KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: June 24, 2011

In today's headlines, reports that Republicans have quit the debt-ceiling negotiations and details about how the Supreme Court sided with drug makers in two decisions.   

Kaiser Health News: Berenson: Take Small Steps To Lower Medicare Costs – The KHN Interview
In a recent interview with Kaiser Health News reporter Marilyn Werber Serafini, Berenson outlined several ideas for reducing Medicare spending that don't involve full restructuring of the program but would, he says, help hold at bay the "dire projections" for Medicare's future and buy enough time to figure out how to make accountable care organizations work (Werber Serafini, 6/23). Watch the related video.

Kaiser Health News: About That McKinsey Report… The Critics Were Right (Guest Opinion)
In his latest Kaiser Health News column, Jonathan Cohn writes: "McKinsey and Company has finally released the details of its controversial paper on the likely effects of health care reform. And it looks like the paper's critics (including yours truly) were right to raise questions about it. Based on what the company has said, the paper offers no new reason to think Americans with employer-sponsored insurance will lose that coverage because of the Affordable Care Act" (6/23).

The Washington Post: Republicans Pull Out Of Debt Talks, Demand Obama Meet Directly With GOP Over Taxes
With the clock ticking toward an Aug. 2 deadline, senior Republicans said negotiations led by Vice President Biden had ceased making headway as congressional Democrats pressed for as much as $400 billion in new taxes on corporations and the nation's wealthiest households. … The breakdown of the talks comes after seven weeks of negotiations that all sides say made real progress toward a plan to restrain the swollen national debt. Biden and six lawmakers from both parties had tentatively agreed to more than $1 trillion in savings and had begun to tackle the toughest issues: Democratic demands for higher taxes and spending cuts at the Pentagon, and Republican demands for sharp cuts to health and retirement programs (Montgomery, 6/23).

Los Angeles Times: Top Republican Quits Debt Talks
White House-led deficit reduction talks unraveled Thursday as a top Republican pulled out, putting pressure on President Obama to help resolve an impasse over the key issue holding up a deal: whether to allow new revenue by ending certain tax breaks. Biden and the congressional negotiators have identified more than $1 trillion in potential savings on cuts to agricultural subsidies and federal employee pensions, and new revenue through the auction of the communication spectrum. They also have identified domestic spending cuts, including possible reductions to the Medicaid program for the low-income, the disabled and seniors (Mascaro, 6/23).

The Wall Street Journal: Tax Dispute Stalls Debt Talks
The group, led by Vice President Joseph Biden, canceled its scheduled meeting Thursday. The suspension of the group's work could mark the beginning of the final stage of budget negotiations, which most participants had long assumed would be concluded by the president, the speaker and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Hook and Boles, 6/24).

The New York Times: Drug Makers Win Two Supreme Court Decisions
The Supreme Court on Thursday handed drug companies two significant victories, one limiting suits from people injured by generic drugs and the other striking down a law that banned some commercial uses of prescription data (Liptak, 6/23).

Los Angeles Times: Supreme Court Sides With Pharmaceutical Industry In Two Decisions
The Supreme Court gave the pharmaceutical industry a pair of victories, shielding the makers of generic drugs from most lawsuits by injured patients and declaring that drug makers have a free-speech right to buy private prescription records to boost their sales pitches to doctors. In both decisions Thursday, the court's conservative bloc formed the majority, and most of its liberals dissented (Savage, 6/24).

The Washington Post: Supreme Court Protects Generic-Drug Makers From Being Sued For Lack Of Warning
Makers of generic drugs cannot be sued for not warning patients of the drugs' dangerous side effects, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday, even though brand-name manufacturers can be found liable (Barnes, 6/23).

The Associated Press: Report: Public Health Provisions Still Unfunded
A new report says many public health provisions in the nation's year-old health care law have not received funding, and other funded efforts are under political attack. The American Public Health Association is releasing the report Friday at a meeting in Chicago (6/24).

Politico: Health Care's Move From Paper To Pixels Slow
Electronic health records are at the center of some of the key reforms of the Affordable Care Act, because having reliable data to track patients, trends and possible fraud is one of the ways reformers think they will eventually be able to bend the cost curve (Dobias, 6/23).

The New York Times: New Jersey Lawmakers Approve Benefits Rollback For Work Force
New Jersey lawmakers on Thursday approved a broad rollback of benefits for 750,000 government workers and retirees, the deepest cut in state and local costs in memory, in a major victory for Gov. Chris Christie and a once-unthinkable setback for the state's powerful public employee unions (Perez-Pena, 6/23).

The Wall Street Journal: NJ Slashes Public Worker Benefits
Gov. Chris Christie, who is expected to sign the bill Monday, said the second round of cuts under his watch will bring sufficient change to the issue that has roiled private-sector workers who saw their jobs eliminated and salaries and benefits slashed during the recession (Fleisher, 6/24).

The Associated Press: NJ Assembly OKs Bill Hiking Benefits Costs
The New Jersey Assembly passed landmark legislation Thursday that requires public employees to pay sharply more for pension and health benefits, driving a wedge through the Democratic caucus that controls the chamber but was deeply divided on the bill (Delli Santi, 6/23).

Los Angeles Times: Should California Stop Having Two Health Insurance Regulators?
The two-headed beast that regulates health insurance in California is under fire. For the first time in a decade, healthcare leaders in Sacramento are publicly asking whether it's time to junk overlapping bureaucracies that police health insurers and HMOs (Helfand, 6/23).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: NY Lawmakers Voting To Establish Health Exchange
New York lawmakers are poised to approve establishing the New York Health Benefit Exchange, meant to ensure affordable insurance coverage for residents and small businesses, comply with federal law and make the state eligible for federal funding (6/23).

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