KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: September 20, 2011

In today's headlines, details and analysis of President Barack Obama's debt-reduction plan, which would trim health programs by $320 billion and links such entitlement trims to new taxes.

Kaiser Health News: How Obama Plans To Cut Health Programs By $320 Billion
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz reports: "In his plan to trim the federal deficit, President Barack Obama Monday proposed $320 billion in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, largely by changing how the federal government pays health providers, slashing payments to drug companies, and dramatically changing the way it splits the costs of Medicaid with the states, according to a fact sheet the White House released" (Galewitz, 9/20).

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Employers Increasingly Trimming Or Cutting Disability Benefits
In her latest Kaiser Health News consumer column, Michelle Andrews writes: "Disability insurance is one of those under-the-radar benefits you may take for granted, especially if your employer picks up the tab for the coverage, as many firms do. Because of that, as annual benefit enrollment time approaches you probably aren't worried about examining your disability coverage details and costs the way you will your health insurance plan options. But you should" (Andrews, 9/20).

The New York Times: Obama Proposes $320 Billion In Medicare And Medicaid Cuts Over 10 Years
Mr. Obama proposed higher premiums and deductibles for many Medicare beneficiaries and lower Medicare payments to teaching hospitals and rural hospitals. He would start charging co-payments to frail homebound older people who receive home health services. And he would reduce the growth of federal payments to states for treating low-income people under Medicaid (9/19).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Obama's Deficit Plan Targets Drug Companies, Hospitals And Future Medicare Beneficiaries
Health care savings in President Barack Obama's deficit-reduction plan would squeeze future Medicare recipients, cut payments to drug companies and hospitals, and shift costs to states. Still, some advocates say the president's approach is less painful than other major ideas being debated this year, from privatizing Medicare to letting the states run Medicaid without a federal guarantee that the poor would get needed care (9/20).

NPR: To Cut Deficit, Obama Takes A Scalpel To Health Programs
President Obama's plan to cut the deficit doesn't exactly spare Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal health programs. But he also doesn't propose the sweeping sorts of changes envisioned by House Republicans earlier this year (Rovner, 9/20).

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Yokes Benefit Cuts To New Taxes
Mr. Obama's plan wouldn't leave Medicare untouched. Changes to that program and Medicaid—in large part coming from cuts in payments to drug companies and long-term care providers—are part of $580 billion in proposed cuts to mandatory spending programs (Lee and Bendavid, 9/20).

The New York Times: Obama Draws New Hard Line On Long-Term Debt Reduction
Faced with falling poll numbers for his leadership and an anxious party base, Mr. Obama did not just propose but insisted that any long-term debt-reduction plan must not shave future Medicare benefits without also raising taxes on the wealthiest taxpayers and corporations (Calmes, 9/20).

Los Angeles Times: Obama's Deficit Proposal Marks A Move Away From Compromise
Gone was the effort to strike a deal with Republicans. Gone were the summertime proposals to consider raising the eligibility age for Medicare or to change the cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security. Gone too was the conciliatory language about finding common ground and challenging the orthodoxies of both parties. In their place was a firm veto threat, changes in Medicare that would largely protect beneficiaries, a demand for higher taxes from the wealthy and a catchy slogan, the "Buffett rule," designed to convey Obama's belief that people earning more than $1 million a year should not be able to pay a lower tax rate than middle-income households (Nicholas and Mascaro, 9/19).

The Washington Post: Obama Proposes New Taxes On Wealthy For Half Of Debt Plan
In a Rose Garden address on Monday, the president urged lawmakers to find even greater savings. And he vowed to veto any approach that does not include new levies on the wealthy alongside any benefit cuts in Medicare, the health insurance program for the nation's retirees. He proposed nearly $250 billion in Medicare savings, largely by reducing excessive payments (Goldfarb, 9/19).

The New York Times: In Deficit Plans, Obama Drops Compromise For Confrontation
The key points of the plan read like a mirror image of the priorities espoused by House Republicans. The president proposed raising taxes by $1.5 trillion, mostly on the wealthy, while making only modest cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, and walling off Social Security from any changes. The plan also would reduce military spending by more than $1 trillion (Applebaum, 9/19).

The New York Times: 4 Insurers Will Supply Health Data
Several major health insurers have agreed to provide their claims data on a regular basis to academic researchers, in an unusual agreement that they say will open a window onto the rising costs of health care (Abelson, 9/19).

The Wall Street Journal: Health Insurers Will Give Claims Data to Institute
Several major health insurers say they will provide information on billions of medical-billing claims in their books to a new academic institute, which will create a database for research on health-care costs and utilization (Mathews, 9/19).

NPR: Gov. Perry Cut Funds For Women In Texas
Only 48 percent of Texans have private health insurance and more than a quarter of the state's population has no insurance at all, more than any other state. To fill this gap, the state's hospital emergency rooms and dozens of women's health clinics have stepped in to serve the uninsured across Texas. To understand the health care landscape in Texas it helps to start with context, and perhaps nobody is better suited to explain it than Tom Banning. He is the CEO of the Texas Academy of Family Physicians, a group of about 6,000 doctors and whose members reach into every part of the state (Goodwyn, 9/20).

Los Angeles Times: Needle Exchange Proudly Flouts The Law
In an isolated Fresno cul-de-sac on a recent Saturday afternoon, Dr. Marc Lasher and a small band of volunteers were collecting dirty needles, doling out clean ones and providing medical care for addicts from a yellow school bus. But they were breaking the law (Marcum, 9/19).

The Washington Post: Changes In Controversial Organ donation Method Stir Fears
Surgeons retrieving organs for transplant just after a donor's heart stops beating would no longer have to wait at least two minutes to be sure the heart doesn’t spontaneously start beating again under new rules being considered by the group that coordinates organ allocation in the United States (Stein, 9/19).

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