KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: August 19, 2010

In the news today, modest premium increases are ahead for Medicare drug plans while a survey finds that big employers expect health cost hikes in 2011.  

Grand Junction, Colorado: Still The Health Care Poster Child
In this story for Kaiser Health News, Bill Scanlon reports: "Just a year ago, as opposition to the proposed health overhaul flared at town hall meetings around the country, President Barack Obama made this western Colorado town of 53,000 people a crucial stop on his tour to revive the stalled initiative" (Kaiser Health News).

KHN Column: For Cost Control, Vouchers And Medicare Don't Mix
In his latest Kaiser Health News column, Austin Frakt writes: "With the ambition of reducing the federal debt, Congressman Paul Ryan has offered a proposal to convert Medicare to a voucher-based program. Under the plan, in time all Medicare beneficiaries would receive program benefits from private plans subsidized by government payments (vouchers). In principle, such a system could reduce federal Medicare costs if the subsidy grows more slowly than medical inflation, shifting more of the costs to care to individuals. The history of Medicare and its politics suggest it is unlikely to work out that way" (Kaiser Health News). 

Overhaul Fails To Boost 'Health Care Confidence'
President Barack Obama's health overhaul hasn't helped Americans feel any more secure about their own medical care, according to a survey to be released Thursday by leading private researchers. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation said consumer confidence spiked in April after Obama signed landmark legislation to expand coverage and start trying to control costs. But confidence levels have since fallen back to what they were last year at the beginning of an epic congressional debate (The Associated Press).

Obama Is Questioned On Economy
President Barack Obama, at a summit of sorts in an Ohio family's backyard, sought to reassure citizens Wednesday that the economy is on track and that his administration's legislative victories will benefit voters. … The summit comes as a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows American citizens have their dimmest view yet of how Obama is handling the economy. It also comes a few months ahead of midterm elections, in which the economy is expected to play a vital role in whether Democrats hold onto their majority in Congress (The Wall Street Journal).

Modest Premium Increase For Medicare Drug Plans
Seniors will see a modest increase in their Medicare prescription premiums next year but benefits will also improve, federal health officials said Wednesday (The Associated Press).

Survey: Big Employers Expect 2011 Health Cost Hike
Large employers expect their health care benefit costs to rise 8.9 percent next year, and more will ask their employees to make a bigger contribution, according to a survey from the National Business Group on Health (The Associated Press). 

Faced With Rising Health Costs, Large Employers Plan To Shift Burden To Workers
Faced with skyrocketing healthcare costs and new insurance rules under healthcare reform, more of the nation's biggest businesses are planning to hike premiums and cost-sharing measures on their employees next year, according to a survey of those companies released Wednesday (The Hill's Healthwatch Blog).

Palliative Care Extends Life, Study Finds
In a study that sheds new light on the effects of end-of-life care, doctors have found that patients with terminal lung cancer who began receiving palliative care immediately upon diagnosis not only were happier, more mobile and in less pain as the end neared - but they also lived nearly three months longer. The findings, published online Wednesday by The New England Journal of Medicine, confirmed what palliative care specialists had long suspected. The study also, experts said, cast doubt on the decision to strike end-of-life provisions from the health care overhaul passed last year (The New York Times).

Medevac Industry Opposing Upgrades Wanted By NTSB
The helicopter air ambulance industry is opposing several key safety upgrades sought by federal accident investigators even as a recent surge in crashes has killed 19 people since September (USA Today).

Johnson & Johnson Moves To Ensure Drug Safety
Beset by a series of recalls of Tylenol and other popular over-the-counter drugs, Johnson & Johnson said Wednesday that it planned to revamp its quality controls, creating a single framework for its drug, medical device and consumer health care divisions (The New York Times).

Hospital Trains Focus On Ending Cycle Of Violence
Hospital emergency rooms are filled with the fallout of violent crime. Sometimes, the victims and the perpetrators are one and the same. It's a cycle of violence many would like to end. At the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, doctors and others have developed an outreach program that appears to be working, and it has been modeled by others (NPR). 

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