KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: February 22, 2013

Today's headlines include reports about how governors are changing their views on the health law's Medicaid expansion and other implementation news.

Kaiser Health News: Activist Ignites A Movement For Patients Through Art And Story
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Sarah Barr reports: "Regina Holliday bounds across the stage at the old Sam's Town casino, jumps onto a grey cinder block and flings her arms open wide in welcome. Holliday, an artist and patient advocate from Washington, balances there for just a moment, beaming before the small cadre of advocates, doctors and tech gurus who are as determined as she is to make patients equal participants in every area of health care" (Barr, 2/22). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: D.C. Hospitals And Nurses Fight Over Staffing Ratios
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, David Schultz writes: "Hospital administrators in Washington, D.C., are furiously lobbying against a bill modeled on a California law that would require them to maintain a minimum nurse-to-patient ratio at all times" (Schultz, 2/22). Read the story.

The Wall Street Journal: The GOP Splits Over Pressure To Slash Defense Budget
The president, meanwhile, has the easier task of traveling the country and claiming congressional Republicans are the sole impediment to his call for offsetting the cuts by closing tax loopholes. And Democratic leaders in Congress face no contingent of members agitating for the budget cuts to go through, as GOP leaders do. Most Republicans in the House would rather see the cuts kick in than agree to additional tax revenue, which Mr. Obama has said must be included in any plan to replace the budget cuts. Party leaders have counseled their rank-and-file to blame the president for coming up with the idea of the sequestration, while they highlight House-passed alternatives to find savings in Medicare and other programs (O'Connor, 2/21).

The New York Times: Answers To Questions On Capital's Top Topic
Unless Congress intervenes, the law requires the Obama administration to impose $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts to military and domestic programs on March 1. Those cuts would be the start of $1 trillion in cuts over the next decade. … Here is a primer on what the sequester is and how we got here (Weisman, 2/21).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: HHS Secretary Sebelius Says States Are Finding Medicaid Expansion Too Good To Pass Up
A day after Florida's Republican governor endorsed a key part of the federal health care overhaul, the Obama administration says it's encouraged by the progress. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says that states are deciding the Medicaid expansion is, quote, "simply too good to pass up" (2/21).

The New York Times: Governors Fall Away In GOP Opposition To More Medicaid
Under pressure from the health care industry and consumer advocates, seven Republican governors are cautiously moving to expand Medicaid, giving an unexpected boost to President Obama's plan to insure some 30 million more Americans (Goodnough and Pear, 2/21).

The Washington Post: Va. Assembly Showdown Over Medicaid Expansion Threatened
One day after House and Senate negotiators struck a transportation funding deal, some Democrats were trying to link passage of that plan to the issue of Medicaid expansion. Some House Democrats vowed to vote against the transportation package if the General Assembly does not lay the groundwork this year for expanding Medicaid. They are also threatening to vote against state budget amendments if they do not include a framework for expansion (Vozzella and Kunkle, 2/21).

Los Angeles Times: Brown May Forge Alliance With GOP Governors On Health Plan
When Gov. Jerry Brown meets with the nation's other governors this weekend in Washington, D.C., he will find common ground with some unlikely counterparts on an unlikely issue: President Obama's healthcare plan. Among the governors now moving nearly as aggressively as Brown to implement the federal healthcare law are conservatives who have long fought to unravel it. They are finding that they cannot afford to pass up Obama's offer of billions of dollars in federal aid to cover expansion of their Medicaid programs for the poor (York, 2/21).

The Washington Post: Exclusive: An Interview With Marilyn Tavenner, Obama's Pick To Head Medicare
For over a year now, Marilyn Tavenner has run the federal government's largest agency: the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. With a budget of nearly $1 trillion, Tavenner oversees everything from the implementation of the Affordable Care Act to programs that already administer health benefits to more than 80 million Americans (Kliff, 2/21).

The Washington Post: Pharmacy Trade Group Shifts Position On Federal Oversight
The head of the nation's largest trade group for the specialty pharmacies known as compounders said he will support legislation requiring pharmacies that operate like drug manufacturers to register with the Food and Drug Administration and be subject to stricter standards enforced by the agency (Kindy and Sun, 2/21).

NPR: Morning-After Pills Don't Cause Abortion, Studies Say
For years, scientists knew the pills, particularly Plan B, were highly effective in preventing pregnancy after unprotected sex but weren't exactly sure how they managed that. "It wasn't really clear whether it worked before ovulation or after ovulation," says Wood. Scientists did know the drug worked primarily by preventing ovulation. It stops an egg from being released from a woman's ovary and thus prevents any chance of fertilization and pregnancy. But they also thought the drug might make it more difficult for a fertilized egg to implant in a woman's uterus. Technically, that's not an abortion, says Wood (Rovner, 2/21).

Los Angeles Times: CalPERS Plans 85% Rate Hike For Long-Term-Care Insurance
More than 110,000 CalPERS policyholders are receiving similar news after the pension fund's board approved the changes late last year. CalPERS said the hefty rate hikes won't take effect until 2015 and are necessary to keep this $3.6-billion insurance fund intact for future claims. This CalPERS program, like other plans sold by private insurers, has been plagued by higher-than-expected claims, lower investment returns and poor pricing (Terhune, 2/21).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Gov. Kitzhaber Will Pitch Oregon Health Overhaul To Other Governors In DC Meeting
Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber will brief other state leaders this weekend on his plan to lower Medicaid costs, touting an overhaul that President Barack Obama highlighted in his State of the Union address for its potential to lower the deficit even as health care expenses climb. The Oregon Democrat leaves for Washington, D.C., on Friday to pitch his plan that changes the way doctors and hospitals are paid and improves health care coordination for low income residents so that treatable medical problems don’t grow in severity or expense (2/22).

The Texas Tribune/New York Times: At  A Loss On Refusing Medicaid Cash
State officials, starting with Gov. Rick Perry, want the state to stay away from any expansion outlined in the federal Affordable Care Act. They object to creating an entitlement program where none currently exists, because they say they fear it will grow into a money-gobbling monument to big government — socialism, even. Besides, they say, Texas doesn’t have enough doctors and other medical professionals to provide care for the newly insured (Ramsey, 2/21).

The New York Times: Court Temporarily Halts Plan To Close Brooklyn Hospital
A state judge has temporarily halted plans to close the financially ailing Long Island College Hospital, giving a victory to hospital workers who say that its closing would be devastating to community health care (Hartocollis, 2/21).

Los Angeles Times: City Of Hope Picks A Longtime Executive To Be Next CEO
City of Hope, a leading cancer hospital and medical research center, has tapped one of its veteran leaders to take over as chief executive in January. Dr. Michael Friedman, 69, said he plans to retire as CEO at year's end after 10 years at the helm. Robert Stone, 44, currently City of Hope's president and an executive there since 1996, will take the top job in January (Terhune, 2/21).

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