KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: August 23, 2011

Rick Perry grabs headlines today as news outlets examine his positions on health policies.

Kaiser Health News: Workers Squeezed As Employers Pass Along High Costs Of Specialty Drugs
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Appleby, working in collaboration with USA Today, reports: "To try to control spending, some employers are requiring patients to pay a percentage of the cost of specialty drugs — from 25 percent to 33 percent or more — rather than a flat dollar co-payment. Surveys show that 13 percent to 17 percent of employers have added a specialty category to their drug benefits, and more are likely to adopt them, given that more than 600 specialty drugs are in development" (Appleby, 8/22).

Kaiser Health News: As Hospitals Push ERs, States' Medicaid Budgets Pressured
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz, working in collaboration with The Washington Post, reports: "Efforts to reduce unnecessary ER visits by patients in Medicaid, the joint state-federal health program for the poor and disabled, are proliferating as states search for ways to control the soaring costs of the program. But state officials complain that their efforts are sometimes hampered by hospitals' aggressive marketing of ERs to increase admissions and profits" (Galewitz, 8/22).

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Readers Face Multiple Dilemmas About Insurance Coverage, Costs
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews addresses readers' questions about health insurance coverage and costs (Andrews, 8/22).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Fewer Doctors Are Offering Abortions, Study Says
Now on the KHN's news blog, Jenny Gold reports on a new study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology: "For women seeking an abortion, finding a doctor willing to offer the procedure is easier said than done. Ninety-seven percent of obstetrician-gynecologists have encountered patients wanting an abortion, but only 14 percent performed them." Check out Capsules.

Politico: Supercommittee Talks Have Begun, Says Fred Upton
The 12-member debt committee has already held conference calls and may have a website up by the end of the week, Rep. Fred Upton said Monday. Upton, a supercommittee member, told WNDU in South Bend, Ind., that the debt panel is already hard at work despite being spread about the country during the congressional recess (Berman, 8/22).

Los Angeles Times: Rick Perry's Views On The Constitution Get Closer Scrutiny
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, faulting much of what the federal government did in the 20th century, has called Social Security a "failure" and "an illegal Ponzi scheme" and also cast doubt on the constitutionality of federal laws on food safety, minimum wages, bans on child labor, environmental protection and Medicare. …  Perry's 191-page book drew little notice when it was published in November. But now that he is running for the Republican nomination for president, his views on Social Security and other federal programs will be carefully scrutinized (Savage, 8/23).

Politico: Trial Lawyers Prep For War On Rick Perry
The governor has pushed through a string of tort reform laws, including a 2003 measure putting a monetary cap on non-economic damage awards. He passed another law in the most recent Texas legislative session, making it easier to dismiss some lawsuits and putting plaintiffs on the hook for legal costs in certain cases that are defeated or dismissed. The campaign for tort reform in Texas began in the 1990s, well before Perry was governor, but the Republican can legitimately claim some credit for the results. It's a story Perry proudly tells on the stump, casting himself as the man who mastered a legal system run amok and made Texas friendlier for business (Burns, 8/22).

The Wall Street Journal: Ryan Shuts Door To Presidential Run
Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan ended weeks of speculation over a possible presidential bid by announcing Monday that he wouldn't make a late entry into the 2012 race. In announcing his decision, Mr. Ryan acknowledged the pressure he has been under from an array of prominent Republicans to consider joining the GOP nomination fray. Mr. Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, has made no secret of his own dissatisfaction with the current field, which he says has failed so far to put forward any clear plans to overhaul the country's entitlement programs and reduce government spending. … A Ryan budget plan that passed the House earlier this year and included sweeping cuts to Medicare made him a darling among many conservatives. But it also made Mr. Ryan a favorite target of Democrats, who said they relished the chance of running against him in 2012 (King, 8/22).

Los Angeles Times: Hospital-Related Infections Drop Under California Initiative
Scores of California hospitals, under pressure to reduce infections that kill an estimated 12,000 patients every year, say they have managed to cut costs and save lives through an initiative that has nurses and doctors redoubling efforts to prevent deadly germs from taking root (Helfand, 8/23).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: So. Calif. Grocery Union Leaders To Resume Bargaining After Members OK Strike Authorization
Rick Icaza, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770, said Monday that the weekend's vote by more than 90 percent of those who cast ballots to rebuff Vons', Ralphs' and Albertsons' health proposal show the chains how serious workers are about pushing for a better deal (8/22).

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