KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: November 13, 2012

In today's headlines, reports previewing this week's actions regarding negotiations about the fiscal cliff.

Kaiser Health News: Doctors' And Nurses' Licenses Snagged By New Immigration Law In Georgia
WABE's Jim Burress, working in collaboration with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "Hundreds of health care workers in Georgia are losing their licenses to practice because of a problem created by a new immigration law in the state. The law requires everyone – no matter where they were born – to prove their citizenship or legal residency as they renew their professional licenses. But with too few staff to process the extra paperwork, licenses for doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health workers are expiring" (Burress, 11/12). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: High Deductible Plans Offer Low Premiums But Steep Risks
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "Alison Mitisek was at a Denver pediatrician's office with her 15-month-old son last August when she passed out. The doctor's office staff called an ambulance, which rushed her to a nearby emergency department" (Andrews, 11/12). Read the column.

Kaiser Health News: Obama Administration Extends Deadline For State Exchanges
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz reports: "The Obama administration on Friday gave states more time to submit plans to set up state-based health insurance exchanges, a concession to the reality that many states had delayed planning until they saw who won the presidential election" (Galewitz, 11/9). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Health System Touted By Obama Doesn't Back Medicaid Expansion 
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Phil Galewitz reports on Intermountain Healthcare and the health law's Medicaid expansion: "Intermountain Healthcare, the Salt Lake City-based hospital system praised by President Barack Obama as being a model for low-cost, high quality care, says it is not convinced Utah should expand Medicaid under the federal health care overhaul" (Galewitz, 11/9). Check out what else is on the blog.

Kaiser Health News also tracked weekend health policy headlines, including reports about the plans by the White House and business groups regarding upcoming fiscal negotiations (11/12); about coverage of the Friday decision by the Obama administration to give states more time on health insurance exchanges (11/10 ); about how Medicare could factor into a "grand bargain" (11/10); and about how Hurricane Sandy impacted nursing homes in New York and New Jersey (11/11). 

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Most Of America Would Be Hit By Tax Increases And Spending Cuts From 'Fiscal Cliff'
Everyone who pays income tax — and some who don't —will feel it. So will doctors who accept Medicare, people who get unemployment aid, defense contractors, air traffic controllers, national park rangers and companies that do research and development. The package of tax increases and spending cuts known as the "fiscal cliff" takes effect in January unless Congress passes a budget deal by then. The economy would be hit so hard that it would likely sink into recession in the first half of 2013, economists say (11/13).

The Wall Street Journal: White House Plans Public Appeal On Deficit
The White House plans an aggressive public campaign to build support for its approach to reduce the deficit through tax increases and spending cuts, a sharp contrast to its private talks with Republicans that faltered last year. … The strategy comes as many Republicans appear to have softened their antitax rhetoric in the wake of the election, with many openly acknowledging that higher taxes will likely be part of any plan to reduce the deficit (Paletta and Hook, 11/12).

The New York Times: Labor Leaders Have Obama's Back, And Are Ready To Help
Having helped President Obama win re-election, labor leaders will meet with him on Tuesday and intend to offer their robust support for what they view as his mandate: stand tough against cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and keep pushing to raise taxes on the wealthy. … As the administration begins talks with Congressional Republicans to modify a range of tax increases and budget cuts scheduled to go into effect next year, the unions say they will rally their forces on a broader agenda, seeking to counter business and conservative groups that are pushing for cuts in social programs and tax breaks for corporations and wealthy individuals (Greenhouse, 11/12).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Obama To Meet With Labor Leaders About Impeding 'Fiscal Cliff,' Prospect Of Taxes On Wealthy
The president views his re-election as an affirmation of his belief that raising taxes on families earning more than $250,000 a year is what voters want. Republican House Speaker John Boehner has expressed a willingness to raise revenues but remains opposed to boosting tax rates, pointing instead to closing tax loopholes, lowering rates and fixing entitlement programs. Both sides have voiced the potential for cooperation, but face a post-election confrontation over a series of expiring tax cuts approved during the George W. Bush presidency and tough, across-the-board spending cuts set to take place because lawmakers failed to reach a deal to reduce the federal debt (11/13).

The Wall Street Journal: Labor Pressures Obama On Budget
These groups held more than 100 events last week to trumpet their success at the polls and remind voters that many Democratic candidates pledged during the campaign to push for higher taxes on upper-income earners and oppose cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits (Paletta, 11/12).

The Washington Post: Liberal Groups Mobilize For 'Fiscal Cliff' Fight Over Social Security, Medicare
With President Obama seeking a deal to avoid the "fiscal cliff," liberal groups that campaigned aggressively for his reelection are mobilizing to oppose concessions they fear he could make on Medicare and Social Security. Leaders of the nation’s labor unions and other liberal groups are planning Tuesday to press Obama at the White House to reject the kind of cuts in Medicare and Social Security that he has previously offered to make. On Thursday, left-leaning lawmakers and seniors groups plan to rally on Capitol Hill against any changes to entitlements (Goldfarb, 11/12).

The Washington Post: As 'Fiscal Cliff' Nears, Business Groups Jostle For Ear Of White House, Congress
Tension among the country's leading business lobbies has become more pronounced this week as competing groups jostle for attention from Capitol Hill and the White House over their favored approaches to resolving the ongoing deadlock over tax and spending policy (Hamburger, 11/12).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Obama To Meet With 12 CEOs Wednesday
The outreach by Mr. Obama is part of his attempt to court corporate support for a bipartisan deficit-reduction plan that he hopes to advance before the end of the year. Many of the CEOs have said they will only accept higher taxes if policy makers also agree to major changes to Medicare and Social Security, something Democrats haven't embraced (Paletta, 11/12).

Los Angeles Times: Group Mobilizing Young People To Push For National Debt Plan
A new group, the Can Kicks Back, aims to give Americans 18 to 32 years old a voice in the debate over tax hikes and budget cuts that loom next year if Congress and President Obama cannot agree on a deficit-reduction plan. … Part of that effort will be sending a giant mascot character in the shape of a can to college campuses to generate support, and then to Congress to highlight the concerns of young people. The group is focusing on how the debt affects the ability of people to get a job, pay for their education and raise a family, Schoenike said. To drive home the point, the group is highlighting the share of the national debt being shouldered by every American. Although the U.S. national debt officially is about $16.25 trillion, the Can Kicks Back is using a much higher figure — $71 trillion — which includes unfunded liabilities such as Social Security, Medicare and government pensions (Puzzanthera, 11/13).

The Washington Post: 5 Things (Other Than The 'Fiscal Cliff') To Watch During The Lame-Duck
Lawmakers are currently scheduled to meet for just 16 days between today and the end of the year, but leaders could add more time as they work to avoid the "fiscal cliff," or the series of automatic federal spending cuts and tax increases set to take effect in January. And let's face it: After more than a year of campaigning and partisan rancor, the "fiscal cliff" and all of its policy and economic implications is set to dominate the attention of Washington in the coming weeks. Despite that, there are several other political and policy developments worth tracking in the coming weeks (O'Keefe, 11/13).

Politico: The Legal Hurdles Obamacare Still Must Clear
The Supreme Court gave its definitive ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act in June. But that hasn't stopped three other legal challenges to core provisions of Obamacare — including the mandates and subsidies — that could unravel big parts of the law if they succeed (Kenen, 11/13).

NPR: Health Insurance Exchanges Explained
Last week's election may have settled the fate of the federal Affordable Care Act, but its implementation after months of uncertainty has caught many of the players unprepared. Late last week, the federal government extended the deadline for states to decide what they want to do about health exchanges. Those are the new marketplaces where individuals and small businesses will be able to shop for health insurance (Rovner, 11/13).

The Washington Post: After Election, Health Care Lobbyists Tweak Strategy
Last week’s re-election of President Barack Obama — and with it, the confirmation that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is here to stay — is prompting the three of them to become self-taught experts on their home states’ politics and major policymaking players. That's because the federal health care law requires states to build online marketplaces, called health insurance exchanges, where uninsured people can comparison-shop for plans. The makeup of those exchanges has yet to be determined — states face a Nov. 16 deadline to decide whether they’ll build their own or leave it up to the federal government — and many health care lobbyists are shifting their attention from federal agencies and Capitol Hill to the 50 state legislatures that will be calling the shots on their respective exchanges (Ho, 11/11).

Politico: Price Not Willing To Admit Defeat On Obamacare
Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) isn't ready to join House Speaker John Boehner in admitting President Barack Obama's health care reform law was the "law of the land." ... "I can tell you, as a physician, we're not opposed to the president's health care law because of this election, we're opposed because it's bad policy" (Robillard, 11/11).

The Washington Post: Paul Ryan: We Didn't Lose On Medicare
In his first post-Election Day television interview, former GOP vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan said Monday that he doesn't believe that the 2012 White House campaign was a referendum on his plan to cut the federal budget and overhaul entitlement programs such as Medicare. "I don’t think we lost it on those budget issues, especially on Medicare," Ryan told Jessica Arp, a reporter for Madison CBS affiliate WISC-TV, when asked whether the race was a referendum on his budget blueprint (Sonmez, 11/12).

USA Today: Improvements Sought For Health Insurance Law
While the future of the 2010 health care law stabilized with the re-election of President Obama, both Democrats and Republicans say now is the time for them to come together to fix it. ... "It's pretty clear to me that the [law] will not end up the way it is now," said Doug Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum ... The analysts do agree on one thing, even if they don't necessarily agree on how to go about it: Cutting costs through provider payments, rather than through the health care system itself, won't cause health care costs to stabilize (Kennedy, 11/10).

The Wall Street Journal: Nursing Homes Said To Overbill U.S.
Hundreds of nursing homes overcharge Medicare every year for so-called skilled services, adding $1.5 billion in annual costs to the program, according to a federal report to be released Tuesday (Burton, 11/12).

USA Today: New Long-Term Care Insurance Policies Offer More Options
As Americans are living longer they are facing the staggering cost of nursing homes and assisted-living care, often without a financial safety net. Long-term-care insurance is one way to prepare for the growing expenses, but the industry is undergoing changes and the products are confusing and costly (Dugas, 11/12).

The Wall Street Journal: More Sticks, Carrots In Health-Care Plans
Benefits-enrollment season is here, offering workers a glimpse of their health coverage for next year. For many, the picture will be familiar: higher costs and more incentives to improve their health. Underlying the details is a longer-term trend in health benefits. For many years, U.S. companies have been seeking to shift more responsibility onto employees. ... Next year, workers will see limited effects of the federal health-care overhaul (Mathews, 11/11).

Los Angeles Times: Tighter Oversight Of Prescription Drug Deaths Sought
The chairman of a state Senate committee that oversees the Medical Board of California said Monday that he would introduce a bill requiring coroners to report all prescription drug deaths to the agency — a move aimed at helping authorities identify doctors whose prescribing practices may be harming patients. Sen. Curren D. Price Jr. (D-Los Angeles), responding to a Times' report that authorities have failed to recognize how often people overdose on medications prescribed by their doctors, said the medical board needed coroners' reports to improve its oversight (Girion and Glover, 11/12).

Los Angeles Times: Legal Drugs, Deadline Outcomes
Prescription overdoses kill more people than heroin and cocaine. An L.A. Times review of coroners’ records finds that drugs prescribed by a small number of doctors caused or contributed to a disproportionate number of deaths (Glover and Girion, 11/11).

USA Today: Southeast Paying Health Price For High Antibiotic Use
Antibiotic use in the United States is dropping, but it is dropping most slowly in states that use the drugs the most – widening regional gaps that may be putting people in some Southeastern states at heightened risk for infections that no longer respond to antibiotics, a new analysis shows (Painter, 11/13).

The Washington Post: Sandy Triggers New Policies On Health Insurance, Leave-Sharing
The government is continuing to expand benefits policies in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, clearing the way for certain emergency relief employees to be eligible for federal health insurance and soliciting donations of leave for affected federal workers. The Office of Personnel Management plans to publish on Wednesday rules effective immediately making relief workers who are hired on an intermittent basis by agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency eligible under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (Yoder, 11/12).

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