KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: May 25, 2011

Today's headlines include reports about the outcome in yesterday's special election in New York, and what it might mean for Republicans and their Medicare plan.  

Kaiser Health News: Most Americans Oppose GOP Plan To Cut Medicaid
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz reports: "Most Americans oppose the House Republicans' plan to overhaul and slash funding of Medicaid, the state-federal program that covers 56 million low-income people, according to a poll being released today" (Galewitz, 5/25).

Kaiser Health News: 'No Regrets' In Nursing Home Industry For Health Law Support – The KHN Interview
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz spoke with Mark Parkinson, head of the American Health Care Association and former governor of Kansas, to get his views on the issues facing the industry (Galewitz, 5/24).

Kaiser Health News: Prevention: The Answer To Curbing Chronically High Health Care Costs (Guest Opinion)
In this Kaiser Health News column, Kenneth Thorpe and Jonathan Lever write that Congress should be working to reduce health care costs by reducing the rates of the chronic diseases. Their message: It takes investment in the ounce of prevention to realize the pound of cure (5/24).

The New York Times: Democrat Wins GOP Seat; Rebuke Seen To Medicare Plan
Democrats scored an upset in one of New York's most conservative Congressional districts on Tuesday, dealing a blow to the national Republican Party in a race that largely turned on the party's plan to overhaul Medicare (Hernandez, 5/24).

Los Angeles Times: Medicare Proposal May Have Cost GOP A House Seat In New York
The political risks of overhauling a popular entitlement program became a harsh reality for Republicans on Tuesday as a Democrat captured a House seat in a staunchly conservative New York district after a bruising battle over the future of Medicare. Democrat Kathy Hochul's surprising victory in the special election in western New York was the first major blow to Republicans since their rise to power in the fall election (Hennessey, 5/24).

The Wall Street Journal: Democrat Captures House Seat
While the outcome was complicated by a third-party candidate, members of Congress are sure to study the results for the role that the Republican Medicare proposal may have played in the race. "We had the issues on our side-did we not have the right issues on our side?" Ms. Hochul said at her victory party, as supporters chanted "Medicare! Medicare!" (Hughes and Bendavid, 5/25).

The Associated Press: Medicare Key To Shocking Dem Win In NY House Race
Kathy Hochul told her supporters they had picked the right issue to fight a Republican on long-held Republican turf. The Democrat rode a wave of voter discontent over the national GOP's plan to change Medicare and overcame decades of GOP dominance here to capture Tuesday's special election in New York's 26th Congressional District (Fouhy and Dobbin, 5/25).

The Associated Press: Medicare Overhaul Proposal Causing GOP Stress
Little more than a month after they backed sweeping changes to Medicare, Republicans are on the political defensive, losing a House seat long in their possession and exhibiting significant internal strains for the first time since last fall's election gains (Espo, 5/24).

Politico: Senate Dems: Ryan Budget Hurts Women
Senate Democrats got a lot of traction labeling attempts by House Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood as an attack on women, and now they are trying the same tactic with the Republican overhauls of Medicare and Medicaid (Millman, 5/25).

The New York Times: Vote On Debt Is Planned But Criticized As A Stunt
House Republicans said Tuesday that they would allow a vote next week on an increase in the federal debt ceiling with no strings attached, in order to see it defeated and show Democrats that no increase in federal borrowing authority can be enacted without significant spending cuts (Hulse and Calmes, 5/24).

The Washington Post: Poll: More Americans Fear Higher National Debt Than Default
The debate over whether to raise the legal limit on government borrowing has riveted Americans, with a large majority worried about the potential consequences regardless of whether Congress votes to allow the national debt to keep increasing. …  On Tuesday, Vice President Biden emerged from a fourth round of debt-reduction talks with six lawmakers from both parties and announced that the group is on pace to reach an agreement on more than $1 trillion in spending cuts, part of a package aimed at smoothing passage of a debt-limit increase. … On Tuesday, it dove into the more contentious question of whether to cut Medicare and Medicaid, the biggest drivers of future borrowing - a top GOP priority (Montgomery and Craighill,  5/24).

The Wall Street Journal: Budget Talks Eye $1 Trillion In Cuts
Neither Mr. Biden nor Mr. Cantor would say how they expected the deal to reach beyond $1 trillion. One person familiar with the talks said that Democrats were resisting new Medicare program cuts unless Republicans agreed to consider tax increases (Hook and Boles, 5/25).

Los Angeles Times: Budget Talks Identify $1 Trillion In Possible Cuts
Vice President Joe Biden said budget talks with congressional leaders had identified at least $1 trillion in possible federal spending reductions - about half the amount Republicans have indicated would be needed for their vote to raise the nation's debt limit. But in a sign of the continuing partisan struggle, Biden also said Tuesday that new revenue must be part of any deal, a concept the GOP has resisted. He added that changes to "big ticket" programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, would be needed too (Mascaro, 5/25).

Politico: Experts Defend Medicare Board
The much-maligned Independent Payment Advisory Board finally has some champions. One hundred health policy experts and economists sent a letter, obtained by POLITICO, to congressional leaders early this week urging legislators to back off their many attempts to repeal the health reform provision (Kliff, 5/25).

The Wall Street Journal: Vermont Health Plan Advances
Vermont is moving one step closer to a goal of its Democratic governor: a state-run health plan that would insure most of its 625,000 residents. The bill Gov. Peter Shumlin plans to sign on Thursday would create a panel whose goal would be to figure out how to pay for a new system intended to reduce the rate of overall health-cost increases (Adamy, 5/25).

The Wall Street Journal: City Hospital System Faces New Cuts
The New York City Health and Hospitals Corp. plans to cut costs by an additional $250 million, intensifying its belt-tightening even as it slashes $600 million in a restructuring. Alan Aviles, president of the nation's largest municipal health-care system, testified at a City Council hearing Tuesday that new state Medicaid reductions estimated at $174 million, a risk of possibly $100 million in increased pension costs and expected decreases in federal funding require the corporation to trim $250 million more to close its budget gap (Saul, 5/25).

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