KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: March 16, 2011

Today's headlines include reports about how some states are putting "their own spin" on health law implementation as well as other developments related to Medicaid cuts, health law waiver tallies and more.   

Kaiser Health News: Many Adults Struggle To Pay Medical Bills, Report Finds
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Aimee Miles writes: "A recession-driven spike in unemployment levels, rising treatment costs and unaffordable insurance coverage caused four in 10 Americans to struggle to pay their medical bills last year, according to a report by the Commonwealth Fund" (Miles, 3/16).

Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill: Health Law Funding A GOP Sticking Point In Spending Bill
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey and the Washington Post's Amy Goldstein join KFF's Jackie Judd to talk about developments on the Hill. Watch the video (3/15).

Kaiser Health News Column: The 'Missing Link' In ACOs: Patients
In this Kaiser Health News column, Mark Lutes and Joel Brill write: "Advocates maintain that ACOs will achieve these goals as a result of adjustments to provider payments designed to give physicians incentives to get their patients to stop smoking, lose weight, take medications, get vaccinated and avoid alcohol excess, among other healthy behaviors. But is it realistic to leverage the success of these organizations on physician incentives alone? … In other words, what about patients?" (3/15).

Los Angeles Times: Republicans Split, But House Approves Stopgap Budget Bill
The GOP-led House approved a short-term spending bill Tuesday but only after dozens of Republicans rejected the measure, forcing party leaders to rely on Democrats to achieve passage and help skirt a threatened government shutdown (Mascaro, 3/15).

The Washington Post: House Approves Funding Bill Keeping Government Open Until April 8
The House approved a resolution Tuesday that would keep the government running through early April, even as dozens of Republicans signaled that they would no longer support short-term budget fixes. … Complicating the effort to resolve this year's budget are two upcoming events: the unveiling of the House Republican budget proposal for next year, with its politically perilous recommendations for entitlement reform; and the need for Congress to approve an increase in the federal debt limit (Kane and Sonmez, 3/15).

The Wall Street Journal: House Approves Spending Cuts
The new measure, the sixth such stopgap bill, would fund the government until April 8. Many government operations would be suspended after that date unless Congress passed a new funding mechanism. House conservatives complained that spending was being handled piecemeal and that the bill omitted several policy-related provisions, or "riders." These included measures to defund the new health law and to cut money for Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The group provides abortions as well as other health services for women, though tax dollars do not pay for abortions (Bendavid and Hook, 3/16).

The Associated Press: States Put Their Own Spin On Obama Health Care Law
Rancor over President Barack Obama's health care overhaul has largely overshadowed some states' efforts to use the law to help them move as fast as possible to insure more people and increase control over insurance companies (3/15).

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Health Law Waivers Scorecard: Yes: 1,040. No: 79.
The Obama administration Tuesday answered Republican lawmakers seeking to know how many employers and health care providers have been refused waivers from certain requirements of the federal health care overhaul. The answer: 79 as of late February, according to documents released this week by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  By comparison, 1,040 entities received the waivers. Those denied waivers include Mesa Air Group and local branches of the Teamsters and United Food and Commercial Workers unions (Adamy, 3/15).

Politico: Don't Cower; Embrace Health Care Law, Says Anthony Weiner
Rep. Anthony Weiner wants the Democrats to ditch the "hiding-under-our-desk" strategy and embrace the health care law in 2012 - because it will be a campaign issue whether they like it or not (Nather, 3/15).

The New York Times Prescriptions Blog: The Debate over Brokers' Fees
The issue of how to weigh the cost of paying insurance brokers under the new federal health care law is up for debate again, even though state regulators made their final recommendations last year  (Abelson, 3/15).

The Washington Post: Report: State Boards Don't Punish All Doctors Sanctioned By Hospitals
State medical boards have failed to discipline 55 percent of the nation's doctors who were sanctioned by the hospitals where they worked, according to a report released Tuesday by Public Citizen (Sun, 3/16).

Los Angeles Times: Health Net Faces Second Probe Over Lost Personal Data
A second California insurance regulator has announced plans to investigate insurer Health Net Inc. for losing computer records that contain Social Security numbers and other personal information of nearly 2 million current and former policyholders (Helfand, 3/16).

NPR: States' Abortion Legislation Questioned By Critics
State legislatures are considering a new wave of abortion restrictions this year. Some require longer waiting periods to get abortions. Others would direct doctors to show women ultrasounds of fetuses. But critics say new conservative lawmakers are pushing these bills to test the limits (Lohr, 3/16).

The New York Times: In Albany, Battle Lines Are Drawn Over The Budget
Both houses of the State Legislature passed budgets on Tuesday that rejected crucial provisions of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's overhaul of Medicaid and restored hundreds of millions of dollars in proposed cuts to education, drawing sharp battle lines with the governor two weeks before the deadline to pass a spending plan (Kaplan, 3/15).

The Wall Street Journal: Ohio Governor Poses Steep Cuts To Trim Deficit
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, mirroring the moves of other newly elected Republicans, proposed a two-year budget Tuesday that would close an $8 billion gap by selling prisons, reshaping Medicaid and sharply cutting aid to cities (Merrick and Maher, 3/16).

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