October 15, 2009

October 15: Health Care Reform News

By Kelley Luckstein

Changes in Medicare, Medicaid could benefit Minnesota

Despite political obstacles in Congress that have made the federal health care reform package less expansive than originally advertised, the stakes remain high for Minnesota. The key issues at this point involve proposed reforms to Medicare and Medicaid, the twin pillars of federal health care funding, that could go a long way toward reducing state costs to care for the poor and stopping the net outflow of Minnesota tax dollars…


“Minnesota [physician rates] ended up being about .92, which is about 92 cents on the dollar, while the rates in places of California and Florida and New York were as high as 1.34,” says Dr. Doug Wood, chair of division of health care policy and research for the Mayo Clinic. “Medicare payment rates across the country don’t cover the cost of care, but when you are getting 40 percent less [than other regions], real cost-shifting occurs.”


Finance and Commerce by Britt Robson,



Mayo Clinic sees good and bad in health reform bill

While Mayo Clinic sees plenty of positives in the Senate Finance Committee's health reform bill, one clinic official said more needs to be done to fix the payment system.


Jeff Korsmo, director of the clinic's Health Policy Center, said the bill does a good job when it comes to expanding and improving insurance coverage. But he said the clinic wants to see more to make sure providers are paid based on value instead of cost.


Post-Bulletin by Heather Carlson,


Additional Mayo Clinic health reform news:



Top stories


Public Option Is Next Big Hurdle in Health Debate

The New York Times

Oct. 15, 2009


A day after the Senate Finance Committee approved a measure without a “public option,” the question is how the president can reconcile party divisions on the issue.


Senate Health Care Push Gains Momentum

The Wall Street Journal

Oct. 15, 2009


Republican Sen. Susan Collins signaled a willingness to work with Democrats on healthcare legislation, adding momentum to President Barack Obama's push for a bill despite a move by Republican leaders to slow down the debate.


Democrats Work to Finalize Health Legislation

AP/The Washington Post
Oct. 15, 2009


White House officials and Senate Democrats are meeting in private to iron out differences on a health care overhaul that could affect every American. In public, they're united by a common enemy: the health insurance industry.


No Snowementum: Centrist Democrats Still Not Sold on Health Care


Oct. 14, 2009


Senate Democrats took their newfound momentum for health reform into closed-door talks with White House aides Wednesday but still faced a months-old problem: centrist Democrats who aren’t sold on Obama-style reform even now.





Democrats Fire Back at Health Industry

The Washington Post

Oct. 15, 2009


Days after the insurance lobby began an aggressive campaign against a Senate plan to overhaul the nation's healthcare system, senior Democrats threatened to revoke the industry's long-standing antitrust exemption.


The Insurance Industry Strikes Back

The New York Times

Oct. 14, 2009

During much of the health care debate this year, the insurance industry has been the dog that didn’t bark. But with the emergence of specific legislation from the Senate Finance Committee, that has changed.



California Hospital Study: Sometimes Spending More Actually Does Save Lives

The New York Times
Oct. 14, 2009


A new study in Circulation indicates that it is not always easy to determine which health care spending is wasteful.

Studies: Some Nursing Home Elderly Get Futile Care
Oct. 14, 2009

A surprising number of frail, elderly Americans in nursing homes are suffering from futile care at the end of their lives, two new federally funded studies reveal. Medical experts say the new research emphasizes the need for doctors, caregivers and families to consider making the feeble elderly who are near death comfortable rather than treating them as if a cure were possible — more like the palliative care given to terminally ill cancer patients.



Medicare Advantage Premiums Expected to Rise 25% Next Year

The Wall Street Journal
Oct. 15, 2009


Premiums that seniors pay for Medicare Advantage plans will increase an average of 25% next year, largely because insurers, in response to new federal requirements, are canceling many plans that carry no premiums.


Hidden Costs of Medicare Advantage

The Washington Post

Oct. 15, 2009

Seniors across the country revel in the free perks that private insurance companies bundle with legally mandated benefits to entice people 65 and older to forgo traditional Medicare and sign up for private Medicare Advantage policies.

The trouble is, the extra benefits are not exactly free; they are subsidized by the government.

Senate May Raise Physicians’ Medicare Payment Fees

The Hill

Oct. 14, 2009


The Senate is poised to take action on a costly bill to hike Medicare payments to physicians just weeks before bringing a sweeping healthcare overhaul to the floor.


Reform efforts


White House Team Joins Talks on Health Care Bill
The New York Times
Oct. 14, 2009


A delegation of senior White House officials met on Wednesday at the Capitol with the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, and the chairmen of the Finance and health committees, as Democrats turned their full attention to merging competing versions of the comprehensive health care legislation.


Pelosi Seeks Centrist Support for Liberal Public-Option Healthcare Proposal

The Hill
Oct. 14, 2009


Speaker Nancy Pelosi is seeking to modify the House healthcare legislation to bring centrists around to the more liberal government-run insurance option, hoping that will give her the strongest negotiating position with the Senate.


What Will Make It Into The Final Senate Health Bill?

Oct. 14, 2009


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid began private meetings Wednesday with fellow Democrats and the White House to merge his chamber's two health care overhaul bills into a single plan that could win a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

New England Journal of Medicine on Health Care Reform

October 2009


Articles recently posted to the NEJM Web site include:

Health Care Reform in Perspective - A Roundtable Discussion, Arnold M. Epstein, M.D., Henry J. Aaron, Ph.D., Katherine Baicker, Ph.D., Jacob S. Hacker, Ph.D., and Mark V. Pauly, Ph.D.
Medicaid and National Health Care Reform,
Sara Rosenbaum, J.D.
The Baucus Bill and the Hope for Reform, John K. Iglehart
Follow the Money — Controlling Expenditures by Improving Care for Patients Needing Costly Services, Thomas Bodenheimer, M.D., M.P.H., and Rachel Berry-Millett, B.A.

Prescription drugs


Generic Drug Makers Say 'No' To Health Reform Tab

Kaiser Health News

Oct. 15, 2009


Generic drug makers — which have saved Americans hundreds of billions of dollars in the past decade with their low-cost, copycat medicines — don't think they should join other health industries to finance a health care overhaul.


Tags: health care reform, Health Policy, Health Policy

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