KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: July 29, 2011

Today's headlines include speculation about how the debt-ceiling debate may have altered the discussion regarding changes to Medicare. 

Kaiser Health News: New Options For Primary Care (Video)
Kaiser Health News' "Insuring Your Health" columnist Michelle Andrews talks with Jackie Judd about convenient ways consumers are getting health care: House calls, workplace clinics and free-standing emergency rooms. And, most of the time, insurers will cover the visit (7/28).

Kaiser Health News: Why IPAB Is Essential – A Timely Review (Guest Opinion)
In his latest Kaiser Health News column, Jonathan Cohn writes that earlier in July, he followed the House Budget Committee's hearings on the heatlh law's Independent Payment Advisory Board. The experience inspired him to offer this reminder of what it is; how it will work; and why it is essential to controlling Medicare costs (7/28).

Kaiser Health News: The Questionable Lure Of Free Long-Term Placement Services (Guest Opinion)
In this Kaiser Health News column, David Spiegel  writes that Internet long-term care placement services are the cyberspace era's quick fix solution for many Americans seeking non-nursing home institutional care for their aging parents or relatives. But their expertise in navigating this bewildering world of assisted living is, at best, a hit-or-miss proposition (7/28).

The Washington Post: Debt-Limit Vote Is Canceled In House As Boehner, GOP Leaders Struggle To Gain Votes
House Speaker John A. Boehner abruptly canceled a vote on his plan to lift the federal debt limit late Thursday after failing to persuade recalcitrant conservatives to back the measure and help him avert an economy-rattling default. … But with GOP leaders unable to offer assurances that the needed support would materialize, Senate Democrats laid plans to proceed with their own debt-ceiling plan in hopes of pushing a measure through Congress by Tuesday, when the U.S. Treasury says it could begin running short of cash to pay the nation's bills (Montgomery and Kane, 7/28).

The New York Times: Rival Plans Avoid Tough Decisions
The two main deficit-reduction plans in the House and the Senate, which would tie cuts in federal spending to an increase in the debt limit, both defer tough decisions and rely heavily on procedural steps to impose fiscal discipline. … Savings in entitlement programs and other "mandatory spending" total $20 billion over 10 years under the House bill and about twice that amount under Mr. Reid's plan. … Both plans would trim mandatory spending by eliminating some overpayments and fraudulent payments in Social Security disability programs, Medicare and Medicaid. The Boehner and Reid plans would both establish a bipartisan committee of House and Senate members to recommend additional deficit reduction measures, which could include changes in entitlement programs and tax law (Pear, 7/28).

Los Angeles Times: U.S. May Be Able To Pay Bills Beyond Debt-Ceiling Deadline
Obama administration officials have been adamant for weeks that Tuesday is the date the Treasury Department no longer will be able to pay the nation's bills if the debt ceiling isn't raised. But the government might be able to buy some more time. … Payments for interest on U.S. debt, national defense and safety net programs such as Social Security and Medicare account for about 85% of federal expenditures. Failure to pay bills in any of those areas would have an immediate negative effect throughout the country (Puzzanghera, 7/29).

Politico: Medicare At 67: The Next Big Change?
President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner failed to strike a "grand bargain" on the nation's deficit, but they may have pulled off another trick: revolutionizing the debate over Medicare (Haberkorn, 7/28).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Poll: Many Baby Boomers Concerned About Paying For Retirement, Health Care Costs
The struggling economy, a longer life expectancy, ever-increasing health care costs and challenges facing Social Security are putting added pressure on the boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964 (7/28).

Politico: Nancy Pelosi: Kiss Your Medicare Goodbye
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi dialed up the rhetoric before Speaker John Boehner's plan to raise the debt limit heads to the House floor for a vote, declaring it a "job-killer" and saying seniors could "kiss their Medicare good-bye" (Kim, 7/28).

NPR: Abortion-Rights Group Faults Republican Presidential Field
OK, this shouldn't come as much of a surprise. But the abortion-rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America says that none of the declared Republican candidates for president - nor any of those thought to be waiting in the wings - would pass muster with voters who support a woman's right to choose (Rovner, 7/28).

Los Angeles Times: Robotic Pharmacies Fill Prescriptions Faster
At Molina Medical Group clinics in Southern California, a vending machine rather than a pharmacist dispenses prescription drugs. Molina officials say the machines make life simpler for patients, but their use has drawn objections from some pharmacists (Ehrenfreund, 7/29).

The New York Times: Hospitals In Brooklyn Defended At Hearing
A stream of hospital administrators, a state assemblyman, doctors and advocates for immigrants took the microphone at a sometimes raucous hearing in Downtown Brooklyn on Thursday to plead with state officials not to close, merge or shrink troubled hospitals in the borough (Hartocollis, 7/28).

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