health care

Image courtesy

In July, University of Texas employees who use the UT SELECT Medical plan will have to declare whether they use tobacco. And if they do, they will have to pay a $30 dollar premium every month starting in September.

The same goes for spouses and children who are on the plan. The maximum charge would be $90 per month, per family.

“During Annual Enrollment, all UT SELECT Medical plan participants will need to declare whether they are or are not a tobacco user,” the university’s Office of Employee Benefits writes. Approximately 200,000 employees, spouses and children are enrolled statewide in the UT SELECT insurance program.

No matter how many times he said it Wednesday, the White House press corps just didn't seem to be buying deputy press secretary Josh Earnest's assertion that Obama administration officials weren't working on contingency plans just in case the Supreme Court strikes down the Affordable Care Act.

They also weren't taking at face value Earnest's defense of Solicitor General Donald Verrilli's performance on behalf of the administration Tuesday which has been widely criticized as nervous, halting and all-around less-than-inspiring.

Medicaid Expansion Caps Supreme Court Arguments

Mar 28, 2012

The last argument on the Affordable Care Act before the Supreme Court could have consequences far beyond health care.

The key issue is whether the health law's expansion of the Medicaid program for the poor unfairly compels the participation of states. Many considered this to be the weakest part of the states' challenge to the health law, and during Wednesday afternoon's arguments, that seemed to be the case.

Photo courtesy wallyg,

The U.S. Supreme Court’s consideration of the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s set of signature health care reforms, has broad implications for the nation and Texas.

This morning’s hearing on the reforms’ effects has Texas ties. State Attorney General Greg Abbott has argued the national expansion of Medicaid coerces states into compliance, an issue the court is taking up today.  

KUT News’ reporting partner, The Texas Tribune, has created a Storify timeline detailing how yesterday’s discussion of the constitutionality of an individual insurance mandate – which was widely seen as critical of the requirement – reverberated in Texas. 

After Tuesday's judicial fireworks, the Supreme Court wraps up arguments on the new health care law Wednesday by focusing on two questions. The first involves what would happen if the "individual mandate" — the core of the law that requires most people to have health insurance — is struck down. Would the rest of the law fall, too, or could some provisions stay?

Here's some of the early word about today's Supreme Court hearing on the constitutionality of the nation's new health care overhaul law:

-- Five Justices Were Tough: Five members of the court "beat him up pretty hard," NPR's Nina Totenberg says of how the justices treated the counsel representing the government. But she also says, "I don't think you can call this," when asked about whether the court will or won't strike down the so-called individual mandate in the law. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy "seem to be in play," Nina reports.

The U.S. Supreme Court gets to the heart of the health care arguments Tuesday. Almost exactly two years after Congress passed the Obama health care overhaul, the justices are hearing legal arguments testing the constitutionality of the so-called health care mandate — so-called because those words actually do not appear in the law.

Image courtesy

The Texas House Committee on Human Services will meet this morning to discuss how the state can best support the needs of the elderly.

Does a federal law stretching back to 1867 bar the Supreme Court from deciding on the merits of the administration's health law right now?

The court on Monday heard the first arguments in a historic three-day session that could decide the fate of the Obama administration's signature domestic achievement.

It's the hottest ticket in Washington, D.C. Even the flossiest lawyers in town can't get a seat. Senators, congressmen, Cabinet and White House officials are all vying for a place.

At the U.S. Supreme Court, people have been lining up for days, waiting to hear this week's historic oral arguments on President Obama's health care law. The arguments will last for six hours over a three-day period, the longest argument in more than 40 years.

Photo illustration by Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

Victoria Hospital Bans Overweight Job Applicants

KUT News' reporting partner, The Texas Tribune, reports a hospital in Victoria, Texas, bans job applicants from employment for being too overweight.

The Citizens Medical Center policy, instituted a little more than a year ago, requires potential employees to have a body mass index of less than 35 — which is 210 pounds for someone who is 5-foot-5, and 245 pounds for someone who is 5-foot-10. It states that an employee’s physique “should fit with a representational image or specific mental projection of the job of a healthcare professional,” including an appearance “free from distraction” for hospital patients.

The U.S. spent $2.6 trillion on health care in 2010 — more than the entire economy of France or Britain. But the amount spent and how it's used varies from state to state.

And no two states are more different than Texas and Massachusetts. At 25 percent, Texas has the highest rate of uninsured people in the nation. Massachusetts, where a 2006 law made coverage mandatory, has the lowest rate — fewer than 2 percent of people are uninsured.

The Senate has turned back an attempt to kill President Obama's new rules requiring most health insurance plans to provide contraceptives without additional cost.

The 51-48 vote against an amendment to an unrelated highway bill (Yes, that's just how the Senate works) was mostly along party lines.

Pediatricians Recommend HPV Vaccination For Boys

Feb 27, 2012

The leading group of U.S. pediatricians says it's now time for boys, as well as girls, to be vaccinated against human papillomavirus.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has updated its guidance to parents and doctors in favor of routine immunization for boys against the virus.

Under a federal determination released today, insurers in Texas will have to abide by spending rules set forth in President Obama’s signature health care reform package. 

One of the provisions in the Affordable Care Act stipulates that insurers must spend 80% of customers’ premium dollars on medical care, and not overhead costs. Any overhead spending over 20%, and insurance companies would be required to issue rebates to their customers.

That said, states can apply for an adjustment of to increase the amount they spend on overhead. The Texas Department of Insurance applied to do just that, requesting to ramp up medical care spending more slowly: 71% for (current) reporting year 2011, 74% for 2012, and 77% for 2013.

Photo by Rosemary

Medicare payments to doctors are scheduled to be slashed by almost 30 percent in January unless Congress does something to stop that from happening. A new poll of Texas doctors shows that half of them would stop taking Medicare patients if the cuts take effect.

Medicare is a federal program that provides health insurance to about 47 million people over the age of 65. It also costs taxpayers $452 billion a year.

“Our Medicare patients are like family to us, but most doctors in Texas run small businesses,” former Texas Medical Association (TMA) president Sue Bailey told KUT News. “We have employees to pay. We have rents and utilities to pay just like any small business.”

Still Burning/flickr

The same Texas state representative whose interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper went viral after he expressed doubt that President Obama was born in the US is attracting more attention for his proposal that health care officials be imprisoned for enforcing the new health care law.