KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: February 9, 2011

Today's headlines include news about GOP plans to defund the health law and stepped up Capitol Hill activity surrounding the abortion issue.  

Kaiser Health News: Vermont Gov. Proposes Single-Payer Health Plan
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Aimee Miles writes: "Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, who was elected last November after promising to reform health care in the state, unveiled a bill  today that would abolish most forms of private health insurance and move state residents into a publicly funded insurance pool" (Miles, 2/8).

Kaiser Health News: Kaiser Health News Column: Insurance Reform Is Not Cost Control
In his latest Kaiser Health news column, Austin Frakt writes: "Now that House Republicans, along with a few Democrats, have passed a bill to repeal last year's health reform law, they are planning to offer some alternatives for replacing it. Not unexpectedly, health care spending -- high and growing premiums and government expenditures -- are dominant concerns among policymakers. But how can we tell if their plans are likely to tackle this problem?" (2/9).

The New York Times: Health Law Provision Raises Anti-Trust Concerns
The new health care law encourages collaboration by doctors and hospitals for cost savings, but a split has developed here as to just how far they can go without running afoul of antitrust laws (Pear, 2/8).

The Associated Press: Health Insurers Adjust To Once-Scary Reform Rule
A new health care overhaul mandate that once stirred fear among insurers is proving to be challenging - but not too challenging - as it makes its debut in 2011. Major health insurers say a provision that requires them to spend a certain percentage of the premiums they collect on care-related costs will eat into earnings this year. But Aetna Inc. and Cigna Corp. both say their profits could still grow in 2011, and Aetna also plans to start paying a significantly higher dividend to shareholders this year (Murphy, 2/8).

The Wall Street Journal: GOP Seeks To Block Funding For Health Law
House Republicans will use a stopgap spending bill coming to the floor next week as a vehicle to block money for the new health-care law, a top lawmaker said Tuesday. The latest push to neutralize the legislation, confirmed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, (R., Va.), comes on the heels of an earlier effort to repeal the law. That passed the House but fell short in the Senate (Hook, 2/9).

Politico: Eric Cantor: GOP Will Defund Health Care Law
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says the bill to fund the government for the rest of the year will have language to withhold funding from the health care law by the time it passes the House next week. It was a message to the party's conservative base that, no, Republicans haven't forgotten about defunding the health care law. But Cantor still didn't promise that the defunding language would be in the bill from the beginning - as tea partiers and other opponents of the law want (Nather, 2/8).

The New York Times: Malpractice Bill Raises Issues About A Lawsuit
The lawmaker and retired obstetrician sponsoring a Congressional bill to sharply cut medical malpractice awards was involved in a $500,000 settlement of a malpractice lawsuit. The action was brought by a pregnant woman who charged that inappropriate care caused the loss of her fetus and other complications (Meier, 2/8).

Politico: House Republicans Rethinking 'Repeal And Replace'
Ask any House Republican about repealing President Barack Obama's health care law, and you'll get the same fiery, self-assured talking points about tearing down what Speaker John Boehner has called a "monstrosity." But talk to some of the 16 freshman lawmakers who have declined their government health benefits, and you'll hear a different side of the story - about tough out-of-pocket expenses, pre-existing conditions and support for health reforms that would help those who struggle with their coverage. As they venture into the free market for health insurance, these lawmakers - many of whom swept into office fueled by tea party anger over the health care law - are facing monthly premiums of $1,200 and fears of double-digit rate hikes (Cogan, 2/9).

The New York Times: Ohio: Health Law Challenge On Fast Track
A second appellate court has set an expedited schedule for hearing a constitutional challenge to the new health care law (Sack, 2/8).

The Washington Post: Abortion Debate Heats Up On Capitol Hill
A renewed - and heated - debate about abortion is underway one month into a congressional session that largely has devoted its energy to tackling economic issues. At the core of the discussion this week are two House Republican proposals that would expand restrictions on federal abortion funding (Sonmez, 2/8).

The Wall Street Journal: Republicans Push Antiabortion Bills
Republicans focused their message on the economy during the last campaign, responding to voters' anxiety about jobs and government debt to the exclusion of just about everything else. Now, House Republican leaders, with the backing of social conservatives, are pushing ahead with a series of antiabortion bills that will share the stage with jobs in this legislative session (Bendavid, 2/9).

NPR: GOP Takes Latest Abortion Fight To The Tax Code
House Republicans formally launch their latest effort to roll back abortion rights this week, and they're aiming squarely for the tax code. On the docket already are two bills: One would make permanent the decades-old "Hyde amendment," which is currently added every year to federal spending bills and bars most federal abortion funding. The other bill seeks to close what abortion opponents say are "loopholes" in last year's health overhaul that could permit federal funds to flow for abortions. But even before the first hearing on the measure, a group of Senate Democrats vowed that if either bill passed the GOP-stacked House, it wouldn't get through their chamber (Rovner, 2/9).

Chicago Tribune: Budget Squeeze Could Make HIV Treatment Costlier, Rarer
Thousands of low-income Illinoisans who have the AIDS virus could find themselves with fewer choices for life-sustaining medicines and more hurdles to get treatment, as the state continues to grapple with an unprecedented budget crunch amid increased demand and high drug prices (Japsen, 2/9).

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