Weekly Dose of Health News

In this summary, you’ll find information on implementing health benefit exchanges, new studies on obesity, revealing flaws in the organ donation system, and more!

Please let us know us what you think and if there is a particular topic you would like to see covered.

Affordable Care Act

As states continue to move forward with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, many policymakers are watching how California is ramping up its health benefit exchange. The New York Times profiles the unique challenges facing California and the innovative marketing tactics the state is undertaking to make the public aware of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act (Goodnough, 9/15).

The Affordable Care Act has sought to expand insurance coverage to a number of uninsured populations in the United States. However, the law does now expand Medicaid coverage to illegal immigrants. While the Obama Administration recently issued a new immigration policy that will allow the children of illegal immigrants to stay in the United States without fear of deportation, the Department of Health and Human Services has ruled that these young immigrants will not be eligible for health insurance available under the Affordable Care Act (New York Times, Pear, 9/17).

The Wall Street Journal  examines how states are implementing the Medicaid expansion provision of the Affordable Care Act. In the wake of the Supreme Court decision that allows state to opt out of the Medicaid expansion without the risk of losing of federal funding under the Act, some states are considering partial expansions or other creative solutions (Radnofsky and Weaver, 9/19).

The Congressional Budget Office predicts that nearly six million Americans will pay a penalty for not obtaining health insurance as required by the Affordable Care Act. The CBO’s estimate has grown from an initial calculation done in 2010 which found that four million people would be affected in 2016, when the penalty is fully in effect.


The New York State Department of Health recently asked the federal government for permission to reinvest $10 billion in Medicaid savings into New York’s health system. This week, the New York Times joined efforts to support the waiver application by publishing an editorial  in support of the proposal (9/18).

The NYS Department of Health has issued a report on the state’s Medicaid global spending cap. The July 2012 Global Cap report is available on the DOH Medicaid Redesign Website.


A study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association  measured concentrations of chemical bisphenol A, or BPA, in urine and found children with higher concentrations of the chemical were more likely to be obese than children with lower concentrations. Researchers cautioned that the findings don’t necessarily mean that BPA plays a role in the development of obesity.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released a report on the nation’s weight problem this week. The report shows that the number of obese adults, along with related disease rates and health care costs, are on course to increase dramatically in every state in the country over the next 20 years. Although the obesity rate in New York is about 25%, up from 20% in 2000, the state ranks 42nd-most obese in the country.


A recent investigation by the Center for Public Integrity found that physicians have been increasing the use of higher-paying codes for Medicare office visits between 2001 and 2010. The report, profiled in the Washington Post , examined roughly 362 million Medicare claims and found similar billing patterns at hospitals. The report estimates that this move to higher-paying codes has cost the Medicare system $11 billon dollars over the past decade (Schulte, Eaton and Donald, 9/15).


Starting October 1st, children who have private insurance coverage will no longer be able to obtain free vaccinations at county health clinics. The Times Union writes that despite having insurance these children often ended up at county clinics when the child didn’t have access to a primary care physician or when the co-pay for the vaccine was too high for a family’s budget. The federal government has changed its policy to ensure that eligible uninsured children have access to vaccines (Crowley, 9/15).

Swiss drug maker Roche has selected New York City as the home of its new research center.  The New York Times reports that the company’s new site in Manhattan will coordinate the early clinical trials of drugs developed by Roche (Pollack, 9/20).

According to transplant surgeons there are serious flaws in the United States’ organ donation system.  A number of doctors assert that the current organ procurement process is frustrated by an outdated computer matching program and unreliable matching tests. These physicians argue that these barriers result in the disposal of useful organs (Sack, 9/19).

The New York Times ran a three-part series on advances in scientific research to build replacement organs and tissue for humans. The series profiles different regenerative techniques in development. These include: the use of animal material known as extracellular matrix to serve as a foundation for the growth of human muscle tissue and the development of replacement organs using human stem cells (Fountain, 9/15, 9/16, 9/18).

The Institute of Medicine has found that the Defense Department must do more to combat alcohol and drug abuse among military personnel. The report by the IOM found that heavy drinking is an accepted custom in the military and that prescription drug abuse is on the rise.

-Jaime Venditti, 9/21/12