KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Today's headlines include reports about how changes are likely for the federal health law's long-term care program and how states continue to struggle with Medicaid and other budget challenges.

Kaiser Health News: States Pushing Managed Long-Term Care For Elderly And Disabled Medicaid Patients
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz, in collaboration with USA Today, reports: "Desperate to rein in rising Medicaid costs, Tennessee last year became the sixth state to require its frailest and costliest patients - the elderly and disabled who need long-term care - to enroll in managed care plans. At least 10 other states, including Florida, Maryland, New Jersey and Rhode Island, are considering introducing or expanding the use of managed long-term care. The trend is sparking opposition from the nursing home industry and raising some concerns from AARP and other patient advocates" (Galewitz, 2/22).

Kaiser Health News: Ensuring Your Health:  Health Law Forces Changes To Reduce Hospitals Readmissions
In her latest Kaiser Health News consumer column, Michelle Andrews writes: "'Welcome back' are two words you'd really rather not hear at a hospital, especially if you've just been discharged. Yet one in five Medicare patients found themselves back in the hospital within 30 days of leaving it in 2003 and 2004, according to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Even more troubling is the possibility that three-quarters of those readmissions might have been prevented, as estimated in a 2007 report by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), an independent agency that advises Congress" (Andrews, 2/22).

Kaiser Health News: A Guide To GOP Proposals To Slash Family Planning
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Aimee Miles writes: "Controversy over the GOP's reproductive health agenda is mounting after the House passed a spending bill that slashes funds for family planning clinics and eliminates federal support for Planned Parenthood, a major provider of reproductive health care in the U.S. Republican leaders say that desperate times call for painful cuts in federal spending-and abortion providers are a prime target" (Miles, 2/19).

Kaiser Health News Column: All Governors Should Just Say No To ObamaCare
In his latest Kaiser Health News column, Michael Cannon writes: "So far, two Republican governors – Florida's Rick Scott and Alaska's Sean Parnell – have announced they will implement no part of ObamaCare. In the interest of both principle and practicality, the other 48 governors should follow their lead" (2/22).

The New York Times: Long-Term Care Needs Changes, Officials Say
One of Senator Edward M. Kennedy's legacies in the new health care law, intended to allow the chronically ill and people with disabilities to continue living in their homes, is too costly to survive without major changes, Obama administration officials now say (Pear, 2/21).

The Washington Post: In GOP-Led States, Health-Care Law Inspires Attacks And Accommodations
With battles over the president's signature health legislation underway in the courts and on Capitol Hill, a third line of attack is forming in the states: Practically every week, a Republican governor or lawmaker announces a new effort to kill the health-care law or undercut its implementation (2/21).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: How Many Bureaucrats To Carry Out Health Overhaul?
How many federal bureaucrats does it take to carry out President Barack Obama's health care overhaul? Don't expect to find an easy answer in his new budget (Alonso-Zaldivar, 2/22).

Politico: How A Government Shutdown Could Happen
Neither party says it wants a government shutdown. But the path to a compromise is so tricky, neither party can rule it out (Allen and Budoff Brown, 2/22).

NPR: Fat State Stretched Thin: Tenn. Covers Gastric Bypass
Tennessee's state Medicaid program faces hundreds of millions of dollars in budget cuts in the coming months. The program, known as TennCare, won't pay for overweight patients to get counseling from dietitians, but it will pay for the morbidly obese to lose weight through surgery, such as gastric bypass. That has led some critics to complain that TennCare won't pay for an ounce of prevention but will pay for a pound of cure. ... The average price of such operations to TennCare, including facility costs, is about $20,000 (Potter, 2/21).

Kaiser Health News tracked news coverage over the Presidents' Day weekend, including reports about efforts to defund the federal health law, the "conscience" rule, state-level efforts to cut Medicaid and developments in Wisconsin regarding public workers and collective bargaining.

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