KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: May 2, 2012

Today's headlines include a report that House Republican lawmakers want to cut bonuses to states for enrolling low-income kids in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program. 

Kaiser Health News: Dr. Otis Brawley: 'The System Really Is Not Failing … Failure Is The System' (Video)
Kaiser Health News features a video of excerpts of a recent speech by Dr. Otis Brawley, the chief medical officer and executive vice president of the American Cancer Society, in which he has a powerful message for the country: We're all responsible for overuse of the health care system (5/1). Watch the speech or read the transcript.

Kaiser Health News: In Massachusetts, Hope For Higher Salaries If Health Care Inflation Slows
WBUR's Martha Bebinger, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "As Massachusetts' state legislators put the finishing touches on a major health care cost-control bill, there is still one big question: How much could it save? A recent report claims employers and employees could see between $8 billion and $34.5 billion in savings over nine years" (Bebinger, 5/1). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: When Is A Joint Committee Disjointed?; Advocates Worry States Are Moving Too Fast On Dual Eligibles; Funding Boost For Community Health Centers
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Marilyn Werber Serafini reports on news from the congressional Joint Economic Committee: "Over the past two weeks, 18 scathing messages hammering the Obama administration on health care matters have been e-mailed to reporters and congressional staff from an address associated with the congressional Joint Economic Committee – a panel of Democrats and Republicans from the House and Senate" (Werber Serafini, 5/2).

Meanwhile, Sarah Barr reports on a new timeline to improve care for dual eligibles: "Some states likely will begin testing new ways to care for people who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid early next year—a timeline that has some advocates urging officials to slow down" (Barr, 5/1).

Also on Capsules, Phil Galewitz reports on a funding boost for community health centers: "The Obama administration on Tuesday gave out $728 million to expand and modernize 398 community health centers that provide primary care mainly to the poor" (Galewitz, 5/1). Check out what else is on the blog.

Politico: GOP: Cut State Bonuses For Children's Health Care
House Republicans want to stop rewarding states for finding and enrolling low-income children in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, and public health advocates are livid. The Republicans say it's a smart fiscal move that will better protect the program against fraud; their critics say it's undermining years of progress states have made in identifying and enrolling a hard to serve population (Dobias, 5/1).

NPR: Are Democrats Reaching On Latest 'War On Women' Claim?
The latest skirmish in the so-called war on women has to do with, of all things, interest rates on student loans. More specifically, the effort by House Republicans to offset the cost of a federal student loan bill by cutting funding from a $15 billion preventive health fund included in the 2010 Affordable Care Act (Rovner, 5/1).

The Washington Post: The Fact Checker: Romney Campaign's Misleading Stats: Women In The Obama Economy
Democrats have pushed for free contraceptive coverage, equal pay and renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, while Republicans such as Ed Gillespie, one of the top advisors for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, try to drive home the notion that women have fared worse than men during the Obama administration. As Gillespie put it, "It's still the economy, and women aren't stupid." Let's look at the numbers Gillespie brought up. Are they accurate? Do they tell the whole story? (Hicks, 5/2).

The New York Times: A Shot Is Sunk, And Taken, In Massachusetts Race
The Warren campaign says this political moment is of little consequence compared with those involving health care and student loans that middle-class voters face every day. "These are the moments that Elizabeth Warren cares about — they are why she is running for Senate — not manufactured moments in a long political campaign," said Kyle Sullivan, a spokesman for Ms. Warren. … At the union event in Washington on Tuesday, Ms. Warren took Mr. Brown to task for opposing the federal health care law while using it to his family's benefit (Goodnough and Seelye, 5/1).

The Washington Post: Richard Carmona, Former Bush Surgeon General, Best Hope Of Turning Arizona Blue, Democrats Say
Carmona has yet to leap a tall building in a single bound, but Democrats here are counting on him to provide some political heroics: They're hoping Carmona will not just take a Republican seat but also give President Obama the boost he needs to win Arizona, the one red state his campaign thinks can be turned blue this year (Sonmez, 5/2).

Politico: SCOTUS Favorability Plummets, Poll Shows
The Supreme Court's favorability rating has plummeted to a 25-year low, with Americans on both sides of the aisle demonstrating historically negative views of the high court, according to a poll released Tuesday. … The survey also found that opponents and supporters of the Affordable Care Act hold similar views: 52 percent of proponents and 55 percent of opponents of President Barack Obama's health care law said they have a positive view of the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of the law earlier this year (Lee, 5/1).

The New York Times: Fate Of Postal Service Awaits Action In House
Perhaps most significant, the bill would restructure the payments the agency makes into a health benefits fund for future retirees. Under a 2006 law, the agency has to pay $5.5 billion annually into the fund, which the Postal Service said had added $20 billion in debt to its balance sheet since 2007. The House bill differs substantially from the Senate version (Nixon, 5/1).

The New York Times: Debate Over Who Should Be Allowed To Administer Anesthesia Moves To Courts
The debate pits nurse anesthetists, who specialize in administering anesthesia and maintain that they are well equipped to treat patients on their own, against anesthesiologists, who are physicians and say nurses lack the necessary training. The dispute dates to a 2001 change in Medicare and Medicaid regulations, allowing states to opt out of a requirement that nurse anesthetists be supervised. And it is part of a broader turf war over how much power nurses should have in treating patients (Frosch, 5/1).

The Washington Post: Hospitals Could Face Rate Freeze In Maryland
Maryland officials face a decision Wednesday on a controversial plan that would effectively freeze payment rates to hospitals in the state over the next year. Hospital representatives say they could be forced to lay off workers if the proposal is approved by the Health Services Cost Review Commission — an independent agency made up of seven commissioners appointed by the governor (Aizenman, 5/1).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Federal Appeals Judge Stops Planned Parenthood Injunction, Allows Women's Health Law
A federal appeals judge stepped into the fight over the Texas Women's Health Program on Tuesday, saying he wanted to hear arguments on whether the state should be prevented from enforcing a law that bans Planned Parenthood from participating in the program (5/1).

Reuters/Chicago Tribune: Appeals Court Allows Texas To Exclude Planned Parenthood
The ruling by 5th U.S. Circuit Judge Jerry Smith reversed a lower court ruling Monday in favor of the family planning organization. The emergency ruling on Tuesday means the state is free - for now - to enforce a new rule banning Planned Parenthood from the Women's Health Program, Texas officials said. The court requested a response from Planned Parenthood by Tuesday afternoon (MacLaggan, 5/1).

Los Angeles Times: Planned Parenthood Vs. Texas: Funds In Limbo Pending Ruling
The brinkmanship continues as Texas battles to cut government funding to Planned Parenthood. … Planned Parenthood clinics had sued the state to maintain funding and appeared to have won a victory Monday when a federal judge in Austin issued an injunction that prevented Texas from withdrawing funds from 49 clinics. But early Tuesday, a federal appeals court judge stayed the injunction, pending an appeal by the state filed late Monday. Judge Jerry Smith of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans gave Planned Parenthood until 5 p.m. Tuesday to file an opposition brief that he will consider before ruling on the state's appeal (Hennessy-Fiske, 5/1).

Reuters/Chicago Tribune: Georgia Bans Most Late-Terms Abortions, Assisted Suicide
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed into law two pieces of legislation on Tuesday to restrict late-term abortions and outlaw assisted suicide in the state. The first law banned most abortions after 20 weeks' pregnancy, making Georgia the eighth U.S. state to outlaw most late-term abortions based on controversial research that a fetus can feel pain by that stage of development. … The second law signed by Deal made it a felony to help people take their own lives (Beasley, 5/1).

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