KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: July 21, 2010

Today's headlines include news regarding specific examples of what could happen at the state level if Congress doesn't extend enhanced federal Medicaid funding. 

Despite Law, Mental Health Coverage Lacking In Many Insurance Plans
Kaiser Health News staff writer Kate Steadman checks in with Andrew Sperling, the National Alliance on Mental Illness's director of federal legislative advocacy, for a progress report on the implementation of the new mental health parity law (Kaiser Health News).

Lawmakers: Extend Medicaid Subsidies To Help African-American Seniors
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz reports: "Three black members of Congress on Tuesday said minority nursing home patients would be disproportionately affected if Congress fails to extend bonus payments to state Medicaid programs" (Kaiser Health News).

Cuts In Home Care Put Elderly And Disabled At Risk
As states face severe budget shortfalls, many have cut home-care services for the elderly or the disabled, programs that have been shown to save states money in the long run because they keep people out of nursing homes (The New York Times). 

Kids And Dental Health: Rising Costs And Struggling State Programs A Dangerous Mix
Let's face it: A visit to the dentist doesn't exactly make kids smile. But avoiding the dentist's chair is not only costing kids their health, it's costing their parents and the American taxpayer tons of money (The Fiscal Times).

U.S. Chamber To Launch Website For Businesses To Air Health Reform Grievances
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a fierce critic of the Democrats' health reforms, is creating a website for businesses to "catalogue … how the healthcare law is impacting them" (The Hill).

Healthcare And Wall Street Reform Legislation Boost K Street Profits
The legislative maneuvering over healthcare reform and Wall Street regulation boosted the revenues of several lobbying firms during the first half of 2010, according to disclosure forms filed Tuesday (The Hill).

Harvard Puts Tighter Limits On Medical Faculty
Harvard Medical School will prohibit its 11,000 faculty from giving promotional talks for drug and medical device makers and accepting personal gifts, travel, or meals, under a new policy intended partly to guard against companies' use of Harvard's prestige to market their products (The Boston Globe).

Shake-Up At Anthem Blue Cross As Its President Steps Down
The president of Anthem Blue Cross announced her resignation Tuesday amid stinging criticism of double-digit rate increases that infuriated consumers, lawmakers and government regulators (Los Angeles Times).

Margolin Is Leaving WellPoint
In a high-profile departure, Leslie Margolin, the president of WellPoint Inc.'s Anthem Blue Cross unit in California, is leaving the insurer to lead a new state health-care coalition (The Wall Street Journal).

Anthem Blue Cross Prez Quits After Rate Hike Fight
The president of Anthem Blue Cross in California announced her resignation Tuesday after the insurer's attempted rate increase became President Barack Obama's poster child for out-of-control health care costs (The Associated Press).

UnitedHealth Net Rises 31% As Some Key Costs Fall
Key to UnitedHealth's strong quarter was its medical-loss ratio, or the amount of premiums used to pay patient medical costs versus administrative expenses and profits. That metric fell to 81.5% from 83.6% year over year, reflecting lower medical costs from a weaker flu season and fewer visits to doctors and hospitals. Insurers set prices to cover anticipated medical spending plus profit and overhead, and when medical costs come in under those estimates, the insurer collects a larger return. The upside could be short-lived, though. Chief Executive Stephen Hemsley projected higher utilization of health services in the second half of the year, as well as new costs from the federal health overhaul (The Wall Street Journal).

Wal-Mart Is Sued Over Care
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is facing a potentially costly legal challenge in Colorado, where a class-action lawsuit accuses the world's largest retailer of conspiring to limit medical care for injured employees in a bid to save money (The Wall Street Journal).

Blacks Face Bone Marrow Donor Shortage
Bone marrow transplants are often the only treatment for blood-related cancers. The treatment, however, is dependent on the patient finding a donor who shares a similar genetic makeup. In most cases, that means the match is found in someone of the same race. But the black community has a particularly tough time attracting donors (NPR).

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