KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: December 8, 2010

Today's health policy headlines include more detail on the deal reached to avoid a scheduled cut in physician's Medicare pay.

Health On The Hill – December 7, 2010
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey talks with KFF's Jackie Judd about recent developments on Capitol Hill, including a tentative deal to stop scheduled Medicare physician payments for one year. Meanwhile, in Texas a new study shows that the state would lose $15 billion of federal funds in one year if it left the Medicaid program (Kaiser Health News). Watch the video.

Deal Reached To Avoid Cut In Doctors' Medicare Pay
When Democrats passed President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, they used Medicare cuts to pay much of the cost of providing insurance to millions of uninsured (The Associated Press).

Cuts In Doctor Fees For Medicare Patients Delayed
By now it should be getting familiar. Unless lawmakers act before Jan. 1, Medicare payments to doctors will be cut by 25 percent (NPR).

Senate Leaders Agree On 'Doc Fix'
Senate leaders have reached a compromise on a one-year Medicare "doc-fix," paid for with a tweak to the health care reform law (Politico).

Report: Tough Times Far From Over For States
Lawmakers have reduced spending for parks, health care for low-income children and some state-funded medical transplants. Still, the tough times are far from over (The Associated Press/Washington Post).

Conservative Judge Considers Va. Attorney General's Suit Against Health-Care Reform
Sometime this month, [U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson] will rule in a case filed by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) challenging the constitutionality of the nation's sweeping health-care overhaul. Two other federal judges have ruled that the law passes constitutional muster. No judge has ruled the law unconstitutional. Many observers think Hudson will be the first (The Washington Post).

Children's Hospitals Lose Some Drug Discounts
In an unintended consequence of the new health care law, drug companies have begun notifying children's hospitals around the country that they no longer qualify for large discounts on drugs used to treat rare medical conditions (The New York Times).

Some Employers Offering Wellness Programs To Cut Health Costs
As health insurance costs rise, employers are scrambling to reduce premiums, especially now that they average $10,073 per employee, according to a survey by benefits-consulting firm Mercer. One plan of attack? Wellness programs, with companies offering employees incentives to participate (Los Angeles Times).

Sebelius: Reform Law Boosts Quality Of Care
While most discussion of the new healthcare reform law has focused on insurance coverage, the law provides a "serious platform" to improving the quality of care, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said at a healthcare quality forum Tuesday afternoon (The Hill's Healthwatch Blog).

9/11 Health Bill Headed To A Senate Vote
U.S. Senators are scheduled to take a key vote Wednesday on a long-stalled bill to provide health care and financial compensation to sick Ground Zero workers (The Wall Street Journal).

Drug Firms To Pay More Than $421 Million To Settle Fraud Charges
Three pharmaceutical firms agreed to pay more than $421 million to settle claims of defrauding Medicare and Medicaid - the latest in a string of large healthcare fraud settlements announced by the Justice Department (Los Angeles Times).

Drug Makers Agree To $421 Million Settlement
Three drug makers agreed Tuesday to pay $421 million to settle U.S. claims that they bilked federal health-care programs out of millions by greatly inflating the price of their drugs (The Wall Street Journal).

A Device To Kill Cancer, Lift Revenue
Roughly one in three Medicare beneficiaries diagnosed with prostate cancer today gets a sophisticated form of radiation therapy called IMRT. Eight years ago, virtually no patients received the treatment. The story behind the sharp rise in the use of IMRT-which stands for intensity-modulated radiation therapy-is about more than just the rapid adoption of a new medical technology. It's also about financial incentives (The Wall Street Journal).

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