Gov. Jerry Brown on Oct. 5 signed California’s controversial End of Life Option Act, which permits physician-aided death for terminally ill patients. California becomes the fifth state in the nation to allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses of medication to certain patients seeking to end their lives.
The law, modeled after Oregon’s law, requires two doctors to agree that the person has six months or less to live and is mentally competent.
Until Brown, a former Jesuit seminarian, announced he had signed the bill it was unclear where the governor stood on the issue. He released a brief statement outlining his moral dilemma, saying, “I do not know what I would do if I were dying and in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.” Continue reading
Two fellow AHCJ core topic leaders, Susan Heavey and Joseph Burns, have looked at aspects of the recent census report that documents a sharp decline in the uninsured rate. (Susan’s look at poverty and gender is here and Joe’s overview is here).
It’s also worth taking a look at four points made by Margot Sanger-Katz in a recent New York Times Upshot post. Continue reading
Photo: Phil Galewitz
About 25 Washington, D.C., area journalists met on Sept. 30 to learn about how the Affordable Care Act was affecting a local brewery and discover how the district’s health insurance exchange was working to help such small employers gain coverage for their employees. Continue reading
There’s a lot of speculation about what outgoing House Speaker John Boehner may or may not accomplish in his last weeks in office.
Ending the acrimony about the Affordable Care Act is not one of them.
Not only is the House now rapidly moving ahead with another attempt to gut key sections of the law through a budget tool known as reconciliation (which President Obama would veto), Boehner has another ACA legacy. He was pivotal in filing the House of Representatives lawsuit charging that President Obama and his administration overstepped their authority in implementing the health law. Continue reading
In 2016, the definition of “small business” or “small group” market was supposed to change under the Affordable Care Act. Instead of covering businesses with up to 50 workers, the small group market would encompass businesses with up to 100.
But in a rare bipartisan move on ACA-related legislation this week, the House of Representatives, followed by the Senate, swiftly and quietly voted to make this change optional for states as part of what has become known as the Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employees Act (PACE). The House voted on Sept. 29 and the Senate on Oct. 1. Continue reading
Source: California Healthcare Compare and Consumer ReportsCalifornia Healthcare Compare provides price and quality data for hospitals and physicians in 18 regions of California.
California has embraced the Affordable Care Act in big way. It launched one of the first and most robust state-run health insurance exchanges, and expanded its Medicaid program (known as Medi-Cal) to enroll the uninsured.
As a result, the state’s uninsured rate dropped from 6.5 million residents in 2013 (which is 17.2 percent of the state’s population) to 4.8 million last year (12.4 percent), according to the U.S. Census Bureau. (See AHCJ’s coverage of the bureau’s latest data release here and here.) Continue reading
The use of snuff and other smokeless tobacco products by American high school students is up significantly, even among high school athletes typically more inclined than their peers to be health conscious, federal health officials say.
In fact, athletes are more likely to use smokeless tobacco than their non-athlete classmates, according to a recently published study. Continue reading
Reporter Tonya Alanez covers the crime beat for the Sun Sentinel, based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Just the same, there are times when her beat leads her to health care stories. Last month, she filed a story (site registration required) that offered a troubling look at dentistry in South Florida. She reported on a state investigation into two dentists suspected of fraudulently billing Medicaid for dentures and extractions that frail and elderly patients may not have needed – or even received.
It wasn’t her first assignment at the intersection of dentistry and crime. A couple of summers ago, she took a look at the problem of unlicensed dentists and their unlucky victims.
In a new Q&A, Alanez tells us more about her work reporting on crime and health care. She also shares a little wisdom for health care reporters who may want to do more writing with an eye toward crime.
U.S. Census Bureau
When the U.S. Census Bureau released its annual estimate of income, poverty and health insurance coverage this month, health insurance numbers were front and center. While family finances and the nation’s official poverty rate was stagnant last year, the numbers of those lacking coverage fell. Now newly released regional data offers a chance to tell more layered stories.
The overall findings, which cover 2014, offered a snapshot of how people in the United States are faring amid the first full year that the Affordable Care Act required most people to obtain health insurance coverage or face penalties. It also showed how many are still failing to see gains years after the recession officially ended.
The health care gains clearly stood out in the coverage of the findings from Census, which released its main report on Sept. 16. But peel back the layers and other interesting trends also emerged. One particularly interesting finding was that more women had health insurance last year than men. Continue reading
It’s inevitable that when any organization publishes a report card on physician quality, doctors and policy experts will critique its methodology. Therefore, ProPublica surely is not surprised see criticism of the extensive work that Sisi Wei, Olga Pierce and Marshall Allen did sorting through Medicare billing records for 17,000 U.S. surgeons at 3,575 hospitals who performed eight types of surgery from 2009 through 2013. The analysis formed the database of the nonprofit newsroom’s Surgeon Scorecard launched in July. (We covered the scorecard here: Surgeons’ complication rates become public with new database.)
The latest criticism comes from the Rand Corp. In a 19-page report issued today, A Methodological Critique of the ProPublica Surgeon Scorecard, nine Rand researchers say their critique had three goals: to explain issues they have with the scorecard’s methodology; to suggest ways to improve the scorecard; and to inform the public about these issues. By informing the public, the researchers said in their Sept. 25 critique, “…we hope patients who are choosing a surgeon will be better able to decide how much weight to give the data presented in the scorecard.”
In producing an online, searchable database for the public, ProPublica’s goals are laudable, the researchers said, but the scorecard’s ability to achieve its goals is limited by the rigor of the methods and the adequacy of the underlying data. They point out five specific issues they have with the methodology, and outline six ways to improve the scorecard. Continue reading