KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: January 27, 2011

In today's headlines, a range of health policy news -- including House hearings advanced by the GOP to further their repeal efforts and more reports about the budget deficit.

Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill – Analyzing Obama's State Of The Union Speech
KHN staff writer Mary Agnes Carey  talks with KFF's Jackie Judd about the President's speech, the Republican response  and what might happen next (1/26).

Kaiser Health News: Assessing Cuomo's Efforts To Cut N.Y.'s Medicaid Budget
KHN staff writer Aimee Miles interviews Courtney Burke, who directs the New York State Health Policy Research Center at the Rockefeller Institute, about Cuomo's plans for revamping the system (Miles, 1/27).

Kaiser Health News Column: Fixing The Failure At Physician Compare
In his latest KHN column, Michael Millenson writes: "The launch of Medicare's Physician Compare website at year-end should have been a watershed event in the long campaign for health care transparency and patient empowerment. Instead – and it pains me to write this – Physician Compare is a case study in how the interests of the average citizen can be shunted aside by indifferent government, lazy journalists and solipsistic special interests. That remains true despite all of those involved being Good People Trying To Do The Right Thing" (1/27).

The Washington Post: House Republicans Sharpen Attack On Health-Care Reform In Two Hill Hearings
Republicans on Wednesday used their new majority in the House of Representatives to hold the first of what they promise will be a steady drumbeat of congressional hearings to denounce the new health-care law (Aizenman, 1/26).

Politico: House GOP Packs Punch On Health Care Reform
House Republicans launched a two-pronged attack on health reform Wednesday, ripping apart the idea that it cuts spending and painting it as a disaster for business. The first hearing of the Budget Committee took on the spending argument, while the Ways and Means Committee went after the law as anti-business (Nocera and Nather, 1/27).

The Washington Post: CBO Projects U.S. Budget Deficit To Reach $1.5 Trillion In 2011, Highest Ever
As the two sides bickered in dueling news conferences, a small band of senators from both parties was trying to heed Obama's call, with talks aimed at advancing a bipartisan blueprint for deficit reduction developed last month by Obama's fiscal commission. That blueprint goes far beyond cuts in domestic programs to tackle the biggest and fastest-growing parts of the federal budget, including cherished tax breaks such as the home mortgage interest deduction and popular entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare (Montgomery, 1/27).

The Wall Street Journal Washington Wire: Senate Looks For Antifraud Measures
Experts say the databases offer an unparalleled window into federal health-care abuse and fraud. Referring to the injunction, Sen. Grassley said, "I think it's time to revisit this issue and bring some transparency to this whole thing" (Schoofs and Tamman, 1/26).

The Wall Street Journal: Medicaid Fraud Unit Falls Short
The state agency in charge of recovering money stolen from the state's $52 billion Medicaid program fell into negative territory in 2009. For the first time, it returned more money in fraud cases to Medicaid providers than it brought back to the state. The Office of the Medicaid Inspector General, which has a $90 million budget and a full-time staff of more than 650 people, reported fraud recoveries of minus $66,000 in its most recent annual report. The inspector general collected more than $1 million from fraud cases, but the agency lost more than that sum after an administrative law judge ordered the state to return fines paid by a Queens alcohol treatment center accused of fraud in 2005 (Gershman, 1/27).

Politico: Medicare Chief Berwick Gets W.H. Nod
On Wednesday night, the White House renominated Dr. Don Berwick to head the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (Haberkorn, 1/26).

The New York Times: Virginia: Quick Ruling Promised On Challenge To Health Law
A federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., announced Wednesday that it would expedite its consideration of a lower court ruling against a key provision of the Obama health care act (Sack, 1/26).

Los Angeles Times: California Parents Urged To Enroll Children For Health Insurance
State officials on Tuesday urged parents to sign up their children for health insurance during an ongoing enrollment period established by a new state law that requires private insurers to offer children's coverage under all their policies (Ceasar, 1/27).

Los Angeles Times: Lawmakers Express Frustration Over Excessive Outlays For Prison Health
Amid California's budget crisis, the receiver put in charge of the prison health system by a federal judge has spent $82 million on blueprints for medical facilities that have been largely scrapped, more than $50,000 a month on an architectural consultant and millions hiring medical professionals - more per inmate than in many other states (Dolan, 1/27).

The Wall Street Journal: WellPoint Aims To Diversify
WellPoint Inc., the largest U.S. health insurer by members, is pursuing a strategy to diversify its business, including seeking new acquisitions, among other changes to cope with the impact of the federal health-care overhaul (Johnson, 1/27).

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