Uncertain future for brokers: Health insurance brokers could go the way of travel agents as more consumers are given the option of shopping for plans online through state exchanges, writes Michelle Andrews of Kaiser Health News for the the NPR Shots blog. The brokers are fighting to preserve their commission, asking that their fees be excluded from calculations of administrative costs for insurance companies. Under the Affordable Care Act, the companies must prove that they spend no more than 20 percent of premiums on costs other than actual medical care. Brokers worry their commissions will be squeezed by the rule.
Major merger: Globe reporter Liz Kowalczyk has more on why Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Lahey Clinic are considering a merger and how it reflects the continued trend of hospital consolidation as providers prepare for the likelihood that they may soon be paid by the patient and not for each service they provide. Doctors and hospitals that are part of large coordinated networks are expected to be more successful under the new model, Kowlaczyk writes.
Ecstasy as treatment regimen: Carey Goldberg writes on the WBUR CommonHealth blog about a Brookline mother who provided her dying daughter with ecstasy and other psychedelic drugs in an effort to ease her pain and bring her joy as she was dying of cancer. Marilyn Howell shared her story anonymously in the Globe in 2006 and now has a book out called "Honor Thy Daughter." Though federal regulation remains tight, researchers continue to look at how such drugs could be used in medical treatment.
Steward expansion: Steward Health Care System yesterday said it has agreed to pay $71 million for the beleaguered Landmark Medical Center in Woonsocket, RI. The deal still must be approved by that state's attorney general and health department, Globe reporter Robert Weisman writes. Landmark would become Rhode Island's first for-profit hospital. It also marks the first foray outside of Massachusetts for the company that formed last year to operate the former Caritas Christi Health Care chain.
Arguments on the ACA: An appeals court in Atlanta will hear oral arguments today from the Obama administration and lawyers representing 26 states looking to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The case is in response to a Florida judge's ruling in January that the requirement that most individuals buy health insurance is unconstitutional and the law "must be declared void." Matthew Bigg of Reuters writes that no ruling is expected for months. An appeal to the US Supreme Court is almost certain no matter which side wins. This is the case that gets a lot of attention because of the number of states that signed on. But it is not the only one challenging the law. Kaiser Health News is keeping a tally of court outcomes. By their count, it looks like the Obama administration is on top so far.
About white coat notes
|White Coat Notes covers the latest from the health care industry, hospitals, doctors offices, labs, insurers, and the corridors of government. Chelsea Conaboy previously covered health care for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Write her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @cconaboy.|
Gideon Gil, Health and Science Editor
Elizabeth Comeau, Senior Health Producer