KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: October 25, 2011

Today's headlines include reports that a group of Republcian governors communicated their concerns to the super committee.

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Premiums, Deductibles And Cost Sharing In Employer Health Plans Keep Rising
In her latest Kaiser Health News consumer column, Michelle Andrews writes: "Signing up for health insurance during your company's annual enrollment period, which for many plans is right now, may feel like taking a nasty dose of medicine: You know it's good for you, but it sure doesn't go down easy" (Andrews, 10/25).

Kaiser Health News: Can A Small Business Insurance Marketplace Take Root In Florida?
WFSU-FM reporter Lynn Hatter filed this story as part of a partnership that includes WFSU-FM, NPR and Kaiser Health News: "Florida Health Choices was created in 2008 by the state legislature – with the idea of promoting competition and transparency in the health insurance market to bring prices down for small businesses. But it is still not operational. It was set to open this past summer, but has been delayed as it continues to try to recruit health insurance companies to sign up and offer their products" (Hatter, 10/24).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Defense And Docs: Perfect Together?; New Research Institute Seeks A Patient Perspective
Now on the blog, Mary Agnes Carey writes: "As physicians seek to forestall cuts in Medicare payments, their interests may be aligned with the defense industry as both press the super committee to strike a deal" (10/24). Also on Capsules, Christian Torres reports: "There's a deadline this week for everyday people interested in shaping a controversial initiative from the 2010 health law. But whether or not enough people will follow through — or are aware of the timing — is unclear, according to advocates" (10/24). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Washington Post: Republican Governors Submit Recommendations To Debt 'Supercommittee'
Four GOP governors sent a letter Monday to the congressional joint committee tasked with drafting a plan to reduce the country's debt, urging the 12-member panel to rule out tax increases and any proposals that would shift Medicaid costs from the federal government to the states (Sonmez, 10/24).

Politico: GOP Governors Lobby Supercommittee On Cuts
Republican governors are leaning on the supercommittee to cut spending by rewriting Medicaid laws. In a letter sent to supercommittee co-chairs Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) Monday and signed by Govs. Haley Barbour (Miss.), Bob McDonnell (Va.), Chris Christie (N.J.) and Mitch Daniels (R-Ind.), the Republican Governors Association asked the deficit cutting panel to incorporate more than two dozen Medicaid changes proposed in a September plan that the RGA submitted to the supercommittee (Allen, 10/24).

The New York Times: Still No Relief In Sight For Long-Terms Needs
The law that many Americans had hoped would transform the nation's dysfunctional system of long-term care for the swelling ranks of people with disabilities and dementia quietly died this month, a victim of its own weaknesses, a toxic political environment and President Obama’s re-election campaign focus on jobs (Harris and Pear, 10/24).

Politico: CLASS Dismissal Leaves White House Without Plan B
If health reform's long-term care insurance program dies, it's not clear what would replace it. The Obama administration decided two weeks ago to suspend implementation of the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act, and now, the calls to repeal the program permanently are mounting. If that doesn't happen, critics including the Chamber of Commerce, worry that the program could be revived at any time and become a drain on the federal budget (Norman, 10/24).

Los Angeles Times: Huntsman Assails New Hampshire Ex-Gov. Sununu For Backing Romney
Insisting that he was the better conservative, Jon Huntsman on Monday lashed out at the former governor of New Hampshire for endorsing Mitt Romney for the GOP presidential nomination. … Romney has struggled against the perception that he is more centrist than the conservative GOP base, especially on healthcare because he signed a Massachusetts program similar to President Obama's health insurance reform. Sununu, however, is highlighting Romney's conservative credentials  (Muskal, 10/24).

NPR: Before He Delivered For Voters, Paul Delivered Babies
And while those supporters may want him to be the next president for different reasons, they're all well aware that before entering politics, Paul was a doctor back in the southeast Texas district he represents in the U.S. House. "I think that by being a doctor he's able to address the root causes and not just treat the symptoms of these problems that we're facing as Americans," says Sean Donovan, a supporter from Boston (Rovner, 10/25).

Los Angeles Times: Insurers, Employers Offer Incentives To Promote Healthful Habits
Growing numbers of employers and insurance companies, stung by continued hikes in healthcare costs, are offering employees money and merchandise to lead healthier lives. Advocates of the approach are betting that preventive action will keep workers productive and hold down healthcare bills for expensive diseases like cancer and diabetes (Helfand, 10/24).

Los Angeles Times: Medical School Enrollment On The Rise
For those worried about the shortage of doctors in the U.S. healthcare system, here is a bit of good news: The number of students enrolling in medical schools has reached its highest level in more than a decade. More than 19,200 people entered their first year of medical school this year, a 3% increase over 2010, according to new data from the nonprofit Assn. of American Medical Colleges (Helfand, 10/25).

The New York Times: Amgen To Pay $780 Million To Settle Suits On Its Sales
Amgen said Monday that it had set aside $780 million to settle various federal and state investigations and whistle-blower lawsuits accusing it of illegal sales and marketing tactics. … The company said a settlement, which it expected to be concluded in three to four months, would also resolve state Medicaid investigations and 10 whistle-blower lawsuits. It is not clear if the company will plead guilty to any criminal charges (Pollack, 10/24).

The Wall Street Journal: Cigna To Buy Medicare Carrier HealthSpring For $3.8 Billion
Cigna Corp.'s $3.8 billion deal to buy Medicare carrier HealthSpring Inc. is the latest sign of how health-insurance companies are increasingly oriented toward government business, a move that brings both opportunities and risk. The deal represents a change in the balance of Cigna, which has long been primarily focused on employers but will now also be a major source of both Medicare prescription-drug plans and Medicare Advantage coverage, the private insurers' version of the government program (Mathews and Kamp, 10/25).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Insurer Cigna To Buy HealthSpring For $3.8 Billion To Boost Medicare Advantage Business
Cigna Corp. will buy fellow health insurer HealthSpring Inc. in a $3.8 billion deal as it becomes the latest managed-care company to snap up a bigger share of the fast-growing Medicare Advantage market (10/24).

USA Today: States Target Prescriptions By 'Pill Mills'
Now states are trying to outsmart the criminals by tracking prescriptions through statewide databases and by toughening their laws to make it more difficult for unscrupulous clinics to dispense large numbers of prescription pain pills. And in the latest move against drug tourists, states are linking their databases to try to stop dealers from roaming state to state (Leger, 10/25).

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