KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: February 16, 2010

Today's health policy headlines cover a range of topics -- from using health savings to reduce the deficit to how tort reform fits into the current health reform negotiations.

Will Health Care Savings Be Used To Reduce The Deficit
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey writes: "In their effort to overhaul the health system, President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats pressed hospitals, drug makers and other providers to accept billions of dollars in government payment cuts and new fees to help finance the legislation. … But now, if the legislation fails, those savings, primarily cutbacks in Medicare and Medicaid, might end up being used for something far different: reducing the federal deficit" (Kaiser Health News).

KHN Column: The Health Reform That Scares Both Parties
In his latest KHN column, Michael Millenson writes about one of reform's touchiest topics. "Twenty-seven years ago, President Ronald Reagan and a Congress split between Republican and Democratic control agreed to a radical new payment scheme for Medicare. The resulting legislation trimmed billions of dollars from the federal budget and caused medical inflation to plummet, yet still maintained quality of care. Although this stunning achievement led to a permanent change in how both the public and private sector pay for health care, it has gone curiously unmentioned during more than a year of rancorous health reform debate" (Kaiser Health News).

Both Sides Advance Health Myths
To hear President Barack Obama tell it these days, the Oval Office has been wide open to Republicans on health care reform for the past year (Politico).

Excise Tax Loses Support Amid White House Push
An agreement to tax high-cost, employer-sponsored health insurance plans, announced with fanfare by the White House and labor unions last month, is losing support from labor leaders, who say the proposal is too high a price to pay for the limited health care package they expect to emerge from Congress (The New York Times).

Friendly Fire Still Rains On Reform
Plenty of Democrats viewed the Massachusetts Senate upset as a message to move cautiously. But some are convinced Scott Brown's victory sent just the opposite message, which means the sort of intraparty power struggle that got nasty during the health care debate isn't likely to go away anytime soon (Politico).

In California, Exhibit A In Debate On Insurance
When Bernhard Punzet opened the dreaded envelope from Anthem Blue Cross one recent Saturday, it ruined his weekend (The New York Times).

Insurer Delays Rate Increase In California
Health insurer Anthem Blue Cross will postpone its much-criticized plan to raise rates for some California residents who buy insurance on their own, after reaching a deal Saturday with state regulators (The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal).

Republicans Spurn Once-Favored Health Mandate
For Republicans, the idea of requiring every American to have health insurance is one of the most abhorrent provisions of the Democrats' health overhaul bills (NPR).

Democrats Concede On Malpractice Insurers
Nothing comes easy in the health care debate. Take an upcoming House vote to repeal the long-standing antitrust protections for the insurance industry. To most members of Congress, it seems like a no-brainer: Why should insurers be exempted from antitrust laws, anyway?

Trial Lawyers To Obama: Don't Deal On Tort Reform In Healthcare Negotiations
President Barack Obama wants a bipartisan deal on health reform, but trial lawyers don't want him to deal on a top Republican priority: tort reform (The Hill).

High-Tech Medicine Contributes To High-Cost Health Care
Just before Christmas, 41-year-old Michael Kelley decided he wanted a whole-body imaging exam, the heavily advertised service touted on television by celebrities like Oprah Winfrey. He didn't smoke, wasn't overweight, and didn't have elevated cholesterol. "I'm pretty normal for a guy my age," he said (The Fiscal Times).

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