KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: June 6, 2012

Today's headlines include coverage of a new Congressional Budget Office report and a look at how the health insurance mandate is working in Massachusetts.  

Kaiser Health News: Michigan Medicaid Director: 'A Struggle' To Meet Deadlines If Law Upheld (Video)
Kaiser Health News' Mary Agnes Carey talks to Michigan Medicaid Director Steve Fitton about how it will be a "struggle" for his state to be ready to implement the health law on schedule if the Supreme Court upholds the measure. This interview is part of KHN's video series "Supreme Uncertainty: What's Next After The Court Rules," which solicits views from public officials and policy experts about the upcoming Supreme Court ruling on the health law and its implications for the future of health care (6/5). Watch the video or read the transcript.

Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill: Ahead Of Elections, GOP Readies Vote On Repealing Parts Of Health Law
Kaiser Health News' Mary Agnes Carey talks with Jackie Judd about two measures from the health law that the House GOP will attempt to roll back in votes this week. Republicans want votes on repeal now, Carey says, to make an economic argument ahead of elections (6/5). Watch the video or read the transcript.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Leavitt Talks Obesity Prevention, But Not Politics
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Shefali S. Kulkarni reports: "Just a few days after he was tapped to be a part of presidential-hopeful Mitt Romney’s transition team, Michael Leavitt Tuesday took on a very different mission: obesity. Leavitt was one of four former cabinet officials presenting a report on the economic impact of the obesity epidemic at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington" (Kulkarni, 6/5). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Washington Post: Gov. Walker Survives Recall In Wisconsin
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker won a vote to keep his job on Tuesday, surviving a recall effort that turned the Republican into a conservative icon and his state into the first battleground in a bitter, expensive election year (Fahrenthold and Weiner, 6/5).

The Washington Post: CBO: Taxmageddon Would Bring Tax Pain But Debt Relief
And the choices would not be easy. So far, lawmakers have focused their deficit-reduction efforts on a relatively abstract portion of the budget known as discretionary spending. But future spending growth is driven almost entirely by popular entitlement programs for the elderly, the CBO said, whose numbers are soaring as the baby-boom generation ages. The graying of America will push federal spending on programs such as Medicare and Social Security to more than 16 percent of the economy over the next 25 years, the CBO said. By comparison, total federal spending has averaged 18.5 percent of GDP over the past 40 years. Without significant changes to federal health and retirement programs, taxes will have to rise to historically high levels or the nation will sink inevitably into the red (Montgomery, 6/5).

Los Angeles Times: Rising U.S. Debt Could Trigger A Downturn, Agency Warns
Amid election year barbs over taxes and spending comes a jolt: A new report says that a U.S. debt crisis could hit soon and imperil the economy if Washington fails to staunch the red ink. … The bleak fiscal outlook throws into stark terms the politically difficult choices facing lawmakers and the next president: Allowing the debt level to continue unchecked would lower the nation's economic output and increase the possibility of a fiscal crisis in the years to come, the budget office warned. But taking sudden action to ease the debt load — by imposing new taxes or making deep cuts in federal spending or both — could slam the brakes on economic growth, pitching the nation into a recession in the first half 2013 (Mascaro, 6/6).

The New York Times: House Bill Takes A Scythe To Spending
Financial regulators would lose hundreds of millions of dollars needed to implement the new Wall Street regulatory law. The Internal Revenue Service's budget would not be increased, with a prohibition on cash transfers to implement the health care law. … Quietly, the House Appropriations Committee is working hard to undo much of the president's first-term ambitions — or at least provoke a showdown with the White House ahead of the fall election (Weisman, 6/5).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: In Mass., The Only State With An Individual Mandate, Few Are Forced to Pay Insurance Penalty
It's the single most contentious element of President Barack Obama's health care law: the requirement that nearly everyone have insurance or face a financial hit. But in Massachusetts, the only state with a so-called individual mandate, the threat of a tax penalty has sparked little public outcry since the state's landmark health care law was signed in 2006 by the governor, Mitt Romney (6/6).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Obama Secretary Sebelius Appeals To Women In Battleground Of Virginia With Health Care Message
President Barack Obama's Health and Human Services secretary brought a defense of the administration's health reforms to the electoral battleground of Virginia Tuesday with a direct appeal to women. In a stage-lighted living room chat with a half dozen women, Kathleen Sebelius heard stories Tuesday of how Obama's embattled Affordable Care Act had benefitted middle class women and children, an indirect complement to the Democrats' focus on women (6/5).

Los Angeles Times: Women Push To Make History Again In Election
Women's votes are particularly sought-after this year. … Hardly a week goes by — including this one — when the parties do not use the House and Senate as a battleground. On Tuesday, Senate Democrats tried to advance paycheck equity legislation, which would prohibit private companies from retaliating against workers who share pay and salary information. … The outcome of the day's vote produced another entry in the Democratic narrative that Republicans are engaged in a "war on women." First there was the Republican-led attack on President Obama's new contraceptive rules under the healthcare law. Then there was the all-male panel that was convened to discuss the issue by House Republicans and the GOP-led vote in the Senate against the contraceptive regulations (Mascaro, 6/5).

The New York Times: Abortion Qualms On Morning-After Pill May Be Unfounded
Labels inside every box of morning-after pills, drugs widely used to prevent pregnancy after sex, say they may work by blocking fertilized eggs from implanting in a woman’s uterus. Respected medical authorities, including the National Institutes of Health and the Mayo Clinic, have said the same thing on their Web sites. Such descriptions have become kindling in the fiery debate over abortion and contraception (Belluck, 6/5).

The New York Times’ City Room: Ruling Delayed On Adding Cancer To 9/11 Fund Illnesses
An eagerly awaited federal ruling on whether to include cancer among the illnesses that will be treated and result in compensation using money set aside by Congress for victims of the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center has been delayed by several days, federal officials said Tuesday (Hartocollis, 6/5).

USA Today: Army Review To Look At Mental Health Compensation
The Army says it will pore through — in less than 90 days — about 190,000 medical files of current and former soldiers dating to 2001 to see whether any were shortchanged on retirement compensation for mental health problems (Aoroya, 6/6).

Los Angeles Times: Life Expectancy Gap Narrows Between Blacks, Whites
The gap in life expectancy between black and white Americans is smaller than it has ever been, thanks largely to a decline in the number of deaths resulting from heart disease and HIV infection, a new analysis has found. … Blacks have higher rates of obesity, diabetes and hypertension. … Studies have documented that blacks are treated less aggressively than whites for heart problems, said Dr. James McPherson, medical director of the Los Angeles Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery Group and a spokesman for the American Heart Assn. Blacks are also less likely to have health insurance, so they are apt to be treated later in the course of heart disease than those with regular access to care (Mestel, 6/5).

Politico: California Cigarette Tax Too Close To Call
A Lance Armstrong-backed initiative in California to raise taxes on cigarettes for the funding of cancer research remained deadlocked Tuesday morning, reports the Associated Press. Just a few months ago, a statewide poll showed that Proposition 29 - to hike taxes $1 per pack - would pass with two-thirds support – but the morning after the polls closed, the vote remains too close to call (Mak, 6/6).

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