KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: May 19, 2011

Today's headlines continue to analyze the impact of the departure of Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., from the 'Gang of Six' on the efforts to address long-term budget issues such as Medicare spending.

Kaiser Health News: Coburn Exit Has Some Questioning Role Of Gang Of Six (Video)
In Wednesday's Health On The Hill, Kaiser Health News's Mary Agnes Carey talks with The Fiscal Times' Eric Pianin about the Gang of Six, negotiators seeking consensus on deficit reduction plans (5/18). Read the transcript.

Kaiser Health News: What Medicaid Cuts Will Mean For Seniors And Others With Disabilities (Guest Opinion)
In his latest Kaiser Health News column, Howard Gleckman wonders how society will provide care to the frail elderly people who rely on the program and account for one-third of its budget (5/18).

The Wall Street Journal: The Quandary Of Coburn's Exit
The remaining members of the Gang of Six met without Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and agreed to press on in their effort to craft a long-term pact that could include controversial proposals to raise revenues and curb Social Security (Hook and Bendavid, 5/19).

Politico: Dick Durbin, Tom Coburn Clash Sparked Gang Of 6 Breakup
On Monday evening in Sen. Mark Warner's office in the Russell Building, tensions finally boiled over between Majority Whip Dick Durbin and Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn. The spat over a deficit-reduction package had been building for weeks, and Coburn had grown frustrated that the Gang of Six wouldn't get specific enough about where it would cut domestic spending - and he wanted some $130 billion more in cuts out of Medicare (Raju, 5/19).

USA Today: Reid To Push Vote On GOP Medicare Plan
Seizing on a political opportunity, the Senate's top Democrat, Harry Reid, told USA TODAY on Wednesday that he will schedule a vote next week in an effort to tie Senate Republicans to a House GOP plan to dramatically revamp the popular Medicare health care program (Schouten, 5/19).

Politico: Feds Amp Argument For Individual Health Insurance Mandate
The Obama administration argues that the states suing over the constitutionality of the health care reform law would risk leaving uninsured Americans "on the street after a car accident" without the law's requirement that nearly all Americans buy health insurance (Haberkorn, 5/18).

The New York Times: Overseer Of 9/11 Health Fund Is Chosen
The Justice Department on Wednesday chose a special master to administer a multibillion-dollar fund created to provide compensation to rescue workers and others sickened from exposure to toxic fumes, dust and smoke from ground zero after the 2001 terrorist attack. The appointment of Sheila L. Birnbaum, a lawyer specializing in tort cases who has mediated lawsuits brought by the families of 9/11 victims, is a major step in carrying out legislation passed by Congress late last year to reopen the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (Hernandez, 5/18).

The Associated Press: Poll Finds Recent College Grads Hit By Recession
A new survey of college graduates from the last five years finds that the Great Recession has hit them hard, forcing them into low paying jobs, often unrelated to their educations and leaving half of them expecting less financial success than their parents. … While 85 percent have health insurance coverage, only half have it through work. Nearly one-fourth are covered by a relative's plan (Mulvihill, 5/18).

The Wall Street Journal: Disability-Claim Judge Has Trouble Saying 'No'
Americans seeking Social Security disability benefits will often appeal to one of 1,500 judges who help administer the program, where the odds of winning are slightly better than even. Unless, that is, they come in front of David B. Daugherty. … Judges say their jobs can be arduous, protecting the sometimes divergent interests of the applicant and the taxpayer. Critics blame the Social Security Administration, which oversees the disability program, charging that it is more interested in clearing a giant backlog than ensuring deserving candidates get benefits. Under pressure to meet monthly goals, some judges decide cases without a hearing. Some rely on medical testimony provided by the claimant's attorney (Paletta, 5/19).

The New York Times: Private Prisons Found To Offer Little Savings
The conviction that private prisons save money helped drive more than 30 states to turn to them for housing inmates. But Arizona shows that popular wisdom might be wrong: Data there suggest that privately operated prisons can cost more to operate than state-run prisons - even though they often steer clear of the sickest, costliest inmates (Oppel, 5/18).

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