KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: May 4, 2011

Today's headlines include reports about a House vote to cut off funds for a key part of the health law, as well as the latest developments regarding the budget and entitlement reform.

Kaiser Health News: Insurer-Owned Clinics Seek To Improve Care, Curb Costs
Kaiser Health News staff writer Christopher Weaver, working in collaboration with the Philadelphia Inquirer, reports: "Every few months, James S. Miller, a 68-year-old retired transit worker and jazz saxophonist, would arrive by electric wheelchair at North Philadelphia hospital emergency rooms, short of breath and with the swollen legs that mark his illness, congestive heart failure. … That went on for years, until Miller enrolled last September in a private Medicare plan, Bravo Health, with a financial interest in keeping him well. Today, he has swapped the woes of the ER for the advantages offered at the Bravo Health Advance Care Center on Lehigh Avenue, where there are flat-screen TVs, 10-minute waits, and medical care delivered by doctors whom his insurer employs at no cost to patients" (Weaver, 5/4).

Kaiser Health News (video): Q & A: My Daughter With A Pre-Existing Condition Lost Her Insurance, What Can We Do?
Kaiser Health News columnist Michelle Andrews fields a question from a mother whose daughter lost her insurance and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. What are her options to get coverage (5/4)?

NPR: Remaking Medicare: Saving Money Or Shifting Costs?
There's no debating that the budget blueprint passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last month would make major changes to the Medicare program for the elderly and disabled (Rovner, 5/4).

The Associated Press: Senate Democrats Eye $4T Budget Savings Plan
The top Democrat in the Senate on budget matters said Tuesday that he's preparing a fiscal blueprint to slash the deficit by $4 trillion over the upcoming decade - a plan built on the bipartisan findings of President Barack Obama's deficit commission. …  The Senate Democratic plan would offer a counterpoint to a House GOP budget plan that passed last month. The GOP measure calls for a dramatic overhaul of Medicare that, for future retirees now 54 years old or younger, would turn the popular elderly health care program into a voucher-like system in which beneficiaries would purchase health insurance (Taylor, 5/3).

Politico: Kent Conrad: $4 Trillion In Cuts Over 10 Years
Indeed, Conrad's $4 trillion, 10-year goal is significantly more than what President Barack Obama committed to in a major speech on the debt issue April 13 and comes close to where House Republicans ended up in their own budget plan adopted days later.  To be sure, these number comparisons tell only part of the story in any budget. And Conrad is proposing a very different route than that taken by the House GOP: he would do more to protect the existing Medicare program, for example, and relies on close to $1 trillion in new revenues generated by proposed tax reforms (Rogers, 5/3).

Politico: Gang Of Six Window Is Closing
Members of the Gang of Six seemed frustrated Tuesday and were even more tight-lipped than usual about the progress of negotiations. They met Monday in their first face-to-face meeting since leaving for recess two weeks ago. The lawmakers had one full-group phone call and at least one partial-group phone call over the break, according to a source familiar with the talks, and staffs back on the Hill used the work period to "catch up" with what their bosses had been discussing before leaving town. All indications are that little progress has been made on resolving the "more than just a handful" of issues left to be resolved, from revenues to reforming massive entitlement programs (Shiner, 5/4).

The New York Times: Good Feeling Gone, In Congress, Anyway
Lawmakers were quickly back to arguing over economic and health care policy, trading blame for high gasoline prices and positioning themselves for the fight over raising the federal debt limit. The Senate found itself at multiple impasses over a small-business bill and judicial confirmations (Steinhauer and Hulse, 5/3).

The Associated Press: House Acts To Cut Money For Key Part Of Health Law
The House Republican drive to dismantle the new health care law piece by piece advanced Tuesday with a vote to disrupt the flow of federal dollars for health insurance exchanges, an integral part of the law's goal of expanding insurance coverage (Abrams, 5/3).

Politico: House Health Care Defunding Votes Strictly For GOP Base
Republicans insist the health care repeal effort hasn't jumped the shark - but even they admit the bills they're pushing through the House Tuesday aren't exactly the biggest repeal votes they've taken. The bills are getting smaller and narrower - going after shrinking slices of President Barack Obama's health care law, rather than the whole thing. The main one on Tuesday's agenda, which passed the House 238-183, repeals the mandatory funding for the state-based health insurance exchanges (Nather, 5/3).

NPR: House Votes To Cut Funds For Key Part Of Health Law
The Republican-led House approved Tuesday another bill aimed at defunding parts of last year's huge health care overhaul, but the measure doesn't stand much of a chance in the Democratic-led Senate (Rovner, 5/3).

Los Angeles Times: Indiana Opening New Front In Abortion Battle
Opening a new front in the battle over abortion, Indiana might soon become the first state to cut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood clinics - a move that could boost the presidential aspirations of Gov. Mitch Daniels while creating a dilemma for the Obama administration (Savage, 5/3).

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