KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: February 4, 2010

Health care spending is taking an increasingly big bite out of the nation's economy, according to today's headlines.

Government Health Spending To Top Private Sector In 2012
In their fight against the Democrats' health overhaul bills, Republicans repeatedly warned of a "government takeover" of health care. However, even if that legislation never passes, government programs will soon finance a majority of the health care market, according to officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (Kaiser Health News).

KHN Column: The President's Budget And Health Care Reform
In his latest Kaiser Health News column, James Capretta writes: "President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress continue to insist that the push for health care reform is far from over. But the release of the president's budget for fiscal year 2011 marks another turning point in the debate, one that means the climb toward passage of the bill - or any bill for that matter - has only gotten steeper" (Kaiser Health News).

Obama Suggests Republicans Could Have A Role In Health-Care Bill
President Obama urged congressional Democrats on Wednesday "to finish the job on health care," but amid tentative signs of bipartisan outreach on Capitol Hill, he suggested that Republicans could be enlisted to play at least some role in negotiating a final bill (The Washington Post).

Obama's Words Fail To Bridge Health Care Divide
President Barack Obama exhorted Democrats to "finish the job" on a health care overhaul Wednesday, but his comments failed to bridge deep divisions within his party (The Associated Press).

Soaring Cost Of Healthcare Sets A Record
In a stark reminder of growing costs, the government has released a new estimate that healthcare spending grew to a record 17.3% of the U.S. economy last year, marking the largest one-year jump in its share of the economy since the government started keeping such records half a century ago (Los Angeles Times).

Health-Care Sector Grew As Economy Contracted In 2009
Health-care spending in the United States grew last year despite a contracting economy, amounting to 17.3 percent of the gross domestic product, according to estimates released Wednesday (The Washington Post).

Health Care's Share Of U.S. Economy Rose At Record Rate
The economic recession has increased the nation's health care bills, forcing Americans to spend 5.7 percent more for health services and drugs in 2009 than they spent in 2008, according to new projections in a report by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (The New York Times).

Public Health Tab To Hit Milestone
For the first time, government programs next year will account for more than half of all U.S. health-care spending, federal actuaries predict, as the weak economy sends more people into Medicaid and slows growth of private insurance (The Wall Street Journal).

Medical Expenses Have 'Very Steep Rate Of Growth'
Spending on health care consumed an estimated 17 cents of every dollar spent last year in the United States, representing the largest one-year increase since the federal government started tracking the number in 1960 (USA Today).

Health Official Can't Guarantee Openness In Talks
Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, told Congress on Wednesday that she could not guarantee greater openness in negotiations over legislation to remake the nation's health care system (The New York Times).

Democrats Protect Backroom Deals
The health care bill is in trouble, but a series of narrow deals - each designed to win over a wavering senator or key interest group - is alive and well, despite voter anger over the parochial horse-trading that marked the rush toward passage before Christmas (Politico).

Therapy Benefit Cap Looms Over Patients And Providers As Healthcare Bill Stalled
Medicare beneficiaries face a steep cliff in their coverage for physical therapy and similar treatments due to Congress's failure to enact a healthcare reform bill (The Hill).

Stakes High For Calif. In Health Care Reform
Among states, California arguably has the most to gain from an overhaul of its health care system: it has the greatest number of uninsured residents in the country and the largest public insurance program for the poor, which struggles to serve 6.5 million people while reimbursing doctors at one of the nation's lowest rates (The Associated Press).

Trace Of Thought Is Found In 'Vegetative' Patient
Experts said Wednesday that the finding could alter the way some severe head injuries were diagnosed - and could raise troubling ethical questions about whether to consult severely disabled patients on their care (The New York Times).

Brains Of Vegetative Patients Show Life
In a study certain to rekindle debate over life-sustaining care for those with grievous brain injuries, researchers report that five patients thought to be in a persistent vegetative state showed brain activity indicating awareness, intent and, in at least one case, a wish to communicate (Los Angeles Times).

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