KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: October 14, 2011

In today's headlines, more status report on the super committee's deficit-reduction deliberations.

Kaiser Health News: Clock Starts Ticking Saturday For Medicare Enrollment
Kaiser Health News staff writer Christian Torres reports: "The annual enrollment period for Medicare Advantage and prescription drug benefit plans starts Saturday, rather than in mid-November as in recent years. The deadline for enrollment has also been pushed up, from Dec. 31 to Dec. 7" (Torres, 10/13).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Minorities Would Be Hard Hit By Medicaid Cuts, Study Warns; Kids' Emergency Mental Health Needs Met By Safety Net
Now on KHN's blog, Capsules, Mary Agnes Carey reports: "Blacks and Latinos would be among those hardest hit if Medicaid funding were cut as part of a deficit-reduction package, according to a new report released today by Families USA,  the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Council of La Raza, among others." Also on the bloc, Christian Torres writes: "Emergency rooms across the country are crowded with children in need of psychiatric care, and more and more of those kids are underinsured – either on Medicaid or without any insurance at all. According to a new study, underinsured children accounted for 54 percent of emergency room psychiatric visits in 2007, up from 46 percent in 1999." Check out what else is on Capsules.

USA Today: Congress Funnels Deficit-Cutting Ideas To 'Supercommittee'
When it set up a "supercommittee" to find $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction, Congress also asked other committees to weigh in with advice about what spending to cut. Today is the deadline for those recommendations. And much of the advice so far is about what not to cut (Korte, 10/14).

Politico: Dem Govs Lobby Supercommittee
Fearing deep cuts in federal support to their states, several Democratic governors set up a series of meetings Thursday to lobby supercommittee members and White House officials. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, and Govs. Mark Dayton of Minnesota and Christine Gregoire of Washington met separately with the Senate Democratic supercommittee members and the House Democratic supercommittee members in the Capitol. Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, a close ally of President Barack Obama, was expected to join the calls by telephone. Later in the day, the governors had scheduled a meeting with White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley (Allen, 10/13).

The Washington Post: Dem Governors Huddle With Debt 'Supercommittee' Members
A quartet of Democratic governors is huddling Thursday with members of Congress's debt-reduction "supercommittee" on Capitol Hill, urging lawmakers on the panel to focus on job creation and avoid making cuts or changes to entitlement programs that would result in a greater burden on the states. … In a letter to the supercommittee's members, O'Malley, who last December was elected to head the DGA, backed the White House's call for a debt-reduction package including both cuts and revenue increases. He also urged the panel's members not to avoid changes to Medicaid that would increase the burden on state governments (Sonmez, 10/13).

Los Angeles Times: Blue Shield To Return $283 Million In Excess Profits To Policyholders
Blue Shield of California says it will give customers in the state a $283-million credit on their insurance premiums, saying it is fulfilling a promise to return money to policyholders when its net income exceeds 2% of revenue (Helfand and Henningan, 10/14).

The Washington Post: More Doctors, Nurses Participate In Program That Helps Communities With Little Health-Care Service
As a result of stimulus spending and increased funding through the 2010 health-care law, the number of clinicians participating in a federal program to expand access to care in under-served communities has nearly tripled in the past three years. About 10,000 doctors, nurses and other providers now participate in the National Health Service Corps, the highest number since the program was established in 1972, according to figures released by the Obama administration Thursday (Aizenman, 10/13).

The New York Times: Eating Disorders A New Front In Insurance Fight
People with eating disorders like anorexia have opened up a new battleground in the insurance wars, testing the boundaries of laws mandating equivalent coverage for mental illnesses (Pollack, 10/13).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: House Votes To Stop Abortion Coverage Under New Health Care Law
The House on Thursday returned to an abortion issue that nearly sank President Barack Obama's health care law last year with legislation that bars an insurance plan regulated under the new law from covering abortion if any of its customers receive federal subsidies. Providers that offer abortion coverage would have to set up identical plans without abortion coverage to participate in the health insurance exchanges to be set up under the new law. The legislation, which passed 251-172, is unlikely to be considered by the Democratic-led Senate and faces a veto threat from President Barack Obama (10/13).

Politico: House Passes Bill To Block Funding For Abortions
The House approved an anti-abortion bill Thursday that takes aim at the health insurance subsidies in President Barack Obama's health care law — and gives both parties another chance to rally their bases over yet another abortion fight. The "Protect Life Act" would ban women from using the health reform law's tax subsidies to purchase health plans that cover abortions and would allow hospital and health care providers to refuse to provide abortions if they have objections on grounds of conscience (Nocera, 10/13).

The New York Times: The Caucus: House Passes Another Bill To Reduce Access to Abortions
House Republicans have had a laserlike focus on dismantling various forms of federal regulations this month, the centerpiece of their job creation agenda. But on Thursday the chamber pivoted back to another topic that has been the subject of various pieces of legislation this year: how to reduce access to abortions though federal health insurance programs (Steinhauer, 10/13).

The Texas Tribune/New York Times: Lower Medicaid Dispensing Fees May Pressure Pharmacies
In Rio Grande City, Rene Martinez's Starr Pharmacy has one line for Medicaid patients and another for non-Medicaid patients. On some days, most of his clients can be found waiting on the Medicaid line, a testament to the importance of that federal-state health insurance program in this poor city along the Texas-Mexico border — and to Mr. Martinez's bottom line (Cardona, 10/14).

Los Angeles Times: Brown Vetoes Bill To Extend California Nursing Board
The authority of the California Board of Registered Nursing to license and discipline the state's nearly 400,000 registered nurses will expire Jan. 1. The powers would have been extended another four years under a seemingly routine "sunset bill" passed by the Legislature. But Brown vetoed the bill over the weekend, saying he objected to a provision that would have added to the state's pension costs (Sewell, 10/14).

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