KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: June 21, 2010

Today's news includes an exploration of the impact of Medicare payment rates on physicians, an analysis of the fate of the COBRA subsidy and how an innovation may offer a medical malpractice fix.

KHN Column: Even With The 'Grandfather Clause' Protection, Change Is Coming To Most Health Plans
In his latest Kaiser Health News column, done in collaboration with The New Republic, Jonathan Cohn writes: "Now that Karl Rove doesn't have a Republican president to advise anymore, he's been picking up some new hobbies. One of them is health care policy. In a recent column for the Wall Street Journal editorial page, Rove made the latest in a series of attacks on the new reform law. Rove offered a number of familiar conservative allegations: Reform would bankrupt employers, stick people with lousy coverage, etc. But my personal favorite was his reaction to new regulations the Obama administration had issued just a few days before" (6/21). 

Doctors Limit New Medicare Patients
The number of doctors refusing new Medicare patients because of low government payment rates is setting a new high, just six months before millions of Baby Boomers begin enrolling in the government health care program (USA Today).

Fate Of COBRA Subsidy Extension In Limbo
Though scaled back to address budget concerns, legislation extending health insurance benefits for the unemployed remains in jeopardy (The Hill).

Judge's Innovation May Offer Malpractice Fix
To settle medical malpractice lawsuits, Judge Douglas McKeon sometimes quietly listens to heartbroken family members vent their anger. He calls it "humanness" (The Associated Press).

Conversations: Mary K. Wakefield On Getting Ready To Double The Work Of Clinics
Mary K. Wakefield, 55, is the administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The agency oversees community health centers across the nation and programs that bring health care to the uninsured (The Washington Post).

ER Doctors: Lawsuit Fears Lead To Overtesting
Fast decisions on life-and-death cases are the bread and butter of hospital emergency rooms. Nowhere do doctors face greater pressures to overtest and overtreat (The Associated Press).

Bringing Medical Treatment To Island By Helicopter
For the past 30 years Dr. David Nichols has flown his helicopter to Tangier Island, Va., in the Chesapeake Bay to take care of its residents. For the 500 or so year-round residents, there is no hospital or pharmacy, but soon they will be able to celebrate the opening of a new medical center on the island (NPR). 

Harvard Turns To Hospitals For $36 M
Harvard Medical School, which has suffered financially due in part to a sharp decline in Harvard University's legendary endowment, has successfully negotiated a deal in which Boston's major teaching hospitals will contribute $36 million to the school over three years (The Boston Globe). 

It's Not A Stuffed Animal, It's A $6,000 Medical Device
Nursing-home workers and academics who study human-robot interaction are trying to figure out whether the $6,000 seal, cleared last fall by U.S. regulators as a Class 2 medical device (a category that includes powered wheelchairs) represents a disturbing turn in our treatment of the elderly or the best caregiving gadget since the Clapper (The Wall Street Journal).

Risk To Elderly: Hallucinations In The Hospital
Disproportionately affecting older people, a rapidly growing share of patients, hospital delirium affects about one-third of patients over 70, and a greater percentage of intensive-care or postsurgical patients, the American Geriatrics Society estimates (The New York Times). 

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