KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: January 8, 2013

Today's headlines include coverage of a government report concluding  that U.S. health-care spending grew at a record low pace for a third consecutive year.

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: When An Employer Drops Coverage, Workers Lose Their Tax Advantage
With just a year to go before the most significant changes under the Affordable Care Act take effect, Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews answers readers’ questions about how the law will affect them (Andrews, 1/7). Read the column.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Under Tight Budgets, Public Health Spending Falls For First Time; Conn., Insurance Capital, Moves Ahead With Exchange Plans; Study: Doctors Give In To Patient Demands For Brand-Name Drugs
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Jay Hancock reports on the diminishing level of public health spending: "But one aspect of moderating health expenditures — and the only category showing outright decline — could cost more than it saves. Hit by recession and tight budgets, spending on public health by federal, state and local governments fell in 2011 for the first time since analysts started tracking the numbers in 1960" (Hancock, 1/7).

Also on the blog, Phil Galewitz reports on Connecticut's plans to proceed with health exchange plans: "Five health plans — including all the major insurers in the state's individual and small group markets —  have told Connecticut's health insurance exchange that they plan to offer policies in the state's new online marketplace this fall. Exchange officials said Monday that Aetna, United Healthcare, Anthem, ConnectiCare and a new nonprofit co-op owned by the Connecticut State Medical Society have filed letters of intent to sell coverage, exchange officials said Monday" (Galewitz, 1/8).

In addition, Alvin Tran writes about a new study about how physicians handle patients’ requests for brand-name drugs: "Doctors are more likely to prescribe brand-name drugs over lower-cost generics when patients request them and when physicians have contacts with drugmakers, a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine Monday shows" (Tran, 1/7). Check out what else is on the blog.

The New York Times: Growth Of Health Spending Stays Low
National health spending climbed to $2.7 trillion in 2011, or an average of $8,700 for every person in the country, but as a share of the economy, it remained stable for the third consecutive year, the Obama administration said Monday (Pear, 1/7).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Gov't.: Respite From Surging Health Care Costs Continued For Third Straight Year. Will It Hold?
Americans kept health care spending in check for three years in a row, the government reported Monday, an unusual respite that could linger if the economy stays soft or fade like a mirage if job growth comes roaring back (1/7).

The Wall Street Journal: Health-Cost Pause Nears End
U.S. health-care spending grew at a record low pace for a third consecutive year in 2011, according to federal figures released Monday, but signs are emerging that the slow growth may not last….But data published Monday also showed that the amount spent to treat individuals, as opposed to spending on administration and insurance premiums, began to rise in 2011, signaling that cutbacks in health spending hadn't become permanent (Radnofsky, 1/7).

Politico: What's With Slow Rise In Health Spending?
Health care spending continued to grow at one of the slowest rates in history last year even as signs emerged that the downward pressures applied by the recession were beginning to lift, according to an annual government report published Monday. And experts say that if the recent slowing of health spending is due to changes other than the lost insurance and general belt-tightening of the severe economic downturn, it could have major implications for the country's fiscal prospects (Norman, 1/8).

Los Angeles Times: Great Recession Forced All Americans To Cut Back On Health Care
Though the Great Recession took a much larger toll on African Americans and Latinos than on whites, members of all three groups were forced to cut back on medical services as a result of the economic downturn, research shows (Kaplan, 1/7).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Supreme Court Turns Down Appeal From Social Security Recipients Who Don't Want Medicare
The Supreme Court has turned away a challenge from former House Majority Leader Dick Armey and other Social Security recipients who say they have the right to reject Medicare in favor of continuing health coverage from private insurers (1/7).

The Washington Post: Sandy Hook Shooting Reshapes The Lobbying Landscape On Gun Laws, Mental Health Services
The classic lobbying nemeses over gun laws have been the National Rifle Association and the Washington gun control group, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. But the Newtown tragedy is prompting some locally based advocacy groups that have previously been silent on gun control to consider stepping in (Ho, 1/6).

Los Angeles Times: Supreme Court Rejects Challenge To Obama Stem Cell Policy
The Supreme Court has turned away a challenge to President Obama's policy of expanding government-funded research using embryonic stem cells that scientists say may offer hope for new treatments for spinal injuries and Parkinson's disease (Savage, 1/7).

Politico: Scott, Sebelius Have 'Productive' Obamacare Chat
A long-awaited sit-down Monday between Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius didn't provide any answers on whether one of Obamacare's biggest critics will suddenly embrace the law. But the fact that the meeting happened at all — and that Scott is keeping up the newly pragmatic tone he's had since the election — raises the intriguing possibility that one of the nation's most high-profile Republican governors might actually agree to implement some of the law (Millman and Cheney, 1/7).

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Florida's Scott Talks Health Overhaul With Sebelius
Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott is no fan of the health overhaul law, with his state having led the Supreme Court fight against it. But on Monday, he sat down in Washington with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to talk about whether the Sunshine State will work with federal officials to implement it (Dooren, 1/7).

The New York Times: Cuomo Plans New Rules In Fight Against Sepsis
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo will announce in his State of the State Message this week that every hospital in New York must adopt aggressive procedures for identifying sepsis in patients, including the use of a countdown clock to begin treatment within an hour of spotting it, a state official said (Dwyer, 1/7).

NPR: New Regulations Could Treat Virginia Abortion Clinics Like Hospitals
This month marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the famed and widely cited case that legalized abortion. Yet across the country, states are continuing to approve restrictions. With little fanfare, Virginia and Michigan Republican governors recently signed new abortion bills into law (Lohr, 1/7).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Judge Orders Trial To Decide Whether Kan. Abortion-Insurance Law Limits Women's Right To One
Kansas' law that restricts private health insurance coverage for abortions will go to trial to resolve whether it poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking to end pregnancies, a federal judge ruled Monday (1/7).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Texas Agency Says New Women’s Health Program Can Meet Patient Demand
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has signed up more than enough doctors to treat the poor women who depended on Planned Parenthood for family planning services and check-ups, the commissioner said Monday (1/7).

Check out all of Kaiser Health News' e-mail options including First Edition and Breaking News alerts on our Subscriptions page.

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.