KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: February 24, 2011

Today's headlines include a report about a new poll that finds many Americans believe the health law has been repealed. Meanwhile, as the Obama administration seeks "clarification" in a recent court ruling on the health law, the states bringing that challenge say the judge's intent was clear and the administration's action is "wishful thinking."

Kaiser Health News: Many Americans Incorrectly Believe Health Law Has Been Repealed
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jordan Rau reports: "A poll released Thursday found extensive public confusion about the health care law, with 22 percent of Americans incorrectly believing it has been repealed and another 26 percent unsure or unwilling to say" (Rau, 2/24).

Kaiser Health News: When Care Is Split Between Medicare And Medicaid: KHN Interview With Melanie Bella
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Joanne Kenen writes: "Nearly 9 million poor and sick Americans are 'dually eligible' for both Medicare, the federal health care program for seniors and disabled individuals, and Medicaid, the joint federal health system for low-income people.  They use a lot of health services and their care is often fragmented. Melanie Bella's new job is to help fix that" (Kenen, 2/24).

Kaiser Health News Column: After The Deluge: Health Reform Without An Individual Mandate
In this Kaiser Health News column, Austin Frakt and Kevin Outterson write: "Two federal judges now tell us that the federal health law's individual mandate is unconstitutional. Three others disagree, and soon we will start to hear from appellate courts. But what if we put the legal arguments aside for the moment and focus on the real question: what happens to health reform if the individual mandate is ultimately struck down?" (2/24).

Kaiser Health News Column: Medical Liability Reform Should Be Real And Effective
In this Kaiser Health News column, Victor Schwartz offers views on medical liability reform: "In his State of the Union speech last month, President Barack Obama appeared to offer an olive branch to congressional Republicans and those who favor medical liability reform when he said, 'I am willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year – medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits.' One has to commend the president for addressing the issue, but there are some problems with his statement" (2/24).

NPR's Shots Blog: Judges Reviewing Health Law Say Penalty Is Not A Tax
So far, the five U.S. District Court judges who have ruled on the merits in the various lawsuits against the Patient Protect Act haven't agreed on much. But they do agree on one thing: The penalty for people who don't get health insurance starting in 2014 is NOT a tax (Rovner, 2/23).

Politico: States: Request 'Wishful Thinking'
The 26 states who came out on the winning end of a federal court decision invalidating the health care reform law say an Obama administration request for clarification is nothing but "wishful thinking." The administration has asked U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson to clarify his order invalidating the Affordable Care Act. But in a brief filed Wednesday night, the states say the administration is effectively seeking a stay of Vinson's order – and that it hasn't met the standards for one (Grieve, 2/23).

The Hill: States: Judge Clearly Meant To Halt Work On The Healthcare Law
New comments from the states come after the Obama administration asked a judge to clarify ruling that struck down reforms. The 26 states and a business group that successfully challenged the healthcare reform law in federal court said the judge clearly meant to halt implementation of the healthcare overhaul (Millman, 2/23).

The Wall Street Journal: Geithner Hopeful For Bipartisan Deficit Plan
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Wednesday said the Obama administration was hoping for a bipartisan deal to reduce budget deficits over the next five years or so, but stopped short of predicting an agreement could be reached this year. Staking out a position at odds with Republicans, Mr. Geithner said reducing the deficit to 3% of gross domestic product need not include restraints on benefit programs, known as entitlements. "It's not fundamentally driven by Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security," he said at a breakfast hosted by Bloomberg News (Wessel, 2/24).

Los Angeles Times: As Wisconsin's Scott Walker, Unions Do Battle, What's At Stake?
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker proposed charging public employees more for their health insurance and pension benefits, setting off a firestorm of demonstrations, now in their second week. It also prompted all Democratic senators to flee the state, in effect blocking any action on the proposals. As part of the package, Walker also called for eliminating the right of unionized government workers to bargain collectively. Ohio and several other states with new Republican governors and legislatures are considering similar measures as a way to solve budget woes (Muskal, 2/24).

Politico: Huck Trashes 'RomneyCare' In Book
In his new book, Mike Huckabee trashes "RomneyCare" – saying it's "socialized medicine" that has exploded costs, worsened care for patients, and proves why President Obama's unpopular health care reform won't work. In a chapter in "A Simple Government," Huckabee uses Mitt Romney's Massachusetts health care program to bolster his arguments against Obama's reforms, yoking the two tightly together (Haberman, 2/23).

The Washington Post: Under Kidney Transplant Proposal, Younger Patients Would Get The Best Organs
The nation's organ-transplant network is considering giving younger, healthier people preference over older, sicker patients for the best kidneys (Stein, 2/24).

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