First Edition: January 19, 2010

All eyes appear to be watching today's special election in Massachusetts to fill the seat of the late Senator Edward Kennedy. The outcome there could have a significant impact on what happens next in Washington regarding the Democrats' health overhaul.

The Price They Paid
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jordan Rau, working in collaboration with The Washington Post, writes about how a Virginia family got permission to get out-of-network treatment for one son's heart defect, and still ended up drowning in debt (Kaiser Health News).

Column: How Does U.S. Long-Term Care Stack Up Against The Rest Of The World?
In his latest KHN column, Howard Gleckman writes: "The Washington Post recently ran a column arguing that the U.S. model for caring for the frail elderly and younger people with disabilities falls far short of the long-term care systems in France and the United Kingdom. There is no doubt the U.S. scheme is deeply flawed. But even as Congress struggles to reform long-term services and supports here, France is wrestling with its own system. And in Britain, long-term care is rapidly becoming a major political embarrassment for Labor Prime Minister Gordon Brown" (Kaiser Health News).

Analysis: Senate Election In Massachusetts Could Be Harbinger For Health-Care Reform
Democrat Martha Coakley's struggle to stave off a potentially devastating defeat in Tuesday's special Senate election in Massachusetts marks a critical turning point in the year-long debate about health-care reform. Regardless of the outcome of the race, the two parties appeared headed toward a monumental clash over the issue in the coming midterm elections (The Washington Post).

Massachusetts Race Now Key To Health Bill
White House and Senate Democratic officials said Monday that they believed asking the House to pass the Senate health bill unchanged was likely to be their best hope if their party loses a Senate seat in Massachusetts. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office signaled Monday that the House wouldn't go along with that, and the bill's fate dimmed (The Wall Street Journal).

Upset Could Trigger Dash On Healthcare
Congressional Democrats are considering passing healthcare reform before the winner of the Massachusetts special election is seated in the upper chamber, Democratic sources say (The Hill).

Reform Options May Be Hard To Find
Ever since health care reform flamed out in the 1990s, Democrats thought lots of things might derail their longtime dream this time around. Losing a Senate seat in liberal Massachusetts was not on the list (Politico).

Democrats May Seek To Push Health Bill Through House
The White House and Democratic Congressional leaders, scrambling for a backup plan to rescue their health care legislation if Republicans win the special election in Massachusetts on Tuesday, have begun laying the groundwork to ask House Democrats to approve the Senate version of the bill and send it directly to President Obama for his signature (The New York Times).

Democrats Seek Quick Deal On Health-Care Bill
President Obama and congressional leaders raced Friday to strike a compromise on far-reaching health legislation, hoping to settle lingering disputes before Tuesday, when a special election in Massachusetts could hand Republicans their 41st vote in the Senate and the power to defeat Obama's top domestic initiative (The Washington Post).

Three Ways Healthcare Reform Could Pass Even If Coakley Loses
It's an extraordinary political situation: The fate of healthcare reform now may be determined by the outcome of Tuesday’s Senate election in Massachusetts (The Christian Science Monitor).

Healthcare Backup Plans Carry Huge Risks
White House officials and Democratic congressional leaders are exploring whether to finish their healthcare overhaul without further Senate action in case a Republican victory today in the Massachusetts Senate race deprives them of a filibuster-proof majority (Los Angeles Times).

Analysis: Democrats' Health Care Quest Has Soured
Democratic lawmakers who once saw health care overhaul as a historic quest are now anxious about getting the debate behind them, with Tuesday's Massachusetts Senate race underscoring how hard and joyless the effort has become (The Associated Press).

Health-Care Debate Delayed Action On Other Big Issues
While Democratic leaders want to push health-care legislation through quickly and spend the rest of the year looking for ways to boost the economy, the start of 2010 will, in fact, center on finishing last year's work (The Washington Post).

Malpractice System Survives Healthcare Overhaul Intact
Last year, as Democrats launched their healthcare drive, the nation's trial lawyers thought they were in trouble (Los Angeles Times).

Required Health Insurance, Can Families Afford It?
It seems likely House Democrats aren't going to get the government-sponsored health insurance plan they want as part of a final health overhaul bill. But what they're arguing for instead is more help for middle-income families to pay for health insurance they'll now be required to purchase (NPR).

California Limits HMO Wait Times
Seeking to reduce the long waits many people endure to see a doctor, California regulators are implementing new rules that specify how quickly patients in health maintenance organizations must be seen (Los Angeles Times).

Spain: EU's Health Coverage Makes It A Victim Of Health Tourism
Most countries in the European Union offer universal health coverage for their citizens. And when a citizen from one EU country travels to or lives in another one, they are also covered. But now Spain is complaining that rule is making it a victim of "Health Tourism" as more and more northern Europeans chose to retire to its Mediterranean coast (NPR).

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