KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: September 16, 2011

In today's headlines, reports that, despite dire predictions by health law opponents about the Medicare Advantage program, its premiums are falling and its enrollment is rising.

Kaiser Health News: Medicare Advantage Premiums To Fall 4% Next Year
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz, working in collaboration with The Washington Post, reports: "Dire predictions by insurers and Republicans that the 2010 health law would cause private Medicare health plans to raise prices and lower benefits on beneficiaries have turned out to be a false alarm — at least for now. The Obama administration on Thursday said the nearly 12 million senior citizens enrolled in Medicare health plans will see their monthly premiums drop by an average of 4 percent while benefits remain stable next year. In addition, they said, premiums fell by an average of 7 percent, much higher than the 1 percent the government projected a year ago" (Galewitz, 9/15).

Kaiser Health News: Insurance Commissioners To Tell Congress Not To Change Medigap Policies
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Susan Jaffe writes: "Next week, the bipartisan National Association of Insurance Commissioners is expected to send a letter to Congress opposing changes that would require beneficiaries to pay a higher share of the cost of their supplemental Medigap insurance. Seven million Medicare beneficiaries already pay monthly premiums for these policies that cover a portion of medical expenses Medicare doesn't" (Jaffe, 9/15).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: MedPAC Preparing Doc Fix Plan; Texas And Feds Agree ‘In Principal’ On Medicaid Overhaul
On Capsules, KHN’s news blog, Marilyn Werber Serafini reports: "Even before MedPAC finalizes a long-term doc fix proposal, the complicated – and expensive – task is proving difficult. The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, which advises Congress on Medicare payment policy, is drafting a plan to permanently replace the program’s current method for paying physicians. It intends to get a proposal to Capitol Hill in October, but today's draft already is sparking controversy." Also on the blog, Christopher Weaver writes: "Texas officials received a long awaited thumbs up from the federal government on a proposed overhaul of the Texas Medicaid program this week, according to a letter obtained by Kaiser Health News."

Kaiser Health News: Different Takes: How To Set The Health Law's Essential Benefits Package
Kaiser Health News asked a group of experts what core principles should steer the development of this rule if it is to both benefit consumers and the marketplace. Commentaries follow from Utah Rep. James Dunnigan; A. Mark Fendrick, who directs the University of Michigan Center for Value-Based Insurance Design; and Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families (9/15).

The Washington Post: Boehner Says No New Taxes For Debt Panel
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday reaffirmed GOP opposition to any tax increases to solve the nation's deficit problem, signaling a swift return to the trench warfare that characterized the debt and spending debate of early summer. Boehner said that the special committee seeking long-term debt reduction should achieve its mandated $1.5 trillion in savings entirely by cutting federal agency spending and shrinking entitlement programs (Kane and Helderman, 9/15).

The Wall Street Journal: Boehner Pushes Tax Overhaul
The Boehner speech came as the White House was preparing to present its own deficit-reduction recommendations next week to the supercommittee. The Wall Street Journal reported the president has decided against including proposals to slow the growth of Social Security spending. But many Democrats remain concerned that the package will revive proposals to pare entitlements such as Medicare and Medicaid and that the deficit debate will distract from Mr. Obama's jobs proposal. "The president should continue to talk about jobs," said Rep. George Miller (D., Calif.) (Hook, 9/16).

Politico: Obama To Shield Social Security In Deficit-Reduction
The shift away from Social Security will allow him to avoid a clash with his Democratic base over the popular retirement program at a time when he needs its support more than ever, both to push for his $447 billion jobs program and to buck up his lagging poll numbers. Medicare could be a different story, though, as the White House revisits some unpopular ideas from the talks with Boehner (Budoff Brown, 9/15).

Politico: Obama Jobs Plan: Raise Taxes On Health Care
The White House wants another shot at requiring some Americans to pay more for their employer-backed health coverage, despite a previously tepid response from the very same lawmakers needed to advance the proposal (Dobias, 9/15).

USA Today: Medicare Premiums Drop, Enrollment Rises In Health Care Law
Medicare Advantage premiums fell while enrollment rose this year, despite predictions from opponents of last year's federal health care law that it would drive down enrollment and force up premiums. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials said Thursday that enrollment will rise another 10% more in 2012 and that premiums will fall 4%. Extra benefits in some Medicare Advantage plans, such as for vision or hearing, also are expected to remain the same (Kennedy, 9/16).

Politico: CLASS Act Under Fire, But Experts See Plenty Of Fixes
A new report adds fresh details to the conventional wisdom that a new long-term care insurance program is fiscally out of whack — but there’s also widespread agreement among experts that there are lots of ways to try to fix it (Kenen, 9/15).

Los Angeles Times: Rick Perry Tells Iowans That Romneycare Cost Them
Texas Gov. Rick Perry opened an Iowa campaign swing tonight by ramping up his attacks on Republican presidential rival Mitt Romney's record as Massachusetts governor, calling his "misguided health mandates" a burden to taxpayers nationwide (Finnegan, 9/15).

The Associated Press: Republican Perry Says Romney Health Plan Cost Jobs
Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry said Thursday the health care bill GOP rival Mitt Romney enacted in Massachusetts paved the way for President Barack Obama's federal health law last year and cost the state jobs (9/15).

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