KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: April 16, 2010

Today's headlines highlight the passage of a temporary extension of jobless benefits -- including a COBRA subsidy -- and a directive issued by President Obama to extend medical rights for same-sex partners.

Conservative Target Rep. Betsy Markey On Health Law: 'I'm Proud To Have Voted For It'
Kaiser Health News staff writer Andrew Villegas reports: "Like other swing-district Democrats, Rep. Betsy Markey has a health care target on her back, and is working to defuse criticism before the November elections. After voting against the House version of a health reform bill, Markey later decided to vote for the Senate bill that was amended and is now the law. The switch has Republicans hopeful they'll reclaim the seat they held for years in the largely rural and conservative Colorado Fourth District" (Kaiser Health News).

Obama Extends Hospital Visitation Rights To Same-Sex Partners Of Gays
President Obama mandated Thursday that nearly all hospitals extend visitation rights to the partners of gay men and lesbians and respect patients' choices about who may make critical health-care decisions for them, perhaps the most significant step so far in his efforts to expand the rights of gay Americans (The Washington Post).

Obama Widens Medical Rights For Same-Sex Partners
The White House announced the rule changes, which will also make it easier for gay men and lesbians to make medical decisions on behalf of their partners, in a memorandum released Thursday night (The New York Times).

Obama: Hospitals Must Grant Same-Sex Visitations
President Obama issues a memorandum Thursday to the Department of Health and Human Services, ordering hospitals to give same-sex couples the right to be with a partner who is sick or dying, gave them that right. The memorandum applies to every hospital that receives Medicare or Medicaid funding -- nearly every hospital in the country (NPR).

Obama Orders Most Hospitals To Grant Gays Visitation Rights
President Obama late Thursday ordered most hospitals in the country to grant the same visitation rights to gay and lesbian partners that they do to married heterosexual couples (Los Angeles Times).

New Rules Give Gays Hospital Visit Rights
President Barack Obama ordered new rules Thursday that will give gays and lesbians the right to visit their partners in the hospital and make decisions about their care, a marriage benefit sometimes denied to same-sex couples (The Wall Street Journal).

President Signs Bill To Extend Jobless Aid
Democrats hope to use the next few weeks to negotiate legislation to provide the added unemployment aid and other benefits through the end of the year so that they can avoid what has become a recurring fight over the handling of the costs of the program. The legislation also provided temporary extension of the federal flood insurance program and averted a 21 percent cut in doctor fees paid by Medicare (The New York Times).

Obama Signs $18 Billion Jobless Benefits Bill
The measure comes as welcome relief to hundreds of thousands of people who lost out on the additional weeks of compensation after exhausting their state-paid benefits. They now will be able to reapply for long-term unemployment benefits and receive those checks retroactively under the legislation. The bill also restores full Medicare payments to doctors who were threatened by a 21 percent cut and refloats the flood insurance program (The Washington Post).

Obama Signs Extension Of Jobless Benefits
President Obama signed an extension of jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed Thursday night that will allow those whose aid expired to apply retroactively. … The bill also extends COBRA health insurance subsidies and federal flood insurance and restores Medicare payments to doctors, who were about to absorb a 21% reduction in payments (Los Angeles Times).

Pay-Go Rules Come Back To Bite Dems
Democrats have overcome a series of filibusters and procedural snafus in passing a short-term extension of unemployment benefits and other domestic programs. But a Senate vote Thursday evening was merely a $9.2 billion band-aid that masks a more daunting problem for Democrats: How to pay for the rest of their domestic agenda - including a long-term unemployment bill - under the strict pay-as-you-go rules they adopted earlier this year. The short-term unemployment benefits bill … also includes the COBRA health program and a Medicare reimbursement adjustment known as the "doc fix." The bill bypassed pay-as-you-go rules because it was designated as a temporary "emergency" spending plan. But now Democrats are stuck (Politico).

Low-Cost Coverage In Obama Health Plan Not For All
It's an eagerly awaited early benefit of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul: affordable coverage for Americans with medical problems who can't get a private insurer to even take a look (The Associated Press).

IRS May Withhold Tax Refunds To Enforce Health-Care Law
The Internal Revenue Service won't audit you to make sure you have purchased health insurance under provisions of the new health-care law-but it may withhold your tax refund if you can't demonstrate that you are insured, an IRS official said Thursday (The Wall Street Journal).

Breyer: New Health Care Overhaul Law Likely To Come Before High Court Someday
Justice Stephen Breyer predicted Thursday that the Supreme Court will one day pass judgment on this year's health care overhaul (The Associated Press).

Federal Cancer Research Network Is Faulted
The government's cancer research network is "approaching a state of crisis"' as waste and inefficiency cause 40 percent of late-stage trials it funds to be abandoned before completion, according to a report released yesterday (Bloomberg News/The Boston Globe).

Connector Chief To Step Down
Jon Kingsdale, head of the quasi-state agency that oversees Massachusetts' landmark health law, is stepping down June 4, Governor Deval Patrick said yesterday. Kingsdale, 61, said in an interview that he has not yet decided on his next step, but is interested in working on implementation of the national health care overhaul that was in large measure modeled on the Massachusetts law. He said he had spoken with the Obama administration, but for now has decided against taking a job in the federal government (The Boston Globe).

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