KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: July 21, 2011

Today's headlines include reports about some of the specific cuts included in the "Gang of Six" deficit-reduction plan.

Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill: 'Gang Of Six' In The Health Care Spotlight
In this Kaiser Health News video, NPR's Julie Rovner talks with Jackie Judd about the re-emergence of the "Gang of Six" senators in the debt-ceiling debate, what their plan means for the CLASS Act, and how missing details are likely to be filled in (7/20). Watch the video or read the transcript.

KHN's Capsules: Hospice Companies Focus In On Nursing Home Patients
KHN's Jordan Rau reports: "Dying patients in nursing homes are an increasingly lucrative market for hospice companies, which have expanded rapidly into these facilities, according to a new federal audit." Also on the blog: A survey taps hospital execs' thoughts on ACOs while venture capitalists are betting on this system of care. Meanwhile, seniors advocates warn about entitlement cuts.

Kaiser Health News: As The CLASS Act Comes Under Fire, The British Propose A Model For National Long-Term Care
In his latest Kaiser Health News column, Howard Gleckman writes: "Since the 1990s, nearly every developed country on the planet has reformed the way it finances long-term care for the frail elderly and adults with disabilities. Among the handful of exceptions: The U.S. and the United Kingdom" (7/20).

The Washington Post: As Debt Talks Intensify, Obama Opens Door To Short-Term Deal To Buy More Time
The contentious budget talks that have dominated Washington for months intensified Wednesday, prompting President Obama to say he would accept a short-term hike in the debt ceiling if it gave lawmakers time to finalize a comprehensive deal. … The White House concession added to a whirlwind week in which negotiations appeared to be changing daily. At first, leaders were focused on a fallback plan that would raise the debt ceiling but do little to control future borrowing. Then they started considering an ambitious, but complicated, bipartisan strategy for raising taxes and cutting cherished health and retirement programs (Kane and Montgomery, 7/20).

Los Angeles Times: Obama Again Presses For A 'Grand Bargain' On Debt Ceiling
During the meeting with Boehner and Cantor, the president reiterated his opposition to a short-term deal that Cantor and some Republicans have pursued. Obama also spelled out the terms under which he would consider a short-term arrangement. … Democratic leaders voiced support for a larger package, as long as it did not "balance the budget on the backs of seniors through cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries," according to a House aide, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly. Liberals in the House have complained that the Gang of Six's outline would alter the federal safety net and entitlement programs (Memoli, Mascaro and Parsons, 7/21).

Los Angeles Times: Opposition To A Deal With Obama Creates Problems For GOP
As the debt ceiling debate enters its final stages, House Republicans face increasing political isolation in their opposition to sweeping budget reforms that President Obama has pushed for and polls show most Americans now prefer. … The party's enthusiasm for budget cuts over compromise may leave Republicans with less than they could have otherwise achieved. Obama had proposed a 3-to-1 ratio of spending cuts to tax increases, even carving into Medicare and Social Security while drawing opposition from within his own ranks (Mascaro, 7/21).

Politico: Debt Ceiling Plan Would Repeal CLASS Act
The deficit-reduction proposal released Tuesday by the reconvened Gang of Six would repeal the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act, a move that would be a major setback to advocates for improving access to long-term care. Created as part of health reform, the so-called CLASS Act was one of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's most cherished programs and one of Republicans' favorite targets. But it has critics on both sides of the aisle. The fiscal commission led by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles singled it out as an "unsustainable" entitlement that would most likely saddle taxpayers with a major new liability, a finding that deficit hawks have latched on to in their attacks  (Norman, 7/20).

Politico: Tom Coburn Returned To Gang Of Six After Deep Health Cuts
A central figure in the Senate's "Gang of Six" on Wednesday described what he called "ferocious" negotiations over additional cuts to Medicare and Medicaid that were needed to woo back Sen. Tom Coburn, the Oklahoma Republican whose return to the group helped cinch a plan to slash federal spending (Dobias, 7/20).

NPR: Violence At Calif. Mental Hospitals: 'This Is The Norm'
Thousands of assaults occur each year at California's state psychiatric hospitals. Last October, a patient allegedly murdered a staffer at Napa State Hospital. Employees there demonstrated, demanding greater safety. Now, the protests have spread to Metropolitan State Hospital near Los Angeles, where about 100 workers recently spent a broiling hot lunch hour marching in front of the place where they work (Jaffe, 7/21).

The Wall Street Journal: Mobile Company Offers Insurance To Runners
Japan's mobile phone triad knows their customers want more from their handsets than just calling and texting - standard Japanese models come equipped with applications to pay your train fare, buy a soft drink and even scan a coupon. Now young cellphone users can have something else on them at all times: health insurance. In a campaign it is calling "Smart Running Project," Au Insurance Co. is offering a free three-month trial of its Runner's Insurance Plan to users of its fitness app (Novick, 7/21).

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