KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: August 18, 2009

Today's headlines seem to raise some key questions: What about that public option and what about those co-operatives?

Checking In With Ascension Health, Largest Catholic Health System
Ascension Health, the nation's largest Catholic system and largest nonprofit provider in the United States, runs 66 general hospitals, along with cancer centers, home health services, clinics and nursing homes. Last year, its bad debt from treating uninsured and under insured people grew by $167 million, or 23 percent. President and CEO Anthony Tersigni says the true measure of reform is to cover all Americans with insurance, then tackle costs and improve quality (Kaiser Health News).

Boehner Blasts PhRMA On Deal With White House
The drug industry's decision to agree to $80 billion in concessions to the White House was short-sighted, will hurt drug manufacturers and their customers, and "has all the markings of a deal gone sour," House Minority Leader John Boehner wrote Monday to his former colleague, Billy Tauzin, who now heads the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (Kaiser Health News).

Public Option Called Essential
Several leading Democrats voiced concern Monday about an apparent White House shift on health-care reform, objecting to signals from senior administration officials that they would abandon the idea of a government-run insurance plan if it lacked the backing to pass Congress (The Washington Post).

Cooperatives Being Pushed As An Alternative To A Government Plan
As prospects fade for a public, or government-run, option as part of health-care reform, key senators are considering another model to create competition for private insurers: member-owned, nonprofit health cooperatives (The Washington Post).

Obama's Healthcare Trade-Off
By dropping his insistence on a public insurance option, President Obama angered some of his most loyal supporters but sharply improved the odds of passing a far-reaching healthcare overhaul (Los Angeles Times).

Alternate Plan As Health Option Muddies Debate
The White House has indicated that it could accept a nonprofit health care cooperative as an alternative to a new government insurance plan, originally favored by President Obama. But the co-op idea is so ill defined that no one knows exactly what it would look like or how effectively it would compete with commercial insurers (The New York Times).

If Public Option In Healthcare Is Dead, What's Next
In recent days, the White House pointedly has become less supportive of including in healthcare reform legislation the so-called "public option" – a government-run health plan intended to compete with private insurers (The Christian Science Monitor).

Health Care Concession Riles Left; Right Unmoved
President Barack Obama's weekend concession on a health care "government option" drew complaints from liberals and scarce interest from Republicans and other critics on Monday, a fresh sign of the daunting challenge in finding middle ground in an increasingly partisan political struggle (The Associated Press).

Liberals Revolt Over Public Option
The White House's signal that it's willing to back off support for a public health insurance option has sent congressional liberals into full revolt, bluntly warning the administration that no legislation will pass without a government-run plan. (Politico).

White House Reassures Allies
The White House sought Monday to reassure allies that its enthusiasm for a government-sponsored insurance plan remains strong, following an uproar over comments by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (The Wall Street Journal).

White House: No Change On Public Option
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs insisted Monday that there has been no change in President Barack Obama's desire to see a public health insurance option be part of a healthcare bill (The Hill).

Grassley Says State Of 'Public Option' Is Unclear
U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley said Monday that he was unsure what to make of suggestions that President Barack Obama would drop proposals for a new government-run insurance plan (Des Moines Register).

Unemployed Workers Flock To COBRA
A federal subsidy designed to make health insurance more affordable for laid-off workers has led to a doubling in the number of people who have opted to continue their former employer's coverage (USA Today).

Lack Of Medicare Appointee Puzzles Congress
President Obama has made health care his top priority. He says the cost of Medicare and Medicaid is "the biggest threat" to the nation's fiscal future. But to the puzzlement of Congress and health care experts around the country, Mr. Obama has not named anyone to lead the agency that runs the two giant programs (The New York Times).

A Health Plan Linchpin Commands Respect
For many Washington lawmakers, it's been an angry August: returning home for the summer recess, they have faced put-downs, shout-downs, and worse at the hands of some constituents seething about the proposed health care overhauls before Congress. But Senator Olympia Snowe, a pivotal player in the health care drama, has seen nothing of the kind since she came home to Maine last week (The Boston Globe).

Medical Fraud Carries A Staggering Price Tag
In the midst of the health care debate, there's a point of certainty. Everyone - Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives - would like to see health care fraud wiped out (NPR).

Probing Doctors' Ties To Industry
You may not be able to trust your mortgage broker, your car salesman or your congressman, but you can trust your doctor. Can't you? (The Washington Post).

End-Of-Life Issues Need To Be Addressed
In all the discussion of health care reform, there is one issue that has received short shrift but has the potential to save billions of dollars and untold suffering if it is effectively addressed. I'm talking about futile treatments at or near the end of life (The New York Times). 


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