KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: November 13, 2009

On this Friday the 13th, the headlines offer an array of health policy views -- from the possibility of including a Medicare payroll tax in health reform legislation to continuing analysis of the overhaul's winners and losers as well as the CDC's new estimate of the far-reach of the swine flu.

In Rural Kentucky, A Surprising Twist On The Health Care Debate
From a strip-mined bluff at the edge of this famous mountain town you can see one of the most concentrated and diverse sets of medical facilities in rural America: a general hospital, a psychiatric hospital, a university-based rural health care center and clinics for primary care, cancer, urology, cardiology, addiction and ear-nose-and throat problems. This story has four related videos featuring local health care experiences and perspectives: Cathy Nance, Gerry Roll, Annie Fox and Beverly May (Kaiser Health News, 11/13).

Reid Mulls Medicare Tax Increase For High Earners
The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, is considering a proposal to increase the Medicare payroll tax on high-income workers to help offset the costs of providing health insurance to millions of Americans, Senate aides said Thursday (The New York Times).

Reid Weighs Rise In Medicare Tax
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, seeking a new source of funding for the health-care overhaul legislation the Senate could begin debating next week, is considering a proposal to raise Medicare payroll taxes on couples who make more than $250,000 a year, according to people familiar with the discussions (The Wall Street Journal).

Polls Suggest Healthcare Debate A Boon To Senate Candidates
The healthcare battle appears to be helping Republicans running for the Senate. Two Quinnipiac polls released Thursday show the leading GOP candidates in Connecticut and Ohio growing their leads (The Hill).

Number Of Insured Varies By Bill
When the Senate unveils its health-care bill, all eyes will be on the price tag. But an equally significant number may be how many people get health insurance under the legislation (The Wall Street Journal).

Children's Hospitals Object To Proposed Funding Reductions
The nation's children's hospitals are lobbying Congress to change a provision in the pending health care legislation that industry leaders say will reduce their federal funding by as much as $876 million (USA Today).

Insurer Enlists Employees To Fight Health Reform
The nation's largest health insurance carrier is urging its employees to lobby the Senate against reform proposals that would hurt the firm's bottom line, according to copies of e-mails released Thursday by a liberal advocacy group (The Washington Post).

Powerful Health Care Groups Offer Optimism On Overhaul
Two powerful health care interest groups yesterday urged lawmakers constructing a sweeping health care overhaul to focus on cost containment and affordability (The Boston Globe).

Women Face Tough Choices On Abortion Coverage
Millions of American women will face tough choices about abortion coverage if restrictions in the House health care bill become law, both sides in the abortion debate agree (The Associated Press).

Shinseki Measures Scope Of Veterans' Mental Issues
In his first nine months as head of the Department of Veterans Affairs, retired Gen. Eric Shinseki has spent hours just listening to veterans talk. Shinseki tells NPR's Steve Inskeep that he feels a strong obligation to "give back" to the men and women he once served with (NPR).

For Many Ill With The Flu, Staying Home Isn't An Option
Though President Obama has declared H1N1 flu a national emergency and federal health and labor officials have urged sick workers to stay home, for many that's not an option. A third of the nation's workers don't have paid sick days -- about 51 million people, according to U.S. Department of Labor estimates last spring. That percentage rises to about 40% in California, according to a study last year (Los Angeles Times).

CDC's Swine Flu Toll: 4,000 Dead, 22 Million Ill
Estimates of deaths caused by the swine flu have grown to nearly 4,000 since April, roughly quadrupling previous estimates. But that doesn't mean swine flu suddenly has worsened (The Associated Press/The Washington Post).

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