KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: August 13, 2010

Today's headlines explore a variety of health policy issues, ranging from consumer protections regarding benefit rights to the cost of electronic medical records.

Insurers Defend Limited-Benefit Health Policies In Fight Over Proposed Restrictions
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Appleby, in collaboration with USA Today, writes: "A few months into a new job as a contract engineer, Jim Arey was stunned by an $8,000 bill he received for two doctor-administered infusions of an expensive drug he needs regularly. That's when the Columbia, Md., man learned that the insurance provided through his placement firm capped doctor office care at $2,000 a year. He unknowingly hit his cap on his first visit because of the cost of the drug" (Kaiser Health News).

KHN Column: Medicaid Rescissions Worse Than Private Insurers
In his latest Kaiser Health News column, John Goodman writes: "On Tuesday, members of the House of Representatives interrupted their August vacation and returned to Washington to vote on a bill to send money to the states. The issue that dominated the news was saving the jobs of teachers, police officers and other public employees. But most of the money allocated will prevent the states from cutting off health benefits for millions of people. If that doesn't strike you as strange, perhaps you weren't paying attention to last year's health care debate" (Kaiser Health News).

US: Firm Must Spell Out Workers' Benefit Rights
The Obama administration is planning to upgrade consumer protections for tens of millions of workers and family members covered by health, disability and pension plans, ordering companies to clearly explain decisions on claims and how employees can dispute denials (The Associated Press).

Health-Care Overhaul Nitty-Gritty: The Medical-Loss Ratio And Taxes
What counts as a "federal tax" in insurer-land? That's the latest question facing regulators charged with turning the health-care overhaul law into actual rules (The Wall Street Journal).

Rep. Paul Ryan: A Road Map To Saving Medicare
The annual analysis of Medicare's financial health released by the program's trustees on Aug. 5 led some Democrats to claim that Medicare's imminent bankruptcy has been delayed, thanks to the creation of their health entitlement program. Only in Washington could the government raid one entitlement program to finance a brand-new one and still claim that deficits have been reduced and entitlements have been reformed (The Washington Post).

Electronic Medical Records: Higher Costs Cited By Study
It is a widely accepted assumption in the healthcare and information technology industries that electronic medical records in hospitals help reduce costs and enhance the quality of patient care. But new research on the subject by three W. P. Carey information systems professors contradicts that conventional IT wisdom. And that has surprised and disappointed many in the healthcare and IT fields, including the researchers themselves (The Fiscal Times).

Consumer Groups Want Federal Investigation Of Insurers' Medical Spending
Consumer advocates urged the Obama administration Thursday to investigate what they called an effort by large for-profit insurance companies to slash spending on medical care even as they raise premiums (Los Angeles Times).

Liberal Group Presses For Disclosure Of Insurers' Lobbying Of State Regulators
The liberal grassroots group Health Care for America Now on Thursday called for insurance lobbying expenditures at the state level to be made public (The Hill).

Cambridge Health Group Seeks Buyer Or Partner
Cambridge Health Alliance, whose "safety net"' hospitals serve a large population of Medicaid patients and low-income immigrants, earlier this summer held preliminary talks with several teaching hospitals and physicians groups. In the past several weeks, its discussions have involved the state's two largest hospital groups: Partners HealthCare System Inc. and Caritas Christi Health Care (The Boston Globe).

Patients' Files Left At Public Dump
Four Massachusetts community hospitals are investigating how thousands of patient health records, some containing Social Security numbers and sensitive medical diagnoses, ended up in a pile at a public dump (The Boston Globe).

Business Groups Amp Up Campaign Against Marijuana Legalization
The California Chamber of Commerce and other groups representing employers are starting to line up to oppose the initiative to legalize marijuana, charging that Proposition 19 would allow pot smokers to light up on the job and operate dangerous equipment while stoned (Los Angeles Times).

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