KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: September 14, 2011

Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including lots of talk about the 'super committee' and about the new census numbers regarding the uninsured as well as the second-day analysis regarding some of the controversial comments made during Monday night's GOP presidential primary debate.

Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill:  CBO Chief Testifies At 'Super Committee' Hearing
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey talks with Jackie Judd about the "getting down to business" atmosphere at the joint debt panel's Capitol Hill hearing Tuesday. Read the transcript or listen to the audio (9/13).

Kaiser Health News: Rate Of Uninsured Stays Flat In 2010, Census Reports
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jordan Rau reports: "Nearly 50 million Americans lacking health insurance was the best economic news to come out of the bleak U.S. Census figures released today. While poverty increased, household earnings dropped and more families doubled up in living quarters, the nation's rate of people without health insurance in 2010 stayed flat at 16.3 percent of the population, statistically the same as the year before" (Rau, 9/13).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Census Changes How It Estimates The Uninsured; States Embrace Medicaid Managed Care
Now on KHN’s news blog, Phil Galewitz reports: "Last year, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated there were 50.7 million uninsured Americans in 2009. Today, it revised the figure for 2009 down to 49 million after adjusting the way it counts. What gives?" Also on the blog, Christopher Weaver reports that "Medicaid managed care is blanketing the nation as look to private health plans for help closing budget gaps." Check out Capsules.

The New York Times: Democrats See Perils On Path To Health Cuts
As Congress opens a politically charged exploration of ways to pare the deficit, President Obama is expected to seek hundreds of billions of dollars in savings in Medicare and Medicaid, delighting Republicans and dismaying many Democrats who fear that his proposals will become a starting point for bigger cuts in the popular health programs (Pear, 9/13).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Debt 'Supercommittee' Members Emphasize Opposing Spending, Tax Plans Aiming For Less Red Ink
Digging in for a bruising struggle, Republicans on Congress' powerful deficit-fighting "supercommittee" targeted Social Security and government health care spending Tuesday while Democrats pressed for higher tax revenue as part of any deal to reduce red ink by at least $1.2 trillion over the next decade (9/13).

The New York Times:  Debt Panel Opens With Bleak Economic Picture
As the 12-member panel began its race against a November deadline to recommend substantial federal savings, Mr. Elmendorf said its task had become more difficult because the outlook for the economy had worsened in the last month. … Republican members of the panel said growth in federal spending — for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, in particular — was the main factor in the nation’s fiscal problems. Mr. Elmendorf said spending for the big three benefit programs would account for 12.2 percent of the gross domestic product in 2021, compared with an average of 7.2 percent in the last 40 years. The difference, 5 percent of the economy, "is a very big number," Mr. Elmendorf said. Democrats said higher revenues were essential (Pear and Steinhauer, 9/13).

Los Angeles Times: Budget Chief Seeks Wholesale Reordering Of Government Priorities
The second meeting of the panel made clear the difficulty of the path ahead as the six Republican and six Democratic lawmakers started their work — and showed their partisan stripes. Both sides have held fast to familiar positions, with Republicans refusing to consider new taxes and Democrats resisting cuts to Medicare and other entitlement programs without new revenue as part of the deal (Mascaro, 9/13).

The Washington Post: Nearly One In Six In Poverty In The U.S.; Children Hit Hard, Census Says
The Census Bureau reported that 16.3 percent of Americans were without health coverage in 2010, a percentage that officials called statistically unchanged from 2009. Still, nearly 1 million more people were without insurance in 2010 than in 2009. The share of Americans with employer-based coverage continued a decade-long decline, dropping from 56 percent to 55 percent. The share of those covered by government insurance — including Medicaid, Medicare and military health care — rose slightly, to 31 percent. The percentage of children without health insurance remained statistically unchanged in 2010 but only because the large number of those who lost private coverage was largely offset by the number picked up by Medicaid, the federal-state insurance program for the poor (Fletcher, 9/13).

Los Angeles Times: California Poverty Rate Rises In 2010 For Fourth Year In A Row
Nearly 1 in 5 residents lacked health insurance last year, one of the highest rates in the nation. Median household income in the state, when adjusted for inflation, fell 4.6% to $54,459. That's the largest decline in a single year since record keeping began (Semuels and Helfand, 9/13).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Insurers Fought Obama's Health Overhaul, But Now They Aid Coalition To Sign Up Uninsured
Betting that President Barack Obama's health care overhaul withstands lawsuits and a Republican repeal drive, an unusual alliance of industry, health care and consumer groups is laying the groundwork to sign up uninsured Americans. Called Enroll America, the group will launch Wednesday — a day after the Census Bureau reported that nearly 50 million people had no health insurance in 2010, the highest number since the statistic was first collected more than two decades ago (Alonso-Zaldivar, 9/14).

The Wall Street Journal: Industry Formulates Its Own Medicare Prescription
Seeking to fend off larger cuts in federal medical spending, executives from big pharmaceutical, hospital and insurance companies are crafting their own plan to reduce the deficit which calls for wringing Medicare savings from beneficiaries, not just from hospitals and drug makers. Members of the Healthcare Leadership Council—which includes top executives from Pfizer Inc., Aetna Inc. and the Mayo Clinic—on Wednesday are expected to approve a proposal that would call for raising Medicare's eligibility age and shifting the program toward private plans for beneficiaries. The group plans to press members of the congressional "supercommittee," charged with finding $1.2 trillion in budget savings, to include the changes in its broader cost-cutting plan (Adamy, 9/14).

USA Today: Administration Targets Improper Health Care Payments
The Obama administration is targeting programs that help the poor and unemployed as it seeks to recover billions of dollars in improper payments. The effort, part of a government-wide focus on wasteful spending led by Vice President Biden, will get a high-profile boost today when the entire Cabinet meets for the first time on that subject alone (Wolf, 9/14).

NPR: Pediatricians Fact-Check Bachmann's Bashing Of HPV Vaccine
Now the nation's pediatricians have waded deep and early into the race for the presidency. In an unusual instance of political fact-checking of a candidate's statements by physicians themselves, the American Academy of Pediatrics has a tough prescription for Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann: Get your facts straight on the HPV vaccine (Hensley, 9/13).

Politico: Rick Perry's HPV Mandate Returns To Haunt Him
The Texas governor, who seized frontrunner status in the Republican presidential primary on the strength of his conservative views and economic record, is suddenly on the defensive over an unexpected issue: His 2007 attempt to mandate the human papillomavirus vaccine for sixth-grade girls (Burns, 9/13).

Los Angeles Times: Support At GOP Debate For Letting The Uninsured Die
The French Revolution had Marie Antoinette reportedly urging the masses starved for bread to eat cake instead. Now progressive circles are jeering over an exchange involving Rep. Ron Paul that they say shows that conservatives are unwilling to use society’s power to treat sick Americans and would rather let them die instead. The confrontation took place Monday night at the CNN/Tea Party debate among the Republican contenders for the nomination to face President Obama in 2012. At the center was Paul, a Texas congressman and libertarian icon (Muskal, 9/13).

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.