KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: April 5, 2012

In today's headlines, reports about how the budget debate is mixing into presidential poiltics.

Kaiser Health News: Mississippi Legislature Passes Abortion Clinic Bill
Mississippi Public Broadcasting's Jeffrey Hess, working in collaboration with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "The Mississippi legislature has passed a bill that will require any doctor performing abortions in the state to be a board-certified OB-GYN with admitting privileges at a local hospital. The change could make staffing the state's sole abortion clinic very difficult, since most of the doctors who practice at Jackson Women's Health live out-of-state and admitting privileges at the nearest hospital are given only to local physicians" (Hess, 4/4).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Study: Chemo Costs Less In Doctors' Offices; 2010 Insurance Rebates Would Have Hit $2 Billion Study Says
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Christian Torres writes: "Chemotherapy costs significantly more at a hospital than at a physician’s office, and patients might have decreased access to the cheaper option, according to reports out this week. The first report, by Avalere Health, found that chemotherapy received in a hospital outpatient setting costs, on average, 24 percent more than when received at a physician’s office – or nearly $7,000 more" (Torres, 4/4).

Also on the blog, Jay Hancock reports: "Consumers would have received rebates of nearly $2 billion — in some cases as much as $300 member – if the health-law cap on insurance profits and overhead had been in place in 2010, estimates a new study" (Hancock, 4/5). Check out what else is on the blog.

The New York Times: Court's Potential To Goad Voters Swings To Democrats
Now strategists in both parties are suggesting this could be the Democrats' year to make the court a foil to mobilize voters. The prospect arises both because of President Obama's comments this week implicitly warning the court against striking down his signature domestic achievement, the expanded health insurance law, and because of recent court rulings, chiefly the Citizens United campaign finance decision, and looming cases on immigration and affirmative action that incite passions on the left (Calmes, 4/4).

Reuters/Chicago Tribune: White House In Damage Control Over Obama Supreme Court Remarks
The White House was forced on the defensive on Wednesday as it sought to explain controversial remarks President Barack Obama made earlier in the week about the Supreme Court's review of his signature healthcare reform law (Bull, 4/4).

The Washington Post: Obama's Supreme Court Comments Lead Some To Question His Strategy
Many conservatives charged that Obama’s words amounted to a stark warning that he intends to campaign against the court if the law or its key elements are struck down, while some speculated that he was trying to bully the justices. One Texas judge … ordered the Justice Department to submit a three-page explanation of what role the administration believes the courts have. Even some legal scholars sympathetic to Obama and the health-care law are saying that the president might have been better off keeping quiet (Wallsten and Barnes, 4/4).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Laurence Tribe: Obama Misspoke On Supreme Court
Constitutional law scholar Laurence Tribe, a Harvard Law School professor and former mentor to President Barack Obama, said the president "obviously misspoke" earlier this week when he made comments about the Supreme Court possibly overturning the health-care law. Mr. Tribe, who calls the president was one of his best students, said in an interview: "He didn’t say what he meant…and having said that, in order to avoid misleading anyone, he had to clarify it" (Favole, 4/4).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Holder: Justice Department Will Respond 'Appropriately' to Texas Judge Upset By Obama Comments
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that the Justice Department will respond "appropriately" to a federal appellate judge in Texas who demanded a letter recognizing federal courts' authority to strike down laws passed by Congress (4/4).

Politico: The Barack Obama, Mitt Romney Budget Battle
Here's what the candidates have accomplished so far: A measure based on the president's 2013 budget didn't attract a single vote in the House, falling 414-0. The White House dismissed this as a political stunt because the measure, introduced by Republicans to embarrass the administration, did not contain all of the president's budget details. But Obama's full blueprint was widely criticized for failing to present long-term plans for social programs such as Medicare and Social Security and relying on gimmicks such as counting war savings to reach its deficit-reduction targets (White, 4/5).

The New York Times: Romney Says Obama Hides His Agenda
He said there was no better example of the president's vacillation than on the question of federal spending, especially on Medicare and other entitlement programs. "He has failed to enact or even propose a serious plan to solve the entitlement crisis," he said. … Taking a few questions, he said Mr. Obama’s remarks on Tuesday were full of "distortions and inaccuracies" too numerous to list. And as he did in his prepared remarks, which he followed scrupulously, he defended the House spending plan, saying Mr. Obama had relied on "straw men" to criticize its spending cuts (Cushman, 4/4).

The New York Times: Budget Author, A Romney Ally, Turns Into A Campaign Focus
For Mr. Obama, painting the conservative lawmaker as a sort of wild-eyed wingman to Mr. Romney carries clear benefits, according to his advisers: it yokes Mr. Romney to the unpopular elements of the Ryan budget — from deep cuts in cherished social programs to a Medicare overhaul that could drive up costs for future retirees and fundamentally change the popular health plan — and it makes it tougher for Mr. Romney to tack to the center once he gets past the primaries (Landler, 4/4).

The New York Times: Americans Cutting Back On Drugs And Doctor Visits
Patients cut back on prescription drugs and doctor visits last year, a sign that many Americans are still struggling to pay for health care, according to a study released Wednesday by a health industry research group (Thomas, 4/4).

NPR Shots Blog: Drug Spending Levels Off, But Not For The Usual Reasons
Greater use of generics had something to do with the leveling off. In 2011, according to IMS, 80 percent of dispensed prescriptions were generics and generic spending grew by $5.6 billion. But the bigger reason for the slow growth was a decline in actual use of prescription drugs, particularly by seniors, who are traditionally the biggest consumers of the products (Rovner, 4/4).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Sales Of Addictive Painkillers Exploding In Previously Unaffected Areas
Sales of the nation's two most popular prescription painkillers have exploded in new parts of the country, an Associated Press analysis shows, worrying experts who say the push to relieve patients' suffering is spawning an addiction epidemic (4/5).

USA Today: VA Sees Shortfall Of Mental Health Specialists
As thousands of additional veterans seek mental health care every month, the Department of Veterans Affairs is short of psychiatrists, with 20% vacancy rates in much of the country served by VA hospitals, according to department data (Zoroya, 4/4).

Politico: Hikes In Cost Of Veterans' Health Care Draw Fire
The Obama administration’s budget proposal to cut defense spending, in part, by increasing the cost of health care for retired service members has riled veterans groups and members of Congress. "It's wrong to ask them to sacrifice more when Washington has not had the political courage to look at the big picture on the budget or the courage to address the big drivers of our debt," said Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), who sits on both the Senate Armed Services and Budget committees (Munsil, 4/4).

Reuters/Chicago Tribune: Mississippi Bill May Cause State's Only Abortion Clinic To Close
The Mississippi state Senate passed a bill on Wednesday to impose new regulations on facilities providing abortions that supporters of the state's only abortion clinic said could force it to close. The measure, which previously passed in the state House of Representatives, would requires physicians performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and be board certified or eligible in obstetrics and gynecology (Ward, 4/4).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Prenatal Care Proposal For Illegal Immigrants Divides Nebraska Lawmakers, Frustrates Governor
The issues of illegal immigration and abortion have split Nebraska’s Republican-dominated politics, with some conservatives supporting a plan to offer state aid to pregnant women in the country illegally and others arguing that doing so would violate a bedrock GOP belief (4/5).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Advocacy Agency Backs Proposed Disabilities Settlement Between Virginia, Feds
A state agency that looks out for the rights of people with disabilities is advocating for a proposed settlement that would shift the care of Virginians with intellectual disabilities from state-run institutions (4/4).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Vermont Governor Signs Bill To Retool Mental Health System
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin has signed into law an overhaul of the state's mental health system. Wednesday's bill signing was the culmination of a process that got underway in earnest after Tropical Storm Irene in late August flooded and forced the closing of the Vermont State Hospital (4/4).

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