KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: September 14, 2010

Among today's headlines, Berwick talks, health reform politics continue and coverage of the run up to Sept. 23 - the day several health overhaul provisions take effect - is in full swing.

Insuring Your Health: Key Health Law Provisions Begin Sept. 23
In her latest Kaiser Health News consumer column, Michelle Andrews writes: "The elimination of lifetime caps on benefits is one of several provisions that will begin to take effect Sept. 23, six months after enactment of the law. Health plans don't have to implement the provisions until their next annual renewal date; since most plans begin their coverage year on Jan. 1, that's when many consumers will start to see changes" (Kaiser Health News).

Health On The Hill – September 13, 2010
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey talks with Politico's Jennifer Haberkorn and KFF's Jackie Judd about recent events in Washington, including Senate consideration of amendments to a package of small business tax breaks that would repeal a provision of the health care law that requires businesses to submit a 1099 form to the Internal Revenue Service for yearly purchases of $600 or more from a vendor. Small business hates the provision and has lobbied against it but efforts to modify the requirement or repeal it are expected to fail (Kaiser Health News).

Insurance Companies To Remove Benefit Caps
On Sept. 23, insurance companies will no longer be allowed to place a lifetime limit on the benefits they pay out. For the vast majority of people with health insurance, the caps have been nothing to worry about. But lifting the limits is one of several changes taking place next week as a result of the new health care overhaul law (NPR).

New Medicare Chief Pledges To Cut Medical Costs
A contentious Obama administration appointee who runs Medicare and Medicaid on Monday offered his first road map for the programs, pledging to lower medical costs without harming patients (The Wall Street Journal).

New Medicare Chief Speaks Out Against Rationing
The nation's health system can't be transformed by rationing medical care, President Barack Obama's new Medicare chief said Monday in his first major speech (The Associated Press/Washington Post).

Labor Unions Haven't Forgotten Their Pledge On Healthcare Vote
Despite the improved Republican chances for a takeover of the House, some unions are spending against Democratic incumbents who voted "no" on healthcare reform (The Hill).

White House Slams Healthcare Defunding Proposals
Defunding healthcare reform, as some Republicans have suggested, "is just Washington-speak for taking us back to the days when insurance companies - not you and your doctor - were in control of your care" Stephanie Cutter wrote Monday on the White House blog (The Hill's Healthwatch Blog).

Health Care Challenge Goes To Court
The most closely watched legal challenge to President Barack Obama' health care plan is set to go before a federal judge in Florida on Tuesday, as 20 states and an influential small-business group argue that the bill amounts to a sweeping constitutional overreach (Politico).

Jobless Are Straining Social Security's Disability Benefits Program
Though policymakers anticipated the program's rolls growing with the aging of the baby-boom population, they suspect the current surge has less to do with any worsening in the health of the workforce than with the poor health of the economy (The Washington Post).

Small Cost Benefit For Tort Reform, More Primary Care
A new study published in Health Affairs showed that medical malpractice suits led physicians to order unnecessary tests, give duplicative exams and perform dubious procedures (so-called defensive medicine) to avoid later claims that they missed a diagnosis through poor performance. But it pegged the total cost at just $55.6 billion a year or about 2.4 percent of health care costs (The Fiscal Times).

For Physicians, Another Option On Education
Last week, Dr. Martin Samuels received a dinner invitation in the mail: He was invited to The Palm steakhouse to hear a Columbia University specialist discuss novel treatments for multiple sclerosis - and to earn continuing medical education credits (The Boston Globe).

Cigna Travels Abroad For Its Financial Health
Cigna Corp. is expanding overseas, leading a push by health insurers to find growth amid uncertainties at home. … Cigna and other U.S. insurers are looking abroad as the federal health overhaul casts doubt on future profits. Starting in 2014, they will be unable to turn down sick applicants in the U.S. Also, membership at large insurers has dropped as employers laid off workers (The Wall Street Journal).

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