KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: October 11, 2009

Today's headlines indicate that all eyes yesterday were on the Senate, where former President Bill Clinton urged Democrats to take action on health overhaul legislation and Majority Leader Harry Reid says work on the measure could be done by Christmas.  

On Hill, Bipartisan Support Emerging For Commission To Control Health Costs
Kaiser Health News staff writer Eric Pianin reports on growing interest for a bipartisan entitlement commission. "The drive on Capitol Hill to create a bipartisan entitlement and tax reform commission to help 'bend the cost curve' of health spending and address mounting deficits picked up momentum yesterday, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and a handful of moderate Democrats and Republicans voiced support for the effort (11/11).

How The House Abortion Restrictions Would Work
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Appleby reports on the particulars of the abortion language in the House-passed health bill. The measure "bars insurers from selling policies that cover abortion to anyone who gets a federal subsidy. But it does allow insurers to offer optional abortion coverage that consumers could purchase with their own money. Based on some states' experiences, it's unlikely insurers would sell such coverage" (11/10).

Health Vote Shatters Abortion Ceasefire
The sudden spasm of intense debate over abortion on Capitol Hill this week threatens not only to stall the passage of health care legislation, but also to shatter the delicate ceasefire that has governed the abortion issue during the Obama era (Politico).

President Clinton Urges Senate Action On Healthcare
With Senate leaders navigating a tricky path to move healthcare legislation forward, Democrats on Tuesday received a blunt warning from the president who tried in vain to provide universal coverage 15 years ago -- and who suffered the political consequences of failure (Los Angeles Times).

On Hill, Clinton Gives A Health-Care Pep Talk
Former president Bill Clinton urged Senate Democrats on Tuesday to resolve their differences with a health-care bill and pass an overhaul as soon as possible. Summoning the lessons of his own history with health-care reform, Clinton warned, "The worst thing to do is nothing" (The Washington Post).

Bill Clinton Presses Senators To Pass Health Bill
Former President Bill Clinton came to Capitol Hill Tuesday to underline for Democrats the political consequences of failing to pass a health overhaul, saying doing nothing was the worst outcome (The Wall Street Journal).

Reid Says Health Bill Will Be Done By Christmas
The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said Tuesday that he expected to bring major health care legislation to the floor next week and to complete work on the bill before Christmas. But other Democratic leaders said it was unlikely that a bill could reach President Obama's desk by year's end (The New York Times).

GOP Tries To Recapture Town Hall Anger
Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander said Republicans are "quietly" planning some 50 in-person and telephone town hall gatherings over the next three weeks to drum up opposition to Democratic health care bills. Republicans believe this effort will pick up new urgency once Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) releases his long-awaited bill - possibly next week (Politico).

'Opt-Out' Proposal Puts State Leaders To The Test
In the two weeks since the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, embraced a proposal that would allow states to opt out of a new government health insurance plan, state leaders have begun debating whether to take part, and the question has emerged as a litmus test in some campaigns for governor (The New York Times).

Health Vote Pits Democrat Vs. Democrat
Democrats who thought a vote against the sweeping health care package would inoculate them from political attack are facing serious blowback from angry constituents and interest groups on the left-fierce opposition that could prove as consequential as anything Republicans could have thrown at them (Politico).

Are Democrats Nearing Civil War Over Healthcare Reform?
Three days after the House's historic passage of comprehensive healthcare reform, Democrats are grappling with the downside of being a "big tent" party: Their coalition is diverse, and internal tensions rise to the boiling point when major legislation is on the line (The Christian Science Monitor).

Congress Has History Of Reversing Cuts
In 1997, Congress passed a budget law that mandated tough curbs on Medicare spending, setting up formulas to reduce doctor payments if broad spending targets were exceeded. But when the formula began taking a serious bite out of doctor reimbursements in 2002, Congress acted to reverse the cuts -- a step it has repeated five times since then (The Wall Street Journal).

Falling Far Short Of Reform
Reduce the growth of health care costs. Bend the curve. Find the game changers. Reform the delivery system. Yawn. Health care reform has always had two main goals. The first - insuring the uninsured - carries grand overtones of social justice. The second - making the health care system more efficient - can seem abstract, technocratic and a bit nerdy (The New York Times).

Gay-Rights Groups See Gains In House Health Bill
Gay-civil-rights groups have sought certain changes in health care policy for years without success. Now they've got a chance because of several provisions included in the House health care bill passed Saturday (NPR).

The Influence Game: Bishops Shape Health Care Bill
Catholic bishops have emerged as a formidable force in the health care overhaul fight, using their clout with millions of Catholics and working behind the scenes in Congress to get strong abortion restrictions into the House bill (The Associated Press).

Maine Finds A Health Care Fix Elusive
When his car repair shop's health insurance premiums doubled between 2000 and 2002, David White saw the problem as akin to a sputtering engine. So he got under the hood of the state's health system and tried to fix it (The New York Times).

Mass. Keeps Eye On Bill's Abortion Funding Ban
Massachusetts officials are closely monitoring an abortion funding ban in the sweeping health care legislation before Congress to make sure that it does not restrict women's access to abortion coverage in the state. Abortion is a covered service for low-income Massachusetts women enrolled in subsidized insurance plans available since 2006 through the state's landmark health care law (The Boston Globe).

Lawmakers Call For Emergency Sick-Leave Requirement
Against the backdrop of the H1N1 flu pandemic, congressional Democrats are pushing for emergency sick-leave legislation and using the crisis to garner support for a wider-ranging bill -- both of which, they say, would help prevent a more rapid spread of the virus by mandating that employers provide workers with paid time off (Los Angeles Times).

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