KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: June 1, 2012

Today's headlines include reports about the latest health policy developments on Capitol Hill and news on the health insurance marketplace.    

Kaiser Health News: Ex-Medicare Administrator: Premium Support 'Is Going To Have To Happen'
Kaiser Health News staff writer Marilyn Werber Serafini interviewed Thomas Scully, senior counsel at Alston & Bird, and a former Medicare administrator under President George W. Bush. Scully urged Democrats and Republicans to set aside partisan differences and take a closer look at the controversial premium-support model, which would give beneficiaries a set amount of money to purchase coverage (Werber Serafini, 5/31). Read the story or watch the related video.

Kaiser Health News: An Open Letter To The Supreme Court About Health Insurance
In this special, multi-page cartoon, Jen Sorensen illustrates the thoughts and opinions – and even her own considers - she hopes the Supreme Court will consider as the justices finalize their decision on the health law (Sorenson, 6/1). Check out the multi-page comic

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Feds Seek To Reduce Disparities In Childhood Asthma Rates
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, David Schultz reports on a new federal task force and action plan designed to eliminate the racial and ethnic gap among children suffering from asthma: "The task force's purpose is to pool the knowledge and resources of these various federal entities to ultimately lower asthma's sizeable public health costs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the total cost of asthma to the public, in both medical costs and lost school and work days, is $56 billion a year" (5/31). Check out what else is on the blog.

Los Angeles Times: Republicans Make New Offer In Student Loan Stalemate
Under the proposal, Republicans suggested raising the amount federal employees contribute toward their retirements, a proposal Obama had included in his budget for the coming fiscal year, but is unlikely to get broad support from Democrats, who have argued that government workers have already seen their benefits trimmed and pay frozen for the last several years. Republicans also suggested a second option that would cut off the loan subsidy – and allow interest to start accruing – for students who attend college part-time or take longer to finish college. The second option would also adjust Medicaid payments to the states (Mascaro, 5/31).

The Washington Post: New GOP Proposal On Student Loans
Congressional Republicans on Thursday outlined new ways to break the political impasse that threatens to drive up student loan rates July 1. … Two alternatives were offered for paying for the student loan freeze. In one, the costs would be offset by increasing the amount paid by federal employees for their retirement. In the other, a freeze on loan rates would be paid for through a combination of items: shortening the period during which part-time students would be eligible for federally subsidized loans; limiting the ability of states to recoup Medicaid costs through taxes on providers, which would lead to a slight reduction in Medicaid use and, therefore, lower costs to the federal government. ... (Helderman, 5/31).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Hill GOP Leaders Make New Offer To Obama In Fight Over Student Loans As Clock Ticks Away
House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other top Republicans made their proposals in a letter to Obama. They included savings from making it harder for states to collect some federal Medicaid reimbursements. … The House approved a GOP-written bill paying for the extension by abolishing a preventive health program, but that measure has drawn a White House veto threat. Republicans derailed a Senate Democratic bill financing the interest rate extension by boosting payroll taxes on some high-earning owners of private companies (5/31).

Los Angeles Times: Pelosi Expects Court To Vote 6-3 In Favor Of Obama Healthcare Law
As Washington awaits the Supreme Court’s ruling on President Obama’s healthcare law, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said the Affordable Care Act would withstand the constitutional challenge before the court and be upheld. "I know the Constitution – this bill is ironclad," Pelosi, the House minority leader, said Thursday. "It is ironclad" (Mascaro, 5/31).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: House GOP Releases Documents, Emails From White House Health Care Negotiations With Industry
The White House played political hardball with drug industry honchos to get a 2009 deal that helped keep health care overhaul legislation from bogging down in Congress, according to internal emails released Thursday by House Republicans (5/31).

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Emails Describe Deal-Making On Obama Health Bill
Newly released emails give an inside look at how the White House struck a deal with the pharmaceutical industry in 2009 to get support for the health bill that ultimately passed the next year (Mundy, 5/31).

Politico: Report: W.H. Pushed Hard For PhRMA Health Reform Deal
The Obama administration aggressively pursued the pharmaceutical industry to make a deal in support of health care reform legislation in mid-2009, according to a series of emails released Thursday by Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee (Haberkorn, 6/1).

The New York Times: Sense Of Peril For Health Law Gives Insurers Pause
As the Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of the federal health care law, one option that had seemed unthinkable to its designers and supporters now seems at least possible: that the court could strike down the entire law. Although it would be folly to predict what the court will conclude, policy experts, insurers, doctors and legislators are now seriously contemplating the repercussions of a complete change in course two years after the nation began to put the law into place (Abelson and Thomas, 5/30).

NPR: More Americans Are Checking Prices Before Getting Health Care
Do you shop around for the best price on a visit to the doctor, a CT scan or surgery at a hospital? If so, it looks like you've got a little more company (Hensley, 5/31).

Politico: How ACA Could Hit Massachusetts
Here's a health policy paradox that'll make you think: Is it possible that President Barack Obama's health law means bad news for the centerpiece of the Massachusetts health reform? No state is a bigger cheerleader than Massachusetts for the Affordable Care Act; the state's 2006 coverage expansion was a model for the federal law enacted two years ago. But if most of the ACA is implemented in 2014, there's real concern in the Bay State about the viability of the Massachusetts Health Connector, the state’s health insurance exchange (Millman, 6/1).

Los Angeles Times: UnitedHealth To Rebate $3.5 Million To California Small Businesses
Nearly 4,400 small businesses in California will share in $3.5 million in rebates from insurance giant UnitedHealth Group Inc. this summer as insurers nationwide prepare to return millions of dollars to customers as a key benefit of the federal healthcare law kicks in (Terhune, 5/31).

The Wall Street Journal: Humana Remains On The Lookout For Medicare Deals
Health insurer Humana, which has boosted its already-large roster of Medicare Advantage-covered patients with a couple of recent purchases of Medicare-plan providers, remains a potential buyer (Kamp, 5/31).

Reuters/Chicago Tribune: U.S. House Panel Backs Medical Device Tax Repeal
A Republican-controlled congressional panel voted on Thursday to repeal a tax on medical devices, a key revenue provision in President Barack Obama's 2010 healthcare reform law, but the measure was not expected to become law. Approval in the House, which is dominated by Republicans, was viewed as probable, possibly as soon as next week. But the measure faced an uphill climb in the Democrat-controlled Senate, where parallel legislation lacks bipartisan sponsors (Temple-West, 5/31).

The New York Times: House Rejects Bill To Ban Sex-Selective Abortions
The House on Thursday rejected a measure that sought to impose fines and prison terms on doctors who perform abortions on women who are trying to select the gender of their offspring — a practice known as sex-selective abortion (Steinhauer, 5/31).

The Washington Post: Bill Banning 'Sex-Selection Abortions' Fails In The House
A measure to ban abortions based on the sex of a child failed Thursday after proponents were unable to earn enough support in the House, but GOP abortion opponents said they achieved their strategic goal of forcing Democrats to vote against it (O'Keefe, 5/31).

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