KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: March 21, 2013

Today's headlines include various reports about what the public knows -- and doesn't know -- about the health law.

Kaiser Health News: Grieving Doctor Regrets He Didn't Ask Depressed Patient About Gun
Colorado Public Radio's Eric Whitney, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "Dumont's patient shot himself in the head with a rifle. Dumont was stunned, and guilt-ridden. He says he always asks his depressed patients about suicide, and whether they've thought about how they'd do it.  But he regrets not asking this patient specifically whether he had any guns in the house" (Whitney, 3/20). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Poll: Three Years Later, Americans Still Don't Understand Health Law
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Jenny Gold reports: "It's been three years since President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, yet two-thirds of uninsured adults — the very people the law sets out to help — say they still don't know what it means for them" (Gold, 3/20). Check out what else is on the blog.

The New York Times: As Senate Passes Spending Measure, Stark Budget Views Are On Display In House
The Senate passed a spending measure on Wednesday to keep the government financed through the end of September, resolving one contentious budget fight as Congress moved quickly to the next. While the Senate dealt with the most immediate financial concerns, the House of Representatives engaged in an animated debate over the budget for the 2014 fiscal year that begins when the spending measure expires Sept. 30. The irreconcilable views that the two parties hold on economics, public spending and the role of government could not have been in starker conflict. As House Republicans moved ahead with their latest attempt to dismantle President Obama's health care overhaul … Democrats were holding a news conference in the basement of the Capitol heralding the third anniversary of the law's passage (Peters and Weisman, 3/20).

The Wall Street Journal: Senate Passes Bill To Fund Operations
The Senate bill also included more money for an array of programs that enjoyed bipartisan support such as customs and border agents, disaster assistance, embassy security, and a new program to blunt cyber attacks and foreign espionage. But to offset those increases, the bill squeezed other programs, including Environmental Protection Agency programs and an Obama health-care panel (Hook, 3/20).

USA Today: Senate Approves Funding Bill To Avoid Shutdown
The spending bill, which is likely to be approved by the House and signed by the president this week, reflects the sequestration-mandated levels of spending for the remainder of the fiscal year. It includes measures that would give the Pentagon and other federal agencies more flexibility in implementing the cuts, a further acknowledgement that the reductions are here to stay. … Obama wants to replace the cuts with an equal ratio of targeted spending cuts and new revenue from closing tax loopholes. Republicans oppose any such revenue and seek only spending cuts and changes to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare (Davis, 3/21).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: GOP-Dominated House Expected To Pass Budget Plan Promising Slashing Cuts, Balance In  10  Years
A familiar budget plan to sharply cut safety-net programs for the poor and clamp down on domestic agencies performing the nuts-and-bolts programs of the government is cruising to passage in the tea party-flavored House. The Republican measure is advancing to the finish line in the House as the Senate starts a lengthy slog toward passage of a rival budget measure. It takes a sharply different view, restoring automatic cuts to agency budgets and increasing taxes by $1 trillion over the coming decade (3/21).

Los Angeles Times: Ignorance About Health Law Remains High
Misunderstandings about the law have dogged it since lawmakers debated the legislation in 2009 and 2010, in part because major benefits of the law do not go into effect until next year (Levey, 3/20).

Politico: Obama May Enroll Under Health Law
If President Barack Obama wants to make good on a promise to become one of Obamacare's first customers, he'll have to take a route most Americans are unlikely to choose. He'll have to enroll in a health plan that lacks a taxpayer subsidy, even though he has access to generous coverage through his day job (Cheney, 3/21).

Politico: Obamacare To Hit Home On Hill
During debate over the law in 2009, Republicans insisted that if members of Congress were going to put their fellow Americans into health care exchanges, they and their staffs should be in there, too. But vague language in this part of the law — which was passed three years ago this Saturday — has led to a slew of quirks and questions (Haberkorn, 3/20).

The New York Times: Case Study: Questions Abound In Learning To Adjust To Health Care Overhaul
The company is one of thousands of small businesses that employ more than 50 full-time employees and thus will be required to offer health insurance to their workers — or pay into a government fund — beginning Jan. 1. Rachel Shein and Steve Pilarski, the married owners of the bakery, which employs 95 people, estimate this could cost their business up to $108,000, and they are weighing their options as the date approaches (Weed, 3/20).

The Washington Post: Health-Care Law Uncertainty Grips Old Town Alexandria Café – And Other Small Businesses
Jody Manor has run a small cafe and catering company for nearly three decades in Old Town Alexandria. … Six years ago he purchased an adjoining building, and more recently he started searching for a second location. Whether he moves forward with expansion depends on the price tag of the requirements mandated by the Affordable Care Act, President Obama's signature health-care initiative. Manor's company employs 45 people. If he brings in just five more, his business would soon be subject to new minimum coverage standards under the 2010 law — and he does not know whether his current health plan would meet this threshold of coverage or how his premiums might be affected (Harrison, 3/20).

Politico: Orrin Hatch Warns On Medicare Payment Experiments Under ACA
Medicare payment experiments are still in the test tube, but Republicans are already predicting their failure. The experiments are part of the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation, which was created under the Affordable Care Act to test new ways of delivering and paying for health care. The innovation center's been a sticky issue for Republicans, who generally agree that Medicare needs to be more efficient, do a better job of coordinating care and stress value not volume of care. They aren't sure that the innovation center — and its $10 billion budget and wide-ranging approach — is the answer (Cunningham, 3/21).

The New York Times: The Face Of Future Health Care
The organization, which combines a nonprofit insurance plan with its own hospitals and clinics, is the kind of holistic health system that President Obama's health care law encourages (Abelson, 3/20).

The New York Times: Neurosurgeon's Speeches Have Conservatives Dreaming Of 2016
Dr. Benjamin Carson was a political unknown just weeks ago. Then with a single speech delivered as President Obama looked stonily on, he was lofted into the conservative firmament as its newest star: a renowned neurosurgeon who is black and has the credibility to attack the president on health care (Gabriel, 3/20).

Los Angeles Times: Report: CVS Caremark Demands Workers Disclose Weight, Health Info
Employees at one of the nation's largest drugstore chains must disclose personal health information -- including their weight -- or pay a $600-a-year fine, according to a published report. CVS Caremark Corp. is requiring workers to reveal the information to their company's insurance carrier or pay an extra $50 a month for health coverage, according to the Boston Herald (Hamilton, 3/20).

Los Angeles Times: Patients Should Decide What The End Of Life Is Like, Study Says
Finding out what dying patients want and treating them accordingly leads to happier patients who are in less pain and who use fewer healthcare dollars, UCLA researchers said Tuesday (MacVean, 3/20).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Arizona Hospice Company Settles Allegations That It Submitted False Medicare Claims
Federal prosecutors say a hospice company in Arizona has agreed to pay $12 million to settle allegations that the company submitted Medicare claims for patients who did not have a terminal prognosis of six months or less. The U.S. Attorney's Office for Maryland said Wednesday that Hospice of Arizona L.C. and related entities had reached the settlement. The company denied the allegations (3/20).

Los Angeles Times: Bill Aims To Tighten Restrictions On Painkiller Hydrocodone
Taking aim at "America's most abused narcotic," congressional lawmakers introduced legislation Wednesday that would place tighter restrictions on the painkiller hydrocodone, which is a key contributor to the nation's prescription drug death epidemic (Glover and Girion, 3/20). 

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