KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: Senate Democrats Continue Pursuit Of Support For Jobs Bill — Which Includes Medicare Doc ‘Pay Fix’ And Help For States With Medicaid Costs

Today's headlines focus on various state level developments related to health policy as well as Senate Democrats continued pursuit of support for the pending jobs bill.

Democrats Seek Votes On Spending Bill
Democrats said they still expected to ultimately pass the measure - though it was not likely to face a test vote before next week - because it included provisions both parties favor, like the $40 billion extension of unemployment pay along with billions of dollars in business and personal tax breaks. … Democrats were also looking for lobbying help from governors who supported the inclusion of $24 billion sought by states for help with health care costs - one element of the Senate bill that drove the cost higher than the price tag in the House (The New York Times).

Senate Dems Close On Jobs Bill
Months have already been consumed on this bill, and new Senate changes mean the unwieldy package will have to go back to the House, which only narrowly passed its version before Memorial Day. But revenue deals at the expense of the oil industry now unite most Democrats, and the restoration of $24 billion in state aid is a calculated gamble to bring governors off the sidelines and ask senators to support the bill and forestall deeper budget cuts and layoffs at home (Politico).

Blue Dogs Let Us Down, Say Liberals
Months after shelving their doubts and helping Blue Dog Democrats get their signature issue of statutory pay-as-you-go language signed into law, some liberals say conservative Democrats have reneged on their side of the agreement. … Blue Dog objections related to the deficit forced House leaders to strip COBRA healthcare benefits and a package of aid to states prized by liberals from the tax extenders bill (The Hill). 

Spending More On Drugs Doesn't Mean Spending Less On Other Care
Research produced by the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care famously illustrates the variations in Medicare spending from region to region. But while it looks at spending on hospital services and outpatient visits, it doesn't include data on the latest addition to the Medicare family, Part D - the prescription drug benefit (The Wall Street Journal Health Blog). 

Arkansas Race Highlights White House-Labor Divide
But 1 1/2 years later, Shaiken says, unions are questioning whether the president has fought hard enough on their behalf. They were disappointed when he jettisoned a public option from the health care overhaul. And they are especially frustrated that "card check," a measure to make union organizing easier, has remained bottled up in Congress (NPR). 

Rx-Contract Fight To Affect Millions Of Clients
CVS Caremark Corp. said it will block as many as 53 million patients from filling prescriptions at Walgreen Co. drugstores by as early as next month, amid an escalating power struggle between the two companies (The Wall Street Journal). 

Pa. Regulators Probe Health Insurers' Practices
Pennsylvania regulators said Wednesday they have detected a pattern of rate increases by health insurance companies that suggests insurers are trying to pad revenues before federal health reforms are fully implemented (The Associated Press).

Companies Urged To Follow New Ohio Health Law
Advocates for the uninsured are urging some of Ohio's biggest employers to follow a new state law that allows young adults to stay on their parents' health insurance until they turn 28, even though the companies are exempt (The Associated Press).

12,000 Minnesota Nurses Launch One-Day Walkout
More than 12,000 nurses have launched a one-day strike of 14 Minnesota hospitals in a dispute over staffing levels and pension benefits (USA Today). 

With Traumatic Brain Injuries, Soldiers Face Battle For Care
Building 805 was supposed to house a clinic for traumatic brain injury, often called the signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, it has become a symbol for soldiers here of what they call commanders' indifference to their problems (NPR). 


Unemployment Benefits: It's No Time To Back Off The Fiscal Gas Pedal Los Angeles Times
The real long-term deficit and debt problems stem from the growing obligations of Medicare, Social Security and other entitlement programs. There are things Congress should be doing to reassure the public, such as starting to restructure entitlements (6/10).

How Can We Fix Medicare Payments? The New York Times
[P]hysicians are penalized for doing more to keep patients healthy under the current payment formula, which cuts individual physician payments as the national volume of physician services increases. Individual physicians provide services based on the needs of the patient in front of them not on an obscure national formula (J. James Rohack, 6/10).

Health Insurance Exchanges: Key Link In A Better-Value Chain New England Journal of Medicine
I know that controversies will arise over their proper function and mission. The opponents of change will try to hobble exchanges, market skeptics will try to convert them into purely regulatory schemes, and even when exchanges succeed in increasing transparency and demand for value, other critical links must be forged in the supply chain of managed competition. After all, an accessible, customer-friendly, easy-to-use market is still only as good as the products it offers (Jon Kingsdale, 6/10).

A Hard Sell Congress Daily
It's still surprising to many that comparative effectiveness research is controversial. ? But two new studies out last week suggest that even those sympathetic to the research might have a more difficult road ahead than it would seem at first glance (Julie Rovner, 6/10).

A Doctor's Request: Please Don't 'Friend' Me USA Today
For many of us physicians on Facebook, the thought of opening up our personal pages filled with family photos, off-the-cuff remarks and potentially, relationship status and political and/or religious views to our patients gives us the heebie-jeebies. For one, there could be sharing of things not usually disclosed in a normal patient-physician encounter. At best, this could result in awkwardness (Katherine Chretien, 6/9).

Nursing in Public: Americans Need to Get Over Their Hang-Ups Politics Daily
That's why laws have been passed to allow women to breast feed when and where they need and want to. Being pushed into a closet at H&M or anywhere -- is illegal in many states (Sarah Wildman, 6/9).

Plain Talk: Medicare For All Still The Best Idea Madison Capital Times
So now we have a much watered-down health care law without even what was supposed to be a sop to single-payer, the much ballyhooed public option. Nevertheless it is better than doing nothing, which would have allowed insurance companies to cancel policies for virtually any reason and left some 45 million Americans without any coverage at all (Dave Zweifel, 6/9).

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