KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: August 31, 2009

Today's headlines hint that summer's almost over, but the heat will still be on for health reform.

Health Insurance: How Much More Should Older People Pay?
Chris Denny, who runs a small marketing firm in Santa Rosa, Calif., buys his own health insurance for $117 a month. An avid gardener, Denny, 27, describes himself as healthy and fit. The same policy, from the same insurer, would cost a 60-year-old man $735 a month, according to an estimate on, an online marketplace that lists quotes and coverage from a variety of insurers (Kaiser Health News and USA Today, 8/31).

Senior Groups Reject Health Care 'Scare Tactics'
At high noon on one of the hottest days of the summer, a small group of senior citizens sweated it out in front of state GOP headquarters in Raleigh, N.C., asking the Republican Party to stop using what they called "scare tactics" to turn senior citizens against overhauling the health care system. It could be the start of a silver backlash against what some say is a misinformation campaign about health care reform (NPR, 8/30).

Stronger Prospects For The President On A Health Bill
Factors suggest that President Obama has stronger prospects for achieving his health policy goals than surface impressions of the Congressional recess indicate. He lags behind his own timetable for action, but remains ahead of presidential predecessors who pursued the same objective (The New York Times, 8/30).

Analysis: Summer Vacation Is Over Obama
President Barack Obama confronts a tortuous September - and it's not just the divisive political fight over health care (The Associated Press, 8/31).

Health-Care Reform, One Stop At A Time
President Obama's supporters hope to recapture the energy of last year's triumphant election campaign in a bid to regain control of the health-care debate, planning more than 2,000 house parties, rallies and town hall meetings across the country over the next two weeks (The Washington Post, 8/31).

Kennedy Loyalists Keep Pushing Health Care Change As His Legacy
As the sun set over Arlington National Cemetery Saturday evening, and as the coffin was about to be lowered into the grave, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick read a letter the late Sen. Edward Kennedy had sent to Pope Benedict XVI declaring universal health care "the political cause of my life" (McClatchy, 8/30).

Senate Field Hinges On Kennedy Decision
With Massachusetts having paid its final respects to Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the politics of succession begins in earnest this week - candidates will emerge, a race will take shape, and the Kennedy clan will have to reveal whether it wants to keep the seat in the family (The Boston Globe, 8/31).

Dissecting Democrats' Healthcare Bills
Critics of the Obama administration's effort to overhaul the nation's healthcare system say, among other things, that the nation cannot afford it. Here are some key questions and answers about the cost (Los Angeles Times, 8/31).

Health Bill Would Cut Drug Spending For Many On Medicare, Budget Office Says
Medicare beneficiaries would often have to pay higher premiums for prescription drug coverage, but many would see their total drug spending decline, so they would save money as a result of health legislation moving through the House, the Congressional Budget Office said in a recent report (The New York Times, 8/30).

Grassley Says Campaign Contributions Hold No Sway
Sen. Charles Grassley last week called lobbyists for the American Hospital Association "economic parasites," accusing them of failing to consult Iowa hospitals before agreeing to proposed Medicare cuts that could hurt them. Meanwhile, Grassley has accepted campaign contributions from the association totaling $13,000 since 2003. The money is part of more than $200,000 that the Republican has received from hospitals and nursing homes in the same period, helping make him one of the Senate's top fundraisers from medical, pharmaceutical and health insurance interests (Des Moines Register, 8/31).

Comparing Medical Treatments Akin To 'Rationing' Care?
Should the US government mount a comprehensive effort to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of various treatments for health conditions? That question is at the heart of a dispute over whether some provisions in the healthcare reform bills now under consideration in Congress eventually might lead to the rationing of care (The Christian Science Monitor, 8/28).

Hospital Executives Worry About The 'What-Ifs' Of Reform
What if new policies reduce revenue and increase demand? What if existing doctor shortages grow worse? What if some of the most vulnerable and expensive patients continue to have no coverage, like the nine people who made 2,678 visits to local emergency rooms in one six-year stretch and soaked up $3 million in expenses? (The Washington Post, 8/30).

Fighting Health Care Overhaul, And Proud Of It
Senator Jim DeMint, the South Carolina Republican who predicted that President Obama's effort to overhaul the health care system would become his "Waterloo," is doing his best to make that happen (The New York Times, 8/30).

Burger Chain's Health-Care Recipe
Four years ago, executives of Burgerville, a regional restaurant chain, agreed to pay at least 90% of health-care premiums for hourly employees who work at least 20 hours a week. Today, the executives say the unusual move has saved money by cutting turnover, boosting sales and improving productivity (The Wall Street Journal, 8/31).

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