is that Microsoft would come out with Surface-branded headphones. But that’s exactly what it brought to the stage, pitting the Surface Headphones against heavyweights like Sony and Bose. Fortunately, you won’t have to wait for the holidays to hear if these deceptively simple headphones are all they cracked up to be, with Microsoft putting the shipping date a few weeks earlier than the shopping season. That is if you can spare $349, which is reportedly the price for one. Microsoft’s product page doesn’t confirm that yet, but it does note that you will be able to pre-order the Surface Headphones starting November 15, with a shipping date set for November 19. Microsoft is hardly an audio company. Its one attempt at a making an audio product has become a joke that’s even referenced in films. It mostly relegates the creation of audio accessories to companies that can do better. These days, however, even the likes of Amazon and Google are taking a shot at the audio market, so why not try again?That said, the Surface Headphones’ focus seems to be on canceling audio, that is, unwanted noise. With 13 levels of noise cancellation, controlled by a simple and discreet dial, Microsoft is immediately taking on long-time titleholders like the Bose QuietComfort II.One other thing that few other, if not no, headphones can do is support for Microsoft’s Cortana smart assistant. Then again, very few accessories do that for a very good reason. Regardless, if you’re deep into Microsoft’s ecosystem and need a sleek yet smart pair, the Surface Headphones might be the perfect choice.
2018 Volkswagen Tiguan First Drive I had the chance to drive the new VW Tiguan from mile high Denver, Colorado through the hills surrounding Boulder and back down to Golden, which was true workout for the completely redesigned people mover. Has Volkswagen finally taken its proper seat at the SUV table? Check out these 5 things you need to know about the 2018 Tiguan.1. Bigger And Longer Where It CountsSize wasn’t really a complaint when evaluating the previous-generation Volkswagen Tiguan, but the new model isn’t taking any chances as it’s stretched out almost 11 inches longer than before. The 2018 Tiguan’s use of the MQB platform – shared with a variety of other Volkswagen vehicles – has allowed it to maximize its interior volume by offering a third row of seating that was previously unavailable, joining a handful of the bigger ‘compact’ SUVs in delivering seven-passenger capability. All front-wheel drive editions of the Tiguan feature a third row as standard equipment, but in an unusual move you’ll have to order it as an option on all-wheel drive models.You’ll also want to reserve the way-back accommodations for children and instead corral adults into the ample second row, which both slides and reclines to maximum comfort / facilitate the Tetrising of cargo and third-row passengers. Interior storage space is up too, by almost 60 percent, for a total of either 65.7 cubic feet (AWD) or 73.5 cubic feet (front-wheel drive). This places the Volkswagen within spitting distance of class leaders when the rear seats are folded forward, but there’s only a modest 12 cubes available in an three-row vehicle fully loaded with passengers ( (and there’s a fussy spare tire cover to deal with that might not be the most durable part of the Tiguan’s kit).2. Quiet, Comfortable RideThe longer wheelbase of the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan helps to contribute to its improved stability and smooth character out on the road. The cabin itself will be familiar to anyone stepping up from the older Tiguan, but there’s a new full-length panoramic sunroof available as well as improved materials throughout the interior. Even with all that glass hovering overhead the Tiguan is quiet and composed in its ride, and you really don’t notice its increased bulk when rounding a corner. It’s not quite premium in feel, but more like an oversized Golf, or a slightly smaller (if that comparison still holds true) Passat when underway.3. Single Engine Option Limits AppealWhile the curves in the road might not reveal the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan’s larger waistline, mashing the accelerator pedal quickly returns you to the reality imposed by the physical laws of our universe. The top-tier all-wheel drive Tiguan has gained nearly 400 lbs over its predecessor, while the VW SUV’s new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine sees it dropping nearly 15 horsepower, checking in at 184 horses overall. There’s an almost equal boost in torque (rated at 221 lb-ft) to help rebalance the performance ledger, but in Colorado’s thinner atmosphere the engine (which is paired with an eight-speed automatic) wasn’t impressive when climbing at highway speeds.The front-wheel drive version of the Tiguan (also an eight-speed) proved to be a little more spry, a byproduct of being a few hundred pounds lighter than its pricier counterpart. The upside of the new engine and transmission arrangement is a two mile per gallon increase in around town fuel efficiency (22-mpg for FWD models), alongside a three mile per gallon improvement on the highway (27-mpg for both FWD and AWD Tiguans). It’s also worth noting that the all-wheel drive system – dubbed 4Motion – is reactive, in that it waits until traction conditions require its intervention before stepping up to the plate and engaging the rear axle. There’s no real way to short-circuit this process and lock the rear wheels in play, not even by choosing the vehicle’s Off-Road driving mode, which merely backs off the automatic engine start/stop system, reduces the stability control system’s watchful presence, and kicks in hill descent control automatically as long as you are below a certain speed. On-road, Snow, and ‘Custom Off-Road’ modes are also available on 4Motion-equipped vehicles. 4. Finally, All Those Features We’ve Been Waiting ForNo one might have been complaining about the previous Tiguan’s size, but there was certainly some discord regarding the equipment that was available with the SUV. The 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan addresses these concerns with the most modern feature set ever offered on a compact hauler from the German brand. This includes the much-needed upgrade to VW’s MIB II touchscreen infotainment system, which is faster and more intuitive to use than previous efforts, and which can be had in both 6.5-inch and 8.0-inch versions. The latter can be paired with Volkswagen’s outstanding Digital Cockpit display, a full-LCD gauge cluster that can expand to show an immersive navigation map if you’d rather not be distracted by the screen on the center stack. Sadly, it’s only available on the most expensive SEL Premium trim level, and can’t be ordered as a package on any other model.I’m not particularly jazzed about the Fender-branded audio system, which is largely a marketing effort on both sides of that particular corporate equation, but it’s nice to see adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning with automatic braking join blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning on the Tiguan’s order sheet.5. Premium Pricing Is Hard To SwallowPreviously, it was difficult to justify the Volkswagen Tiguan’s higher-than-average pricing based on the somewhat stark state of its equipment list. The 2018 Tiguan is in a somewhat similar position when it comes to pricing, but for different reasons. It’s clear that for the most part, the VW’s gear has caught up to where the rest of its SUV peers have been for the past couple of years. It’s a different value story when considering that the Tiguan remains a single-drivetrain vehicle no matter how much you’re willing to spend, which means a $37,550 all-wheel drive Tiguan features the same motor as a $25,345 base model. This has been a successful strategy for stalwarts like the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V, but upstarts from Kia (the Sportage), Hyundai (the Santa Fe Sport), along with the dominant Ford Escape now offer a stepladder of engine options, with much more impressive turbo choices delivering as much as 60 horses more than what Volkswagen’s SUV delivers. With the Tiguan in a challenger position – and no doubt hobbled by VW’s move away from diesel – it’s a harder sell to accept modest output at premium prices, particularly with so many different nameplates available near the $40k mark.Story Timeline2018 Volkswagen Atlas puts VW in the 3-row SUV game2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Long-Wheelbase compact adds much-needed interior room, 3rd row in Detroit2018 VW Atlas First Drive: A 7-seater SUV to dethrone Explorer Volkswagen has found itself on the outside looking in when it comes to the current SUV zeitgeist that has seized American car shoppers. The all-new 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan compact sport-utility vehicle, in combination with the full-size VW Atlas, is intended to address that oversight and snag a larger slice of customer affections (and paychecks) than the previous Tiguan and the ignored Touareg were able to claim.
Ford and VW have been in talks for months now on possible tie-ups between the two automakers to help reduce the cost of developing new vehicles, among other things. VW and Ford have announced today that VW will be investing in Ford’s autonomous auto division Argo AI. The exact amount of money that VW has invested in Argo AI is a mystery. What we do know is that the investment values Argo AI at over $7 billion. Ford and VW will work with Argo AI to deploy the Argo AI self-driving system in Europe and the US. Argo AI remains focused on delivering level-4 self-driving cars and trucks capable of being used in ridesharing and delivery services in dense urban areas. Ford and VW will hold equal stakes in Argo AI.Both automaker’s holdings represent the “substantial majority” of shares, and the remainder of shares in the company will be used as an incentive pool for Argo AI employees. The deal is subject to regulatory approvals and closing conditions.Ford will also become the first automaker outside the VW group to use the VW full-electric MEB platform to deliver high-volume, zero-emissions vehicles in Europe starting in 2023. Ford says that it expects to deliver more than 600,000 European vehicles on the MEB platform in the next six years. Ford has a second all-new model for Europeans under consideration.Ford’s use of the MEB platform is part of its more than $11.5 billion investment into EVs globally. The platform has cost VW more than $7 billion to develop and is planned to be used in more than 15 million cars for the VW Group alone in the next decade. There is no cross-ownership in Ford or VW in the deal.
Families USA Executive Director Ron Pollack tells CQ Healthbeat that the flap won’t prevent a robust effort by the nonprofit group, Enroll America, to sign up the uninsured. Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney draws parallels to earlier allegations about President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.CQ HealthBeat: Enroll America ‘Alive And Growing’ Despite Sebelius Controversy, Pollack SaysThe controversy over donations to Enroll America Health that Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius solicited won’t prevent the nonprofit group from waging a vigorous campaign to sign up the uninsured, its founder said in an interview Tuesday. There is no question that fundraising will be “at least significantly into eight figures; it already is,” said Families USA Executive Director Ron Pollack (Reichard, 5/22).The Hill: Carney: Questions About Sebelius Fundraising Similar To Certificate ConcernsWhite House press secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday unfavorably compared questions about donations solicited by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to Republicans questioning the president’s birth certificate. At a tense briefing where Carney took tough questions on a series of issues that could damage the White House politically, the press secretary aligned himself with White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, who over the weekend accused Republicans of engaging in “partisan fishing expeditions” (Sink, 5/21). Outreach Effort Moves Forward Despite Sebelius Controversy This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
Investors, Lawyers Among Those Getting Early Boosts From The Health Law Also in the news, Bloomberg reports that some employers may change their minds about offering employees insurance when tax advantages go up next year. Bloomberg: Affordable Care Act Sees More Employers Embracing Credits: TaxesBoutique accounting, medical and legal firms that resisted offering insurance to their employees under the new health-care law may change their minds when the tax advantages go up next year. Companies with 10 full-time employees or less, making an average wage of $25,000 or less, may get a 50 percent tax credit for the amount of their contribution to cover premiums in 2014, Bloomberg BNA reported. Nonprofit employers can get 35 percent, the Internal Revenue Service said in its proposed rules (Beyoud, 9/5).Fox News Early Big Winners Of Obamacare: Investors, Lawyers, Consultants, Tech ExpertsWhile polling data suggests many Americans remain anxious and skeptical about ObamaCare, the early big winners of the president’s signature law include investors, lawyers, consultants and purveyors of new technology. Since March 23, 2010, when it was signed into law, the health care sector of stocks in the S&P 500 has increased in value by 50 percent. Gilead Sciences, a California-based drug maker with 5,000 workers, has seen its stock price explode by 157 percent in the last three and a half years (Ross, 9/05).Meanwhile, for some immigrants, the health law’s impact is not so clear cut: The Seattle Times: How Will Immigrants Fare Under Obamacare? It’s ComplicatedLikos Afkas is a native of the Federated States of Micronesia, part of a cluster of islands in the Pacific where nuclear testing by the U.S. government during the Cold War left behind high rates of cancer…Ultimately, how he and other immigrants fare under this massive health-care overhaul will depend on many factors: their income, immigration status, how long they’ve lived in this country and — in the case of people like Afkas — their country of origin (Turnbull, 9/4). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
First Edition: February 5, 2014 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 headlines include stories detailing a new Congressional Budget Office report that found 2 million people who relied on a job for health insurance will quit working, reduce their hours or stop looking for a job because of new benefits from the health law.Kaiser Health News: Medicaid Expansion Only A First Step To Better Health In Troubled W.Va. CommunitiesKaiser Health News staff writer Ankita Rao, working in collaboration with USA Today, reports: “It was a frosty December afternoon in downtown Williamson, with hot tomato and beef soup on the menu at Jacobs Well. Ronald Washington warmed up at a long wooden table. The 58-year-old security guard, wearing a striped winter hat and brown jacket, came during his lunch break for one of the free meals that the faith-based mission provides” (Rao, 2/5). Read the story and the related sidebar, A Small West Virginia Town Rallies For Better Health (Rao, 2/5) .Kaiser Health News: A Third Generation Doctor Questions The ProfessionReporting for Kaiser Health News, in partnership with NPR, Eric Whitney writes: “Being a doctor in America is changing, in part because of the Affordable Care Act and also because of longer trends in the practice of medicine. Drs. Robert and Michael Sawyer practice at Denver Health, the city’s big public hospital downtown. Sawyers have worked or taught here as physicians since the 1930s, so they have a unique perspective on how today’s challenges stack up against those that physicians have faced in the past” (Whitney, 2/5). Read the story.Kaiser Health News: Capsules: CBO Reports That Health Law Provision Called ‘Bailout’ By GOP Will Raise $8BNow on Kaiser Health News’ blog, Mary Agnes Carey reports: “New findings from the Congressional Budget Office may make it harder for Republicans to portray a provision in the health law designed to limit insurers’ losses and gains as a ‘bailout’ for the industry” (Carey, 2/5). Check out what else is on the blog.Politico: Poll: 51% Disapprove Of ObamacareIn a Gallup Poll, released Tuesday, 51 percent of Americans said they disapprove of the Affordable Care Act and 41 percent say they approve of the law. Nevertheless, these numbers are a slight improvement from Gallup’s previous poll released last month, which showed 54 percent disapproval and 38 percent approval. Additionally, the poll released today is consistent with the pollster’s Dec. 13 poll, which showed identical approval numbers (McCalmont, 2/4).The New York Times: Health Care Law Projected To Cut The Labor ForceA Congressional Budget Office analysis released Tuesday predicted that the Affordable Care Act would shrink the work force by the equivalent of more than two million full-time positions and recharged the political debate over the health care law, providing Republican opponents fresh lines of attack and putting Democrats on the defensive. The nonpartisan budget office’s analysis, part of a regular update to its budget projections, was far more complicated than the Republican attack lines it generated. Congressional Republican leaders called the findings “devastating,” “terrible” and proof that the health care law was a job killer (Lowrey and Weisman, 2/4).NPR: More Access To Health Care Means Millions Can Quit Or Cut HoursWhat might have been a routine update on the state of the federal budget Tuesday instead became the newest front in the ongoing political war over President Obama’s signature health care law. At issue: a revised estimate about how many people would voluntarily leave the workforce because they can get health care without necessarily holding down a job (Date, 2/4).Los Angeles Times: Affordable Care Act Will Prompt Some To Work Less, Report SaysPresident Obama’s healthcare law will reduce the ranks of the uninsured by about 13 million this year and 25 million once it is fully phased in, but will prompt some people to work less because of the availability of insurance subsidies, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday. The latest projections by the nonpartisan budget analysts inspired new talking points for both sides in the deeply polarized debate over the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare (Lauter, 2/4).The Washington Post: Health-Care Law Will Prompt Over 2 Million To Quite Jobs Or Cut Hours, A CBO Report SaysMore than 2 million Americans who would otherwise rely on a job for health insurance will quit working, reduce their hours or stop looking for employment because of new health benefits available under the Affordable Care Act, congressional budget analysts said Tuesday. The findings from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office revived a fierce debate about the impact President Obama’s signature health-care program will have on the U.S. economy (Goldfarb and Goldstein, 2/4).The Wall Street Journal: Health Law To Cut Into Labor ForceThe agency also said the rough launch of the health law’s online insurance portals shrunk its estimates of the number of people who will get coverage in 2014. It said six million people would obtain private coverage through the exchanges and eight million people would sign up for Medicaid, compared with its earlier estimates of seven million and nine million, respectively. The report, part of the budget office’s annual economic and budgetary outlook, provides the agency’s most detailed analysis yet of the ways in which the law is expected to change incentives in the workplace as it takes full effect. The report indicates that, in effect, some workers will either leave the workforce entirely or cut back on hours because the law lets them get coverage on their own without regard to their medical history, in some cases with a subsidy (Radnofsky and Paletta, 2/4).The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: CBO: Medicare Growth to Remain ‘Slower Than Usual’The Congressional Budget Office, in its new economic outlook report released Tuesday, said the recent slowdown in the growth of Medicare costs has been “broad and persistent,” prompting a projection “that growth will be slower than usual for some years to come.” Total spending for Medicare is projected to grow about 6% per year over the next decade because Medicare case loads are expanding as baby boomers become eligible for benefits at age 65. In 2013 there were about 51 million Medicare beneficiaries and that number is expected to climb to 71 million by 2024 (Corbett Dooren, 2/4).USA Today: Health Law Could Mean Fewer Full-Time Workers, CBO SaysWorkers eligible to buy cheaper health insurance or receive financial incentives under the Affordable Care Act may choose to work fewer hours, according to a Congressional Budget Office report released Tuesday. Those choices, the report said, may cut the number of full-time workers by 2.3 million people by 2021. CBO originally had estimated that 800,000 people may make those choices (Kennedy, 2/4).The Associated Press/Washington Post: Web Site Woes Will Reduce Health Care EnrollmentWebsite woes have largely cleared up, but the nonpartisan analysts said Tuesday they expect 1 million fewer people to sign up through the new insurance exchanges, for a new total of 6 million in 2014. They predict enrollment will pick up and top 20 million in 2016. CBO also revised its Medicaid projection down by 1 million, for a new total of 8 million (2/4).The Associated Press/Washington Post: Health Care law Will Mean Fewer People On The JobRepublican lawmakers seized on the report as major new evidence of what they consider the failures of Obama’s overhaul, the huge change in U.S. health coverage that they’re trying to overturn and planning to use as a main argument against Democrats in November’s midterm elections (2/4).The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Five Takeaways On New Health-Care ProjectionsThere is plenty of material in today’s Congressional Budget Office report about the impact of the Affordable Care Act. Here are five key takeaways (Radnofsky, 2/4).Politico: White House Pushes Back hard Amid CBO FalloutThe White House pushed back hard Tuesday on the Congressional Budget Office’s projection that the Affordable Care Act will cut labor supply by the equivalent of two million full-time jobs, contending that the law is a good thing because it gives Americans “choice” on how much they’ll work. While the CBO “consistently does outstanding work,” Council of Economic Advisers chairman Jason Furman said at the White House press briefing, its findings in Tuesday’s report can be “subject to misinterpretation” (Epstein, 2/4).The Associated Press/Washington Post: Administration Drills Down To Find UninsuredUninsured Americans are still procrastinating about President Barack Obama’s health care law. With less than 60 days left to enroll, can the administration find the millions of customers needed to sustain new insurance markets? Geography could hold the answer, according to a study conducted for The Associated Press. It found the uninsured aren’t scattered around the country willy-nilly; half live in just 116 of the nation’s 3,143 counties. That means an outreach campaign targeted to select areas can pay off big (2/5).Los Angeles Times: Obamacare Enrollees Hit Snags At Doctor’s OfficesAfter overcoming website glitches and long waits to get Obamacare, some patients are now running into frustrating new roadblocks at the doctor’s office. A month into the most sweeping changes to healthcare in half a century, people are having trouble finding doctors at all, getting faulty information on which ones are covered and receiving little help from insurers swamped by new business (Terhune, 2/4).The New York Times: WellPoint, A Onetime Critic Of Health Law, May Yet ProfitIn the midst of the sweeping transformation taking place in health insurance, the company that served as an illustration of why an overhaul was necessary could end up benefiting most from the new federal health care law. Just a few years ago, the health insurer WellPoint outraged its customers — and regulators — by proposing an increase of nearly 40 percent in some of its annual premiums. Now, WellPoint has captured a large portion of the government money being spent on Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for the poor, and can gamble on the new insurance marketplace because of protections offered by the federal government in the early days of the law’s introduction (Abelson, 2/4).The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Obama Faces Fresh Democratic Pressure On Health CareSome Democratic lawmakers intensified pressure on President Barack Obama Tuesday to take actions he has been resisting when it comes to health care and the nation’s energy supply. Mr. Obama hosted a private meeting at the White House for House Democrats. Both sides afterward described the session as productive and friendly. But Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D., N.H.) told Mr. Obama at one point that some people should have left their jobs over the flawed rollout of the health-care law that is the centerpiece of his domestic legacy (Nicholas and Hook, 2/4).Politico: GOP Weapon 2: Hit Obamacare Over ‘Insurer Bailouts’The last thing Democrats want to do, with a law as complicated and full of moving parts as the Affordable Care Act, is explain what the law actually does. And yet, they’re going to have to come up with something to answer the Republicans’ latest line of attack. The program that’s causing all the trouble is supposed to help insurers get through the first few years of Obamacare if their costs are higher than they thought. And it’s not an emergency measure — it was built into the law all along (Nather, 2/5).Los Angeles Times: Republicans Criticize Surgeon General At Senate HearingPresident Obama’s choice to become the next surgeon general spent much of his confirmation hearing Tuesday deflecting criticism from Republicans, who attacked him for his political activism, ties to the president and relative inexperience. Vivek Hallegere Murthy, who at 36 would be one of the youngest surgeon generals, was chided for advocating gun control in the aftermath of the December 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Conn., and for backing the Affordable Care Act as a co-founder of Doctors for America, formerly Doctors for Obama (Clozel, 2/4).The Washington Post: Republicans Question Surgeon General Nominee Over Advocacy For Health-Care lawMurthy, 36, who would be the first Indian American to become chief U.S. doctor, works at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and is an instructor at Harvard Medical School. If confirmed, he will take over for acting surgeon general Boris D. Lushniak, who stepped in when Regina Benjamin left the post in July (Hicks, 2/4). Check out all of Kaiser Health News’ e-mail options including First Edition and Breaking News alerts on our Subscriptions page.
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. Los Angeles Times: Medicare’s Real Doctor Payment Problem The news that a small percentage of the country’s physicians collected billions of dollars from Medicare in a single year may or may not be a testament to individual greed; some of the top recipients are under investigation for allegedly bilking the system, while others work long hours delivering costly care. But it is a powerful reminder that the program needs to stop rewarding doctors for the quantity of care they deliver rather than the quality. Happily, there’s a bipartisan plan to do just that; unhappily, lawmakers haven’t been able to agree on how to cover its cost. If Congress needed any further incentive to settle its differences, the fact that 1,000 doctors raked in $3 billion from Medicare should provide it (4/10). The New York Times’ Public Editor: Times Should Have Nodded To Wall Street Journal In Medicare Story The New York Times led its print edition today with an extensive treatment of an important story: that a small fraction of doctors get a huge share of the billions of dollars paid out under Medicare. What’s missing in that story is any reference to The Wall Street Journal, whose persistent legal efforts over several years helped result in a trove of Medicare data being made public, including much of the data that Wednesday’s news reports were based on (Margaret Sullivan, 4/9). Bloomberg: Medicare’s Wasted Advantage Anyone worried about the cost of health care in the U.S. should view this week’s capitulation on Medicare Advantage with concern. Faced with a lobbying campaign that health insurers have described as their “largest ever,” the federal government backed down from next year’s proposed cuts to the program, which pays private insurers to deliver Medicare benefits. If the government has this much trouble trimming a useless subsidy for the insurance industry, it will have a hard time being frugal when it comes to health spending that actually matters (4/9). Bloomberg: How To Give Obamacare The Slip Here’s the scenario: You run a trade association, and your corner of the health-care sector gets stuck with part of the bill for Obamacare. Naturally, you’d rather not pay that bill, so you start a campaign against it. You assemble a coalition of lawmakers from both parties to support your argument. You pay for studies. You write letters. You meet with officials. What happens next? If you represent the insurance industry, and you’ve been fighting the law’s reduction in Medicare Advantage payments, you rack up a series of modest wins. If you represent the medical device industry, and you’ve been fighting the law’s excise tax on your products, you get bupkis (Christopher Flavelle, 4/9). Los Angeles Times: Watch The Right Search Desperately For Bad News On Obamacare The peculiar efforts by opponents of the Affordable Care Act to knock down the unquestionably good news about its effects have continued this week, fueled by an omnibus survey released Tuesday by the Rand Corp. We reviewed the report’s findings here. The report, based on the latest poll of a group of respondents questioned by Rand every month, concluded that 9.3 million Americans gained health insurance between September 2013 and sometime in mid-March. It acknowledged that there’s a built-in margin of error because of the survey size (roughly 2,400 individuals), and that its figure might change because sign-ups for 2014 were still continuing when polling ended, but it said that on the whole “the ACA has already led to a substantial increase in insurance coverage” (Michael Hiltzik, 4/9). Bloomberg: More Puzzling Obamacare Numbers Late last month, the Los Angeles Times got a lot of buzz when it used data from an unpublished RAND Corp. report to assess the state of Affordable Care Act enrollment. That report is now available, and a lot of folks have been poring over its findings. Actually, puzzling over its findings might be a better way to put it (Megan McArdle, 4/9).The Wall Street Journal: The Obamacare Debate Is Far From Over With the announcement earlier this month that 7.1 million Americans signed up for health insurance through Obamacare, Democrats think they are over the hump. House Leader Nancy Pelosi told CNN’s Candy Crowley that congressional Democrats “are happy to not run away from what we have done. We’re very proud of what we have accomplished.” Democrats at risk in Republican states this November agree. Louisiana’s Sen. Mary Landrieu says Obamacare “holds great promise and is getting stronger every day.” Alaska’s Sen. Mark Begich proclaims “seven million people have access to quality, affordable care and are in control of their own health-care choices.” … That’s a wish, not a fact. Obamacare is and will remain a political problem for Democrats because there’s a huge disconnect between the party’s rhetoric and the reality that people affected by the law have experienced (Karl Rove, 4/9). The Fiscal Times: Two Studies Raise Red Flags On Obamacare’s First Round The White House celebrated as it announced that 7.1 million consumers had signed up for health insurance through the federal and state exchanges, slightly exceeding their original goals and significantly outpacing expectations after the disastrous rollout of Obamacare last October. “The debate over repealing this law is over,” President Obama told the press on April 1. “The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.” Last week, that sounded like wishful thinking. Two new studies released this week prove it (Edward Morrissey, 4/10). The Washington Post: 400,000 Ways For McAuliffe To Win On Medicaid Gov. Terry McAuliffe needs to ditch the talking points about hospitals, jobs and investments that he’s used to justify Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. They aren’t going to change any minds. At the same time, he needs to stop worrying about Obamacare, the federal deficit, broken Washington promises and all the other bullet points used to justify opposition to Medicaid expansion. … Medicaid expansion comes down to one point, or more precisely, 400,000 versions of the same point. This is the rough number of poor Virginians whom the Medicaid component of Obamacare was designed to help get health care they couldn’t otherwise afford. Due to bad genes, bad luck or bad choices, many of them have pressing health issues but no way to get insurance (Norman Leahy and Paul Goldman, 4/9). Viewpoints: Medicare’s ‘Doctor Payment Problem’; A ‘Wasted Advantage’; ‘Puzzling’ Rand Numbers
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 reports on an HHS announcement detailing some of the marketplace enrollment plans for next fall.Kaiser Health News: A Reader Asks: Can New Employees Be Forced To Wait 90 Days For Coverage?Kaiser Health News’ consumer columnist Michelle Andrews says a 90-day delay is allowed by the health law but employees have other options to get through that time (Andrews, 6/27). Read the story. Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Premiums For Many In The Individual Market May Change Next Year; Medicare Penalties For Hospital Infections Will Hit Alaska Hard; Colorado’s 2015 Premiums: Up, Down And Holding The LineNow on Kaiser Health News’ blog, Julie Appleby reports on a new study showing some marketplace consumers may see their premiums rise because of the way subsidies are calculated: “Health insurance premiums for people with subsidies could increase substantially in some markets – but consumers who shop around may not end up paying more, a new report out Thursday says. As insurers battle for a share of the individual market, some plans that were the low-priced leaders this year are not among the least expensive options next year, according to an analysis of rates filed in nine states by consulting firm Avalere Health” (Appleby, 6/26). Also on the blog, Alaska Public Radio Network’s Annie Feidt, working in partnership with KHN and NPR, examines new Medicare penalties that some Alaska hospitals could face: “The four largest hospitals in Alaska are facing Medicare payment penalties for the quality of their care. Providence, Alaska Regional, Alaska Native Medical Center and Fairbanks Memorial are all in the bottom 25 percent nationally for the number of infections and serious complications patients get in their hospitals, according to data analyzed by Kaiser Health News. The penalties are part of a focus on quality care that’s included in the Affordable Care Act” (Feidt, 6/27). In addition, Eric Whitney, reporting for Kaiser Health News in partnership with NPR, writes about the new insurance premiums being considered in Colorado: “Health insurance companies in Colorado are starting to talk about their proposed premiums for 2015. State regulators on Monday released the draft prices, which the state now has 60 days to approve or deny. Carriers generally aren’t proposing big changes in premiums for 2015, nothing that’s dramatically out of line with trends of the last several years” (Whitney, 6/27). Check out what else is on the blog. The New York Times: Most Will Be Able To Automatically Renew Coverage Under Health LawThe Obama administration announced Thursday that most people would be able to renew subsidized health insurance coverage without filing an application and without going back to HealthCare.gov, the website that frustrated millions of consumers last fall. But some people will have to go into the marketplace again — if, for example, their income has changed or they want to shop for a better deal in 2015 (Pear, 6/26). The Washington Post: HHS Sets Enrollment Rules For Year Two Of ObamacareThe Obama administration on Thursday plans to issue much-anticipated instructions for Americans to reenroll for next year in the new federal health insurance marketplace — a set of rules intended to make it easy for consumers but that nevertheless will require some people to reapply through HealthCare.gov to preserve their subsidies or coverage. … A fraction of the people in the federal insurance exchange will need to reapply for one or more reasons: their incomes are rising or falling significantly, they did not give permission for their tax records to be checked automatically, or the health plans they joined this year disappear as of January (Goldstein, 6/26). USA Today: Most Can Auto-Enroll For Insurance, But Should They?About 95% of those who bought health insurance on the federal exchange will be able to re-enroll automatically for 2015, the Obama administration said Thursday, but a new study suggests the move is unwise unless consumers shop around (O’Donnell, 6/26). The Wall Street Journal: Federal Health-Exchange Plans To Automatically RenewThe Obama administration plans to automatically renew for next year the health plans and premium subsidies that consumers obtained through the Affordable Care Act’s federal insurance exchange. The move, which will apply to most of the five million people who selected insurance through HealthCare.gov for 2014, will make it easier for consumers to stay in their plans and retain tax credits lowering the cost of coverage. It also will relieve pressure on the federal exchange, which was crippled during parts of its first enrollment period (Radnofsky, 6/26). The Washington Post: Is That Hospice Safe? Infrequent Inspections Mean It May Be Impossible To Know.The typical hospice in the United States undergoes a full government inspection about once every six years, according to federal figures, making it one of the least-scrutinized areas of U.S. health care — even though about half of older Americans receive hospice care at the ends of their lives. By contrast, nursing homes are inspected about once a year, and home health agencies every three years. … The nature of hospice care makes ensuring its quality difficult. Hospices typically send nurses and other personnel to a patient’s residence — whether at a private home, a nursing home or an assisted-living facility. The dispersal of patients makes oversight difficult to begin with, but the infrequency of inspections means shortcomings are even less likely to be detected (Whoriskey, 6/26). The New York Times: Court Rejects Zone To Buffer Abortion ClinicThe Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously struck down a Massachusetts law that barred protests, counseling and other speech near abortion clinics. “A painted line on the sidewalk is easy to enforce, but the prime objective of the First Amendment is not efficiency,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in a majority opinion that was joined by the court’s four-member liberal wing. … State officials said the law was a response to a history of harassment and violence at abortion clinics in Massachusetts, including a shooting rampage at two facilities in 1994 (Liptak and Schwartz, 6/26). Politico: High Court Strikes Massachusetts Abortion ‘Buffer Zone’The court said the state law violated the First Amendment because its “buffer zone” limited speech too broadly, covering 35 feet from the doorway of facilities and including public areas like sidewalks. Although other buffer zones typically are smaller, specifying distances such as 8 feet or 15 feet from clinics, the advocates said the court’s decision puts them in jeopardy. “If you were a betting man, you would bet that they’ll all go,” said Roger Evans, senior counsel at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (Haberkorn and Villacorta, 6/26). The Washington Post: Court Strikes Down Abortion Clinic Buffer ZonesChief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s ruling was a narrow one, pointing out that other states and cities had found less-intrusive ways to both protect women entering clinics and accommodate the First Amendment rights of those opposed to abortion (Barnes, 6/26). The Wall Street Journal: Supreme Court Invalidates State Law On Abortion Clinic Buffer ZonesThe Supreme Court on Thursday invalidated a Massachusetts law that required 35-foot buffer zones around abortion clinics, ruling the statute went too far in burdening the free-speech rights of antiabortion activists. The court’s decision, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, could void similar measures in other cities and change how antiabortion activists approach women entering clinics. It is the latest victory for opponents of abortion, who have made significant gains in state legislatures in recent years restricting clinic operations (Kendall, Armour and Radnofsky, 6/26). The Wall Street Journal: New York High Court Blocks Soda LawNew York’s highest court blocked New York City’s health board from banning the sale of large sugary drinks in restaurants and other venues. The 4-2 ruling Thursday leaves the controversial proposal in the hands of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who pledged last year to advance the ban at the City Council if the courts rejected it (Saul, 6/27). The New York Times: New York’s Ban On Big Sodas Is Rejected By Final CourtThe Bloomberg big-soda ban is officially dead. The state’s highest court on Thursday refused to reinstate New York City’s controversial limits on sales of jumbo sugary drinks, exhausting the city’s final appeal and dashing the hopes of health advocates who have urged state and local governments to curb the consumption of drinks and foods linked to obesity (Grynbaum, 6/26). The Washington Post: Court Strikes Down New York’s Ban On Big SodasMichael R. Bloomberg’s plan to limit the size of sodas in New York City, one of the most aggressive and controversial public health initiatives in recent memory, effectively died on Thursday. It was not yet 2 years old (Dennis, 6/26). Politico: Tom Coburn: ‘Wasn’t Surprised’ About VA MessThe Department of Veterans Affairs may not be the most tainted federal agency Sen. Tom Coburn has ever investigated, but he says it’s not far from the top. The embattled agency is reeling from reports that uncovered extensive wait lists for medical treatment, drug and sexual abuse and at times an outright disregard for veterans’ health at facilities across the country. “I wasn’t surprised. I was trained in a VA hospital, I wasn’t surprised at all,” Coburn told POLITICO during an interview in his office in the Russell building. “The culture in the VA should be people working for veterans not for the VA, [but] the culture right now is that I work for a system … and the requirements are so low” (French and Everett, 6/26). The New York Times: Politicians’ Prescriptions For Marijuana Defy Doctors And DataNew York moved last week to join 22 states in legalizing medical marijuana for patients with a diverse array of debilitating ailments, encompassing epilepsy and cancer, Crohn’s disease and Parkinson’s. Yet there is no rigorous scientific evidence that marijuana effectively treats the symptoms of many of the illnesses for which states have authorized its use. Instead, experts say, lawmakers and the authors of public referendums have acted largely on the basis of animal studies and heart-wrenching anecdotes. The results have sometimes confounded doctors and researchers (Saint Louis, 6/26).Check out all of Kaiser Health News’ e-mail options including First Edition and Breaking News alerts on our Subscriptions page. First Edition: June 27, 2014
New Medical Coding System Prompts Cash-Flow, Logistical Worries For Doctors, Hospitals The new classification system, known as ICD-10, is set to go in use Oct. 1 and contains more than 100,000 new codes, which will force medical practices and insurers to upgrade and implement new practices. Meanwhile, the traditional stethoscope is also getting a modern overhaul. The New York Times: One Symptom In New Medical Codes: Doctor Anxiety Today, the stethoscope remains a fixture in medicine, draped around the shoulders of doctors. It’s also overdo for a makeover. Now Eko Devices, a Silicon Valley start-up, has received federal Food and Drug Administration approval for its digital stethoscope, which brings the power of modern technology to an already essential device. The implications could be huge for patient care. (McFarland, 9/11) The Washington Post: New Stethoscope Shows How Technology Can Reinvent Health Care 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 nation’s health care providers are under orders to start using a new system of medical codes to describe illnesses and injuries in more detail than ever before. The codes will cover common ailments: Did a diabetic also have kidney disease? But also included are some that are far less common: whether the patient was crushed by a crocodile or sucked into a jet engine. (Pear, 9/13)
The announcement on Tuesday that Amazon, JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway would be joining forces to create a health care company moved stock markets and prompted optimistic predictions of major reform in a notoriously complex industry. But while the three companies bring successful management, technological expertise and substantial capital to the venture, many health industry experts expressed doubts about whether their results would match their ambition. (Margot Sanger-Katz and Reed Abelson, 1/30) The New York Times: Can Amazon And Friends Handle Health Care? There’s Reason For Doubt Bloomberg: Amazon/Berkshire/JPMorgan Health Venture: Incumbents Should Fear Los Angeles Times: Universal Coverage, Courtesy Of The Corporate World? It’s Possible The great and oft-heralded Amazon.com Inc. foray into health care is here, and it’s not what we expected. The company isn’t diving headlong into drug distribution or becoming a pharmacy benefit manager (PBM). Along with JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Berkshire Hathaway Inc., it announced a more interesting idea Tuesday — a new company aimed at lowering the cost of employee health coverage. Though no one sector will face the full wrath of Bezos, this joint venture is a potential competitive threat to all of health care’s many middlemen. (Max Nisen, 1/30) Bloomberg: Can Amazon Transform Health Care? It’s Not A Crazy Idea Took ’em long enough. After decades of government leaders fumbling efforts to introduce some rational thinking to the over $3-trillion U.S. healthcare system, the corporate world has finally stepped in with an initiative that, in the best of all possible worlds, could provide a breakthrough that shows the way to universal coverage. (David Lazarus, 1/30) While the initial focus will be on technology, and the efforts will initially be aimed only at employees of the three firms, one suspects that the ambitions are slightly bigger: building a business that can somehow tamp down the pressures that drive health-care costs ever upward. In remaking the market for health-care services, they might even divert some small fraction of that gross national spending into their own pockets. (Megan McArdle, 1/30) Different Takes: Will Amazon’s Venture Be A Breakthrough In Lowering Healthcare Costs? Editorial pages feature writings on the new initiative between Amazon, JP Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Bloomberg: JPMorgan Health Venture Poses A Hazard To Its Deal Fees The disruptive venture creates a conflict that may be hard to ignore for key executives at companies like UnitedHealth Group Inc., Humana Inc. and Express Scripts Holding Co., who may ice out JPMorgan’s bankers when it comes to seeking future transaction or capital markets advice. After all, why pad the profits of a firm whose actions have the ability to potentially shave billions of dollars from respective market values? (Gillian Tan, 1/30) 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 U.S. healthcare system is one of the most expensive in the world. Yet America’s maternal death rate is the highest among developed nations. (7/26) This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. Like thousands of women facing childbirth emergencies every year, YoLanda Mention didn’t get the care recommended by leading experts for new mothers experiencing severe high blood pressure, according to court records. Now, her family goes on without her. (Young, 7/26) USA Today: Deadly Deliveries: How Hospitals Are Failing Mothers In 13 Graphics Texas Right to Life’s attempts to move the state Legislature further to the right are faltering this election season. And that may be just fine with some conservative and rival anti-abortion groups. The group’s political action committee spent $2 million backing 17 challengers to incumbent state House and Senate lawmakers. Only three won their March primaries. Meanwhile, the group’s attacks on lawmakers with strong anti-abortion records and free spending are stirring questions about whether it’s more beholden to deep-pocketed donors and their agendas than to its core mission. (Rayasam, 7/26) USA Today: ‘Mommy Went To Heaven’ Kansas City Star: Missouri Passes Bill To Require 3D Mammogram Coverage USA Today: Deadly Deliveries: “I Am One Of The 50,000” (Videos) Women from across the country retell harrowing stories of surviving life-threatening complications during childbirth. (7/26) A bill advancing in the Legislature would make California the first in the nation to require that abortion pills be available at on-campus health centers. The legislation, which has passed the Senate and is advancing in the Assembly, would mandate that all California State University and University of California campuses make the prescription abortion drug RU 486 available at their on-campus student health centers by Jan. 1, 2022. (Castillo, 7/26) Hospitals Are Often Skipping Easy Procedures That Could Drastically Cut Down On Maternal Deaths The U.S. continues to fall behind other developed countries when it comes to maternal mortality. A USA Today investigation looks at how doctors and nurses are ignoring simple safety practices that could improve those numbers. People: Woman Dies Days After Giving Birth As Medics Assumed She Can’t Afford Ambulance Ride, Mom Claims Politico: Texas Anti-Abortion Group Tacks To The Right, Dividing State Republicans In other women’s health news — Starting next month, all health insurers in Missouri will be required to cover 3D mammograms, as well as the traditional flat images. …The medical community isn’t in total agreement, but a consensus is growing among specialists that 3D is the way to go for spotting breast cancer. (Marso, 7/27) KQED: California May Soon Be First State To Require Public Universities To Offer Abortion Pills Every year, thousands of women suffer life-altering injuries or die during childbirth because hospitals and medical workers skip safety practices known to head off disaster, a USA TODAY investigation has found. Doctors and nurses should be weighing bloody pads to track blood loss so they recognize the danger sooner. They should be giving medication within an hour of spotting dangerously high blood pressure to fend off strokes. These are not complicated procedures requiring expensive technology. They are among basic tasks that experts have recommended for years because they can save mothers’ lives. (Young, 7/26) A mother of three from Florida died days after experiencing a stroke, and the four paramedics who arrived on scene have now been suspended after an investigation revealed they mishandled the response, PEOPLE confirms. In the early morning hours of July 4, Nicole Black found her daughter, 30-year-old Crystle Galloway, unresponsive in a bathtub just six days after she had given birth to a son via cesarean. When Galloway regained consciousness a short time later and complained about her head, Black quickly called emergency services and explained that her daughter was breathing but was “drooling from the mouth,” she told the Tampa Bay Times. (Hahn, 6/27) USA Today: Hospitals Know How To Protect Mothers. They Just Aren’t Doing It.
The New York Times: Health Law Could Be Hard To Knock Down Despite Judge’s Ruling “There’s really no American that’s not affected by this law,” said Yale law professor Abbe Gluck, who filed an amicus brief with other lawyers in the Texas case. The judge’s ruling, she said, flouts settled legal doctrine and places key acts of Congress in reverse order. By ignoring that Congress specifically declined to strike down the ACA in 2017 when it chose to alter only one portion of the bill, she said, the judge decreed that the 2010 Congress, which first passed the law, has more authority than the same legislative body in 2017. “It’s absolutely ludicrous to hold that we do not know whether the 2017 Congress would have wanted the rest of the ACA to exist without an enforceable mandate, because the 2017 Congress did exactly that when it zeroed out the mandate and left the rest of the ACA standing,” Gluck said. “He effectively repealed the entire Affordable Care Act when the 2017 Congress decided not to do so.” (Barrett, 12/15) Could a federal judge in Texas be the catalyst that finally brings down the Affordable Care Act, a law that has withstood countless assaults from Republicans in Congress and two Supreme Court challenges? On the morning after Judge Reed O’Connor’s startling ruling that struck down the landmark health law, legal scholars were doubtful. Lawyers on both sides of previous A.C.A. battles said the reasoning behind this one was badly flawed, notably in its insistence that the entire 2010 law must fall because one of its provisions may have been rendered invalid by the 2017 tax overhaul legislation. Had Congress meant to take such radical action, they said, it would have said so at the time. (Hoffman, Pear and Liptak, 12/15) This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. Legal Scholars On Both Sides Of ACA Battle Pan Judge’s Ruling, Saying The Reasoning Is Flawed Had Congress meant to take such radical action as to invalidate the entire law because of one provision, the experts say, it would have said so at the time. “He effectively repealed the entire Affordable Care Act when the 2017 Congress decided not to do so,” Yale law professor Abbe Gluck told The New York Times. The Hill: Five Takeaways From The Court Decision Striking Down ObamaCare The Washington Post: Legal Experts Rip Judge’s Rationale For Declaring Obamacare Law Invalid But where legal experts particularly criticize O’Connor is his next step, where he ruled that because the mandate is unconstitutional, the rest of the Affordable Care Act is also invalid. Experts say that violates the established legal standard that Congress’s intent should be the guide, and in this case it is obvious that Congress intended for the rest of the Affordable Care Act to remain when it repealed only the mandate penalty last year. (Sullivan, 12/15)