KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: January 17, 2013

Today's headlines include reports about the mental health provisions of President Barack Obama's gun control proposal as well as how a health law regulatory guidance issued in late December could impact small businesses. 

Kaiser Health News: Q&A: Disclosing Mental Health Records To An Insurer (Video)
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews answers a reader question about minors' mental health records and whether they need to be disclosed to insurers paying for care (1/17). Watch the video.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Influential Group Of CEOs Calls For Raising Retirement Age To 70 For Social Security, Medicare
An influential group of business CEOs is pushing a plan to gradually increase the full retirement age to 70 for both Social Security and Medicare and to partially privatize the health insurance program for older Americans. The Business Roundtable’s plan would protect those 55 and older from cuts but younger workers would face significant changes (1/16).

The Wall Street Journal: Insurance Rule Will Go By Size Of 2013 Staff
Start counting your staffers now. That is the upshot of regulatory guidance issued by the government on Dec. 28, when few small-business owners noticed in the midst of the holidays and the "fiscal cliff" debate (Maltby, 1/16).

The Wall Street Journal: A Health Scare For Small Businesses
During her two-plus years in business, Elizabeth Turley has steadily recruited new employees for her apparel company, Meesh & Mia Corp., to keep pace with its rapid growth. But this year could be different. Instead of increasing her staff, she plans to hire independent contractors for tasks that can be outsourced. … Her reason? Meesh & Mia is on the cusp of having 50 full-time employees. If the company hits that threshold, it will have to provide health coverage that meets government standards or potentially pay a penalty (Maltby, 1/16).

Politico: HHS Keeping Up  With The Times Online
Health reform — you've got mail. The Obama administration is giving its health reform website a 21st-century revamp, inviting consumers to sign up for text alerts and email updates. That's a prelude to encouraging people to jump in when enrollment opens in the fall for the exchanges — henceforth to be known as "health insurance marketplaces" (Cheney, 1/17).

USA Today: Obama Challenges Congress To Pass New Gun Regulations
At the heart of his agenda are calls to close background-check loopholes, make schools safer, increase access to mental health services and, most controversial, ban the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. All are measures that will require congressional action, and all face a level of opposition from some lawmakers — on both sides of the political aisle — and gun rights groups (Jackson and Madhani, 1/17).

The Wall Street Journal: Obama's Gun Curbs Face A Slog In Congress
Mr. Obama also on Wednesday set in motion 23 executive actions, most of them aimed at filling holes in law enforcement, mental health and school safety. They included efforts to push agencies to submit more mental-health records into the existing background-check system, to allow federal research into gun violence and provide funding for schools to hire law-enforcement officers (Meckler, Nicholas and Nelson, 1/16).

The Washington Post: A Challenge For Obama's Anti-Gun-Violence Reforms: Mental-Health Data Prove Elusive
President Obama, in trying to curb gun violence, is pushing for improved mental-health services, a revival of gun-related research and beefed-up reporting about potentially dangerous people who shouldn't own guns — efforts that are likely to rely heavily on the states and the public health sector. …  A 2011 study by the group found that while some states such as New York had submitted hundreds of thousands of records to the federal database, other states had lagged. Seventeen states had submitted fewer than 10 mental-health records, and four states had submitted none (Dennis and Sun, 1/16).

NPR: Mental Health Gun Laws Unlikely To Reduce Shootings
States aren't likely to prevent many shootings by requiring mental health professionals to report potentially violent patients, psychiatrists and psychologists say (Hamilton, 1/16).

USA Today: Obama Calls For Changes To Mental Health Care
Mental health advocates hailed President Obama's sweeping agenda to improve mental health care, part of his larger plan to reduce gun violence in the USA following the shooting last month in Newtown, Conn.  After decades of disappointment, advocates for the mentally ill said they are cautiously optimistic that the nation may finally take meaningful action to repair a broken system (Szabo, 1/16).

Politico: Obama: Doctors' Gun Talk Legal
Doctors may ask their patients about guns without fear that they are breaking the law, President Barack Obama declared Wednesday. Obama said he wants to clarify language in his 2010 health law that some health providers took to mean as a ban on such conversations (Cheney, 1/17).

Kaiser Health News also tracked news coverage yesterday of the announcement and details of President Barack Obama's gun control plan (1/16).

Politico: Abortion Poll: Keep Roe V. Wade
More than six in ten Americans say they don't want Roe v. Wade completely overturned, but nearly half of people still think it's morally wrong to have an abortion, according to a new poll. Sixty-three percent say they don't want the Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion 40 years ago tossed out in whole, while 29 percent of those surveyed do want it overturned, the Pew Research Center poll on Wednesday found. The remainder were either unsure or did not respond (Cirilli, 1/16).

The Associated Press/USA Today: Study: Hundreds Of Rare Disease Drugs In Testing
For the nearly 30 million Americans who suffer from a rare disease, there's heartening news: Drugmakers have been shifting much of their research away from pills for the millions to uncommon disorders that often kill prematurely because there are few or no treatment options (Johnson, 1/16). 

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