Lau himself makes the point clear: Face Unlock was only implemented as additional option to unlock the OnePlus 5T from the front. This, like Apple’s Face ID, was due to the fingerprint scanner being evicted from the front because of the now all-screen display. Fortunately, in the OnePlus 5T’s case, the fingerprint scanner does still exist, on the back, to provide better security.That’s not going to stop people from trying to fool Face Unlock to gain access to the phone. The feature currently uses 100 identifiers on registered faces to authenticate the users. At the same time, it is also some unspecified checks to actually make sure it’s a real, “live” face, versus, say, a mask.That, of course, isn’t enough. An upcoming update will also allow Face Unlock to identify and rule out selfies, using metrics like whether light is being reflected off your face or being emitted from a phone’s display, reflections produced by the screen, and others. Lau says that, in the interest of security, that’s pretty much the only thing they are willing to divulge about upcoming security checks.The OnePlus 5T deactivates Face Unlock after five failed attempts and will require users to input their PIN or code or use their fingerprint. Perhaps unlike the iPhone X Face ID, there will be no machine learning involved, and, therefore, no false training. In addition, data-sensitive apps like banking and Android Pay will never use Face Unlock, further emphasizing the idea of the feature not being that secure at all.SOURCE: OnePlus One of the new features of the OnePlus 5T is Face Unlock. Unlike other manufacturers, however, the company isn’t making such a big deal out of it, and for good reason. OnePlus itself doesn’t believe that face recognition technology is at a point of being 100% secure and is using Face Unlock only has a matter of convenience. Nonetheless, in order to assure owners of some amount of security, CEO Pete Lau explains some of the things they plan to implement to make Face Unlock harder to trick.
Indeed, the teaser commercial released today is more about what it sounds like when Alexa is absent than when she’s chatty. After an Echo Dot goes quiet, Alexa coughing midway through a weather report and then petering out, the suddenly silenced assistant apparently becomes a nationwide problem. According to Bezos’ assistants, though, there are “replacements” waiting in the wings ready to step in. Exactly what those replacements might be is presumably the big news Amazon is saving for February 4th, 2018. Of course, that hasn’t stopped some speculation. The most likely possibility is that Amazon is planning to add custom voice support to Alexa. On the one hand, that might be a second voice option for those who want something different from the current voice agent. Apple’s Siri, after all, has a variety of voices, both male and female, depending on accent and location. So far, Amazon – and, for that matter, the Google Assistant – has offered just one.AdChoices广告Alternatively, Amazon could be using a guest voice as a promotion. By picking a celebrity voice, it could highlight Alexa’s functionality and the Amazon Echo in general. That might only last for a limited period of time, but it might be sufficient to re-engage people who perhaps received an Echo Dot or Echo over the holidays, but who have fallen out of the habit of using it.More unlikely – but pleasingly retro, however – Amazon could even be taking a leaf out of the old standalone satellite navigation devices, which once offered the ability to download and install custom voices. At the time, being able to take instructions from impersonations of celebrities or “funny” personalities seemed fairly magical; now, as Alexa, Siri, Cortana, and the Google Assistant spread, the idea of a virtual person responding to us is a little less groundbreaking. Of course, the audio library involved in setting up a whole new assistant voice is fairly huge, not to mention time-consuming. Amazon seems unlikely to do it on a whim, certainly. We’ll likely find out more over the next couple of weeks, in the run up to the Super Bowl 2018. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is stepping in front of the camera for the retailer’s Super Bowl 2018 advert, and as you might expect its all about Alexa. The spot has been previewed on YouTube ahead of the big game, setting up what sounds like a reveal around the virtual assistant’s voice.
Not that Lenovo needs any help being saved, but their acquired smartphone business in Motorola hasn’t exactly ruled the world in the past few years. For that, the Moto One Power might just be a saving grace for an extremely harsh period in time for mobile phones in general. The Motorola One Power represents the best of Android right this minute, coming with 2x cameras at its back, a full-front display, and Android One inside. Android One is just about as pure a version of Android as you’re going to get here in the year 2018. That’s without going to AOSP, of course. Every Android One device we’ve reviewed and/or had some hands-on time with has been a top-notch piece of work. Even the devices that haven’t been the industry-leaders with the most advanced hardware – Android One makes up the difference. So when we see a device like this from Motorola, we’re excited. Motorola’s always – ALWAYS – been a brand that makes hearty and well-working hardware. For instance I have two relatives that used DROID 2 smartphones for YEARS beyond their contracts – AKA 5+ years when they should well have been retired after 3 years at MOST. The only bummer I can see – so far – about this device is a major lack of headphone jack. While brands like Motorola have made the move away from the jack, brands like OnePlus have kept the jack, making masses of fans distribute loads of high-fives in the process.The images you see above come from TechInfoBit, and show the Motorola-made Moto One Power in-hand. It’s not clear how they came to access such photos as the device hasn’t yet been revealed by Motorola officially – but there they are! We’re expecting Motorola to reveal this device in full within a couple weeks, then release a week or two thereafter. This device will likely take the place of the Moto X in the wide world of Moto phones, in spirit if not in name. Story TimelineMotorola One: Android One is branding, Moto X5 may be deadMotorola One Power photo shows the Android One iPhone XMotorola One Power specs reveal only a slight upgrade
Story TimelineApple’s smart glasses sound more like VIVE than GlassHTC U12+, VIVE Focus integration bridges the mobile, VR divideHTC demonstrates multi-room VR with Vive Pro and SteamVR 2.0 One advantage of low and mid-range virtual reality headsets like the Gear VR or the Oculus Go is they’re wireless, relying on phones or onboard hardware for their power. High-end headset like the HTC VIVE and Oculus Rift require that you connect them to a reasonably powerful gaming PC in order for them to work. HTC is looking to change that today, introducing the VIVE Wireless Adapter at Gamescom. The VIVE Wireless Adapter does what it says on the tin: it attaches to your headset and allows you to wirelessly connect to your PC. The adapter is compatible with both the VIVE and the VIVE Pro, but in the case of the latter, you’ll need to buy an extra compatibility pack that includes a special cable, a different attachment mechanism, and extra foam padding.HTC says that setting up the Wireless Adapter is a fairly easy process, as it only requires that you install a PCI-e card and connect a sensor to your PC. That sensor will facilitate the exchange of data between your PC and headset, and it has a range of 6 meters. The adapter uses DisplayLink’s XR codec and Intel WiGig, which HTC says provide “low latency and high performance with hours of battery life.”How long, exactly, the adapter’s battery will last is unknown, but since it’s built around an HTC QC 3.0 PowerBank, you can use the adapter as a portable battery for your phone in a pinch. The adapter ships with one PowerBank when you buy it, but HTC says that separate PowerBanks will be available for purchase as well.Here’s the big kicker, though: the VIVE Wireless Adapter costs a not-insignificant $299, and that VIVE Pro compatibility pack costs an extra $60. For as cool as the wireless adapter sounds, it’s not hard to imagine many people deciding to simply deal with cables when they see what it costs to go wireless. With that said, the Wireless Adapter might be a good item to pick up at a discount, or for someone who wants wireless VR without concern for price.If you fall into that camp, you’ll be able to pre-order the VIVE Wireless Adapter beginning on September 5. There’s no word on an actual release date just yet, but it’s worth pointing out that anyone who purchases a VIVE Wireless Adapter will get two months trial subscription to Viveport. We’ll keep an ear to the ground for more, but in the meantime, head down to the comments section and tell us what you think about the VIVE Wireless Adapter.
Sony may not have intended the coppery highlights on its new WH-1000XM3 noise-canceling headphones as a nod to the old adage that “silence is golden,” but faced with a crying baby and a ten hour flight they proved themselves worth their weight in the precious metal. Now in their third-generation, Sony’s headphones have gone from upstart Bose rival to segment-shaking heavyweight. There are a few options for finessing how the headphones sound, too. Sound Position Control allows you to adjust the sound field around you, as though you’re listening to a band in front, to the side, or behind you. Virtual Surround Sound is also controlled there, and there are various presets for different musical styles along with a full manual equalizer. Having options is good, but out of the box the WH-1000XM3’s sound great. There’s plenty of bass, but it doesn’t outweigh either the top end or the mids. Enthusiastic but balanced describes it best, I think, with the combination of noise cancelation and Sony’s processing given the headphones an unexpectedly expansive soundstage. The app is also where you’ll find the option to switch the noise cancelation mode button over to a Google Assistant trigger. While you can use the headphones to control Siri or the Assistant running on your phone, you can also access Google’s AI directly. That includes asking questions, setting alarms and reminders, sending messages, and having notifications read out. You notice it more when you put them on, though. Sony has redesigned the headband, so that it more closely follows the contours of your head; it feels less bulky as a result. Better still, the ear cups have more padding and larger cavities, which make them far more comfortable for extended use. At 8.99 ounces they’re lighter than the second-gen set, too, despite adding extra squishiness to the headband as well. They keep the folding design, and Sony still provides a useful carrying case. That now has dedicated slots for the headphone cable, twin-plug airplane audio adapter, and charging cable. The latter makes a welcome switch to USB-C, too, with a Quick Charge feature that Sony says will get you 5 hours of wireless playback after just ten minutes plugged in. Total battery life is a whopping 30 hours – that’s with Bluetooth streaming and noise-cancelation turned on, too. I got through two transatlantic flights, a handful of layovers, and a couple of connections, totaling up around 20 hours use in all, and still had power to spare. AdChoices广告Those international flights gave me a good opportunity to test out the Sony’s noise-cancelation. Indeed, with a crying child across the aisle, the new HD Noise Canceling Processor QN1 faced a significant challenge out of the gate. I was skeptical, but my cynicism was unfounded. The WH-1000XM3’s handily squashed the regular background plane noise, and reduced the sounds of my fellow passengers to the faintest murmur. They were comfortable enough, meanwhile, that I could sleep with them on. Holding my palm over the right earcup allowed ambient noise through temporarily, which proved handy for listening in to pilot announcements. Because that all demands a data connection, your smartphone will need to be connected over Bluetooth at the time. You’ll also need to be running the Google Assistant app for iOS, if you weren’t already. Still, if you’re firmly embedded in the Google Products niche, having quick and easy access from your headphones could be a real boon. Not everything is perfect. Multipoint pairing is possible – connecting to one device for music and another for hands-free calls – though a little complex. If you want to use an iPhone for calls, for instance, but an Android phone for music, you need to pair the latter with the WH-1000XM3’s first, then manually disable calls on that device, before going through the iOS pairing process. Otherwise, Apple automatically monopolizes both types of connection. I’d also prefer the supplied 3.5mm headphone cable to be fabric braided, for a little extra resilience, and the blinking blue LED for Bluetooth is annoying. I’m not entirely sure why it still needs to be flashing once you’re done with the pairing process. They’re minor annoyances, though, and they fade when compared with Sony’s incredible noise-cancelation and eminently enjoyable music performance. At $348 they’re not inexpensive, but I feel more confident recommending them than I do Bose’s QuietComfort 35, which in comparison are now showing their age. Sony just does a better job at isolating you from the annoyances of the outside world.That has obvious appeal if you’re a frequent traveler, but I found it also pays dividends if you’re simply listening to music more normally. Several times, taking the WH-1000XM3’s off, I was surprised at just how much ambient sound there was – even if, beforehand, the room had seemed relatively quiet. Being able to shut a virtual door and step into your own imaginary music room, and have the comfort and battery life to enjoy that for hours on end, makes Sony’s headphones a winning combination. Room in your carry-on bag is precious and hard-earned, and so Sony has brought its A-game. The $348 WH-1000XM3’s promise to be a triple threat: the best noise cancelation; ridiculously long battery life; and all without compromising on comfort. With just a few small frustrations, they succeed. The visual differences between these third-generation headphones and their predecessors is minimal, at least at first glance. The ear cups now have a smoother finish – it makes tapping and swiping on the right ear cup’s touch-sensitive pad easier – and the detailing is now picked out in coppery gold. SlashGear uses affiliate links, and sometimes if you buy something we might get a small commission on the sale Sony’s noise-cancelation has been improved, but what’s arguably more important is how it’s now more flexible, too. With the Mark 2 headphones, without music playing over Bluetooth, they’d automatically turn off after five minutes. That was great for saving power, but not so useful if you wanted noise-cancelation but without actually listening to anything. For the Mark 3, Sony has changed that. The default is still for the headphones to power off after five minutes, but you can now adjust that to up to three hours in the Sony Headphone Connect app. You can also have them stay on all the time if you prefer. Unfortunately there’s no on-ear sensor: the headphones won’t automatically go into standby, or pause your music for that matter, if you take them off. You don’t need the app in order to use the WH-1000XM’s core features. They pair as regular Bluetooth headphones, after all, and there’s a button which cycles between noise-cancelation being on, ambient noise being allowed in, and the cancelation being off altogether. Swipes and taps to skip forward and backward through tracks, adjust the volume, and play/pause are recognized natively by iOS and Android devices. Still, the app is important if you want to customize the sound. It’s there you can turn on Adaptive Sound Control, for instance, which automatically adjusts the level of noise-cancelation and ambient noise depending on the conditions around you. A little background noise when you’re trying to cross the road can be helpful in avoiding getting run down by a truck, after all. It’s also where you can adjust the noise-cancelation levels manually, and run through Sony’s optimization process which promises to tweak performance according to your hearing and the ambient pressure.
The open source software Purism uses for Librem One aren’t exactly new. It uses Matrix for Librem Chat and Mastodon for Librem Social, for example. What Purism really offers here is the convenience of having all that software setup already so you won’t have to worry about configuration, hosting, or security all on your own. In other words, it removes the barriers to entry for ditching those services. And instead of waiting for the Purism Librem 5 to use these on your phone, the apps are already available today on Android and iOS.AdChoices广告The one word you won’t hear used to describe Librem One is “free”, or at least “free as in beer”. Unlike Facebook, Gmail, or Skype, Librem One is a paid subscription service that starts at $7.99 a month. A free tier does exist but it only includes Chat and Social. Purism is also presenting it as a crowdfunded endeavor to develop more services that include cloud storage and even a pay-as-you-go phone service. Purism made a name for itself a few years back by successfully crowdfunding laptops that used open source software and privacy-respecting hardware instead of your run of the mill products from Microsoft, HP, Dell, and the like. It then set its eyes on the mobile market with the Librem 5, a Linux-based smartphone that has yet to be delivered to its backers this year. Knowing that hardware and software alone are not enough, the company has now turned its attention to the services that continue to lock users down to proprietary services and their alleged questionable business practices.Librem One isn’t just one service but a set of apps and services designed to replace chat, email, VPN, and even social media like Twitter. Its core tenets revolve around respecting the user’s privacy and security and it uses end to end encryption all throughout to make that possible. It will even delete unencrypted email after 30 days by default. Purism Librem One definitely addresses the technical hurdles in adopting open source and secure alternatives to Big Tech and that might be enough for those who are already ready to jump ship. It might, however, be underestimating the inertia needed to break free from social networks. After all, a social network won’t exactly be that social if your social circles aren’t in it. News today is filled with stories of how Big Tech, companies like Facebook, Google, or Amazon, repeatedly violate their own users’ privacy, intentionally or otherwise. One big problem, however, is how we’ve become so dependent on their apps and services that it’s nearly impossible to break free. And while there are indeed more privacy-focused alternatives, setting those up sometimes feels like you need to be a computer scientist first. That is why Purism, a startup whose business is providing “ethical” laptops and software, has launched Librem One, a suite of services to do all of the dirty work for you. At a price, of course.
Hyundai showed off a concept truck back in 2015 called the Santa Cruz that was undeniably good looking. That concept was unveiled just when the mid-size truck market was starting to heat up again with Chevy offering the Colorado and both Toyota and Nissan selling trucks in that segment. The mid-size truck market is even hotter today with Ford bringing the Ranger back, and Jeep has just unveiled the most exciting mid-size truck of them all with the Gladiator getting official. Hyundai still wants in on the truck market and its Chief Design Officer, Luc Donckerwolke, has stated that the production truck based on the Santa Cruz concept is under development at Hyundai. According to Donckerwolke, the truck will arrive “as soon as possible,” and he states that the design is finished. Currently, Hyundai is putting the process in place to produce the truck. The most likely launch window for the truck is 2020, and then we will have one more entrant into the mid-size truck market. We fully expect Hyundai’s offering to be more of a lifestyle vehicle than what many would consider being a real truck. Think more focused on competing with the Honda Ridgeline for the light use truck dollars than competing with the Gladiator for raw towing, payload, and 4×4 prowess. Interestingly, once the Hyundai truck arrives, a Kia version will follow.AdChoices广告With the resurgence in mid-size truck popularity perhaps the entry of Hyundai and Kia into the market with their trucks will push brands like Mercedes and VW to bring their trucks to the US. Many would love to see the VW Tarok come to the States with its fancy bed.
Spotify is rolling out a new feature called Car View to its Android users today. As the name suggests, Car View gives Spotify a simplified UI to use while you’re driving, potentially cutting back on the time you spend looking at your phone. That’s never a bad thing, so here’s hoping this feature sees a lot of use from Spotify’s user base. Once it’s been turned on, Spotify will automatically shift to Car View when it detects that your phone is connected to your car through Bluetooth. Car View seems to simply be a Now Playing page with oversized components – the pause and skip buttons are all larger than normal, so you can tap them at a glance instead of having to fumble around with tiny icons. The title of the song is also displayed in big, bold text without any album art, so Car View certainly tries to do away with distractions as much as possible.Spotify describes Car View in further depth in a post to its community site. Car View is available to both free and premium users, though it seems free users will only be able to use it within shuffle mode. Car View can also be disabled by tapping on the menu button, though it’ll reactivate again the next time you connect your phone to your car. You can turn it off permanently by heading into the app’s settings, if you so choose.Unfortunately, Spotify says that this functionality isn’t available when connecting your phone to your car through AUX, and whether or not we’ll see that implementation in the future is unknown. Car View sounds like it’s still a work-in-progress, so we’ll likely see more features and support launch for it before long.There’s also no word on when Car View will come to iOS. It’s launching for all Android users today, but it sounds like Spotify is rolling it out in phases – if you don’t see it yet, the company says, you should see it soon. What do you think of Car View? Head down to the comments section and let us know! Story TimelineSpotify Connect will soon be available for free users tooSpotify Apple Watch app out now: It’s basicSpotify import local Android music, bookmark podcast coming
Google Translate’s camera translation feature is fairly sophisticated — it translates texts in real-time and overlays it on the real-world item, such as presenting text on a sign in the user’s own language. The feature works without Internet connectivity, making it a vital tool for someone traveling in a region where they don’t speak the local language.Google announced updates to this camera feature on Wednesday, revealing that its translation tool can now translate between more than 100 languages; before now, the tool could only translate between English and select other languages.In addition, the instant camera translation tool has received support for more than 60 additional input languages, bringing the total list of supported languages up to 88. These are two major changes, bringing the camera tool to a huge number of new users. Rather than being limited to translating to and from English, users can now translate from Chinese to Japanese, as one example, or from languages like Spanish to Arabic.AdChoices广告In addition, Google says the camera translation tool can now automatically detect the input language, assuming the user sets ‘Detect language’ as the source language. As well, Google has built neural machine translation into the camera tool for the first time — this should reduce errors in ‘certain language pairs’ by 55- to 85-percent. Google Translate, the company’s machine translation tool, is available as a mobile app with a unique feature: instant camera translation. As the name suggests, this feature uses a mobile device’s camera to capture text and translate it in the app. The ability is essential for travelers and others who may need to translate signs, menus, and more, and it just received support for a bunch of additional languages. Story TimelineGoogle Translate uses machine learning for whole sentencesBixby Vision real-time text translation tipped with Google TranslateGoogle Translate on-device AI update improves offline translations
How to factory reset a PS4 Google I/O: Android Q aims to bring app permissions firmly under control HDMI ARC and eARC: What they are and why you should care How to add your music to an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch The best all-in-one computers for 2019 Editors’ Recommendations Imagine that your smartphone could talk directly to an ATM to securely authenticate your identity without you having to touch it. What if your phone could use sound from the speaker system in the mall to guide you directly to the specific store, or even the specific shelf in that store, that you’re looking for? Sonarax claims that its new ultrasonic communication protocol, which enables machine-to-machine connectivity is capable of all that and more.“We have a communications protocol, like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, but our protocol relies on sound waves,” Sonarax CEO Benny Saban told Digital Trends. “Any device that is equipped with either a microphone or a speaker can participate.”There are many potential applications for this technology, which sends data as high-frequency sound beyond the threshold of human hearing.Sonarax is already working with a couple of major financial institutions, where it’s focused on making the user experience at ATMs easier without compromising security. Employing the existing speakers in cash machines, Sonarax software allows secure pairing through your phone, so you can withdraw cash without having to touch the machine. The same secure pairing can be used to make payments at vending machines, physical points of sale, or even between phones. By speaking directly to each other, the devices circumvent the need to authenticate with a text message or another security measure.The protocol can send encrypted data using sound waves, without having to record sound or have it analyzed remotely.“This is a communications protocol that encodes on devices and decodes on devices,” Saban explained. “Nothing is sent to a server; privacy is maintained.”Sonarax can also send data on open channels where it might be used to trigger location-specific advertising, such as an augmented reality overlay at an in-store display. But more exciting, and potentially useful, than that is its potential as a navigation aid.While GPS is sufficient for outdoor navigation, where precision isn’t as important, we need better directions when we’re indoors. Deploying a beacon system can be expensive, difficult to calibrate, and the accuracy can still be disappointing. With Sonarax software, you can use an existing speaker system to map out an area. It’s a self-calibrating system which is easy to install and the frequencies it relies upon can be intertwined with another audio channel, so in-store speakers can continue to play muzak or announcements. There’s no special hardware requirement, you just need the right software.“With sound, we can track not just location, but also how it behaves in movement which enables us to track your velocity and direction,” Saban said. “The phone itself is the sensor and every speaker is like a beacon.”Sonarax claims positioning accuracy can go down to inches. It is also currently working on implementing its technology in a museum, so your phone can guide you to specific exhibits and trigger related information when you arrive at the right spot. It can even link up the location and data to related purchases from the museum store. It does all this using software on top of a regular multimedia system.This technology could be used to guide to you to the sock stand or the cafe in the mall, but it could also work as a way to locate where you parked your car or even to find your child or a friend in a crowded building.Great accuracy for indoor navigation is certainly an attractive prospect, but sound also offers other advantages to existing technologies that are based on radio waves. For a start, it poses no interference threat, making it suitable for hospitals and airplanes. It also doesn’t emit any electromagnetic pollution, which is a growing concern for some people.There are obviously limitations to sound in terms of bandwidth and it travels relatively slowly. Sonarax is currently working on increasing the amount of data that can be sent and Saban expects to increase the limit from 1 kilobit per second to 4 kilobits per second by the end of the year. As for interference, he claims that the technology works in noisy environments, whether it’s an airport with a plane taking off in the background, or an echo-filled train station hall.“Anywhere sound travels we will make it work,” he says.As a software company, Sonarax is looking to license the technology and integrate it into products and systems. Audio giant Knowles has been working with the firm to integrate the algorithm at the hardware level. Sonarax has also been working Cadence. It is currently seeking more business partners and offers SDKs (software development kits) for Android, iOS, Windows, Java, Linux, and many other platforms.With a couple of major demonstrations on the horizon, including one at the notorious Toronto PATH, which offers 30 kilometers of underground shopping, services, and entertainment, Sonarax is ready to show off what ultrasonic sound can do for indoor navigation. We’ll keep you posted on the results.
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 news about the continuing partisan back and forth regarding “fiscal cliff” negotiations as well as reports on the health law’s implementation. Kaiser Health News: Analysis: Health Exchanges And The Litigation LandscapeIn this Kaiser Health News analysis, Stuart Taylor, Jr. writes: “If you think that the Affordable Care Act has surmounted all of the major legal attacks its opponents could come up with, think again. Critics of the federal health law have only begun to fight, although most of their battles are decidedly uphill” (Taylor, 11/29). Read the story.Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Missouri Governor Backs Medicaid ExpansionNow on Kaiser Health News’ blog, KCUR’s Elana Gordon, working in collaboration with KHN and NPR, reports: “Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon wants the state to expand its Medicaid program, marking the strongest stance the Democratic governor has taken to date on the state’s pending decision. Nixon previously said he was evaluating the issue to see what’s best for Missouri” (Gordon, 11/29). Check out what else is on the blog.The New York Times: GOP Balks At White House Plan On Fiscal CrisisThe proposal, loaded with Democratic priorities and short on detailed spending cuts, met strong Republican resistance. In exchange for locking in the $1.6 trillion in added revenues, President Obama embraced the goal of finding $400 billion in savings from Medicare and other social programs to be worked out next year, with no guarantees (Weisman, 11/29).Los Angeles Times: Obama And Boehner Seem To Hit Wall As ‘Fiscal Cliff’ LoomsAs Obama prepares to take his proposal on the road Friday, Democrats are increasingly buoyed, believing they hold a stronger hand. “Look, we don’t expect the Republicans to be enthusiastic and start cheerleading about a deal that includes higher rates on the wealthiest Americans,” said New York’s Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the No. 3 Democrat. “But they see the handwriting on the wall.” … Republicans are increasingly frustrated that Democrats have declined to outline specific cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and other government programs in exchange for Boehner’s willingness to consider new revenue sources (Mascaro and Parsons, 11/29).The Washington Post: Obama Makes Fresh Demands On ‘Fiscal Cliff’The offer lacks any concessions to Republicans, most notably on the core issue of where to set tax rates for the wealthiest Americans. … Democratic leaders, meanwhile, were triumphant after receiving similar briefings from Geithner and White House legislative liaison Rob Nabors. Top Democrats have for months insisted that an Obama victory would entitle them to demand far more in new taxes than Republicans have been willing to consider, to seek new measures to boost economic growth, and to avoid major cuts to entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare (Montgomery and Kane, 11/29).The Associated Press/Washington Post: White House ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Offer Gets Withering GOP Response As Accusations FlyThe White House is seeking $1.6 trillion in higher taxes over a decade and an immediate infusion of funds to aid the jobless, help hard-pressed homeowners and perhaps extend the expiring payroll tax cut, officials said Thursday as talks aimed at averting an economy-rattling “fiscal cliff” turned testy. In exchange, the officials said, President Barack Obama will support an unspecified amount of spending cuts this year, to be followed by legislation in 2013 producing savings of as much as $400 billion from Medicare and other benefit programs over a decade (11/29).The Wall Street Journal: Obama’s Cliff Offer SpurnedThe proposal marked an opening salvo in negotiations over the fiscal cliff and represented a particularly expansive version of the White House’s wish list, with a heavy focus on tax increases and spending proposals—including keeping in place a payroll-tax cut and extended unemployment benefits. Republicans haven’t put any comparable offer on the table. They have indicated willingness to accept $800 billion in revenues over 10 years, half the amount Mr. Obama proposed. And they have sought far more in spending cuts in exchange for their concessions on taxes (Hook, Paletta and Lee, 11/29).Politico: GOP Rejects White House Fiscal Cliff OfferThe back-and-forth exchanges underscored how the November election results have failed to clarify how Washington should resolve intractable policy disputes threatening to shake the economy if Congress and the White House cannot reach a deal by New Year’s Day. And it left open the real possibility that the country could fall off the fiscal cliff when all the Bush-era tax rates expire, payroll taxes will increase, Medicare payments to physicians will drop and deep across-the-board spending cuts will go into effect (Sherman and Raju, 11/30).USA Today: GOP Calls White House Cliff Offer A Non-StarterThe $4 trillion package includes a number of requests that stand have little no chance of passing the GOP-controlled House, because Republicans continue to oppose raising individual tax rates. The package also includes spending cuts that are considered insignificant to Republicans, who want more concessions on spending for entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid (Davis and Madhani, 11/29).Politico: Providers: Doctors Face ‘Worse’ Fiscal CliffAs the nation hurtles toward the fiscal cliff, doctors are staring down a much more daunting abyss, a panel of experts said Thursday at POLITICO Pro’s health care breakfast briefing. Not only do doctors face a 2 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements because of the failure — thus far — to avoid sequestration, but they’re also looking at a 27 percent reduction in pay in the absence of a deal to fix the Medicare payment formula (Cheney, 11/29).Politico: Republicans Feud Over ObamacareAt issue are the state-based health care exchanges, set to start in 2014, which will create new marketplaces for people who can’t get insurance elsewhere. If states don’t declare their plans to set one up by Dec. 14, the Department of Health and Human Services will begin doing it for them. So Republicans face a choice: Create their own and appear to endorse a federal government health care takeover, or allow Washington to take control (Epstein and Cheney, 11/30).The Associated Press/Washington Post: Pay The Penalty, Or Insure Your Staff? Small Business Owners Face Tough Health Care DecisionRose Wang looks at her staff of 70 employees and wonders if she’ll have to lay off some of them to comply with the health care law. The owner of Binary Group Inc., an information technology firm based in Alexandria, Va., is one of many small business owners who will be required to provide health insurance for her staffers under a provision of the law that goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2014. Wang already provides insurance, but she has struggled with premiums that have soared as much as 60 percent annually, so she requires employees to contribute to their coverage. She’s worried because she doesn’t know how much she’ll have to pay under the Affordable Care Act (11/29).The Washington Post: Audit Finds Billions In Unverified Medicare SpendingMedicare has paid doctors and hospitals billions of dollars to switch from paper to electronic health records without verifying that the new systems meet required quality standards, according to a federal audit released Thursday (Aizenman, 11/29).The Associated Press/Washington Post: Right To Marry, Collect Federal Benefits At Issue In Gay Rights Cases Supreme Court Could HearThree weeks after voters backed same-sex marriage in three states and defeated a ban in a fourth, the justices are meeting Friday to decide whether they should deal sooner rather than later with the claim that the Constitution gives people the right to marry regardless of sexual orientation. The court also could duck the ultimate question for now and instead focus on a narrower but still important issue: whether Congress can prevent legally married gay Americans from receiving federal benefits otherwise available to married couples (11/30).NPR: Clinton Reveals Blueprint For An ‘AIDS-Free Generation’ Before Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton passes the reins to her successor, she’s got a few loose ends to tie up. One of them is mapping out the U.S.’s continuing efforts to combat AIDS around the world. So today she unveiled a blueprint for what she called an “AIDS-free generation.” Now Clinton isn’t talking about ending the HIV pandemic altogether. Rather, she hopes to prevent most new infections from occurring in the first place and to stop HIV-positive people from developing AIDS (Knox, 11/29).The New York Times: Maker Of Generic Lipitor Halts ProductionRanbaxy Pharmaceuticals, the largest producer of the generic version of Lipitor, has halted production of the drug until it can figure out why glass particles may have ended up in pills that were distributed to the public, the Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday. The agency said it had not received any reports of patients being harmed by the particles, which are about the size of a grain of sand. Earlier this month, Ranbaxy recalled more than 40 lots of the drug because of the glass contamination (Thomas, 11/29).The New York Times: Medical Technician Accused In Hepatitis C Infections Is Indicted On New ChargesA traveling medical technician who is believed to have infected at least 39 people with hepatitis C through his use of stolen hospital drugs and syringes was indicted late Wednesday in New Hampshire on 14 new charges (Seelye, 11/29).Los Angeles Times: Ex-Medical Technician Indicted In Hepatitis C OutbreakA nomadic medical technician who held hospital jobs from Arizona to New England has been indicted in connection with a hepatitis C outbreak that infected more than 30 patients at a New Hampshire hospital and exposed thousands of others in Pennsylvania, Maryland and other states (Serrano, 11/29).Check out all of Kaiser Health News’ e-mail options including First Edition and Breaking News alerts on our Subscriptions page. First Edition: November 30, 2012
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 CBS newsmagazine reported that it interviewed more than 100 current and former employees of Health Management Associates (HMA), who said they were pressured to admit patients, whether they needed hospital care or not, to increase revenues.CBS 60 Minutes: Hospitals: The Cost Of Admissions[I]t’s estimated that $210 billion a year — about 10 percent of all health expenditures — goes towards unnecessary tests and treatments and a big chunk of that comes right out of the pockets of American taxpayers in the form of Medicare and Medicaid payments. For more than a year, we have been looking into the admission and billing practices of Health Management Associates. It’s the fourth largest for-profit hospital chain in the country with revenues of $5.8 billion last year … We talked to more than 100 current and former employees and we heard a similar story over and over: that HMA relentlessly pressured its doctors to admit more and more patients — regardless of medical need — in order to increase revenues (Kroft, 12/2).Modern Healthcare: HMA Exec Says Physicians ‘Grossly Mischaracterized’ Admissions ManagementPhysicians interviewed for a “60 Minutes” investigation into Health Management Associates’ admissions practices “grossly mischaracterized” what goes on at the for-profit hospital chain’s facilities, a top executive for the company said after the segment aired Sunday. Alan Levine, senior vice president at HMA and president of its Florida group, said some of the doctors who spoke to reporter Steve Croft had reasons for doing so, including ongoing litigation with the company. …[Levine said] the core issue is not about inpatient admission goals or quotas, but rather about the challenge hospitals face in managing patients between observation stays and inpatient admissions (Zigmond, 12/2). Reuters: Health Management Shares Fall Ahead Of “60 Minutes” SegmentShares in Health Management Associates Inc fell nearly 3 percent on Friday ahead of a “60 Minutes” television segment on the hospital chain’s admissions practices … The Naples, Florida-based hospital company, which operates 70 hospitals in 15 states, said in a statement on its website that it retained “third-party experts” to examine admissions data for individual hospitals and across the company. “The data simply do not support the allegations,” it wrote (Humer, 11/30). 60 Minutes: HMA Pressures Doctors To Admit Patients, Defrauding Medicare
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. Medicaid Expansion Raises Possibilities, Problems For States California Gov. Jerry Brown describes implementing the expansion as “incredibly complex,” while Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder sees it an opportunity to address gaps in the mental health system. In Arizona, meanwhile, the expansion is framed as an immigration issue.Los Angeles Times: Gov. Jerry Brown Calls For Special Session Of Legislature On HealthcareHealthcare and education reform were key themes of Gov. Jerry Brown’s State of the State address Thursday in which he called for the Legislature to convene a special session to work out issues involving the state’s compliance with the federal Affordable Care Act. “Our health benefit exchange, called Covered California, will begin next year providing insurance to nearly one million Californians,” Brown said. “Over the rest of this decade, California will steadily reduce the number of uninsured.” But he said it will be “incredibly complex” to implement a broader expansion of Medi-Cal called for by the federal law (McGreevy, 1/24).State Of Health: Gov. Brown’s State Of The State – On The Health Care OverhaulIn his State of the State speech Thursday morning, Gov. Brown spent about 60 seconds addressing health and human services — and all those seconds were devoted to the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. Early in his speech, Brown reiterated his theme of fiscal discipline and seemed to urge caution in implementing the Affordable Care Act, stating, “The ultimate costs of expanding our health care system under the Affordable Care Act are unknown. Ignoring such known unknowns would be folly.” … Let’s take these two items one at a time, starting with the health benefit exchange. Brown is calling for a special legislative session so that new laws necessary to implement the exchange can take effect more quickly. That speed is necessary since the exchange must open for people to enroll on October 1. Health insurance purchased in the exchange will start on January 1, 2014 (Aliferis, 1/24).The Associated Press: Snyder Eyes Mental Health Makeover, GOP SkepticalGov. Rick Snyder’s plan to fill the gaps of Michigan’s mental health care system might lie in his ability to convince lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to expand Medicaid to provide 500,000 Michigan residents with coverage under the federal Affordable Health Care Act. Snyder, a Republican, told the Associated Press on Wednesday that it would “actually expand mental health coverage significantly” and that it is “one of the factors” he is “taking into account.” Snyder said he will “make that call” during his budget presentation Feb. 7 (Durkin, 1/25).The Washington Post’s Wonk Blog: Arizona Could Make The Medicaid Expansion An Immigration FightArizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s decision to participate in the Medicaid expansion was a puzzling one: Why would one of the nation’s most conservative governors opt into an Obamacare program that most of her Republican colleagues have rejected? New budget memos from the state provide some insight: Opting out of the Medicaid expansion had the potential to give immigrants better access to health care than American citizens. This small quirk in the Affordable Care Act that Arizona stumbled on could significantly reshape the politics for governors weighing whether to sign up for the health law’s Medicaid expansion (Kliff, 1/24).Dallas Morning News: Quirk In Health Care Law Could Set Up Tough Choice For Rick Perry On MedicaidA glitch in the federal health care law could put Gov. Rick Perry over a political barrel. Under President Barack Obama’s signature measure, some legal immigrants will receive subsidies to help buy private insurance next year. But thanks to a legal quirk and an unexpected twist from the Supreme Court, hundreds of thousands of poor Texans who are U.S. citizens stand to get nothing if Perry and state GOP leaders follow through in refusing a mostly federally paid expansion of Medicaid. The prospect that immigrants, even legal ones, possibly could receive better treatment under the law than native Texans may not faze Perry, especially as he guards his right flank against a possible challenge by Attorney General Greg Abbott in the 2014 governor’s race, said Rice University political scientist Mark Jones (Garrett, 1/24). Also in the news related to state action and the health law — Kaiser Health News: TurboTax, Not Travelocity, May Be Better Analogy For Health ExchangesFor years, we’ve been hearing that health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act are going to be ‘online marketplaces, like Travelocity’ where people will buy health policies like plane tickets. But a consumer focus group in Colorado suggests people are going to want something more like TurboTax (Whitney, 1/25).
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. Budget Plans Underscore Deep Divide On Capitol Hill News outlets compare and contrast how the two budget blueprints released this week — one by House Republicans, the other by Senate Democrats — treat Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlement programs.Los Angeles Times: Stark Choice In Dueling Budget PlansUnder the 10-year budget plan released by House Republicans this week, tax rates would fall for high-income Americans and corporations, defense spending would be bolstered, and more than 30 million uninsured people would lose access to government-backed healthcare. Food stamps, student loans and free school lunches for children would be cut. The Senate Democrats’ plan, released Wednesday, would increase taxes on the wealthy and some corporations, cut the Pentagon budget and add $100 billion in highway and school construction spending. Their plan would make modest reductions in healthcare and other domestic programs (Mascaro, 3/13).USA Today: Senate Democrats Release First Budget In Four YearsThe budget — the first one Senate Democrats have produced since 2009 — stands in sharp contrast to the House Republicans’ plan released Tuesday that calls for cuts in corporate and individual taxes and aims to balance the budget in 10 years, fundamentally overhaul Medicare and eliminate President Obama’s health care law (Davis, 3/13).The Associated Press/Washington Post: Democratic-Led Senate Panel To Approve Budget To Raise Taxes, Spare Benefit Programs From CutsActing on the Senate’s first budget since President Barack Obama took office, a Democratic-led panel is moving toward party-line approval of a fiscal blueprint that would trim the budget deficit while protecting safety net programs from slashing cuts proposed by Republicans. The expected vote Thursday in the Senate Budget Committee comes as Obama heads to the Capitol for a third consecutive day, carrying his charm offensive with Congress to Senate Republicans and his Democratic allies in the House (3/13).Politico: Patty Murray Plan Doesn’t Balance Budget In the committee, the 12 Democrats appeared united when they delivered their opening statements Wednesday. Assuming Murray succeeds in keeping her caucus largely in line and ushering the measure through the Senate, she will have an enormously challenging task of reconciling the plan with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s approach, who proposes no tax increases and calls for a dramatic overhaul of Medicare and Medicaid, as well as a repeal of the president’s health care law (Raju and Gibson, 3/13).The Washington Post: Democrats Challenge Obama On Medicare And Social Security CutsOn one side of the Capitol, President Obama sought to convince House Republicans on Wednesday that he is serious about reining in the rising cost of federal health and retirement programs. But on the other side of the Capitol, Senate Democrats rolled out a 10-year spending plan that sent a different message: Not so fast (Montgomery, 3/13).Modern Healthcare: Senate Dems Propose $275B In Healthcare CutsThe first Senate Democratic budget proposal in four years would cut federal healthcare spending by $275 billion over 10 years. The spending blueprint offered by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairman of the Budget Committee, would reduce—but not eliminate—annual deficits through an even combination of tax increases and spending cuts. The healthcare cuts—for which few details were provided—were part of $975 billion in overall cuts the budget would implement over the coming decade. Murray’s budget specified only that it would derive the savings through accelerating provisions that tie provider reimbursements to patient outcomes, reducing waste and fraud, and encouraging greater provider “engagement” (Daly, 3/13). Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill: Democrats, Republicans Clash Over Health Care Savings (Audio)KHN’s Mary Agnes Carey talks with Jackie Judd about the competing budget proposals offered by leaders from each chamber of Congress this week that seek savings in health spending. They discuss what’s next for the proposals and what President Obama might offer (3/13).
The nation’s second-largest health insurer also outlined the benefits it expects to reap from the health law and other growth opportunities. Los Angeles Times: WellPoint Earnings Jump 24% In Second-Quarter As Medical Costs DropWellPoint Inc., the country’s second-largest insurer, beat Wall Street expectations with a second-quarter profit jump of 24% as lower medical costs partly helped the Indianapolis company post strong results. “We are pleased with our second-quarter results and encouraged by the positive momentum we have across the organization,” said Joseph Swedish, WellPoint’s chief executive since March (Lopez, 7/24).The Associated Press/Washington Post: WellPoint’s 2nd Quarter Profit Soars 24 Pct; Insurer Details Overhaul Growth PossibilitiesShares of WellPoint Inc. hit an all-time high Wednesday, after the nation’s second-largest health insurer trounced second-quarter earnings expectations and detailed how it expects to benefit from the health care overhaul and other growth opportunities over the next few years. The Indianapolis company’s stock had already climbed 44 percent so far this year as of Tuesday, as investors have grown more comfortable with both the insurer’s current performance and how the overhaul will affect it (7/24).Kaiser Health News: Capsules: WellPoint Sees Small Employers Dropping Health Coverage; As the nation prepares to roll out the next phase of Obamacare, the second biggest medical insurer said Wednesday that it expects to lose members in health insurance plans sponsored by smaller employers. At the same time, WellPoint expects membership gains in self-insured employer plans and in the kind of individual plans that will be sold in subsidized exchanges starting Oct. 1 (Hancock, 7/24).The Wall Street Journal: Meet The CEO With Most At Stake In Health LawNow four months into his stint atop the second-biggest U.S. insurer, [Joseph] Swedish is working to deliver. It is a tall order for the veteran hospital leader, 62 years old, who hasn’t been an executive at a health plan before. Much of the federal overhaul law goes into effect next year, and WellPoint may be the company with the most at stake. “It’s a revolutionary time in health care,” Mr. Swedish said in an interview. “We’ve got to get this right” (Mathews, 7/24).In other marketplace news – Los Angeles Times: Kaiser’s Rising Premiums Spark Employer BacklashFor years, Kaiser Permanente has won accolades for delivering high-quality care at an affordable price. The Oakland company’s unique HMO model kept a lid on costs, and big employers flocked to enroll their workers to the point that Kaiser has become the largest health plan in California, grabbing more than 40% of the market. Now, some of Kaiser’s biggest customers are complaining that the company is no longer a bargain and, even worse, standing in the way of controlling healthcare costs (Terhune, 7/24). WellPoint 2nd Quarter Earnings Jump 24%; Company Lists Future Possibilities This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
Surge Of Sign-Ups Expected To Hit Healthcare.gov Before March 31 Consumers who at least begin the enrollment process before Monday’s deadline can avoid the health law’s tax penalty, according to this week’s Obama administration decision. The change, which some are calling an extension, has triggered some worry from insurers and a round of new attacks from the overhaul’s opponents. The Wall Street Journal: Extension Of Health Law Signup Period Worries InsurersThe Obama administration’s decision to let some consumers enroll in health plans beyond Monday’s deadline sparked concern among insurers and prompted fresh attacks from opponents of the health law. A surge of consumers is expected to hit HealthCare.gov before Monday’s deadline to sign up for insurance and avoid a penalty under the Affordable Care Act. In the past, heavy traffic has stalled the federal site (Radnofsky and Mathews, 3/26).The Hill: Insurers Grow Sick Of O-CareThe health insurance industry can’t wait for ObamaCare’s first enrollment season to be over so that it can have a break from dealing with the White House, sources on K Street say. Insurers feel that the administration has taken advantage of them by making repeated delays and changes to the law, even as they have gone above and beyond the call of duty to fix problems with the rollout (Viebeck, 3/27).The New York Times: U.S. Announces Further Exemptions For Insurance Enrollment DeadlineThe Obama administration on Wednesday expanded the list of people who could sign up for health insurance after the deadline, announcing “special enrollment periods” for legal immigrants, victims of domestic violence and tens of thousands of people who experienced various problems trying to complete their applications for coverage (Pear, 3/26).Los Angeles Times: Interest In Obamacare Surges Ahead Of Enrollment DeadlineAs Monday’s deadline approaches to sign up for insurance under President Obama’s health law, more than 1 million people a day are visiting HealthCare.gov, Obama administration officials said Wednesday. The site — the main portal for insurance marketplaces in 36 states — drew 1.2 million visitors Tuesday and 1.1 million visitors Monday, according to the administration. … The surge in consumers comes as the administration is taking steps to ensure that Americans who start the enrollment process by Monday but fail to complete it will still be able to get health coverage (Levey and Memoli, 3/26).Reuters: U.S. Extends Obamacare Sign-Up Deadline In Case Of Tech Troubles Americans in most states who tried to apply for medical coverage under President Barack Obama’s healthcare law by a March 31 deadline but met with technical difficulties will get an automatic extension to enroll, officials said on Wednesday. The new federal guidelines apply to consumers in the 36 states served by the federal health insurance marketplace and its website, HealthCare.gov (3/26).NPR: That Health Insurance Deadline Now Comes With Wiggle RoomWe’re just five days away from the March 31 deadline to sign up for individual health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. For weeks, administration officials, including the president, have insisted that there would be no extensions to the scheduled end of the six-month open enrollment period. But now there’s some wiggle room. Let’s review, shall we? (Rovner, 3/26).ABC News: Obamacare Deadline Extended, But Should You Wait?President Obama insisted last month that Monday, March 31, would be “last call” for Americans to sign up for a health insurance plan under the federal law without risking a financial penalty. Like so many other deadlines involving the Affordable Care Act, however, this one turned out to be flexible. The White House effectively extended the open enrollment period Tuesday by allowing anyone who claims to have started the enrollment process on or before March 31 to check a “special enrollment” box. Doing so grants the applicant a hardship exemption and gives them a yet-to-be-determined grace period to complete the enrollment process. The deadline to submit paper applications was also extended to a final-for-now date of April 7 (Neporent, 3/27). Politico: Obamacare Extension For Those ‘In Line’The Obama administration is giving anyone “in line” for health coverage extra time to get it. But there isn’t really a “line” and nobody’s checking who’s on it. After insisting for months that the March 31 enrollment deadline would hold firm, the administration is giving America some wiggle room. The official deadline remains March 31, and the White House is strongly encouraging people to sign up now to avoid the crush. But it’s leaving the door wide open for people who say they had sign-up difficulty, broadly defined, to get more time (Norman and Cheney, 3/27).The Washington Post’s Wonkblog: Everything We Know About How Obamacare’s March 31 Deadline WorksThe Obama administration has been adamant that the latest enrollment announcement isn’t a deadline extension. The big question, though, is how does the administration make sure people who say they tried to enroll before March 31 actually made that effort? As my colleague Amy Goldstein reported last night, CMS is going with the honor system. People submitting their applications on HealthCare.gov or through a call center after March 31 “attest” that they had trouble enrolling before the deadline (Millman, 3/26).CBS News: Obamacare Deadline Fluid, Depending On Where You AreAs open enrollment on the new Obamacare marketplaces comes to a close, consumers across the nation will find that the leeway they’re given to meet the deadline will vary depending on where they live. The Obama administration on Wednesday announced that anyone who begins to enroll in a health plan on HealthCare.gov before the March 31 deadline will have more time to finish the process. “Just like election day, if you are in line when the polls close, you get to vote,” explained Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). “We’re doing all we can to ensure that every American who wants to enroll in affordable coverage by the end of the open enrollment period is able to do so” (Condon, 3/27). PBS NewsHour: Obama Administration Extends Health Care Sign-Up Completion Deadline To April 15Five days before the March 31 enrollment deadline, the Obama administration says that Americans will have more time to sign up on federal health care exchanges if they’ve begun but can’t finish the process on time. Gwen Ifill talks to Mary Agnes Carey of Kaiser Health News and Ceci Connolly of PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute for a closer look at the extension and its critics (Ifill, 3/26). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
AHIP Hits Hard On Cost Issue, Using Hepatitis C Drug As Example Reuters: U.S. Health Insurers Say Gilead Hepatitis C Drug Too Costly The leading U.S. health insurance trade group on Tuesday hit out at the extremely high cost of new specialty medicines, accusing drugmakers of taking advantage of the insurance system by pricing products at unsustainable levels. The latest salvo in the war on escalating U.S. healthcare costs came from AHIP – America’s Health Insurance Plans – and targeted Sovaldi, the new $84,000 hepatitis C treatment from Gilead Sciences Inc. (5/20). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
Marketplace: Clinton Drug Plan: Is It Enough? The Washington Post: Clinton Unveils Plan To Stop Price-Gouging On Old Drugs The Wall Street Journal: Hillary Clinton’s Drug Plan: Only Minor Side Effects At first glance, it may sound like Hillary Clinton’s plan is an attempt to tackle drug prices overall. It’s not. Clinton economic policy advisor Mike Shapiro said it’s to go after an insidious problem where a subset of drug makers (think Turing and Mylan) crank up prices on generics, just because they can. (Gorenstein, 9/2) On Heels Of EpiPen Outrage, Clinton Unveils Plan Targeting High Drug Prices Hillary Clinton says she would create of an oversight panel to investigate price spikes on older medicines with little competition. But some see language in the proposal as reassuring to the pharmaceutical industry. This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. Clinton proposed creating a federal consumer oversight body that would investigate and respond to price hikes of older drugs with limited competition, as was the case with Mylan’s EpiPen. The board could wield enforcement power when it determines a price increase is unjustified. Offending companies would be fined or charged increased rebates. That money would be used to support new programs to make lower-cost alternatives available and increase approval of competing treatments. (Karlin-Smith, 9/2) Hillary Clinton said on Friday that if elected to the White House she would create an oversight panel to protect U.S. consumers from large price hikes on long-available, lifesaving drugs and to import alternative treatments if necessary, adding to her pledges to rein in overall drug prices. Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, would seek to give the panel an “aggressive new set of enforcement tools,” including the ability to levy fines and impose penalties on manufacturers when there has been an “unjustified, outlier price increase” on a long-available or generic drug, her campaign said. (Becker and Pierson, 9/2) Clinton’s plan is carefully delineated to target “excessive, outlier” price hikes on “long-standing” treatments that haven’t had any major improvements and have little or no competition. That’s a clear attempt to reassure the pharmaceutical industry that government intervention won’t squelch the development of new, pricey treatments. According to the campaign, the initiative will be focused on drugs without patent protection. (Johnson, 9/2) The Fiscal Times: Clinton Calls For Powerful New Panel To Crack Down On Drug Price-Gouging Bloomberg: Clinton To Propose Curbs On ‘Unjustified’ Drug Price Hikes On Friday, Hillary Clinton called for creation of a government commission with the power to compete with or penalize pharmaceutical companies like Mylan, Valeant and Turing that jack up the prices of lifesaving drugs that have been on the market for years. (Pianin, 9/2) Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, acting on her pledge to curb what she has called outrageous drug costs, outlined a set of proposals to crack down on “unjustified” increases on prices for older treatments. The plan adds to a year of attacks against pharmaceutical firms that have hiked the prices of life-saving treatments, including the outcry over Mylan NV’s EpiPen emergency allergy shot. The measures, released Friday on the candidate’s website, would give the U.S. government a broader role in determining the correct price for some drugs, a task that’s typically been off limits for federal regulators. (Cordeiro and Tracer, 9/2) At first blush, this is scary talk for investors. Any action to curb price increases on older drugs would hurt manufacturers that rely on them to generate growth. But their share prices already have taken a beating over the past year. In addition, the plan offers familiar solutions such as enabling Medicare to negotiate drug prices and eliminating tax deductions for drug advertisements directed at patients. Those policies, if enacted, would have a more comprehensively negative effect on the industry. Yet a closer look suggests that scenario is unlikely to come to pass. For instance, Mrs. Clinton’s plan notes the need to “ensure that there are proper incentives for real innovations that bring effective products to market.” (Grant, 9/2) Reuters: Clinton Offers Plan To Curb ‘Unjustified’ Price Hikes On Life-Saving Drugs Politico: New Clinton Drug Plan Targets Price Hikes, Citing EpiPen
Finance Minister Bill Morneau speaks to a Toronto business breakfast crowd about the 2019 federal budget on last week.Jack Boland/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network Kiran Ridley/Getty Images Featured Stories March 29, 20199:25 PM EDTLast UpdatedApril 1, 20191:07 PM EDT Filed under News Economy Our collective share of the pie shrunk last year.You might have seen reports that the trade deficit remained an expanse of misery in January. The same day that Statistics Canada released those dreary numbers, it also published its annual report on the distribution of household wealth, or, if you prefer, “Distributions of household economic accounts for income, consumption, saving and wealth of Canadian households, 2018.”The net worth of households was $10.7 trillion in 2018, compared with $10.9 trillion in 2017; the first decrease since at least 2010, which is when Statistics Canada began publishing this particular set of data.Collectively, we’re 60 per cent richer than we were a decade ago, so keep that in mind before you take to Twitter to vent about Stephen Harper’s austerity or Justin Trudeau’s taxing of the rich. Still, the good times rolled a little slower last year. That’s partly because the housing bubbles in Toronto and Vancouver started to deflate. But it’s also because a group of wealth creators on which the country has relied since the Great Recession had a tough time in 2018.Statistics Canada diced household wealth into five income segments. It also divided the aggregate data into five regions. There wasn’t a lot of change in distribution. Nationally, the richest 20 per cent of households controlled about 49 per cent of total wealth, roughly the same as 2010. One shift stood out, however.Inequality and fragile growth may be two sides of the same coin 35 Comments More Share this storyAs income pie shrinks, Ottawa and business community talk past each other Tumblr Pinterest Google+ LinkedIn In the Prairie provinces, the richest quintile’s share of total household net worth in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba dropped to about 56 per cent, compared with about 57 per cent in 2017 and almost 64 per cent in 2015. The share of Prairie wealth held by the four poorer groups increased by about two percentage points each compared with three years earlier. So far, it’s the richest who have absorbed the biggest blow from volatile commodity prices and the inability of Canada’s politicians to clear the way for more pipelines.Trudeau’s government doesn’t say so explicitly very often, but the central theme of its economic policy is narrowing income inequality. Just like Jean Chrétien’s and Paul Martin’s quest to eliminate the deficit, and Stephen Harper’s attack on excessively high corporate taxes, there are good economic reasons to focus on inequality. Unfortunately, the tendency of Trudeau and his ministers to justify everything they do as necessary to help the middle class has made it difficult for thinking people to take them seriously. Team Trudeau always looks like it’s shopping for votes, even when it might not be.Some wealth disparity is necessary to ensure dynamism; even left-wing economists accept that economies work better when entrepreneurs and other ambitious types are allowed to satisfy their greed.But over the past decade, the economics profession has concluded that big gaps between the richest and the rest could be a cause of all sorts of chronic problems. High levels of income inequality correlate with corruption and regulatory capture, as the wealthiest outspend others to ensure the playing field tilts in their favour. Societal and political unrest also flare in places where the majority feels left behind by an elite majority.And if all of that is too fuzzy for your liking, Jonathan Ostry, the deputy director of research at the International Monetary Fund, found a link between inequality and economic growth: Economies with narrower gaps between the top of the income scale and the bottom grow for longer stretches and are less prone to crises.Deficit-financed ‘investments’ in the middle class are meant to avoid political turmoil such as France’s ‘gilets jaunes’ movement. Kevin Carmichael Sponsored By: Recommended For YouJapan ruling bloc to keep simple majority in upper house, may get 2/3- NHK exit pollDavid Rosenberg: Deflation is still the No. 1 threat to global economic stability — and central banks know itTrans Mountain construction work can go ahead as National Energy Board re-validates permitsBank of Canada drops mortgage stress test rate for first time since 2016The storm is coming and investors need a financial ark to see them through Reddit Facebook Twitter What you need to know about passing the family cottage to the next generation Comment “Inequality and fragile growth may be two sides of the same coin,” Ostry, a Canadian who trained at Oxford, the London School of Economics, and the University of Chicago, says in Confronting Inequality: How Societies Can Choose Inclusive Growth, along with co-writers Prakash Loungani and Andrew Berg.Bill Morneau, the finance minister, has been using his post-budget tour to try to coax business leaders to think about his policies in these terms. On March 28, he told an audience assembled by the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal that his deficit-financed “investments” in the middle class are meant to avoid the political turmoil that has roiled the United States (Trump), the United Kingdom (Brexit), France (gilets jaunes), and elsewhere.“We aren’t there, but there is a feeling among some Canadians that they aren’t doing well,” Morneau said. The Trudeau government’s spending is meant to relieve that “anxiety,” he said numerous times. In other words, spending that keeps Brexit-like chaos out of Canada is as beneficial to the economy as a tax cut.It’s unclear whether Corporate Canada buys it. After the speech, Morneau took questions from Michel Leblanc, the Montreal chamber’s president and chief executive officer. Leblanc asked the finance minister about eight things, and not once did he mention the middle class.The Trudeau government and the business community keep talking past each other. The latter should recognize that the federal government’s coddling of the middle class isn’t entirely about electioneering. And Trudeau and Morneau should be wary of taking the leaders of the country’s biggest companies for granted. As David Lipton, one of Ostry’s bosses at the IMF once said, “a larger slice of the pie for everyone calls for a bigger pie.”Trudeau needs Corporate Canada’s help to achieve his goals as much as it needs his. The data prove it.• Email: email@example.com | Twitter: As income pie shrinks, Ottawa and business community talk past each other While economies work better when entrepreneurs and others are allowed to satisfy their greed, big gaps between the richest and the rest can cause chronic problems advertisement Email Join the conversation → ← Previous Next →