KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: September 25, 2009

Today's headlines reflect the continuing action in the Senate Finance Committee and around Congress, focusing on legislative strife related to the White House deal with drug companies and the debate over the public plan.  

Canadian Doctor: Dutch Health Care System Could Work In U.S.
Canada's health care system is often cited as a worst case scenario by Americans who insist current efforts to overhaul the U.S. health system will lead to "socialized medicine:" a single-payer system and rationed care. Dr. Robert Ouellet, the immediate past president of the Canadian Medical Association, takes exception with that view. He says that Canadians "are not dying in the street" because of wait times or access issues. The country's universal health care system, he counters, is an important "cultural" value. Still, he acknowledges the challenges with his country's health system. Ouellet, a radiologist, recently participated in a fact-finding mission to five European countries to learn ways to improve the Canadian system. What he found, he said, could also offer lessons for the United States (Kaiser Health News).

U.S. Doesn't Always Trump Other Countries In Quality Of Health Care
Canada's health care system often figures in the debate about overhauling the U.S. system, mentioned by both critics and supporters (Kaiser Health News).

In Poll, Public Wary Of Obama On War And Health
President Obama is confronting declining support for his handling of the war in Afghanistan and an electorate confused and anxious about a health care overhaul as he prepares for pivotal battles over both issues, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll (The New York Times).

Obama's Deal With Drug Firms Survives
In the high-stakes battle over health care, the White House and the drug lobby make an unusual -- and unusually powerful -- team (The Washington Post).

Senate Panel Rejects Bid to Add Drug Discount
President Obama scored a big victory on Thursday as the Senate Finance Committee rejected a proposal to require pharmaceutical companies to give bigger discounts to Medicare on drugs dispensed to older Americans with low incomes (The New York Times).

Senators To Square Off On Public Insurance Plan
Advocates for a public insurance plan - the idea that has generated the most passion in the high-decibel health care debate - are pressing for a crucial test vote in the Senate Finance Committee (The Associated Press).

Pelosi Presses For A Public Option
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stepped up her push for a publicly run health plan that has divided congressional Democrats, saying it could "save enormous amounts of money" (The Wall Street Journal).

Speaker Pelosi In Battle To Close Health Deal
House Democratic leaders could decide the basic outlines of their healthcare bill by Friday after a sharply divided rank and file spent Thursday evening hashing out the shape of the legislation (The Hill).

Overhaul Divides Business And Its Traditional GOP Allies
Business is parting from its traditional allies in the Republican Party on health care as companies and big corporate lobbyists lend tentative support to a congressional overhaul that conservative lawmakers staunchly oppose (The Wall Street Journal).

A Health-Insurance Difference Without A Distinction
Steve Pearlstein: My hat is off to Max Baucus. He's produced a credible plan to make health care both a right and a responsibility of all Americans while beginning to rein in health spending in a way that is politically acceptable to a majority of Americans. In many ways it is the most robust proposal so far because of its emphasis on changing the way health care is organized, delivered and paid for. The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee has put the reform back in health reform (The Washington Post).

Paul Kirk Named As Interim Senate Replacement For Ted Kennedy
The governor of Massachusetts today named Paul Kirk Jr., a former Democratic National Committee chairman and close friend and former aide of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, to serve as a temporary replacement for the deceased senator until a special election for the seat is held in January. Kirk's appointment will restore a crucial 60th vote for the Senate's Democratic leadership as the party presses for the healthcare legislation that the White House is demanding (Los Angeles Times).

Dems Reach 60 With Appointment To Fill Kennedy Seat; GOP Cries Foul
Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Paul Kirk will become the 60th Democratic vote in the Senate and the first new Massachusetts senator in a quarter-century on Friday, unless a state court intervenes. State Republicans are fighting the appointment, but Republicans in Washington indicated they would not intervene (The Hill).

Party Expects Loyal Soldier In Health Care Fight With GOP
To Democrats, Paul Kirk is a known, highly regarded quantity in the clubby Senate, an experienced and genial behind-the-scenes operative who will closely follow the legislative path carved by the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, his former boss and longtime friend (The Boston Globe).

Seniors' Hopes, Fears At Center Of Health Debate
For the moment, the health care fight is all about older folks. Democrats agonized Thursday over how to soothe worried seniors but decided one idea was too risky because it could antagonize the powerful drug industry whose support is critically needed for President Barack Obama's broader overhaul (The Associated Press).

Boehner: Slow Down Health Overhaul Negotiations
As President Obama continues to navigate the bumpy landscape of health care overhaul, many Republicans are arguing that he hasn't done enough to forge a bipartisan solution. Those words were echoed Thursday by Rep. John Boehner (R-OH). The House minority leader told NPR's Linda Wertheimer that common ground exists between the two parties, but the president has not reached out to the Republican leadership (NPR).

Letter From India: State Health Care? Choice Is Healthy Too
Unlike anyone else I know who supports universal health care as strongly as I do, though, I find myself hesitating when it comes to one crucial aspect of Mr. Obama's plan - the so-called "public option" that would set up a government entity to compete with private insurers. Over the past few months, I've found myself in sometimes heated arguments with friends who otherwise share pretty much my world view. They can't understand why I would leave patients at the mercy of markets. They don't understand why I would oppose a role for the state in providing affordable health care (The New York Times). 

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