KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: May 2, 2011

With Congress due back to work in Washington, D.C., after its spring recess, the next stage of the budget battle is expected to heat up. News reports detail the part Medicare and Medicaid will play in the debate.

Kaiser Health News: At Least 600,000 Young Adults Join Parents' Health Plans Under New Law
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz reports: "Hundreds of thousands of young adults are taking advantage of the health care law provision that allows people under 26 to remain on their parents' health plans, some of the nation's largest insurers are reporting. That pace appears to be faster than the government expected" (Galewitz, 5/2).

Kaiser Health News: Medicare Announces Rules For Quality Bonuses To Hospitals
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jordan Rau reports: "Medicare took its broadest step yet in moving away from its traditional hospital payment method, finalizing a plan to alter reimbursements based on the quality of care hospitals provide and patients' satisfaction during their stays" (Rau, 4/29).

The Washington Post: Let The Budget Battle Begin; Congressional Leaders Dig In For Long Fight
President Obama starts it off Monday night by hosting a dinner party for a bipartisan collection of congressional leaders and top lawmakers from various House and Senate committees. Then on Thursday, Vice President Biden brings congressional leaders to Blair House for the first of what could be many discussions about how to reach a deal on the debt limit and then about an even longer-term issue: Medicare and Medicaid (Kane, 5/1).

Politico: Senate Braces For A Heated 2012 Budget Debate
Chapter II of Washington's great budget debate is "put up or shut up" time for the U.S. Senate. The House was the primary actor in Chapter I, driving the fight over domestic appropriations cuts in the 2011 budget agreed to last month. But as lawmakers return Monday, the longer-term fiscal crisis requires the Senate to step up and bring with it a level of compromise and intimacy once second nature to the chamber (Rogers, 5/2).

The Wall Street Journal: Senate 'Gang' Hashes Out Deficit Plan
It's been a tough few weeks inside the closed-door talks involving an unlikely alliance of three Democrats and three Republicans, as the buzzer indicates. As soon as this week, the group-including Sen. Richard Durbin (D., Ill.) on the left and Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) on the right-could release a sweeping blueprint aimed at cutting the country's deficit. That move is likely to ratchet up pressure on President Barack Obama and Congress to do the same (Bendavid and Paletta, 5/2).

NPR: Medicare's Math Problem: Taxes – Benefits = Trouble
There's a reason system current system is unsustainable, says Eugene Steuerle, a former Treasury Department official and senior fellow at Washington's Urban Institute. He boils it down to two simple numbers. "An average couple retiring today has paid just a little over $100,000 in Medicare taxes" over the course of their working lives, Steuerle tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered. And what do they receive? "About $300,000 in benefits" - even after adjusting for inflation (4/30).

The New York Times: Proposal For Medicare Is Unlike Federal Employee Plan
House Republicans say their budget proposal would make Medicare work just like the health insurance that covers federal employees, including members of Congress. But a close examination shows the two plans are very different, and the differences help explain why the Republican plan has set off a political uproar (Pear, 5/1).

The Washington Post: Fact Checker: GOP Medicare Plan 'Just Like' Congress's Coverage?
During the congressional recess, Ryan and other Republican lawmakers have been selling their proposal to restructure Medicare with what appears to be a poll-tested phrase: It will be similar to a system "just like" what members of Congress have. The phrase pops up in all sorts of news releases and interviews with members of Congress, as well as no less than five times in the budget plan crafted by Ryan. Ryan's phrase is alluring - many Americans apparently believe that members of Congress get great benefits - but is it accurate? (Kessler, 4/30).

Los Angeles Times: New Medicare Payment Strategy to Reward Hospitals For High-Quality Care
The Obama administration issued a final regulation to reward hospitals that provide high-quality care, the first in a series of steps that are designed to fundamentally transform the way that the federal government pays for healthcare (Levey, 4/30).

The Wall Street Journal: Romney Addresses Health Care At GOP Forum
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney told a crowd of Republican activists here that if President Barack Obama meant to model the national health-care overhaul on Mr. Romney's own health law in Massachusetts, he should have picked up the phone first. "Mr. President, why didn't you call and ask how it worked?" Mr. Romney said to a crowd of about 600. "Ours is an experiment. Some parts didn't work" (Yadron, 5/30).

Kaiser Health News also tracked health policy headlines over the weekend, including reports about appeals court action on stem cell research, speculation about the individual mandate, and examinations of the purported similarities between the GOP Medicare plan and the FEHBP

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