KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: July 14, 2011

Today's headlines include reports about how tempers are flaring in the midst of debt-ceiling negotiations, and how failure to reach an agreement could lead to tough choices about which of the nation's obligations will be left unpaid.   

Kaiser Health News: Medical Loss Ratio: What Does It Mean For Consumers, Brokers? (Video)
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews talks about medical loss ratio, the amount of money an insurer must spend on health care as opposed to administrative costs and profits. The ratio could help ensure consumers are getting the most value for their health insurance premium dollars, Andrews says (7/13).

Kaiser Health News Capsules: CDC Releases New Outpatient Safety Checklist
On Capsules, Bara Vaida posts details about a new outpatient safety list issued by the Centers for Disease Control. Also on the blog: The latest installment of Blogwatch. …  Former House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin's advice for Republicans who want Medicare beneficiaries to pick up part of the tab for home health services. … An IOM report on improving access to dental care is released.

Los Angeles Times: Default Risk Widens Rift Within GOP
So far, such warnings have had little impact in the House of Representatives, where many members of the Republican majority, particularly newly elected "tea party" conservatives, have vowed to let the government default on its bills rather than vote for any debt ceiling increase. House GOP leaders have said they will vote for an increase only if it is accompanied by a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, deep cuts to Medicare, or other spending restrictions that President Obama has rejected (Hennessey and Nicholas, 7/13).

USA Today: Tempers Flare As Debt-Limit Deadline Nears
With time growing shorter, President Obama and congressional leaders grew angrier Wednesday in their effort to reach a deal to increase the nation's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. At the same time, the chairman of the Federal Reserve and the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce warned that a failure to act could trigger a financial meltdown (Jackson and Hall, 7/13).

Politico: Debt Talks Blow Up
The image of Obama, a Democrat and the nation's first black president, and Boehner, a Republican from working-class Midwest roots, tackling a package that would affect government benefits for millions and the progressivity standards of the entire U.S. tax code is extraordinary (Rogers, 7/13).

The Washington Post: With No Debt Deal, Obama Would Face Tough Choices Aug. 3 About What Bills To Pay
What happens if President Obama and Congress don't strike a debt deal? On Aug. 3, the nation would find out, with Obama forced to make a set of extraordinarily difficult choices about what to pay or not pay. … [H]e would choose among Social Security checks, salaries for members of the military and veterans, unemployment benefits, student loans, and many other government programs, according to administration officials and an independent analysis by a former senior Treasury Department official in the George H.W. Bush administration (Goldfarb, 7/13).

The Washington Post: Seniors' Groups Take To Airwaves And Capitol Hill To Protect Social Security, Medicare
First, AARP tried to convey disappointment. In May, the group launched a TV ad warning that Congress might try to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits as part of a deal to raise the national debt ceiling. "The country can do better," it said. Then, in June, it tried ridicule. Another TV ad hit Congress for pondering those cuts while the government spent money on such things as pickle research and experiments in which shrimp ran on treadmills (Fahrenthold, 7/13).

USA Today: Medicare Age Hike Could Save $125B Over 10 Years
A White House offer to increase the age of Medicare eligibility to 67 as a compromise to Republicans during budget talks would save about $125 billion over 10 years, records show, but such a move could leave many seniors without care if last year's health care law were repealed (Kennedy, 7/14).

Politico: GOP Dilemma: Handling IPAB Opposition
Republicans can't seem to decide whether they want to lambaste the health reform law's Independent Payment Advisory Board or present a more moderate tone. In theory, Republicans say they're convinced that repealing the IPAB will be easier if they don't make it political - or as nonpolitical as anyone can make health care reform. But it might be too tempting for some lawmakers to let it go quietly (Haberkorn, 7/13).

The New York Times: Book Challenges Obama On Mother's Deathbed Fight
The White House on Wednesday declined to challenge an account in a new book that suggests that President Obama, in his campaign to overhaul American health care, mischaracterized a central anecdote about his mother's deathbed dispute with her insurance company (Sack, 7/13).

The New York Times: Judge Blocks City's Crisis Pregnancy Center Law
Scolding city officials for supporting a law he called "offensive to free speech principles," a federal judge on Wednesday temporarily barred New York City from enforcing a new law that would require crisis pregnancy centers to disclose more information about their services. The law, which had the strong backing of Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker, and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, was scheduled to go into effect on Thursday. It would have required such centers to detail whether they provided abortions or emergency contraception, and whether they had a licensed medical provider on-site (Chen, 7/13).

Check out all of Kaiser Health News' e-mail options including First Edition and Breaking News alerts on our Subscriptions page.

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.