KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: January 3, 2012

In today's headlines, reports that New York seniors are experiencing reduced prescription coverage and more California patients are being added to the health insurance rolls:  

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Work Insurance Often Offers Coverage For Programs To Stop Smoking
In her latest Kaiser Health News consumer column, Michelle Andrews reports: "Seventy percent of smokers say they'd like to quit, and now, just three days into the new year, many may already be struggling to stick to their resolution to make 2012 a smoke-free year. If quitting were easy, after all, chances are good that nearly one in five adults wouldn't still be smokers, a figure that hasn't budged much in several years" (Andrews, 1/3).

In case you missed these stories, here is a roundup of recent KHN articles:

Kaiser Health News: Connecticut Drops Insurers From Medicaid
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz, working in collaboration with USA Today, reports: "In the past decade, most states have turned Medicaid over to private plans with hopes they could control costs and improve care. Nearly half of the 60 million people in the government program for the poor are now in the managed care plans run by insurance giants such as UnitedHealthcare and Aetna. But Connecticut, the 'insurance capital of the world,' is bucking the trend" (Galewitz, 12 /29). 

Kaiser Health News: For Hospitals, There's No App For That
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jenny Gold, working in collaboration with NPR, reports: "Hospitals are usually eager to embrace the latest medical technology, but the road to deploying tablet computers has been bumpy" (Gold, 12/26). 

Kaiser Health News: Top Maternity Hospitals In Mass. Stop Early Elective Deliveries
WBUR reporter Martha Bebinger, reporting as part of a partnership with Kaiser Health News, NPR and WBUR, writes: "There are lots of reasons why an expectant mother and her doctor might choose to deliver the baby before its due date: the health of mom or baby, the doctor's schedule, the demands of work, or even to hit or avoid a specific birthday. But if that perfect day falls before the 39th week of pregnancy, and there’s no medical reason for an early delivery, many hospitals in Massachusetts are saying no, you have to wait" (Bebinger, 12/23).

Kaiser Health News also has been tracking health policy headlines during the holidays, including reports about the 2012 health policy agenda (1/2),Geisenger's view of employees who smoke (1/1), the Supreme Court's recusal policies (1/1), HHS CHIP performance bonuses (12/31), Republican efforts to development a health law replacement (12/28) and GOP presidential hopefuls' positions on the individual mandate (12/28).

And, now in the news:

The New York Times: New Laws Now Evaluated By Job Creation
After years of judging the merits of federal laws by their costs or savings, Washington is applying a new yardstick: Will they create or destroy jobs? … Health care lobbyists argue that cuts in Medicare and Medicaid take jobs away from nurses and other hospital employees. Tree farmers argue that cutting forest conservation programs will destroy "good-paying rural jobs." With unemployment stubbornly high, jobs, it seems, can be used to justify anything and everything. But some economists and other critics say that the figures can be misleading as advocates cook up inflated estimates to make their case (Pear, 1/2).

The Washington Post: GOP's Election Battle Plan: Use Obama's Own Words Against Him
Republican officials say they will leverage the party's newly catalogued video library containing every publicly available utterance from Obama since his 2008 campaign. Television and Internet ads will juxtapose specific Obama promises of job gains, homeowner assistance, help for people in poverty, lower health insurance premiums and stricter White House ethics standards against government data and news clippings that paint a different reality (Wallsten, 1/1).

The Wall Street Journal: A Brief Look Ahead – Health Care On Trial; How The Individual Mandate Might Play At The High Court
Three of four federal appeals courts have rejected challenges, but the high-court outcome is uncertain. Based on prior writings, the four liberal justices seem likely to uphold the act, while only Justice Clarence Thomas appears sure to vote against it. Attention will center on Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose votes may be the toughest to predict (Bravin, 1/3).

Los Angeles Times: California Adds Patients To Health Insurance Rolls
Despite a slow start, California's push to extend health coverage to those with preexisting medical conditions — a three-year stopgap effort until federal healthcare reform fully kicks in — has enrolled more than 6,000 patients (Gorman, 1/3).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: NY Seniors See Reduced Prescription Coverage
A reduction in prescription drug coverage under last year's state budget cuts means 292,000 New Yorkers will now be paying more at the pharmacy (1/2).

The Washington Post: Texas Consumer Health Assistance Program To Close After Losing Federal Funding
It was a first for Texas: a state office devoted to consumers struggling to find affordable health insurance coverage. With funds from the federal health reform law, the Texas Consumer Health Assistance Program was launched last January (Kliff, 1/1).

The New York Times: Nowhere To Go, Patients Linger In Hospitals, At A High Cost
Hundreds of patients have been languishing for months or even years in New York City hospitals, despite being well enough to be sent home or to nursing centers for less-expensive care, because they are illegal immigrants or lack sufficient insurance or appropriate housing (Roberts, 1/2).

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