KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Idaho, Virginia Gear Up For Fight To Defeat Individual Mandate; NY Law Sets Procedure For Decisions For Unresponsive Patients

The Associated Press: "Idaho is leading the charge in a states-rights push to defeat a proposal in Congress that would require people to buy health insurance, a key piece of reforms being pushed by President Barack Obama. Republican Gov. C.L. 'Butch' Otter used a ceremony Wednesday afternoon to become the first governor to sign into law a measure requiring the state attorney general to sue the federal government over any such insurance mandates. There's similar legislation pending in 37 other states, a point Otter stressed when asked if the bill he signed can succeed, given constitutional law experts are already saying federal laws would supersede those of states in a U.S. District Court fight" (Miller, 3/18).

The Washington Post: "Virginia will file a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the Democratic health-care reform bill if Congress approves the measure, a spokesman for Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II said Wednesday. Cuccinelli (R), a social and fiscal conservative who has expressed deep skepticism about the growth of the federal government, has said since his fall election campaign that he was studying the legal issues involved in such a suit. His spokesman said Wednesday that Cuccinelli has decided he will challenge the measure. ... Last week, Virginia became the first state to pass a bill declaring it illegal for the government to require individuals to purchase health insurance, a key component of the bills under consideration on Capitol Hill" (Helderman, 3/18).

The New York Times, on a new law about end-of-life decisions: "It is one of those medical quandaries often faced by families dealing with older and dying parents: Who makes decisions for patients who cannot make their own and have not left written instructions? It took more than 17 years for New York to answer the question, but on Tuesday, Gov. David A. Paterson signed a law providing a road map for such matters. The bill sets up an order for who is responsible for such decisions, ranking spouses and domestic partners first in a hierarchy of surrogates (unless there is a court-appointed guardian), followed by children, parents, siblings and close friends. The law also allows the surrogates to consider not just the patient's wishes, but also - if those wishes cannot be known - the patient's best interests" (Hartocollis, 3/17).

The Boston Globe: "Area mayors and city managers are participating in a renewed push to provide cities and towns greater ability to contain their spiraling health care costs. A coalition of 18 municipal leaders, including officials from 10 area communities, was formed recently to take on the issue, with Revere Mayor Thomas G. Ambrosino serving as a cochairman. The group's goal is to secure the passage of legislation that would allow municipalities to set copayments and other features of employee health insurance plans without collective bargaining, according to Ambrosino. Any locally designed benefits would have to at least match those of the state's plan, he said" (Laidler, 3/18).

The Washington Post: "More than 3 percent of District residents older than 12 are living with HIV or AIDS, an epidemic rate of infection that continues to worry city health officials. But a report on the disease released Wednesday offered hope: New AIDS cases and AIDS-related deaths have dropped steadily in the past four years" (Fears, 3/18).

The Deseret News: "Utahns are losing their workplace-based insurance at a faster rate than most Americans, and those who manage to keep it are paying a lot more and getting markedly less, a new state-by-state report released Wednesday shows. Looking at data between 2000 and 2008 and slicing it 10 different ways, the nonpartisan Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's 'Barely Hanging On: Middle-Class and Uninsured' statistically verifies what most working Americans already know: Health care insurance premiums are eating away household and employer incomes, and it's only going to get worse. While Utah's median income dipped slightly to $59,062 from $59,479 during that eight-year period, total annual health insurance premiums ballooned by $4,118 per working Utah family - from $7,655 in 2000 to $11,783 in 2008" (Thalman, 3/17).

The (Delaware) News Journal, on comparison shopping for generic drugs: "No reliable price comparison tools and no uniform lists exist. Consumers may assume there's no need for such information, as generics are discounted knockoffs of brand-name medicines. But just because they're cheaper doesn't mean they're cheap -- or the same price everywhere. In many cases, a vast disparity exists in prices among generics at Delaware pharmacies. The high prices don't directly affect the privately insured, as they typically are charged co-pays for their prescribed medications. For the uninsured, comparison shopping could result in a savings of hundreds of dollars, but it requires checking the prices at individual pharmacies" (Ratnayake, 3/17). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.