KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: January 25, 2013

Today's headlines include various state-level reports about how budget issues are impacting health policy decisions.  

Kaiser Health News: TurboTax, Not Travelocity, May Be Better Analogy For Health Exchanges
Colorado Public Radio's Eric Whitney, working in collaboration with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "For 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). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Q&A: Picking Health Insurance For Your Newborn (Video)
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews answers a reader question about how expectant parents can figure out which of their health insurance plans will best cover their child (1/25). Watch the video.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: American Want Deficit Addressed Without Medicare Cuts, Poll Finds
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Mary Agnes Carey reports: "Most Americans want quick action to reduce the deficit, but almost six in 10 oppose cutting Medicare spending to achieve that goal, according to a new poll released today. Lawmakers should examine other alternatives, including requiring drug makers to give the government 'a better deal' on medications for low-income seniors (85 percent) and making higher-income seniors pay more for coverage (59 percent), according to the survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health" (Carey, 1/24). Check out what else is on the blog.

Los Angeles Times: Lawmakers Seek To Repeal 'Fiscal-Cliff' Provision Aiding Amgen
A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers is seeking to repeal a Medicare-pricing provision in the recent "fiscal-cliff" deal in Congress that benefits Thousand Oaks biotech giant Amgen Inc. Legislation to eliminate the exemption for a class of drugs, including Amgen's Sensipar, that are used by kidney dialysis patients, was filed this week by U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.). The fiscal cliff legislation approved this month excluded these oral medications from Medicare price controls for an additional two years (Terhune, 1/25).

The Associated Press/New York Times: Medicare Improperly Paid For Immigrant And Inmate Care
Medicare paid more than $120 million from 2009 to 2011 in violation of federal law for medical services for inmates and illegal immigrants, according to two reports issued Thursday by federal health officials (1/24).

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Whose Budget Fix Is More Popular?
Democracy has its merits, lots of them. But trying to find a popular fix to the budget deficit by parsing public-opinion polls is, well, a challenge. … But 58% oppose any spending cuts to Medicare or Social Security, and 46% oppose cuts to Medicaid. Three quarters said the deficit can be cut without major reductions in Medicare. That takes a lot of federal spending off the table (Wessel, 1/24).

The Washington Post's Wonk Blog: Arizona Could Make The Medicaid Expansion An Immigration Fight
Arizona 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).

Politico: Newtown Renews Panel's Focus On Mental Health
At a hearing Thursday, Democrats and Republicans on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee urged the Obama administration to hurry up aspects of its mental health agenda. The lawmakers didn't specifically talk much about gun violence or President Barack Obama's sweeping proposals to combat it after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. But there was a fair amount of bipartisan concern about gaps in access to mental health care, and about unfinished pieces of the mental health system (Cunningham, 1/25).

The Wall Street Journal: Budget Hole Seen After Loss Of Aid
New York state is drawing up plans for a budget shortfall almost twice as large as the $1.35 billion gap described by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday, as the federal government seeks to reduce how much it pays for health care to some of the state's most severely disabled people. Health-care officials in Washington and New York are negotiating a plan that would squeeze between $800 million and $1.1 billion out of federal Medicaid spending, potentially blowing a new hole in the annual budget Mr. Cuomo proposed on Tuesday (Nahimias, 1/24).

The Texas Tribune/New York Times: Despite Counsel, Victim Is Hindered By Tort Laws
When Connie Spears arrived at a Christus Santa Rosa hospital emergency room in 2010 with severe leg pain, she told medical staff members about her history of blood clots. Doctors sent her home with a far less serious diagnosis. Days later, swollen and delusional, Ms. Spears was taken by ambulance to another hospital where doctors found a severe clot and extensive tissue damage. With her life on the line, they amputated both of her legs above the knee. Nearly three years later, Ms. Spears contends that she is a victim not only of a medical mistake but also of Texas' tort reform laws (Aaronson, 1/24).

Los Angeles Times: Gov. Jerry Brown Calls For Special Session Of Legislature On Healthcare
Healthcare 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).

The New York Times: Judge Orders HCA To Pay $162 Million To Foundation
HCA, the nation's largest profit-making hospital chain, was ordered on Thursday to pay $162 million after a judge in Missouri ruled that it had failed to abide by an agreement to make improvements to dilapidated hospitals that it bought in the Kansas City area several years ago (Creswell, 1/24).

USA Today: Anti-Abortion March To Draw Thousands To Washington
Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to fill the National Mall on Friday to protest the 40-year-old landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the first trimester. Buses are shuttling in anti-abortion protesters from all over the country for the annual March for Life. Organizers predict many of them will be young people (1/25). 

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