KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: April 14, 2010

Today's headlines explore a variety of health-policy developments at the state level.

Senate Dems Say Jobless Benefits Bill On Track
A measure to restore eligibility for the jobless to receive up to 99 weeks of unemployment checks appears on track despite objections from Republicans concerned about its $18 billion cost. … Several other programs have also lapsed, including federal flood insurance, higher Medicare payment rates for doctors and health insurance subsidies for people who have lost their jobs. The expiration of the programs means that the newly jobless aren't eligible to sign up for health insurance subsidies but that people currently covered under the so-called COBRA law retain the benefit (The Associated Press).

Can Technology Cure Health Care?
Digital medical records come with some big promises. They'll improve patient care, in part by eliminating many errors. They'll stem the soaring growth in costs. They'll make health care more efficient (The Wall Street Journal).

Confusion Over Insurance Changeover For Congress
Among the Americans whose health insurance arrangements will definitely be changed by the new health care law are members of Congress themselves. The law stipulates that lawmakers and some members of their staffs enroll in new health insurance exchanges. But an apparent drafting error in the law makes it unclear when that transition is supposed to occur (NPR).

Doctor Shortage? 28 States May Expand Nurses' Role
A nurse may soon be your doctor. With a looming shortage of primary care doctors, 28 states are considering expanding the authority of nurse practitioners. These nurses with advanced degrees want the right to practice without a doctor's watchful eye and to prescribe narcotics. And if they hold a doctorate, they want to be called "Doctor" (The Associated Press).

Partners Offers $40 M To Ease Rates
Partners HealthCare, whose Boston teaching hospitals have been blamed for helping to drive up medical spending, is offering $40 million toward reducing double-digit health insurance rate increases for small businesses, part of a broader package that will be unveiled today by Senate President Therese Murray (The Boston Globe).

Auditors Critical Of Nebraska Mental-Health Reform
The Legislature's Performance Audit Committee report identified several concerns. The auditors say the state agency overseeing the state's shift from state psychiatric hospitals to more community-based care as required by a 2004 law is falling short of several planning goals. HHS officials have yet to develop a statewide comprehensive plan to guide the six regional boards that distribute funding for mental-health care (The Associated Press).

Georgia Insurance Commissioner Balks At Request On New Health Law
The insurance commissioner of Georgia has chosen not to comply with a federal request to create a state pool for high-risk insurance plans, opening a new front in the resistance by state Republican officials to the new federal health care law (The New York Times).

Nebraska Law Sets Limits On Abortion
Gov. Dave Heineman of Nebraska signed a law on Tuesday banning most abortions 20 weeks after conception or later on the theory that a fetus, by that stage in pregnancy, has the capacity to feel pain. The law, which appears nearly certain to set off legal and scientific debates, is the first in the nation to restrict abortions on the basis of fetal pain (The New York Times).

Hospital Infection Problem Persists
The nagging and largely solvable problem of hospital-acquired infections remains as resistant to cure as the germs that contribute to an estimated 100,000 deaths a year, according to an annual government study issued Tuesday (The New York Times).

Insurance Concerns May Delay Heart Attack Patients From Seeking Treatment
Patients without health insurance, and those who are insured but fear the cost of medical care, are more likely to delay seeking life-saving treatment when having a heart attack (Los Angeles Times).

An Insurer's New Approach To Diabetes
The UnitedHealth Group, one of the nation's largest health insurers, is teaming up with the Y.M.C.A. and retail pharmacies to try a new approach to one of the nation's most serious and expensive medical problems: Type 2 diabetes (The New York Times).

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