KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: February 11, 2011

Today's health policy headlines highlight various aspects of the policies and politics involved in the health law mix.

Kaiser Health News: Some Seniors Are In For Sticker Shock On Drug Premiums
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey reports: "The Obama administration often touts the health-law provision that over the next decade will close the unpopular 'doughnut hole' -- a gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage. But officials rarely cite another provision, one that might cause sticker shock among some seniors. Starting this year, more affluent beneficiaries will have to pay higher premiums for their drug benefits" (Carey, 2/11). Kaiser Health News' Marilyn Werber Serfini provides a related FAQ, explaining some of the key points of Medicare's shrinking doughnut hole (Werber Serafini, 2/11).

Kaiser Health News: Administration Seeks To Calm Republican Governors' Fears On Implementing Health Law
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey reports: "As the health care law takes a pounding from Republicans on Capitol Hill and from Republican governors across the country, Obama administration officials are trying to calm concerns that states won't have the flexibility they need to implement a key part of the sweeping measure" (Carey, 2/10). Read the letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from a group of GOP governors outlining their specific concerns.

Los Angeles Times: Ruling Against Health Insurance Mandate Is A 'Tea Party' Milestone
For nearly two years, the "tea party" movement with its call for limited government has made inroads in the political arena, but a Florida judge's ruling last week declaring the health insurance mandate unconstitutional may be remembered as its moment of arrival in the courts (Savage and Hennessey, 2/10).

The Washington Post: Enrollment In High-Risk Insurance Pools Lagging Behind Predictions
More Americans have been signing up for special health plans designed for people with medical problems that caused them to be spurned by the insurance industry, according to new government figures. But enrollment continues to lag significantly behind original predictions (Goldstein, 2/10).

Politico: CMS Chief Gets Grilling At Ways And Means
The tense, heated hearing was the first opportunity for the House to question Berwick since July, when he was recess-appointed to his post as head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (Haberkorn and Coughlin, 2/10).

Politico: CBO: Health Law To Cut Workforce By 800,000
CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf told the House Budget Committee on Thursday that the health care law will reduce employment by 0.5 percent by 2021 because some people will no longer have to work just to afford health insurance (Feder and Nocera, 2/10).

Los Angeles Times: House Republicans See Timely Target In Planned Parenthood
In their rush to slash the federal budget, House Republicans are taking aim at Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest provider of abortions, after a campaign season that largely ignored social issues (Hennessey, 2/10).

The Wall Street Journal: States Plan For Decline In Federal Assistance
Both President Barack Obama and House Republicans are moving to rein in federal spending by reducing aid to states and cities, which would deepen their fiscal woes just as economic-stimulus funds from Washington are drying up (Murray, 2/11).

The Wall Street Journal: State Probing Overbilling Of Medicaid
State auditors are investigating whether Visiting Nurse Service of New York, a $1 billion home-care company, overbilled the Medicaid program (Gershman, 2/11).

The New York Times/Texas Tribune: Community Colleges Are Uneasy As Ax Hangs Over State Aid For Health Benefits
The Legislature's initial state budget proposals calling for the closing of four community colleges caught many lawmakers off guard. But what largely escaped their attention - the slashing of health benefits across all such institutions - is what concerns community college officials the most (Smith, 2/10).

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