KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: March 29, 2010

Today's headlines showcase reports about the newly enacted health overhaul law and about the political climate facing lawmakers in the post-vote environment.

Closing Medicare Drug Gap Helps Democrats Sell Reform
Kaiser Health News staff writer Christopher Weaver, working in collaboration with the Los Angeles Times, writes about reform and the Medicare's so-called doughnut hole: "Now that the health overhaul has passed Congress, Democratic lawmakers are hoping to highlight its most immediate benefits. Chief among them: a plan to help millions of elderly and disabled Medicare beneficiaries pay for their medications by gradually eliminating a drug-coverage gap commonly known as the 'doughnut hole'" (Kaiser Health News).

Coverage Now For Sick Children? Check Fine Print
Just days after President Obama signed the new health care law, insurance companies are already arguing that, at least for now, they do not have to provide one of the benefits that the president calls a centerpiece of the law: coverage for certain children with pre-existing conditions (The New York Times).

Weighing The Cost Of New Health Programs
Provisions of the health-care law that expand benefits for home-bound elderly, certain early retirees and coal miners will likely cost more than expected, say analysts and even some of the measures' proponents (The Wall Street Journal).

Health Care Overhaul Could Strain Shortage Of Primary Care Doctors
Better beat the crowd and find a doctor. Primary care physicians already are in short supply in parts of the country, and the landmark health overhaul that will bring them millions more newly insured patients in the next few years promises extra strain (The Associated Press).

Healthcare Overhaul Q & A
Last week President Obama signed into law the most sweeping healthcare overhaul in generations (Los Angeles Times).

New Law Deals Setback To Malpractice Foes
The health-care legislation has dealt another blow to a movement seeking to limit the amount doctors have to pay in medical-malpractice suits. As a result, tort-overhaul advocates, who battle the well-organized lobby of plaintiffs' lawyers, are struggling to find ways to fight back (The Wall Street Journal).

Obama Brought Cool Campaign Persona To Healthcare Vote
President Barack Obama and Democrats missed repeated deadlines, fought back cries of "death panels" and watched healthcare reform nearly die more than dozen times (The Hill).

Health Care Overhaul Boosts Pelosi's Clout
With the passage of health care, Nancy Pelosi's speakership is being touted as one of the most accomplished and effective. She has earned great praise and admiration from friends and opponents alike - but it comes at a cost (NPR).

Health-Care Overhaul Leaves Democrats In Stable Condition
After steering the landmark health-care reform bill through Congress, the Democratic Party's leaders have emerged mostly unscathed, according to a new Washington Post poll, but they have not received a notable boost in approval ratings (The Washington Post).

Lawmakers Face Fallout At Home From Health Vote
Representative Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat who supported President Obama's health care bill, drew shouts of "amen" as he returned home on Friday. But his supporters did not publicize a speech he delivered Saturday morning, out of fear it would be disrupted by protesters (The New York Times).

Congressman Finds Political Vitriol Follows Him Home To Ohio
Rep. Steve Driehaus spent the first Sunday of his two-week break from Washington this way: He made breakfast for his wife and kids, took his son to his mother's house and bought the boy a bicycle while his wife and daughters went shopping (The Washington Post).

Gang Of 34 May Dodge Payback
In the days after the House signed landmark health care legislation, the 34 Democrats who voted against the measure were targets of sharp criticism within their own party, with organized labor and liberal groups promising to punish them by withdrawing support or worse, running primary election challengers against them (Politico).

What Will Health Care Passage Mean For November Elections?
NPR News Analyst Cokie Roberts talks politics with Renee Montagne (NPR).

Health Care Battle On New Front
Democrats and Republicans said Sunday that they are confident the new health care law will help them in the November congressional elections once voters understand it better (USA Today).

Villains, Liars And Conspiracy Theories Marked The 2009-10 Healthcare Debate
The healthcare debate of 2009-2010 had everything a movie producer craves: conflict, twists and turns and of course, a climactic ending (The Hill).

The Influence Game: Drug Lobby's Health Care Win
Chalk one up for the pharmaceutical lobby. The U.S. drug industry fended off price curbs and other hefty restrictions in President Barack Obama's health care law even as it prepares for plenty of new business when an estimated 32 million uninsured Americans gain health coverage (The Associated Press).

Review Heightens Concerns Over Medicare Billing At Nursing Homes
More than a decade ago, Congress set out to squeeze the fraud out of Medicare billing at nursing homes, requiring more precise justifications for costs. It created new "ultra-high" billing categories intended to be used for only 5 percent of the patients needing highly specialized care and rehabilitation (The Washington Post).

Deciding Who Will Lead A Health Care Leader
Here in the cradle of health reform, where universal coverage was pioneered, this year's tightening race for governor is focused on the question that now confronts the nation: how to keep spiraling costs from bankrupting the experiment (The New York Times).

Preexisting Condition Vexes Mitt Romney
Just as health care, or "bamacare," as it is derided on the right, hangs over this year's midterm elections, it is also already casting a shadow upon the 2012 presidential contest – and its GOP front-runner. What was once thought to be an asset for Romney, his passage as Massachusetts governor of a health care mandate for the state's residents, now poses a potentially serious threat to his White House hopes (Politico).

Sign up to receive this list of First Edition headlines via e-mail. Check out all of Kaiser Health News' e-mail options including First Edition and Breaking News alerts on our Subscriptions page.

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.