KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: September 21, 2009

Today's headlines indicate that President Obama's weekend media blitz will set the stage for this week's health policy action.

For Federal Workers, Insurance Program Offers Many Choices
As part of our series, "Are You Covered? A Look at Americans and Health Insurance," Kaiser Health News and NPR examine the federal health benefits program, which is considered a model for the nation.

Confusing Insurance Jargon Prompts Call For Reform
Neil Dukas knew little about health insurance because he had always been healthy. When he and his wife bought a high-deductible policy in 2008, he didn't know the difference between a deductible and an out-of-pocket limit. He simply assumed that when he needed care, the insurer would cover it (Kaiser Health News and Los Angeles Times).

Checking In With Sen. Ron Wyden
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., says the current health care proposals in Congress don't do enough to slow spending, grant workers new choices in coverage or guarantee that middle-class Americans will be able to afford insurance. But, the longtime health policy guru says, there are ways to fix the legislation (Kaiser Health News).

Obama Calls For 'Civil' Tone On Health Care
President Obama sought to blanket the airwaves with an impassioned defense of his health-care reform effort Sunday during back-to-back broadcasts of taped interviews on five morning news programs (The Washington Post).

For President, Five Programs, One Message
President Obama gave five back-to-back television interviews broadcast on Sunday that were as tightly choreographed - and eerily similar - as the multiple Magritte bowler-hatted men milling in the remake of "The Thomas Crown Affair" (The New York Times).

Obama Pitches Healthcare In Sunday Talk Show Blitz
Acknowledging that he hasn't persuaded the American public and Congress to support sweeping changes to healthcare, President Obama offered a humbling admission Sunday: His message is sometimes not "breaking through" (Los Angeles Times).

The President's Best Hope In The G.O.P.
President Obama intends to keep wooing the public to support for his health care goals in a scheduled Monday night appearance on the "Late Show with David Letterman." Polls suggest he has had mixed results so far (The New York Times).

Shepherding A Bill With 564 Amendments
Senator Max Baucus hails from a long line of ranchers - his great-grandfather is in the Cowboy Hall of Fame - and this week the Montana Democrat will need all his herding skills (The New York Times).

Wanted: A Senate Health-Care Leader
The Democrat-versus-Democrat battle over Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus's health care proposal is more than just political posturing: It's the latest sign that Senate Democrats so far lack a clear public leader on the issue at a crucial time in the debate (Politico).

Dems Squabble Over Who Will Pay Health-Care Bill
President Barack Obama caught at least one top Democrat by surprise when he told Congress its health care bill should cost less than $900 billion - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Politico).

Spin Meter: $2 Trillion In Health Savings? Where?
It was a watershed moment in the health care struggle: Leaders of the insurance, hospital and other medical industries stood with President Barack Obama at the White House and promised steps to save $2 trillion over the next decade. Whatever happened to those savings, announced with much fanfare well before Congress had written any of the costly health overhaul bills now in play? Industry groups say they're a work in progress. Many health analysts say they're largely speculative (The Associated Press).

Health Fight Has Other Bills Sidelined
The pitched battle over a national health care plan is inflicting collateral damage on other legislation in Congress, with some lawmakers and advocates arguing that it has sidetracked action on other urgent priorities. (The Boston Globe).

A Proposed Tax On The Cadillac Health Plans May Also Hit The Chevys
Although cast as a tax on gold-plated insurance policies for the well-heeled, it has prompted anxiety among the middle class (The New York Times).

Is The Mayo Clinic A Model Or A Mirage? Jury Is Still Out.
The Mayo Clinic looms out of the prairie here like the mecca it has become, a world-renowned medical complex that is often cited by President Obama as his model for national heath-care reform (The Washington Post).

Aging Without Health Insurance
Fernando Arriola spends his days keeping track of four or five construction projects, and his nights praying for good health. The New Orleans home builder is one of the 46 million people in this country who don't have health insurance (NPR).

Medicare Bills High At Los Angeles Hospitals
Basic stuff adds up. And the tab is especially high for chronically ill patients seen at White Memorial. Medicare spends an average of $130,992 on patients seen there in their last two years of life, the biggest share of it on hospital care (Los Angeles Times).

Amid Health Reform, Massive Medicare Agency Is Still Headless
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will mark its third anniversary next month since the massive agency had a Senate-confirmed leader (The Hill).

For more details of the weekend's headlines, check Kaiser Health News updates for Saturday and Sunday.  


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