KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: April 25, 2012

Today's headlines include reports that Medicare is proposing a change in how it decides hospital reimbursements and the latest on the GOP Capitol Hill budget strategy.  

Kaiser Health News: Los Angeles Is Betting On One Crusading Doc To Turn Public Health System Around
KQED's Sarah Varney, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "It would be easy to confuse Dr. Mitch Katz with any other doctor at the Roybal Comprehensive Health Center in East Los Angeles. His desk in a closet-sized, windowless office is littered with patient records, x-rays and cans of Diet Coke" (Varney, 4/24). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Medicare To Add Hospital Efficiency, Patient Safety To Payment Formula
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Jordan Rau reports: "Medicare is proposing a significant change in how it decides on hospital reimbursements, adding two measures of patient safety and a financial assessment of whether hospitals are careful stewards of Medicare's money" (Rau, 4/24).

Also on Capsules, Marilyn Werber Serafini reports on the prognosis for Medicare: "If readers can bear the first 276 pages of bad news in the annual Medicare trustees report,  released Monday, they will come to several pages in which Medicare Chief Actuary Richard Foster argues the program’s financial future is even bleaker than what the trustees suggest. Foster acknowledges the trustees did exactly the job they were asked to do, basing their findings on current law, including the 2010 overhaul" (Werber Serafini, 4/24). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: GOP Pulls Its Budget Punches As Follow Up Legislation Advances On Capitol Hill
Instead of big reductions in Medicaid and Medicare, top GOP lawmakers are sticking mostly with familiar proposals like cutting money for President Barack Obama's health care overhaul and federal employee pensions while reaching out to Democrats to help pass annual spending bills (4/24).

The New York Times: Disability Insurance Causes Pain
Every year, when the trustees of Social Security and Medicare publish their report on the programs' finances they set off a round of partisan bickering about the solvency of the twin programs covering pensions and health care for retired Americans. Every year, a vitally important issue gets lost in the din: disability insurance payments, which account for almost $1 out of every $5 spent by Social Security, are growing out of control (Porter, 4/24).

The Wall Street Journal: Romney Sweeps 5 Wins, Promises 'Better America'
In his remarks, Romney spoke dismissively of Obama's tenure in office. "Government is at the center of his vision. It dispenses the benefits, borrows what it cannot take and consumes a greater and greater share of the economy," he said. He added that if the president's hard-won health care law is fully installed, "government will continue to control half the economy, and we will have effectively ceased to be a free enterprise society" (4/24).

The New York Times: Debt Collector Is Faulted For Tough Tactics In Hospitals
Hospital patients waiting in an emergency room or convalescing after surgery are being confronted by an unexpected visitor: a debt collector at bedside. This and other aggressive tactics by one of the nation's largest collectors of medical debts, Accretive Health, were revealed on Tuesday by the Minnesota attorney general, raising concerns that such practices have become common at hospitals across the country (Silver-Greenberg, 4/24).

The Hill: Fewer Employers Offering Health Benefits, Study Says
Fewer employers are offering healthcare coverage and fewer employees are taking it, a new study reports. The survey, conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), found a steady drop in the number of private-sector employers that offer health benefits to their workers (Baker, 4/24).

Politico: FDA Bill Up In The Air Over Proposed Changes
The only health legislation that has any chance of passing before the elections this fall will be marked up by both chambers later this week, but key differences over proposed amendments to the FDA user fee bill in the House and Senate could lead to a protracted fight (Norman, 4/25).

Reuters/Chicago Tribune: Prescription Drug Abuse Abetted By Family, Friends: Study
More than 70 percent of people who abuse prescription pain relievers obtain the drugs from friends or relatives, usually with permission and for free, according to a government study to be released on Wednesday. The study, based on data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, underscores the public education challenge that law enforcement officials face in persuading legitimate prescription drug users to dispose of their medications properly before they fall into the wrong hands (Morgan, 4/24). 

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