KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: June 22, 2010

Today's health policy headlines focus on the President's scheduled meeting with insurance executives, more details regarding health reform's implementation and the upcoming departure of the Obama administration's budget chief.  

Rising Costs Spur Increase In Health Savings Accounts
In this Kaiser Health News consumer column, Michelle Andrews writes: "High-deductible health plans and the health savings accounts (HSAs) that link to them are becoming a familiar fixture on the insurance landscape, even though they get mixed reviews from many consumers and health-policy experts" (Kaiser Health News).

New Survey: Consumers Who Buy Their Own Health Insurance Report Big Rate Increase Requests
Kaiser Health News staff writers Julie Appleby and Jaclyn Schiff report: "Wellpoint – a big health insurer sharply criticized by the Obama Administration for seeking to raise rates up to 39 percent for some California policyholders earlier this year – was not unusual in seeking double-digit increases, a new survey finds" (Kaiser Health News).

Obama To Meet Tuesday With Insurance Executives
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey provides this update: "President Obama will meet Tuesday morning with insurance company executives and state insurance commissioners to urge them to stave off 'unjustified premium increases' during implementation of the new health care law, according to an administration official" (Kaiser Health News).

Confirmation Fight On Health Chief
President Obama's nominee to run Medicare and Medicaid, Dr. Donald M. Berwick, is a man with a mission, a preacher and a teacher who has been showing hospitals how they can save lives and money by zealously adhering to clinical protocols for the treatment of patients (The New York Times). 

Pressing Rising On Healthcare Long Before Overhaul Takes Effect
Despite passage of the landmark healthcare overhaul this spring, the nation's existing health system is continuing to fray, raising the prospect that the country could experience a crisis before the law establishes a new safety net in 2014 (Los Angeles Times).

Orszag To Resign As White House Budget Director, Source Says
As head of the Office of Management and Budget, Orszag has been one of Obama's top lieutenants on two of the president's signature legislative efforts: the stimulus bill, passed early in the administration, and the health care overhaul passed this year (The Washington Post).

As Law Takes Effect, Obama Gives Insurers A Warning
President Obama, whose vilification of insurers helped push a landmark health care overhaul through Congress, plans to sternly warn industry executives at a White House meeting on Tuesday against imposing hefty rate increases in anticipation of tightening regulation under the new law, administration officials said Monday (The New York Times).

AP Sources: Obama Revealing Health Law Details
President Barack Obama is revealing details of how the government will enforce the health overhaul law, an announcement expected to focus on how insurance companies must treat consumers (The Associated Press).

Obama Administration Expected To Unveil New Healthcare Regulations This Week
The Obama administration is expected to announce new rules regarding patient protections under the healthcare reform law this week - perhaps as early as Tuesday - industry sources and lobbyists say. The pending rules, sources say, relate to pre-existing condition exclusions, lifetime and annual limits and policy rescissions (The Hill).

A Health Insurer Pays More To Save
Like a lot of doctors, Patrick Kilduff has too many patients and too little time. He and the five other physicians in Shavertown, Pa., oversee the care of about 12,000 people, and a typical office visit lasts just 15 minutes (The New York Times).

Health Insurers Boost Customer Service As Era Of Competition Approaches
Cutting inscrutable health insurance jargon out of their communications. Opening retail stores to answer people's questions and offer wellness classes. Measuring customer-service efforts to give callers a better experience (Los Angeles Times).

HHS Gears Up For Web Portal's Launch
For Todd Park, working these days as chief technology officer at the massive Department of Health and Human Services feels more like working at a frantic Silicon Valley startup. … Park, who joined HHS in August 2009, is in charge of launching, the new Web portal that goes live July 1 and is designed to give consumers a place to research and compare health insurance plans (Politico).

Medicare Tussle Stymies Hill
The worsening budget impasse over Medicare reimbursements is straining not just doctors but also House-Senate relations - with taxpayers facing millions of dollars in added costs for reprocessing claims (The Hill).

Pelosi Wants Docs' Fee Boost, Jobs Money Combined
The top House Democrat says her chamber won't vote on Senate legislation to reverse a cut in Medicare payments to doctors (The Associated Press).

Newcomer Upends Florida Race
The challenger, Rick Scott, is surging even while carrying political baggage. Beginning in the late 1990s, the federal government investigated Mr. Scott's hospital chain, Columbia/HCA, over its Medicare and Medicaid billing practices, and eventually reached settlements with the company totaling $1.7 billion. Mr. Scott wasn't accused of wrongdoing in the matter (The Wall Street Journal).

Gay Workers Will Get Time To Care For Partner's Sick Child
Under a 1993 law, people who work for a company with 50 or more employees are generally entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn or for a spouse, son or daughter with "a serious health condition." The new ruling indicates that an employee in a same-sex relationship can qualify for leave to care for the child of his or her partner, even if the worker has not legally adopted the child (The New York Times).

Mass. May Find US Health Care Changes Costly
In most states, the passage of the sprawling federal health care overhaul legislation means the poorest will have a better shot at affording health insurance. But in Massachusetts, the law might have the opposite effect (The Boston Globe).

KHN Daily Report: People Who Purchase Insurance On Their Own Faced Premium Hikes Of Around 20 Percent, Survey Says
Kaiser Health News provides a summary of yesterday's news coverage regarding the individual market's premium rate increases, including stories from The New York Times, The Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal and other news outlets.

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