KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: March 22, 2011

Today's headlines include reports about California's health insurance rates and looming insolvency for the U.S. Disability Fund.

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: For People With Mental Health Issues, Care Is Often Elusive
In her latest Kaiser Health News consumer column, Michelle Andrews writes: "In any given year, more than a quarter of U.S. adults have a diagnosable mental health problem - from depression to bipolar disorder - yet fewer than half get any kind of treatment for it. The figures are similar for children" (Andrews, 3/21).

Kaiser Health News: Obesity Problems Fuel Rapid Surge Of Type 2 Diabetes Among Children
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, in collaboration with The Washington Post, Susan Brink writes: "As recently as the mid-1990s, Type 2 diabetes was almost exclusively a disease of adults. But apparently fueled by the childhood obesity epidemic, cases in people younger than 20 have ramped up from virtually zero to tens of thousands in the United States in little more than a decade. The children who have it are breaking scientific ground: No one has any idea how they will fare over the course of a lifetime" (Brink, 3/21). Watch the related video.

Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill: Analyzing The Health Law's Rocky First Year
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey and NPR's Julie Rovner talk with KFF's Jackie Judd about developments on the Hill, including this week's one-year anniversary of the health law (3/21). Watch the video or read the transcript.

Kaiser Health News: HHS Says 48,000 Have Used Medicare Drug Discounts This Year
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey reports: "The health care law's discount on brand-name drugs for some Medicare beneficiaries has been used by 48,000 people who saved a combined $38 million – $800 on average -- through the first two months of this year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services" (Carey, 3/22).

Los Angeles Times: Anthem Blue Cross Reduces Rate Increases
California health insurer Anthem Blue Cross, scaling back rate increases for the second time in less than a year, has agreed to cut nearly in half average increases for more than 500,000 individual policyholders (Helfand, 3/21).

The Wall Street Journal: WellPoint To Cut California Rate Increases
WellPoint Inc. said it would raise premiums for individual policies in California by less than it had planned, after the insurance commissioner there pressured it and other health plans to delay new price increases (Johnson, 3/21).

The Wall Street Journal: Insolvency Looms As States Drain U.S. Disability Fund
The SSDI is set to soon become the first big federal benefit program to run out of cash-and one of the main reasons is U.S. states and territories have a large say in who qualifies for the federally funded program. Without changes, the Social Security retirement fund can survive intact through about 2040 and Medicare through 2029. The disability fund, however, will run dry in four to seven years without federal intervention, government auditors say (Paletta, 3/22).

The New York Times: A Panel Decides Washington State's Health Care Costs
The health care board was in session, and Deryk Lamb was pleading for them to continue paying for the spinal injections he receives to dull the pain from a workplace injury (Pollack, 3/21).

The Washington Post: Leggett, Montgomery County Unions Spar Over Pension Costs
Montgomery County's pension and retiree health accounts are facing a long-term shortfall of more than $4.8 billion, and officials repeatedly have pulled back from difficult decisions needed to close the gap (Laris, 3/21).

The Associated Press: Republicans Seek Fed Review Of Md. Hospital Tax
Senate Republicans want a federal investigation into whether a proposed tax on Maryland hospitals violates an agreement between the state and the federal government that limits how much patients pay for care (3/22).

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