KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: May 27, 2010

Today's health policy headlines focus on a new study about the federal government's funding level for the high-risk pools set up in the new health law as well as congressional Democrats' ongoing struggle to pass legislation to extend the COBRA benefit subsidy and to prevent a scheduled cut in Medicare payments to physicians.

$5 Billion In Federal Funding For High-Risk Pools May Not Be Enough
Kaiser Health News staff writer Christopher Weaver reports: "In one of the marquee benefits of the health overhaul, the federal government will spend $5 billion to subsidize so-called high-risk pools to provide coverage for people who have trouble getting insurance because of preexisting health problems until 2014. But a new report suggests that amount may not be enough to cover their needs" (Kaiser Health News).

KHN Column: The Decline Of Employer-Sponsored Coverage Under Health Reform: Good, Bad Or Ugly?
In his latest Kaiser Health News Column, Austin Frakt writes: "One of the latest criticisms of the new health overhaul law is that it will encourage employers to stop offering health insurance. In fact, it will" (Kaiser Health News).

Cost Of Jobs Bill Leaves Some Democrats Leery
House Democratic leaders spent much of Wednesday trying to figure out ways to pare back the measure to attract enough votes for a bill that is chock-full of provisions Democrats would typically embrace - extended jobless pay, health insurance subsidies for the unemployed, a summer jobs program and a tax increase on wealthy investors (The New York Times). 

Bill On Jobless Benefits, State Financial Help Scaled Back
Under fire from rank-and-file Democrats worried about the soaring national debt, congressional leaders reached a tentative agreement Wednesday to scale back a package that would have devoted nearly $200 billion to jobless benefits and other economic provisions while postponing a scheduled pay cut for doctors who see Medicare patients (The Washington Post).

Dems Trim Jobs Bill To Woo Moderates
With time running out, Democrats made deep cuts from their $190 billion-plus jobs and economic relief bill Wednesday, hoping to win over nervous moderates and muster the votes for passage before Memorial Day (Politico).

Uncertainty Over Medicare Pay Sets Doctors On Edge
For the third time this year, Congress is scrambling to stave off a hefty pay cut to doctors treating Medicare patients - even as the Obama administration mails out a glossy brochure to reassure seniors the health care program is on solid ground (The Associated Press).

Health Care Study Calls Risk Pool Money Lacking
The new health care law does not allocate nearly enough money to cover the estimated 5.6 million to 7 million Americans with pre-existing medical conditions who will qualify for temporary high-risk insurance pools, according to a report scheduled for release on Thursday (The New York Times).

Study Of Health-Care Law Rebuts State Protests On Medicaid Costs
The federal government will bear virtually the entire cost of expanding Medicaid under the new health-care law, according to a comprehensive new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation that directly rebuts the loud protests of governors warning about its impact on their strapped state budgets (The Washington Post).

The Cost Of Health-Care Reform May Be Less Than States Fear
As states complain about the burden of expanding health care to millions of poor Americans under the new federal health-care law, a study released Wednesday suggests their claims may be overstated. The issue is the cost of expanding Medicaid, the federal-state health program for the poor, children and the disabled, and the report from the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured says states are likely to reap huge benefits for relatively little cost, and may even end up in the black (The Fiscal Times).

Some Recent Grads Face Health Care Coverage Gap
When it comes to health care, even the simplest things can get very confusing. So it is with the new health law's requirement that young adults be able to remain on their parents' health plans until they turn 26. But when exactly the new benefit begins, who exactly is eligible and who decides all have the same answer: It depends. It depends who your insurer is, who your employer is and who makes the decision about what kind of benefits you get on the job (NPR).

Mailing Of Brochure Touting Health-Care Law Irks GOP Lawmakers, Who Ask GAO To Investigate
The federal government this week spent millions of dollars mailing a brochure to 40.2 million Medicare beneficiaries describing how the recent health care overhaul "will provide you and your family greater savings and increased quality health care" (The Washington Post).

Health Insurance Rate Hikes Hitting California Small Businesses Could Hurt State's Economic Recovery
Small businesses in California are being hit this year with double-digit hikes in health insurance costs that could hurt the state's economic recovery as companies curtail plans for hiring and expansion to pay their insurance bills (Los Angeles Times).

New Breed Of Specialist Steps In For Family Doctor
By the time Djigui Keita left the hospital for home, his follow-up appointment had been scheduled. Emergency health insurance was arranged until he could apply for public assistance. He knew about changes in his medication - his doctor had found less expensive brands at local pharmacy chains. And Mr. Keita, 35, who had passed out from dehydration, was cautioned to carry spare water bottles in the taxi he drove for a living (The New York Times).

Okla. Gov. Vetoes Abortion Bill On Insurance
Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry late Wednesday vetoed an abortion bill that would put strict limits on when private health insurers can cover the procedure. … The bill is meant to prevent state insurance exchanges, created under the new federal health care law, from covering most abortions, said state Rep. Skye McNiel, R-Bristow. But it also extends the ban to health insurance plans outside state exchanges that operate within Oklahoma (The Associated Press).

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