KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: November 17, 2010

Today's headlines include reports about the recommendations from a second deficit reduction panel and about the unveiling of new Medicare and Medicaid projects aimed at improving the quality of care.

Scorecard: How Health Industry PACs Placed Their Election Bets
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, in collaboration with Politico, Bara Vaida and Christopher Weaver write: "Health-sector PACs – ranging from doctors to hospitals to drug companies – generally favored Democrats. Of the $42 million that 122 health sector PACs gave to congressional candidates this cycle, 58 percent went to Democrats and 41 percent to Republicans, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics" (Kaiser Health News). See the related chart.

New Deficit Report Recommends Seniors Pay More For Medicare
Kaiser Health News staff writers Phil Galewitz and Jordan Rau report: "Offering the latest tough-love strategy to reduce the nation's debt, a panel of high-profile Republicans and Democrats is scheduled on Wednesday to recommend that Medicare beneficiaries pick up far more of their health care costs and the government substantially curb the amount both Medicare and Medicaid programs can grow in future years" (Kaiser Health News).

Administration Unexpectedly Expands Bonus Payments For Medicare Advantage Plans
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Appleby writes: "In a surprising move, the Obama administration will extend special bonus payments meant to reward top-performing Medicare Advantage insurers to those that score only average ratings" (Kaiser Health News).

New Medicare/Medicaid Projects Aimed At Cheaper, Better Care
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey reports: "Promising fast action, the new Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation is launching a series of initiatives aimed at improving medical care while reducing its cost, officials said Tuesday" (Kaiser Health News).

Hospice Or Hospital? Where You Die Depends On Where You Live
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jordan Rau reports: "America's hospitals treat patients with life-ending cancers very differently in their final months, with some deploying chemotherapy and other life-prolonging efforts until the end and others directing most of their patients into hospice, a new study finds. The report released today by the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care argues that many patients are getting aggressive care that might not be best for them. It also adds to the drain on Medicare's pocketbook-a point the report doesn't address" (Kaiser Health News).

Fasten Your Seat Belts! An Even Tougher Deficit Plan
The task force report outlines measures to "blow up the income tax and start over," slash projected Medicare and Medicaid costs by $756 billion over the coming decade, impose a medium-term freeze on defense and domestic discretionary spending, introduce a host of solvency-creating Social Security reforms, and impose a national "debt reduction sales tax," Rivlin told The Fiscal Times during a recent interview in her Brookings Institution office (The Fiscal Times).

Medicare, Medicaid Quality Plan Unveiled
The Obama administration on Tuesday announced new initiatives to boost the quality of medical care that Americans receive, laying the foundation for what many experts think could be one of the most far-reaching benefits of the new healthcare law (Los Angeles Times).

Anthem Blue Cross To Pay Hospitals $1.62 Million To Settle Payment Dispute
California's largest for-profit health insurer has agreed to pay a total of $1.62 million to seven hospitals to settle allegations that it failed to properly reimburse the providers for patient care (Los Angeles Times).

GOP Leadership Struggle For Key Panel Turns Nasty
The Energy and Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over critical sectors of the economy, including health care and telecommunications. With Republicans in control, it is expected to be a launching pad for efforts to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law, a top priority for many conservative voters, and for challenges to administration regulatory and energy policies, including efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency to curb greenhouse gases (The Wall Street Journal).

Crowley To Repealers: Skip Coverage
New York Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley, a fierce defender of President Obama's health care reform, is asking Republicans who want to repeal the law to forgo their taxpayer-subsidized health insurance out of principle (Politico).

What's Behind More Businesses Offering Insurance?
More small companies are offering medical insurance to their employees. In the past year, the number has increased by 15 percent. A Bernstein Research survey indicates the reason is the health care overhaul legislation. The law offers immediate tax breaks for small business owners (NPR).

Study Examines End-Of-Life Care For Cancer Patients
One in three patients with advanced cancer spend their final days in hospitals receiving costly, aggressive treatments they may not want, according to a major national study released Tuesday (Los Angeles Times).

Wide Disparities Found In Late-Stage Cancer Care
The proportion of cancer patients who die in the hospital and who get hospice care varies widely from region to region and hospital to hospital across the country, according to a new report (The Washington Post).

Mont. Governor Offers New Cheap Drug Plan To Feds
The governor of Montana asked Tuesday for federal permission to sell cheaper prescription drugs in his state through the federal Medicaid program, a proposal he expects will catch the eye of other cash-strapped states (The Associated Press/Washington Post).

Arizona Budget Cuts Put Organ Transplants At Risk
In Arizona, 98 low-income patients approved for organ transplants have been told they are no longer getting them because of state budget cuts (NPR).

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