KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: June 17, 2010

Today's health policy news includes the findings from a new AP-GfK poll regarding the health care law, the latest Medicare "doc fix" developments in the Senate and an HHS announcement of funding to increase the number of primary care physicians.   

Feds To States: Set Up Health Insurance Pools For High-Risk Patients By July 1
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey reports on states' progress with high-risk pools created as part of the health reform law: "The program, one of the highest profile provisions of the law, is designed to provide health insurance to people who have been denied coverage due to a pre-existing medical condition and have been without coverage for at least six months. It will start enrollment on July 1 and begin coverage on Aug. 1, according to guidance that Jay Angoff, director of the Department of Health and Human Service's Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, sent to state officials last week. The high-risk pools are intended to provide coverage until subsidies and new health insurance exchanges begin in 2014" (Kaiser Health News).

KHN Column: Market-Based Reform Initiatives Are Key To Success Of Health Law
In her latest Kaiser Health News column, Grace-Marie Turner writes: "Consumer-directed health plans have been useful in controlling the rise of health costs over the last several years, but the survival of these plans is threatened by the new health overhaul law" (Kaiser Health News).

AP-GfK Poll Shows Gains For Health Care Overhaul
The patient is alive and kicking. A new Associated Press-GfK poll finds public support for President Barack Obama's new health care law has risen to its highest point (The Associated Press).

HHS To Spend $250 Million To Increase Number Of Primary Care Providers
In an attempt to address a national shortage of health-care workers, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Wednesday that the federal government will spend $250 million in programs to increase the number of doctors, nurses and other care providers (The Washington Post).

Investment In Healthcare Workforce Announced As Doctor Shortage Looms
The Obama administration on Wednesday announced its first allocations of funding for workforce education under the healthcare reform law, with a $250 million investment this year. The announcement comes amid growing concern that the nation will not have the number of doctors and nurses - especially primary care physicians - to care for the extra 32 million people who will have insurance by 2020 thanks to the healthcare reform bill (The Hill).

Spending Bill Set Back In Senate
With support lacking, Democratic leaders moved to narrow benefit payments to unemployed workers and pare a costly proposal that would suspend long-planned cuts in Medicare payments to physicians. Those changes alone would trim a little more than $20 billion from the legislation, which came with an original price tag of more than $120 billion, and would result in "more than half" of the bill now being paid for, said Sen. Baucus (The Wall Street Journal).

Jobless Benefits Extension Stalls In Senate
The move to retrench came after the Senate voted, 45 to 52, to block a $140-billion bill that would link the extension of jobless benefits to a hodgepodge of other proposals - a delay in Medicare fee cuts for doctors, continuation of an array of business tax cuts, and aid to states to help them cover healthcare costs for the poor under Medicaid (Los Angeles Times).

Jobs Bill Trimmed By Billions
In the bargaining now, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, up for reelection in cash-strapped Nevada, is still holding onto a $24 billion, six-month extension of federal Medicaid assistance from January to June next year (Politico). 

Jobless Aid Bill Hits Wall In Senate
A dozen Democrats joined Republicans on a key 52-45 test vote rejecting an Obama-endorsed, $140 billion package of unemployment benefits, aid to states, business and family tax breaks and Medicare payments for doctors because it would swell the federal debt by $80 billion (The Associated Press). 

Doctors Recouped Cuts In Medicare Pay, Study Finds
When Congress aims to reduce Medicare spending, lawmakers often rely on cutting the prices they pay doctors and hospitals. But a new study shows how that approach may have limited success, if doctors respond by simply treating more patients to make up for the lost income (The New York Times).

Medicare Eye Study Finds Untapped Savings
Medicare could save more than $500 million annually by using a cheaper Genentech drug to save vision, according to a draft study by federal officials and a University of Miami eye doctor (The Wall Street Journal).

Veterans Travel Farther For Surgery With New Policy
A new rating system now restricts the types of surgery performed at certain Veterans Affairs facilities in five states. The new policy will prompt some veterans to travel farther to reach other VA facilities or civilian hospitals for more complex surgeries. The policy comes after investigations found that surgical mistakes had caused nine deaths in the department's Marion, Ill., hospital a few years ago (NPR).

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