KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: January 18, 2012

In today's headlines, a report about the number of people in the U.S. who live in households receiving government benefits.

Kaiser Health News: 'Tiered' Insurance Confounds Consumers, Docs In Mass.
WBUR's Martha Bebinger, reporting as part of a partnership with Kaiser Health News, NPR and WBUR, writes: "Sarah Bechta, a wife, mother and physician from Northborough, Mass. sat down at her kitchen table with a folder full of brochures, pages from insurance websites and a hand-drawn spreadsheet to try to find out if a new 'tiered' health plan would be the cheapest option for her family" (Bebinger, 1/17).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Alaska To Spend $200K A Year For Each High Risk Pool Member
Now on KHN's blog, Phil Galewitz reports: "Alaska has long been known as one of the most expensive places to live in the United States. Those higher costs extend to health care services as well. A high risk pool set up under the federal health overhaul to help the uninsured who have pre-existing medical conditions expects to spend $10 million this year to cover about 50 members. That's about $200,000 per person" (1/17). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Wall Street Journal: Nearly Half Of U.S. Lives In Household Receiving Government Benefits
The pool of Americans relying on government benefits rose to record highs last year as an increasing share of families tapped aid in a weak economy. Some 48.6% of the population lived in a household receiving some type of government benefit in the second quarter of 2010, up a notch from 48.5% in the first quarter, according to Census data. …Experts predict recipient rolls will decline as the economy grows healthier, but the rising federal deficit has brought government spending, and particularly benefits programs, under closer scrutiny. House Republicans, for example, have proposed block-granting Medicaid (the federal-state health care program for the poor) in order to cut costs. The shift would put more of the responsibility on the states for both designing and paying for their health care programs (Murray, 1/17).

Politico: Supreme Court Holds Fate Of Medicaid
That outcome may not be the most likely scenario. But legal experts say no one can predict what the high court will do — particularly because many were surprised that the Supreme Court agreed to consider the Medicaid portion of the big multistate challenge to President Barack Obama’s health reform law in the first place (Feder, 1/17).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Congress Revisiting Payroll Tax Cut, Jobless Benefits As Round 2 Of Bruising Battle Begins
With television lights glaring, 20 lawmakers will gather next week to revisit the fight that consumed Congress before Christmas over renewing a Social Security payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits. Little real work will be done, but the meeting will mark the formal start of an effort to untangle a dispute that both parties want to resolve, though for different reasons. Following is a look at the path Round 2 could take, based on interviews with participants on both sides (1/18).

The New York Times: Parties Confident Of Extending Payroll Tax Cut
Republicans, eager to avoid another bruising fight, have signaled that they will drop the most controversial provisions in the version of the yearlong extension passed by the House earlier in December. … Democrats have retreated from their effort to raise taxes on incomes over $1 million to finance the extension of a tax cut for most working Americans, stave off a 27 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors and extend expiring unemployment benefits. But they do not seem ready to give much more ground (Weisman, 1/17).

The Washington Post: FDA And Drug Industry Agree On User-Fee Proposal For Generics
The Food and Drug Administration would collect hundreds of millions of dollars in new fees from pharmaceutical companies to help speed up the review of generic drugs, under an agreement with the industry released by the agency on Friday (Perrone, 1/17).

The New York Times: In Cuomo's Budget, Nip-And-Tuck Cuts And Big Policy Aims
Presenting what he called "both a budget and a reform plan," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday asked legislators to demand more rigorous teacher evaluations, to restrict pension benefits for future public employees, and to slightly reduce overall state spending by consolidating the state bureaucracy. … Mr. Cuomo's task this year was considerably easier than last year, when the state faced a $10 billion budget gap, prompting the governor to seek sharp reductions in spending on health care and education, as well as wage and benefit concessions from state workers (Kaplan, 1/17).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: From Abortion To War, A Look At The Positions Of The Republican Presidential Candidates
Here's where the 2012 Republican presidential candidates stand on a selection of issues. They are former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum [Abortion and health care are among the issues examined]health care] (1/17).

Los Angeles Times: Former Exec At Pasadena's Huntington Hospital Sentenced For Fraud
A former executive at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena was sentenced to three years in federal prison and ordered to pay $4.8 million in restitution for running an elaborate kickback scheme that scammed the hospital into paying for work that was never done, the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles said (Stevens, 1/18).

The Washington Post: In Maryland, A Prescription For Better Health Care
A proposal unveiled Tuesday by Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) aims to narrow the gap between Maryland and other states that, for a variety of reasons, have healthier communities and easier access to good medical care, especially primary care (Spivack, 1/17).

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.