It was a bit of a surprise when Huawei announced last year that it teamed up with Porsche Design to bring out a luxurious and more powerful version of the Mate 9. Then again, with BlackBerry practically out of the scene, the luxury design company needed a new partner in the smartphone market. Also surprisingly, however, is that the partnership actually went beyond just the conventional smartphones. Alluded to in the past, the Porsche Design Huawei Smartwatch has just been launched, with much fuss or fanfare, in Europe and the UK, giving Android Wear users yet another luxury option. There is actually no shortage of luxury Android Wear pieces. In fact, those have probably outnumbered traditional OEM models by now. Especially with some of the older Android Wear champions, like Motorola, bowing out of the scene. And while Huawei’s CEO was quoted to be at a loss figuring out what smartwatches are really for, that didn’t seem to stop the company from still pushing through with this rather expensive wearable.As mentioned, fashionable Android Wear smartwatches are no longer rare today, but the Porsche Design Huawei Smartwatch sets itself apart in that it’s more like a regular, even sporty, smartwatch in luxurious clothing. It has all the trappings of a typical smartwatch, from the usual sensors to a GPS, heart rate sensor, and even a barometer. Sensors you’d usually find on more “active” models.Despite that, the Posche Design looks less like a sportswatch and more like, well, a smartwatch designed for style. It was Porsche Design’s iconic, but useless here, tachymeter scale, made of durable black ceramic. No official word yet on what the watch itself is made of, but it won’t be surprising to find out the glass is sapphire crystal.The Porsche Design Huawei Smartwatch is currently available for purchase but only in Europe and the UK for now. It will, however, set you back 795 EUR, roughly $930. Which isn’t surprising, considering the Porsche Design Huawei Mate 9 sells for 1,395 EUR, around $1,630.VIA: A Blog to Watch
By now it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Uber relies on numerous shady practices, but as part of the ongoing lawsuit between the ride-hailing company and self-driving start-up Waymo over stolen technology, new evidence has been released that shows the lengths Uber has gone to in order to succeed. A 37-page letter written by a former employee has been published, and it includes claims that the company regularly conducted corporate espionage, illicit hacking, unlawful surveillance, and even bribery. The letter was penned by Richard Jacobs, who served on Uber’s security team, and was originally sent to the company’s management in May of this year. Dubbed the “Jacobs letter,” it’s this evidence that the Department of Justice gave to the judge overseeing the Waymo lawsuit, which in turn accused Uber of failing to disclose the document and delayed the trial until next year. While small parts of the Jacobs letter have previously been read aloud in court, the complete document has been made public in a redacted form.The letter is made up of numerous detailed accounts of Uber’s illegal practices. The company’s Strategic Services Group (SSG) was responsible for not only hacking competitors in order to steal secrets and get a leg up, but used spies to monitor political figures and wiretapped regulators, bribed foreign officials, and used burner phones self-destructing messages in order to hide records of their activities in the event of a lawsuit.Jacobs also said that Uber’s former CEO Travis Kalanick knew about many of these practices, in addition to receiving much of the information that was collected as a result. The Department of Justice has confirmed that it’s continuing its criminal investigation into Uber over the theft of Waymo trade secrets. An Uber spokesperson has released a statement noting “While we haven’t substantiated all the claims in this letter — and, importantly, any related to Waymo — our new leadership has made clear that going forward we will compete honestly and fairly, on the strength of our ideas and technology.”SOURCE Documentcloud, Buzzfeed Story TimelineUber has secret ‘Greyball’ tool to evade law enforcement and other opponentsWaymo is down to one patent in its self-driving Uber lawsuitFBI tipped in Uber probe over defunct Lyft spying programUber app found to have special iPhone screen recording permissionUber hid massive data breach by paying hackers $100kUber-Waymo trial delayed again as more evidence comes to light
Google has Google Assistant, Amazon has Alexa, Apple has Siri, Microsoft has Cortana, and Samsung has Bixby. LG, fortunately, doesn’t want to make the market even more convoluted and has decided to, instead, play nice with others. In this case, its new ThinQ Speaker is practically a new home for Google Assistant, one that can communicate well with LG’s own ThinQ and SmartThinq appliances. And thanks to its partnership with Medidian Audio, which covers this entire batch of speakers, offers hi-res audio capabilities.Need a better sounding speaker but still with the trappings of modern connectivity? Then the LG SK10Y soundbar might be more to your liking. With a 550W speaker with 5.1.2 channels, support for lossless audio, and a head-turning design, the SK10Y is a speaker first and foremost and a connected speaker second. The latter comes via built-in Chromecast technology that let’s you stream your audio from any compatible source.If you don’t need smarts but need mobility instead, then the new LG PK speakers could get you into your groove, any time, anywhere. Apt-X HD streaming makes short work of 24-bit music while the rugged design makes it a perfect companion to bring along to any kind of party. Plus, the mood lighting and Dynamic Party Lighting flashes to the beat so you don’t need an expensive light setup.AdChoices广告Whatever the need or the taste, LG’s new generation of speakers is advertised to rise up to the task. How they will rise up to the price is still unknown. But if you’re anywhere Las Vegas next year, you can drop by their booth to hear for yourself.SOURCE: LG Smart speakers are in, if Amazon’s sales numbers for the Echo, especially the Echo Dot, are any indication. OEMs are already jumping on board, including Apple, though not until early 2018. That gives them enough time to test the waters first at CES next month. That’s exactly what LG is doing with its first ever smart speaker, powered by Google Assistant and one of the first new products under the ThinQ brand. But if you’re not into always listening equipment, worry not. LG has a lot more in store.
LG might not have a new high-end smartphone to show off at CES next week but it does have a new version of an old flagship to flaunt. Following Samsung and some other OEMs, like OnePlus, LG is putting out its own spin on a red flagship. It’s not exactly red and it’s not exactly pink either but something in between. LG calls it the “Raspberry Rose” and it will be the LG V30’s new fashionable color. LG describes Raspberry Rose as an “intense saturated version” of red, though its hue isn’t exactly reddish. It’s darker but, at the same time, lighter than the Burgundy Red Galaxy S8. If you really wanted a highly saturated red phone, the limited edition OnePlus Lava Red might be your preferred eye-scorching color.Other than the color, the Raspberry Rose LG V30 will be exactly the same as any other LG V30 in any other color. That means the same 6.0-inch 2880×1440 FullVision screen, Snapdragon 835, and 4 GB of RAM. And since it’s not the LG V30+, it only gets 64 GB of thankfully still expandable memory.LG poises this Raspberry Rose as the ideal phone for the fashion-conscious user or a perfectly themed Valentine’s Day gift. At least this time it isn’t singling out ladies as the color’s target audience. The color will be available first in Korea after CES, to be followed by Europe and Asia. This implies that the US will be stock with the usual Aurora Black, Cloud Silver, Moroccan Blue, and Lavender Violet colors.SOURCE: LG
Story TimelineStream offers cryptocurrency option to livestreamers abandoned by NintendoPirate Bay returns to mining cryptocurrency with visitors’ CPUs, no opt-out optionBrowser-based drive-by cryptomining keeps running even when closedStarbucks store’s WiFi hijacked laptops to mine cryptocurrencyBitcoin price climbing, Bittrex down (BTC USD trading)Bitcoin price today: BTC USD Highs and Lows to keep an eye on Coinbase made a significant announcement this afternoon regarding, but not mentioning specifically, Ripple (AKA $XRP.) As the announcement was made, the price of Ripple ($XRP) fell, there was a dead cat bounce, and the coin’s worth continued to tank in a downward direction. If there’s one single reason why an investor’s worth in USD or BTC today is halved, it’s because they put a whole lot of faith in the future of XRP. The Coinbase announcement today doused previous rumors that the coin buying and selling platform was adding another new coin in the near future. They’d recently released a list of coins that might, someday, possibly be added to their ranks, but never specifically said which coin would be added, if there would be a move to add for certain, or when said add would take place.Coinbase officials attempted to clear that all up this morning with a simple note. “A committee of internal experts is responsible for determining whether and when new assets will be added to the platform in accordance with our framework,” said Coinbase PR. “These individuals — and all employees at Coinbase — are subject to confidentiality and trading restrictions. Coinbase will announce the addition of new assets only via our blog post or other official channels.”Coinbase also noted that as of the date of the statement (today, January 4th, 2018,) they’d “made no decision to add additional assets to either GDAX or Coinbase.” They made extra clear, also, that “any statement to the contrary is untrue and not authorized by the company.”AdChoices广告Whether they end up adding any coin in the future is currently irrelevant. As it is with all coins in this current cryptocurrency craze, the rule remains: “Buy the rumor, sell the news.”Other seemingly-bad news appeared overnight as another bank/investment agency blocked itself from Bitcoin. For the time being, anyway.
Yes, though we thought that it may never come, it looks like going head-to-head with Google and Microsoft was the motivation Apple needed to revisit iWork. Apple revealed today that it has new versions of Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Clips, and GarageBand all ready to go today, with these updates launching alongside its new iPad.Perhaps the biggest draw of these new updates is that they make Pages, Numbers, and Keynote compatible with the Apple Pencil, and accessory that also plays nice with the new iPad. Not only does this open the door to features that you’d expect – drawing and note taking, for example – but this functionality is paired with a new feature called Smart Annotation. When editing a Pages file, Smart Annotation will allow teachers to anchor their edits and comments to text within the documents.Pages on iOS and macOS is also getting a new book creation feature, along with Presenter Mode. Book creation is fairly straightforward, as it will allow students to create interactive digital books, perhaps adding some extra depth to a short story or a project. Presenter Mode, on the other hand, can turn Pages and the iPad into a teleprompter students can use while giving presentations to their class.So, Apple is definitely beefing up its suite of iWork apps in anticipation of this education push. This mirrors Google’s multi-pronged approach to winning over teachers that includes both software and hardware, so it’ll be interesting to see if Apple succeeds in pulling away any significant market share from the big G. Story TimelineCheaper iPads in schools will be a huge win for AppleNew iPad revealed with Apple Pencil in towNew iPad release dates and pricing for education and everyone else Apple’s new iPad may be at the center of its renewed focus on education, but as is always the case, hardware is only one part of the equation. Google, for instance, has managed to achieve wide adoption within classrooms thanks in part to its suite of apps and services, like Docs and Drive. Apple knows that software is going to be key to getting its devices in the hands of more students, which is why it also announced a pretty massive update to iWork today.
Glass may be scratch-resistant but its rigidity comes at the price of being more prone to shattering. That is why Motorola’s shatterproof Shattershield uses a form of plastic rather than glass. The compromise there, however, is that plastic is more susceptible to scratching. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Or can you?Corning says you can, at least with the new Gorilla Glass 6. Its scientists have developed an entirely new material, it claims, that addresses exactly that. Their tests saw the Gorilla Glass 6 survive 15 drops from a height of 1 meter onto a rough surface. That doesn’t sound much but that twice the survival rate of the Gorilla Glass 5. Corning is also positioning Gorilla Glass 6 as the perfect material for today’s phones with glass backs. With the addition of a more shatter-resistant material, these phones can enjoy premium looks and wireless charging if they use this new type of glass. Corning expects it will reach the market in the next few months.Or it could actually debut already in a few weeks in the Galaxy Note 9. It would be a fitting partnership considering the Galaxy Note 7 was the first smartphone to use the new Gorilla Glass 5 back in 2016. There was a bit of drama back then, with JerryRigEverything issuing a mea culpa over an error in his usual scratch test. Then again, the Galaxy Note 7 did end up having a far worse problem in the end. Corning’s Gorilla Glass 5 has made durability tests one-thirds boring. Unless you have a Mohs level 6 pick in your pocket or an open glass cutter in you bag, phone screens are mostly safe from scratches. They might, however, not be that protected from drops, which could result in shattering. That is why for the Gorilla Glass 6, Corning has focused on making the material survive more drops from higher heights. Corning #GorillaGlass6 helps survive multiple drops because almost everyone fumbles their phone at least once a year. #IsItOnYours pic.twitter.com/Hsi8GPAySe— CorningGorillaGlass (@corninggorilla) July 18, 2018
If it had happened once it would be fine, but the notification was a repeat offender. Indeed, every time people unlocked their iPhone – or reached for the notification panel – it would pop up with its baseless teasing of new software. Happily for iPhone owners’ collective sanity, Apple has fixed it. If you’re on the developer track, it’s iOS 12 developer beta 12. Those on the public track, meanwhile, get iOS 12 public beta 10. You can trigger the download manually by heading into the iOS settings page and checking for updates. Apple hasn’t commented on the glitch, but that hasn’t stopped developers from digging into what could be the cause of the problem. Guilherme Rambo, for example, suggests it’s a Springboard issue, the iOS home screen manager. On the previous, problematic beta, that was apparently of the opinion that the current build was about to expire. Since there was, in reality, no replacement for it, users got stuck in the notification cycle. With a long-weekend in the US almost upon us – given it’s Labor Day on Monday – the prospect of three days or more of confused alerts for software that didn’t exist had some considering a last-minute smartphone detox.That will no longer be necessary, and iPhone users will be able to continue distracting themselves from annoying family members at group barbecues across the weekend. Beyond that, it doesn’t appear that there are any other changes in the new beta version. Indeed the expectation is that all Apple’s engineers did was fix the expiration bug. Previous iterations have introduced ARKit 2.0 and Siri Shortcuts, along with adding greater Siri integration into third-part apps. Notifications, too, have been improved, and Apple’s new Memoji have been added to Messages. The date of the full, public release of iOS 12 is expected to be announced alongside the new iPhone 2018 range, likely to be the iPhone XS. That should take place on September 12. Apple has pushed out a new iOS 12 Beta, fixing the frustrating bug that pestered early users with notifications for a non-existent update. Reports of the glitch began circulating yesterday, with iPhone owners on Apple’s beta track finding that their device would repeatedly notify them that a new version was available, only for iOS to then say that no update was actually to be found. Story TimelineApple delays iOS 12’s Group FaceTime video callsiOS 12 beta 7 temporarily pulled after performance complaintsiOS 12 developer beta 8 is here to take beta 7’s place
This confirmation comes straight from the horses’ mouth. Xioami President and co-founder Bin Lin seems to be adopting a strategy of officially dropping breadcrumbs for the media to munch on days before an official reveal. Almost like LG. Just last week, he dropped a photo that shows the Mi Mix 3, its almost completely bezel-less screen, and its sliding camera trick.This time, the Xiaomi exec is teasing the smartphone’s network prowess. While showing off the phone itself, the image posted on Weibo has network tests in the background, “revealing” the Mi Mix 3’s readiness for 5G. Samsung and Huawei are also racing to be one of the first to have a 5G-ready smartphone. Xiaomi already has them beat. Technically, the Moto Z3 was the first, but an add-on doesn’t really count.That’s not the Mi Mix 3’s only claim to an industry first. An unofficial video on Weibo shows the smartphone’s slider feature. Unlike the OPPO Find X which uses a motorized contraption to push the camera and sensors up, the Mi Mix 3 will requires users to manually do it themselves. Just like the sliders of old. And just like what the Honor Magic 2 will allegedly have.Of course, being first doesn’t guarantee anything other than bragging rights. Being the first 5G-ready phone in a 5G-less world means nothing. And being the first with a new kind of slider phone could also mean you’ll be the first the know if that design is a failure. The entire world isn’t even 4G-complete and yet carriers, OEMs, and even governments are already squabbling over 5G. But while the next gen mobile network won’t even be widely available in the most advanced markets for a few more months, chip developers and smartphone makers are already reassuring customers that they have products ready for it. The first off the train might be Xiaomi, with its upcoming Mi Mix 3 bezel-less phone, beating Huawei to the punch in more ways than just 5G.
Light and Sony are working together on multi-camera applications for smartphones, paving the way for handsets that combine the data from four or more sensors. Light started out developing its own computational imaging devices, combining multiple sensors – up to sixteen, in fact – to pull out DSLR-style detail from smartphone hardware. The original Light L16 Camera launched in 2017, and met with mixed reviews. Users praised the core technology, Light mixing data from a variety of sensors to deliver lossless zoom, HDR shots, and more. However the usability was criticized, as was the overall size of the device. As a standalone product it may not have been a total success, but as a preview of what smartphones might one day be capable of there was plenty of promise. Now, Light and Sony Semiconductors Solutions are working together to make that happen. While it might not be common to see a Sony Xperia smartphone out in the wild, you probably find yourself face to face with a Sony camera sensor more often than you’d think. Sony Semiconductors Solutions has built up a thriving business providing CMOS sensors to phone-makers. Indeed, Apple, Google, Huawei, and more all use a Sony sensor. Even Samsung, which has its own CMOS range, still uses Sony’s cameras in some of its phones. AdChoices广告Although multiple cameras on a single phone was initially the preserve of only high-end devices, they’ve increasingly become commonplace across the price spectrum. Meanwhile, flagships are adding more and more sensors to tackle different tasks. The Samsung Galaxy S10 announced just this week, for example, has three cameras on its rear: regular, 2x zoom, and an ultra-wide camera that mimics the field of view of the human eye. What most phones don’t do, however, is actually use their sensors simultaneously. That’s where Sony and Light’s work promises to come in. Together they plan to make reference design made up of Sony’s image sensors and Light’s multi-camera technology. “This new partnership will allow us to work together to evolve and speed up the design of today’s multi-image sensor enabled connected devices,” Hank Ochi, president of Component Solutions Business Division at Sony Electronics, said of the collaboration. “Starting today, our jointly developed reference designs will help our smartphone OEMs to quickly and easily enhance the imaging capability of multi-camera enabled smartphones.”Exactly what that will look like in practice remains to be seen, but the L16 does give us a few hints. It combines sixteen sensors each with a different focal length: five capture at 35mm, five at 70mm, and 6 at 150mm. Software brings the resulting data together for a DSLR-rivaling result. More software, meanwhile, allows for features like post-capture defocus. Smartphones with sixteen sensors seem unlikely, at least given today’s level of technology. However Light did begin work on a nine sensor version intended for phones last year. Its techniques could well open the door to better image quality with multiple Sony sensors working together, rather than the current mode of operation where they typically work individually.
The FCC unsurprisingly already gave its support to the carriers’ plans but the DOJ would have none of that. It is reportedly requiring a few things to be convinced that the merger won’t result in a lopsided market. Among those include the creation of a fourth major US carrier and the divestment of assets and spectrum.The former might still be an open question but it seems that Amazon has interests in helping with the latter buy acquiring Sprint’s Boost Mobile and some wireless spectrum that the two carriers might want to get rid of. Not for selfless, altruistic purposes, of course. It’s more to give its subscription business a boost, pun definitely intended.Buying Boost Mobile would give Amazon access to T-Mobile’s wireless network for six years, presuming the merger pushes through. The retailer would then be able to bundle even more services with its Prime subscription. Buying the carriers’ divested wireless spectrum could also be instrumental to Amazon’s Project Kuiper broadband strategy.Of course, that all now depends on whether the DOJ would approve of the acquisition. The sale could cost Amazon around $3 billion, which is probably peanuts for the company, especially considering what it would gain from it. The marriage of T-Mobile and Sprint has been years in the making and, depending on who you ask, it’s either happening soon or not at all. The merger of the two carriers has been swaying this way and that but the latest rumors suggest that there is just one hurdle left and it’s a big one: convincing the US Department of Justice. Fortunately for the carriers, help seems to be on the way but from the most unlikely of sources: Amazon.
Grassley: FDA Officials OK’d Surveillance On Groups Of Doctors Wary Of Medical Device Safety The Washington Post: FDA Lawyers Authorized Spying On Agency’s Employees, Senator SaysCongressional investigators said Monday that the chief counsel’s office at the Food and Drug Administration authorized wide-ranging surveillance of a group of the agency’s scientists, the first indication that the effort was sanctioned at the highest levels. In a letter to the FDA, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said that his staff had learned that the spying was “explicitly authorized, in writing” by the agency’s top legal office. … The disclosure marked the latest turn in an investigation of the FDA’s past efforts to monitor the communications of a group of its doctors who were expressing concerns about the safety of medical devices (Nakashima and Rein, 7/16). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
CBO Issues Not-So-Rosy Long-Term Budget Outlook In the short term, the federal deficit will fall. But, starting in 2016, as more baby boomers join the Medicare ranks, the deficits again will pick up. With this news in the backdrop, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned Republican lawmakers of the dangers of risking a government default as part of their efforts to derail the implementation of the health law. The New York Times: Budget Office Warns That Deficits Will Rise Again Because Cuts Are MisdirectedAnnual federal deficits will continue to fall in the short term, the budget office reported in its yearly long-term outlook, because of the recent spending cuts in military and domestic programs and rising tax collections in a recovering economy. … But starting in 2016, deficits are projected to rise again as more baby boomers begin drawing from Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — the fast-growing entitlement programs, which Democrats and Republicans cannot agree on how to rein in (Calmes, 9/17).The Associated Press/Washington Post: Congressional Budget Office Study Warns Of Long-Term Debt Woes In United StatesThe government has never defaulted on its obligations and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned Tuesday that Congress needs to act to increase the debt limit by mid-October but he warned Republicans that President Barack Obama will never go along with their demand to derail implementation of the new health care law as part of a measure to fund the government or increase the debt limit (9/17).Los Angeles Times: Treasury’s Lew Warns Congress It’s Risky To Delay Raising Debt LimitAs the nation fast approaches its debt limit, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew issued his strongest warning yet to Congress about the economic consequences of waiting until just before the deadline to pass an increase. … Republicans are balking at raising the $16.7-trillion debt limit, which Congress must do by as early as mid-October, unless the Obama administration agrees to major concessions including deep spending cuts and a delay in implementing the healthcare reform law (Puzzanghera, 9/17).In other fiscal news – The Wall Street Journal: Medical-Price Inflation Is At Slowest Pace In 50 YearsMedical prices are rising at their slowest pace in a half century, a shift in the health-care industry that could provide relief to government and businesses’ budgets while also signaling consumers are being left with a larger share of the bill. The prices paid for medical care in July rose just 1 percent from a year earlier, the slowest annual rate of growth since the early 1960s, according to Commerce Department data. Health-care increases now trail overall inflation, which itself has been historically slow in recent years (Morath and Radnofsky, 9/17). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
Viewpoints: Health Overhaul Doesn’t Necessarily Help The Sick; Single Payer Doesn’t Mean Cheaper 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 New York Times: The Problem With Free Health Care Now that it’s clear that Obamacare is here to stay, its supporters should focus on making the program better. Fixes are not a sign of weakness. They are a sign of responsiveness and of good management. And the Affordable Care Act does have its flaws. Here’s a big one: It favors screening over diagnosis. … In other words: A woman over 40 can have a free screening mammogram. But if she notices a breast lump and goes to her doctor to have it evaluated, she’ll pay for a diagnostic mammogram. That could cost $300. So the woman at lower risk for cancer — the one with no signs or symptoms of the disease — has an incentive to be tested, while the woman at higher risk — the one with the lump — faces a disincentive (H. Gilbert Welch, 4/30). The Wall Street Journal: The Coming Two-Tier Health System With the unveiling of the Affordable Care Act’s website, the public experienced a painful reminder of the consequences of the government’s new authority over health care. While millions signed up for insurance, millions of others abruptly lost their existing coverage and access to their doctors because that coverage didn’t fit new ObamaCare definitions (Scott W. Atlas, 4/30). Politico: Obama At A ‘Dead Point’ The president keeps saying the debate over the health care law is over. If so, he lost it — at least the debate over whether the law is worthy of support. The March Obamacare enrollment surge hasn’t brought springtime for President Barack Obama, just the soggy reality that he looks to be about as much of a drag on his party in November as anyone would have expected a few months ago (Rich Lowry, 4/30). The Washington Post’s The Plum Line: Schumer: Repeal Will Be Liability For McConnell In Kentucky’ Get this: Chuck Schumer thinks Mitch McConnell’s support for repealing health insurance for 400,000 people in his home state might actually become a political liability for him. This crazy notion comes in a fundraising email that Schumer is circulating for Kentucky Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes. It can’t be true, of course, since it is an established fact that Obamacare can only be an enormous liability for Democrats in elections six months from now, and there can never be any pitfalls of any kind in the GOP repeal stance, no matter how many people end up enjoying the law’s benefits (Greg Sargent, 4/30). The New York Times’ The Upshot: Implications For Employers In New Health Care LawAs the Affordable Care Act goes from thousands of pages of legalese to actual, real-life public policy, the future of employer-provided health insurance is one of the most fascinating questions. Will employers call for — and their workers accept — the practice of buying health insurance through government exchanges? How much will companies save, and will they pass those savings onto employees? Will it make workers more mobile and ready to shift jobs, or will employer-paid health insurance become a sought-after perk? (Neil Irwin, 5/1).Bloomberg: A Single-Payer System Won’t Make Health Care Cheap There are two potential outcomes for a “public option” health insurer: It could set rates high, in which case it wouldn’t control costs, or it could jam them down to Medicaid levels, in which case no one but the very healthy or the very desperate would buy that insurance because it will be hard to actually use that coverage (Megan McArdle, 4/30). Bloomberg: Is Obama A Bad Manager? Or consider the fiasco of the October Healthcare.gov roll-out, which features prominently in many critiques of Obama’s management. Is it properly viewed as a sign of presidential failure? Or is it more accurate to conclude that no president can prevent all bureaucratic snafus, and that the real test is how a president mobilizes the bureaucracy to tackle the problem? By the first standard Obama fails; by the second, he does very well. There seems to be evidence to support both (Jonathan Bernstein, 4/30). The Washington Post: Herring Rises, McAuliffe Falls I was out of town part of last week, but I was taken aback by a poll by Christopher Newport University showing a switch in voter attitudes about expanding Medicaid for up to 400,000 Virginians. In February, a poll by the school found that a majority of voters favored Medicaid expansion, 56 to 38 percent. By April, it had switched to 53 percent opposed and 41 percent in favor. Quentin Kidd, the CNU political scientist who oversaw the poll, says the Republicans are winning the Medicaid debate. He is likely correct, and the fault is McAuliffe’s (Peter Galuszka, 4/30). Fort Wayne Journal Gazette: ‘The Indiana Way’: Hope Rises For Resolution Of Medicaid Impasse It was, after all, only the second time an Indiana governor had visited the Neighborhood Health Clinics Inc., so the small group that awaited Mike Pence on Tuesday morning was excited about the chance to show him around. Not every community has a facility that’s been providing health care to people regardless of their ability to pay for 45 years. Also auspicious on the rare bright spring morning was a sense that perhaps an impasse between Indiana and the federal government on expanding Medicaid may soon be broken. … Pence praised NHCI and its staff and told them solving the health care challenge is on his mind every day. He said the state may be applying to the federal government within about a month for permission to pursue the expanded-HIP option in order to take care of Hoosiers “the Indiana way” (5/1). The Fiscal Times: There’s No App For That: Why We Need A Health Care Shopping Guide When you need work done on your car or bring a contractor into your home for some work, you can expect to get an estimate on what the job will cost. Even closing on a home mortgage and sale requires a comprehensive “good-faith estimate” of expenses before you sign on the dotted line. Unless you’re paying out of pocket, that’s rarely the case in health care, where bills mostly come after the service is performed, long after you’ve had a chance to shop around. Since most Americans rarely have to worry about the full cost of their medical bills — they are largely covered by employers — this isn’t an issue. For those with high-deductible policies, choosing elective surgery or running businesses, though, getting treatment is a different ball game — one that requires honest and accurate upfront pricing disclosure (John F. Wasik, 4/30). The Fiscal Times: Obama’s Biggest Lie: The ACA Will Lower Health Care Spending The economic news this week may have people wondering whether they have gone through the Looking Glass into Wonderland. The Bureau of Economic Analysis issued its advance estimate of first-quarter growth in 2014, which barely made it into the black with an annualized GDP growth rate of 0.1 percent. Even that terrible result – the worst quarter since 2012, and tied for second-worst since the start of the technical recovery in June 2009 – would have been worse without an explosion of health-care spending as Obamacare enters its first year of implementation. Not since 1980 has the American economy seen such a rapid expansion of health-care spending (Edward Morrissey, 5/1). On other health care issues -The New York Times’ Room For Debate: Doctors In The Death Chamber As a lethal mix of drugs left the murderer Clayton D. Lockett writhing and gasping before dying of a heart attack in the Oklahoma death chamber Tuesday night a doctor stood by to see if he had lost consciousness, and then died. Doctors have participated in lethal injections since they were first used, even injecting prisoners, despite professional guidelines that proscribe this. Should they be allowed to participate in executions without being disciplined? (4/30). news@JAMA: On Medicine And Money As might have been anticipated, much of the media coverage of the release of the CMS data focused attention on health care professionals dubbed “Medicare millionaires” and their practice patterns. Tantalizing as such details might be, more profound issues were being sidestepped. In particular, little has been said with respect to the uncomfortable relationship between medicine and money. This is an unfortunate state of affairs, because the ethical and moral challenges associated with the juxtaposition of medicine and money are highly deserving of our attention (Eli Y. Adashi, 4/30).
Billions Spent By Medicare On Unnecessary Procedures A new study from Harvard researchers looked at 26 tests and procedures, using evidence-based medicine guidelines.Reuters: Medicare Pays Billions Of Dollars For Wasteful Procedures — Study As many as 42 percent of U.S. Medicare patients were subjected to procedures providing little if any medical benefit, costing the government program up to $8.5 billion in wasteful spending, according to a study published on Monday. The research, reported in JAMA Internal Medicine, is the first large-scale analysis of what Medicare spends on procedures widely viewed as unnecessary, from advanced imaging for simple lower back pain to pre-operative chest X-rays and putting stents in patients with stable heart disease (Begley, 5/12).Kaiser Health News: Harvard: Overused Medical Services Cost Medicare BillionsMedical overtreatment is the inverse of former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of pornography: while easy to define in concept, it can be hard to know it when you see it. A treatment that is appropriate for one patient can also be unnecessary or even counterproductive for another (Rau, 5/12). 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 measures include incentives to develop new drugs, tighter control of existing ones and better tracking of resistant microbes. “Super bugs” are thought to cause 23,000 deaths and two million illnesses in the U.S. every year and $20 billion in spending.The New York Times: U.S. Aims To Curb Peril Of Antibiotic ResistanceThe Obama administration on Thursday announced measures to tackle the growing threat of antibiotic resistance, outlining a national strategy that includes incentives for the development of new drugs, tighter stewardship of existing ones, and improvements in tracking the use of antibiotics and the microbes that are resistant to them (Tavernise, 9/18).The Washington Post: Obama Directs Federal Agencies To Ramp Up Efforts To Deal With Antibiotic ResistanceAfter years of warnings from the science and medical communities about the depletion of the world’s arsenal of effective antibiotics, President Obama directed federal agencies Thursday to significantly ramp up their efforts to deal with the threat (Ellis Nutt, 9/18).The Wall Street Journal: Obama Orders Plan Against Antibiotic ResistanceThe White House unveiled new measures on Thursday to try to preserve the effectiveness of infection-fighting drugs as strains of bacteria become increasingly resistant to the existing arsenal of antibiotics. The moves signal a growing concern over drug-resistant infections, which are linked to two million illnesses and 23,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some infections are almost entirely untreatable because the appropriate antibiotics have been rendered powerless (Tracy and Burton, 9/18). Reuters: White House Calls For Task Force To Tackle Antibiotic-Resistant BugsThe U.S. government will set up a task force and presidential advisory council to tackle the growing threat of antibiotic resistance, setting a Feb. 15 deadline for it to outline specific steps, White House advisers said on Thursday. The secretaries of Defense, Agriculture and Health and Human Services will set up the task force to advise on steps to ensure the remaining medically important antibiotics available to treat humans stay effective and look at their use in animal feed. Antibiotic resistance in bacteria has led to “super bugs” linked to 23,000 deaths and 2 million illnesses every year in the United States, and up to $20 billion in direct health care costs (9/18). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. Obama Orders Plan To Reduce Peril Of Antibiotic Resistance
Modern Healthcare: Hospitals Remain Stressed, But Don’t Blame The ACA CQ Healthbeat: CMS Gets Backing For Alternative Payment Tests Healthcare providers have gotten some balance sheet relief thanks to a greater number of paying patients over the past couple of years. But bankruptcy filings suggest the industry has recovered more slowly than the improving economy would suggest. It’s not the Affordable Care Act by itself that’s pushing healthcare providers into bankruptcy, but a combination of forces including litigation, payment delays and even bad merger agreements. (Kutscher, 8/20) Hospitals Increasingly Embrace Medicare Bundled Payments New data from Avalere Health shows 9 percent of acute care hospitals are engaging in the program, despite financial risks. Elsewhere, hospitals are also not blaming the health law for some industry woes, CMS readies new alternative payment methods for some providers and Medicare fraud outside the United States becomes more prevalent. Congress’ top advisers on Medicare gave their backing this week to plans to force hospitals and home health agencies to participate in pilot payment programs that carry financial risk, a move that could help shield the big government health program from provider backlash. The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission said it supports a proposed program that would test bundled payments on hospitals that perform hip and knee replacements in 75 selected regions of the country. MedPAC also offered largely positive views for a plan to force home health agencies in nine states to participate in a test where reimbursements might be raised or cut based on performance. The observations were made in separate comments submitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services about two proposed rules. (Young, 8/20) Forbes: Medicare Bundle Payment Gains Momentum With Hospitals, Nursing Homes Even when medical care providers aren’t forced to accept bundled payments from Medicare that could cost them money if the care isn’t better and costs aren’t in check, they are willing to embrace such new reimbursement. New data from research firm Avalere Health indicates about 9 percent of U.S. acute care hospitals and 7 percent of skilled nursing facilities are voluntarily assuming financial risk by participating in the latest phase of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Bundled Payments for Care Improvement Initiative. (Japsen, 8/20) On the streets of Managua, the shuttle bus wrapped in a giant ad for free health care stood out. “Medicare for people living abroad,” it proclaimed above the image of a cheerful older woman playing golf. But Medicare, the American public health insurance program for the elderly and disabled, isn’t available in Nicaragua or anywhere outside the U.S., except in emergency circumstances. The clinic advertised, Nostrum Medical Center, had a way around that: Patients were required to provide a U.S. address, so their visits could be billed to American taxpayers.Before the Nicaraguan scheme and a related one in the Dominican Republic were shut down last fall, the U.S. government paid out $25 million from 2011 to 2014 for medical care received by more than 1,000 foreign residents who signed up using post office boxes, mail-forwarding services, or the addresses of friends or relatives in Florida to conceal that they lived overseas. “We were a little bit astonished by the brazenness of the conspirators in this case, particularly with their widespread and open marketing,” says Shimon Richmond, the special agent in charge of the Miami regional office of the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which oversaw the investigation. (Armstrong, 8/20) Bloomberg: Medicare Fraud Is Committed Well Beyond U.S. Borders This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.