KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: May 21, 2010

In today's headlines, legislation containing a Medicare pay 'fix' and an extension of the COBRA subsidy is moving toward House consideration.   

House Poised To Consider COBRA Subsidy Extension, Medicare Payment 'Fix'
Kaiser Health News staff writer Andrew Villegas reports: "Caught up in the congressional politics swirling around a pending tax bill are two proposals to extend - once again - subsidies for COBRA health insurance and a 'fix' of Medicare payments to doctors. Without action by the end of the month, those laid off after June 1 would have to pay the entire cost of continuing their health insurance and doctors could see their Medicare payments slashed by 21 percent" (Kaiser Health News).

The Prevention Dilemma
In this KHN column, Partnership for Prevention President and CEO Robert Gould writes: "If given the choice to spread prevention money around or to concentrate it to make a profound, historic and measurable impact, what would you do? That's the question raised by the new health law. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius must soon respond to a congressional mandate to spend millions of dollars on a potentially endless array of worthy projects, ranging from bike trails and community gardens to local public health departments and obesity prevention" (Kaiser Health News).

Bill Aims To Expand Benefits For The Unemployed
People who are out of work for long stretches would get expanded unemployment benefits through the end of the year under a bill Democratic lawmakers plan to pass next week (The Associated Press).

Democrats Proceed With $190 B Jobs, Tax Plan
In a roll of the dice, Democrats moved Thursday to take up a roughly $190 billion-plus jobs and tax package next week, hoping to complete passage before Memorial Day and forestall threatened cuts that would affect the elderly and the unemployed. … Going into November's elections, the spending represents a huge, costly, almost defiant commitment by Democrats to preserve a safety net for the unemployed and restore stability to Medicare reimbursements - important to physicians and their elderly patients (Politico).

Congressional Dems Push 'Doc Fix'
Democrats in Congress have proposed easing a planned cut in payments to doctors under Medicare in an effort to stem an expected shortage of primary care doctors and address the top issue for physicians who backed health reform (Politico).

Next Up: Battle Over New Tax Bill
The legislation would revive or extend benefits for individuals, states and local governments, and many businesses, as well as doctors. For example, it would extend unemployment benefits and health-insurance subsidies from the 2009 stimulus legislation, at a cost of about $55 billion. It would also provide $24 billion to states to help cover higher-than-normal costs for Medicaid, the health-care program for the poor (The Wall Street Journal).

In Blue Island Office, Seeing Recession's Toll
If south suburban Blue Island long ago was a geological mix of boulders and other debris dropped by a glacier, the Illinois Department of Human Services office there now is a moraine of human travail deposited by the recession (The Chicago News Cooperative/New York Times).

National Restaurant Assn. And UnitedHealth Join On Coverage Effort For Restaurant Workers
The National Restaurant Assn. and insurance giant UnitedHealth Group Inc. are teaming up in a bid to make coverage more accessible to millions of restaurant workers without health benefits - three years ahead of when the healthcare overhaul would require everyone to have insurance (Los Angeles Times).

Nine California Hospitals Fined For Medical Errors
State officials have fined nine California hospitals for medical errors last year that in some cases killed or seriously injured patients, according to a report made public Thursday (Los Angeles Times).

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