KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: June 7, 2011

Today's health policy headlines focus on continuing budget issues involving Medicare and state efforts to cut back on Medicaid. 

Kaiser Health News: Hospitals Turning To Nocturnists – Doctors Who Work Nights – To Improve Care
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, in collaboration with The Washington Post, Sandra Boodman writes: "Being in a hospital at night or over a weekend can be hazardous to your health, and even has a name: 'the weekend effect.' A raft of studies has documented higher rates of death, complications and medical errors affecting patients treated at night or on weekends" (Boodman, 6/6). In a sidebar, experts also offer tips if you must got to the hospital during the night or weekend. KHN also provides a video of Dr. Terance Millan, who discusses his role as a nocturnist at North Florida Regional Medical Center.

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Conn. Insurer Cuts Premiums As Industry Prepares For New Rules
In her latest Kaiser Health News consumer column, Michelle Andrews writes: "It turns out that pigs do fly. Last month, insurer Aetna received approval from Connecticut regulators of its request to reduce premiums on individual policies by an average 10 percent, starting in September. Yes, you read that right: reduce the premium. The decrease, which affects 15,000 consumers will save those policyholders $259 annually, on average" (Andrews, 6/6).

Kaiser Health News: Ryan's Unintended Consequences (Guest Opinion)
In this Kaiser Health News column, Shannon Brownlee and Eric Schultz write that there is one good thing about Ryan's plan, and it has been completely overlooked. Offering beneficiaries the same voucher, no matter where they live, would expose the egregious amount of money Medicare wastes in many parts of the country (6/6).

Politico: Eric Cantor 'Optimistic' About Budget
In an email Monday to House Republicans, Majority Leader Eric Cantor said he is "cautiously optimistic" that ongoing talks with the White House will meet the standard set by Speaker John Boehner that "any increase in the debt limit ought to be accompanied by at least a commensurate reduction in the deficit." …  The talks, led by Vice President Joe Biden, are to continue this week and Cantor said, "We have been going through all the major spending areas of the federal budget, beginning with non-health care mandatory programs and continuing with discussion on the health care entitlement programs" (Rogers, 6/6).

The Associated Press: Senators Tell Biden To Reject GOP Medicare Plan
Five Democratic senators are calling on Vice President Joe Biden to keep the House Republican plan for Medicare out of out of budget and deficit negotiations (Jackson, 6/6).

NPR: 15 States Try To Cut Back On Medicaid Programs
Medicaid provides health care to people with low incomes, who also meet certain other categories. And while the federal government pays more than half of the bill, the share the states pay consumes 22 percent of the average state's budget. That's more than they pay for education, transportation or other large budget items (Rovner and Montagne, 6/7).

Politico: Calif. Medicaid Cuts Pit HHS Vs. DOJ
Much of the health policy world was stunned when acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal filed an amicus brief in a Supreme Court case on May 26 arguing against Medicaid patients and providers suing California over changes to its Medicaid program (Feder, 6/7).

The Wall Street Journal: Santorum Jumps In, Blasts Obama
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum formally entered the race for the Republican presidential nomination Monday, staking out ground as an ardent fiscal conservative who would overhaul both Social Security and Medicare to bring the budget into balance (Weisman, 6/7).

The Associated Press: Fact Check: Santorum Omits Key Details On Deficit
A look at some of Santorum's statements made Monday and how they compare with the facts. … SANTORUM: Under the 2010 health care overhaul, "it's the government for the first time that's going to have its clutches to create dependency on every single American. ... Every single American now will be hooked to the government with an IV. And they will come to you every time they want to do more and say, 'Well, you want that IV, you want that health care? Then you've got to give us more power.'" THE FACTS: The 2010 law preserves employer-based private insurance for most people, so they would not be wholly or perhaps even partly dependent on the government for health care. Obama quickly gave up on a government-run single-payer universal health insurance system that all Americans would count on. Even so, due to Medicare, Medicaid and more, government was an enormous player in health care long before last year's changes (Babington, 6/7).

The Wall Street Journal's Law Blog: Federal Judge Reviews Controversial Indiana Law Blocking Abortion Funding
A federal judge today heard arguments in a case involving a controversial Indiana law that bans organizations, including Planned Parenthood, from receiving Medicaid funds if they provide abortions (Koppel, 6/6).

NPR: U.S. Military Has New Threat: Health Care Costs
Defense Secretary Robert Gates says that pension and health care costs are eating the U.S. military alive. And the Pentagon predicts that the cost of taking care of its troops and retirees will keep growing (Keith, 6/7).

The New York Times: Taps For A Community Hospital
A railroad bridge separates Huron Hospital, one of the last remaining institutions in the impoverished neighborhood of East Cleveland, from the city's downtown and its two major hospitals (Abelson, 6/6).

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