KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: September 29, 2011

In today's headlines, reports that a Supreme Court ruling on the 2010 health law is now likely before the 2012 presidential election.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: N.C. Insurer Invests $15 M IN Docs' Health IT; HHS Offers New Push For Coordinated Care
Now on Capsules, Christian Torres writes about a new federal coordinated care initiative: "If the Department of Health and Human Services has its way, hundreds of physician practices will follow the money and take up a coordinated model of health care. The Comprehensive Primary Care Initiative, announced Wednesday, will increase Medicare payments to primary care providers who adopt a coordinated care model. A four-year demonstration, overseen by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, begins next year in several health care markets."

Also on the blog, Christopher Weaver, reporting on an announcement by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina about their cash infusion to help arm physicians with state-of-the-art electronic medical records, writes: "Blue Cross, the dominant financier of the state's health system with 54 percent of the insured on its rolls, stands to benefit if the electronic records help doctors practice a more efficient style of medicine. For instance, the computer can prompt doctors to do blood tests or other follow-ups with patients." Check out what else is on the blog.

Kaiser Health News: Building Ambitions: The Big Money World Of Kids' Care
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, in collaboration with McClatchy, Gilbert M. Gaul examines the business of children's hospitals in this three-part series.

The New York Times: Supreme Court Is Asked To Rule On Health Care
The Obama administration asked the Supreme Court on Wednesday to hear a case concerning the 2010 health care overhaul law. The development, which came unexpectedly fast, makes it all but certain that the court will soon agree to hear one or more cases involving challenges to the law, with arguments by the spring and a decision by June, in time to land in the middle of the 2012 presidential campaign (Liptak, 9/28).

Los Angeles Times: U.S. Seeks Supreme Court Review Of Healthcare Law
The Obama administration is asking the Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of the federal healthcare overhaul sooner rather than later, with the Justice Department announcing that it will file a petition Wednesday asking the court to take the case. … Earlier this week, the department declined to seek review of the full appeals court of that decision, signaling that it was ready for the case to be heard by the justices. Technically, the administration had several weeks before it had to file its petition to the high court and the accelerated timetable suggests that it’s eager for a final determination on the legality of the controversial law (Oliphant, 9/28).

The Associated Press: Election-Year Ruling Looms For Health Overhaul
The health care law affecting virtually every American is sure to figure prominently in President Barack Obama's campaign for re-election. Republican contenders are already assailing it in virtually every debate and speech. The administration on Wednesday formally appealed a ruling by the federal appeals court in Atlanta that struck down the law's core requirement that Americans buy health insurance or pay a penalty beginning in 2014. The administration said the appeals court decision declaring the law's central provision unconstitutional was "fundamentally flawed" (Sherman, 9/29).

The Wall Street Journal: Health Overhaul Heads To Justices
The administration's move puts an end to months of speculation about its strategy in the case. … While the likely mid-campaign timing of the decision may not be ideal for the White House, any attempt to push the ruling back into 2013 would have been risky, too. Opponents of the law were already calling for a quick Supreme Court ruling, so a slow-walking strategy would have made the administration look less confident—and the Supreme Court might have chosen to take the case quickly anyway (Kendall and Meckler, 9/29).

Los Angeles Times: Fight Over Healthcare Law Heads Toward Supreme Court
The constitutional clash over President Obama's national healthcare law moved closer to the Supreme Court on Wednesday, when both the administration and Republican state attorneys separately asked the justices to hand down a verdict early next year. … Now that both sides have asked the high court to decide the Florida lawsuit, the justices are almost certain to vote to hear the case early next year (Savage, 9/28).

Politico: Obama's Health Reform Law Rests With The Supreme Court
It could be one of the smartest political moves the Obama administration has made — or a historic mistake that could kill not just the health care reform law but the president’s chances for reelection, too. By asking the Supreme Court to rule so quickly on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the administration is taking a huge risk that the justices will rule against the law right in the middle of the 2012 race — either striking down the whole law or just slicing out the requirement for nearly all Americans to buy health coverage (Nather, 9/28).

The Washington Post: Justice Dept. Asks Supreme Court To Review Health-Care Law
The administration said it was confident the act would be upheld as a valid exercise of federal power, just as Social Security and the Civil Rights Act were. If the court agrees to hear the case in the term that begins Monday, it would almost certainly render its decision by the end of deliberations in June (Barnes, 9/28).

NPR: Early Supreme Court Review Of Health Care Law Could Impact 2012 Race
The Affordable Care Act always promised to be a hot-button issue in the 2012 presidential campaign. But it could loom even larger, now that the Obama administration has asked the Supreme Court to take the case, making very likely a high-court decision in June only months before Election Day (James, 9/28).

The Wall Street Journal: Catholics Fight Health Rules
Catholic organizations have ramped up opposition to new federal health-care requirements to cover contraceptive services, saying the rules may prompt them to drop insurance or shut down. Beginning next August, employers have to provide coverage for contraception and other preventive services for women such as screening for gestational diabetes and domestic-violence counseling under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, part of the federal health-care law passed in 2010 (Maher, 9/29).

USA Today: Military Retirees Say Benefits Hard-Earned
The federal government last year spent a record $275.2 billion on benefits for retired federal workers, two-thirds of it for military retirees. What's driving up costs: Congress has expanded benefits frequently and Baby Boomers are living longer, collecting pension checks longer and consuming more health care — the same issues challenging Social Security and Medicare (Cauchon, 9/28).

The Wall Street Journal’s Health Blog: How One Hospital Reduced Its Readmission Rate
If you’re a Medicare patient admitted to the hospital, the odds are about one in six that you’ll end up back in the hospital within a month. And there was very little progress made in reducing that rate between 2004-09. That’s the not-so-good news from a new report by the folks at the Dartmouth Atlas Project, which tracks variations in medical care across the U.S. The report also found that more than half of Medicare patients who left the hospital didn’t see a primary-care doctor within two weeks of discharge — identified as a contributing factor to the revolving-door problem (Hobson, 9/28).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: NY Audit Notes $42 M In Medicaid Overpayments
New York auditors say the state Health Department has overpaid nursing homes about $42 million in Medicaid over a 44-month period because many are not collecting money from their clients' income as required (9/29).

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