KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: October 17, 2011

In today's headlines, news about the latest on the super committee's deliberations, the demise of the CLASS program and Herman Cain's health policy positions.

Kaiser Health News: Many Health Programs Face Sharp Automatic Cuts If Super Committee Deadlocks
Kaiser Health News staff writers Marilyn Werber Serafini and Mary Agnes Carey, working in collaboration with The Washington Post, report: "Federal funding for medical research, disease prevention and a host of public health initiatives could be sharply reduced if the congressional super committee fails to agree on a deficit-reduction package, triggering automatic cuts" (Werber Serafini and Carey, 10/16).

Kaiser Health News: CLASS Dismissed: Obama Administration Pulls Plug On Long-Term Care Program
Kaiser Health News staff writers Julie Appleby and Mary Agnes Carey report: "Federal officials on Friday effectively shut down part of the health care law that would have helped consumers cover some long-term-care costs, saying they could not find a way to make it work financially. After looking at a variety of options, the Obama administration determined the CLASS Act program could not simultaneously meet three important criteria: be self-sustaining, financially sound for 75 years and affordable to consumers" (10/14). KHN's coverage also includes a sidebar detailing what has been said about the CLASS program – by both its supporters and opponents; and The Urban Institute's Howard Gleckman offers his view on what comes next.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Threat Of Medicaid Cuts Sparks Latino Social Media Push
Now on the blog, Shefali S. Kulkarni writes: "[Friday was] the last day Senate and House committees will be able to give their deficit-reduction recommendations to the bipartisan super committee, which has been assigned the task of cutting federal spending $1.2 trillion to reduce the deficit. While Democratic state officials reached out in person to the 12-member committee this week, Jennifer Ng'andu, the deputy director of La Raza's Health Policy Project, and other health policy advocates are using the power of social media sites such as Twitter to convey their concern  about protecting Medicaid from budget cuts" (10/14). Check out what else is on the blog.

Kaiser Health News tracked weekend health policy news developments, with Saturday's CLASS act coverage and the latest on the super committee.

The Washington Post: Some States Seek Flexibility To Push Health-Care Overhaul Further
A handful of states are pursuing health measures that go far beyond the Obama administration's signature legislative accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act. They stand in contrast to Republican governors, who have aggressively opposed the law. Twenty-seven states are challenging the law in the courts as unconstitutional, while two, Florida and Louisiana, have just refused to implement much of the law (Kliff, 10/16).

The Wall Street Journal: Long-Term Care Gets The Ax
The program, known as the Class Act, was included in the law to help Americans cover the cost of aid for daily living needs such as bathing and using the toilet if they became unable to care for themselves. Mounting concerns that the program was too costly over the long run prompted officials at the Department of Health and Human Services to re-examine the program in recent months (Radnofsky, 10/15).

Los Angeles Times: Obama Administration Drops Part Of Healthcare Law
The move will not affect other parts of the sweeping law, including preparations for a major expansion of health insurance coverage starting in 2014, according to administration officials. But the decision to give up on what was once touted as a key benefit of the law marks a major retreat for the administration and a vindication for critics who have voiced doubt about the promises that Democrats made as they fought to enact the law last year (Levey, 10/14).

The Washington Post: White House Eliminates Insurance Program For Long-Term Care
Although the program had been dogged from the start by doubts about its feasibility, its elimination marks the first time the administration has backed away from a key piece of President Obama's signature legislative achievement (Aizenman, 10/14).

Politico: GOP Leaders Prepare For Deficit Deal
With the supercommittee racing toward a Nov. 23 deadline to produce $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy will begin rounding up support when the chamber returns from its week off, as GOP leaders are hoping to avoid yet another divisive internal fight over the party's vision for spending and deficit reduction by laying out far in advance what the chamber could have to vote on (Sherman and Bresnahan, 10/16).

Politico: Hope Rests On Supercommittee's Odd Couple
Yet for all the pessimism about dealmaking, lawmakers and staff working on the supercommittee express wonderment at how Murray and Hensarling are getting along, saying it makes their chance at getting a deal more likely. But the history of fast friends with admirable compromises that failed to pass congressional muster — like McCain-Kennedy or Simpson-Bowles — still lingers in the hive mind of Capitol Hill, making the Murray-Hensarling bond that much more important in the coming weeks (Cogan and Bresnahan, 10/16).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: AP: Medicare Yanks Licenses, Gives Them Right Back
Regulators fighting an estimated $60 billion to $90 billion a year in Medicare fraud frequently suspend Medicare providers, then quickly reinstate them after appeals hearings that government employees don't even attend, according to an Associated Press review. Federal prosecutors say the speedy reinstatements — though helpful to legitimate suppliers who get snagged on technicalities or minor violations — amount to a missed chance to cut off the flow of taxpayer dollars to bogus companies that in many cases wind up under indictment (10/16).

The Wall Street Journal: On Health Care, Cain Returns Home
Herman Cain has surged in the Republican presidential contest with his plan to overhaul taxation. It was an equally contentious issue—health care—that put him on the political map in the first place 17 years ago (Adamy, 10/15).

Los Angeles Times: Still Waiting For Relief
They came with rotting teeth, shattered glasses and broken bodies. In the predawn darkness outside the Los Angeles Sports Arena, they lined up last year by the thousands, waiting as the sun burned their backs for healthcare they could not afford. Many needed more than the volunteer doctors and dentists at the Remote Area Medical clinic could give. When the glasses ran out, they settled for eye exams. Instead of root canals, they got teeth pulled. They pointed to the holes in their smiles with relief. At least the pain had stopped (Hennessey-Fiske, 10/16).

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