KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: July 19, 2011

Today's headlines provide updates on the deficit talks, new public opinion polls and health law implementation issues.

Kaiser Health News: HHS Sets Rules For Consumer-Controlled Health Plans
Kaiser Health News staff writer Christopher Weaver reports: "New consumer-controlled health insurance plans could get seed money from the government to increase competition – and maybe cut prices -- under new rules announced Monday by the Department of Health and Human Services" (Weaver, 7/18).

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Health Law Bolsters Funding For In-School Clinics
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "Treating skinned knees and stomachaches is part of the drill at any school nurse's office or school-based health center. But for many kids, health-care providers at these sites do much more than treat everyday aches and pains: They give checkups and vaccinations, make sure kids take their insulin shots and antidepressants on time, and teach them how to manage chronic conditions such as asthma" (Andrews, 7/18).

The Washington Post: Debt-Ceiling Crisis Still Eludes Compromise
Beyond requiring that the budget be balanced each year, the so-called "cut, cap and balance" measure under House consideration would require that the constitutional provision include annual spending caps and a supermajority to approve tax increases. Obama issued a cautionary threat Monday to veto the measure should it pass Congress. The White House said the bill would set up an "unacceptable choice" between a disastrous failure to lift the nation's borrowing limit or passing a balanced budget amendment that would require draconian spending cuts in Medicare, Social Security and other federal programs (Helderman and Kane, 7/18).

Los Angeles Times: Symbolic House Vote On Debt Ceiling Approaches
The House prepared to vote on a Republican proposal to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for steep spending cuts, in defiance of President Obama's vow to veto the bill if it passed both chambers of Congress. … The White House attacked the Republican cut, cap and balance plan, portraying it as a radical response to the deficit problem that would dismantle Medicare and other aspects of the federal safety net (Mascaro, Parsons and Nicholas, 7/19).

The Wall Street Journal: Debt Deal Search Intensifies
Top White House officials and congressional leaders are racing against the clock to devise a scaled-down deficit-reduction proposal that would get both President Barack Obama's signature and enough Republican votes to pass the House in time to avert a government default. … The White House and House Republican leaders are now discussing a compromise that could draw from Messrs. Reid and McConnell's idea but give House Republicans ownership of it, a move that could make it more saleable to GOP members. … Meantime, House and Senate Republicans are embarking on a largely symbolic political mission, pushing this week for legislation that would cut spending by $5.8 trillion over 10 years. …. The bill would cut mandatory, or formula-based, spending by $35 billion in 2012, exempting Medicare, Social Security and veterans' programs. Democrats say that means programs such as school lunches, food stamps and Medicaid would be targeted and the spending cap would prompt cuts in Medicare and Social Security (Lee and Bendavid, 7/19).

The Washington Post: Coburn Deficit Plan Offers $9 Trillion In Savings
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) on Monday released a plan that he says would achieve $9 trillion in deficit savings over the next decade through a combination of far-reaching spending cuts, entitlement reform and increased tax revenue. …  The plan would cut $1 trillion in defense spending over the next 10 years; enact $2.6 trillion in deficit savings through changes to popular entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid; and generate $1 trillion in savings through reforming tax expenditures, including the elimination of ethanol subsidies (Sonmez, 7/18).

Politico: Tom Coburn Unveils $9 Trillion Plan
Sen. Tom Coburn unveiled a politically volatile package that would take an ax to federal agencies, dramatically overhaul entitlement programs and raise tax revenues - slicing a staggering $9 trillion from the national debt over 10 years. On Monday, the conservative Oklahoma senator released a 614-page report that has virtually no chance of becoming law because it would turn off just about everyone in Washington. But Coburn, a blunt and combative pol who plans to retire in 2016, says that's exactly the point: Every interest group and both parties need to swallow bitter political pills in order to put the country on a sustainable fiscal path (Raju, 7/18).

USA Today: Americans Fed Up With Constant Political Gridlock
So say many Americans after weeks of watching political wrangling over how to cut spending and whether to raise taxes as part of a deal to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by Aug. 2 so the federal government won't have to default on its loans for the first time (Hall, 7/19).

The Associated Press: Fixing Glitch In Obama's Health Law Saves $13B
Memo to President Barack Obama and the debt negotiators: You can save $13 billion by fixing a glitch in the new health care law. That amount may pale in comparison to the "big deal" the president's looking for, but negotiators have got to start somewhere to reach the goal of cutting deficits by $4 trillion over a decade. And the fix would not increase the number of uninsured people (Alonso-Zaldivar, 7/18).

Politico: Federal Health Exchanges' Uncertainty
Will there really be a strong federal health insurance exchange to take over for states that don't build their own? Or is it a paper tiger? That question is nagging at some policy experts following last week's release of the proposed federal rules on the new state health insurance marketplaces, which are supposed to be set up in every state by 2014 under President Barack Obama's health reform law (Feder, 7/18).

The Associated Press: Poll: Obesity Hits More Boomers Than Others In US
Cancer and memory loss are baby boomers' biggest health fears. Given their weight, maybe heart disease and diabetes should be. Boomers are more obese than other generations, a new poll finds, setting them up for unhealthy senior years (Neergaard, 7/19).

NPR: Birth Control Without Copays Could Become Mandatory
Is there nothing in last year's Affordable Care Act that people won't fight over? The latest battle is set to come to a head Wednesday, when the independent Institute of Medicine is expected to make recommendations about preventive health care services for women. And one service that's drawing a lot of the attentions is contraception (Rovner, 7/19).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Ohio Looking Into Allegations That County Medicaid Workers Assisted Men Posing As Drug Dealers
Ohio officials are investigating allegations that some county Medicaid workers inappropriately advised men posing as Russian drug dealers on how to get government health care benefits (7/18).

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