KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

A Selection Of Recent Studies And Surveys

Government Accountability Office Prescription Drugs: Overview of Approaches to Control Prescription Drug Spending in Federal Programs -- "The increasing cost of prescription drugs has put pressure to control drug spending on federal programs such as the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), Medicare Part D, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Department of Defense (DOD), and Medicaid," according to a summary of a recent GAO report, where the office explores approaches used by the FEHBP and other federal programs to control prescription drug spending (6/24).

UCLA Center For Policy Research Swimming Upstream: The Hard Politics of Health Reform in California; Politics and Policy in State Health Reform -- These two reports examine the recent health reform efforts in California, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Illinois, highlighting the many factors contributing to the success and failure of health reform. Walter Zelman, an author of one of the studies, argues that state and federal reform are one in the same. "He concludes that the sizable challenges of state reform financing, especially in difficult economic times, mean that success in coverage expansions efforts will depend largely on decisions at the federal government level. State reform will continue to depend on federal financing; and federal reform, if enacted, will leave much to the states," according to UCLA press release (6/09).

Agency for Healthcare Research and Qualty New Snapshots Show States Vary Widely in Providing Quality Health Care --The 2008 State Snapshots -- "based on data drawn from more than 30 sources, including government surveys, health care facilities and health care organizations" -- offer state-specific health care quality information broken down according to type of care, care setting and clinical areas. The 2008 Snapshots offers an expanded focus on disparities compared to that compiled in previous years, offering "state-specific information on disparities in the quality of care compared with the nation overall by looking at care received by various racial/ethnic and socioeconomic groups" (6/26). 

Health Affairs 'Marginal Medicine': Targeting Comparative Effectiveness Research To Reduce Waste -- Though "many policymakers believe that comparative effectiveness research will reduce 'waste' in the U.S. health care system by providing guidance on what health care options work best for different patients," just "[h]ow such research will produce findings that identify waste has not been clearly elucidated," write the authors of a paper published online in the journal Health Affairs. The article "presents a conceptual framework for different evidentiary categories of what [the author's] call 'marginal medicine.'" The authors posit the framework outlined in the paper "could help clinicians, researchers, and policymakers align the results of comparative effectiveness research with efforts to identify opportunities to improve the value of health care services" (6/25).

Urban Institute Changes to the Tax Exclusion of Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Premiums: A Potential Source of Financing for Health Reform -- "Many have suggested that reducing or eliminating the tax exclusion of employer-sponsored health insurance (ESI) could generate significant additional tax revenue to fund expansions in health insurance coverage," write the authors of a recent paper that explores "revenue and distributional consequences of several policy options that would alter the ESI tax exclusion. The paper examines the "a cap, or dollar limit, on the amount of employer-sponsored health insurance premiums excluded from taxable income" as well as "an index that determines how this cap might grow over time." The authors conclude, "in addition to providing a source of funding for health reform and incentives for seeking less expensive coverage, limiting the tax exclusion would mitigate the huge inequities built into the current treatment of employer contributions to premiums" (6/1). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.