First Edition: July 27, 2010

Today's health policy news includes reports about the continuing Senate backlash to Dr. Donald Berwick's appointment to head the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services as well as findings from a new poll that reveal seniors really don't understand health reform.

Insuring Your Health: 2 Important Pocketbook Questions
In her latest Kaiser Health News consumer column, Michelle Andrews writes about two of the biggest health overhaul pocketbook questions for seniors (Kaiser Health News).

New Health Official Faces Hostility In Senate
Unlike many other health policy experts, Dr. Donald M. Berwick, the new chief of Medicare and Medicaid, has extensive real world experience. … But two weeks after taking office, Dr. Berwick is still struggling to tamp down a furor over past statements in which he discussed the rationing of health care and expressed affection for the British health care system. And he is finding his ability to do his job clouded by the circumstances of his appointment, with many Republicans in open revolt over President Obama's decision to place him in the post without a Senate confirmation vote (The New York Times).

Abortion Provision Threatens Dems
The question being debated: Will the reform of the health care system create a loophole that allows taxpayer money to fund abortions? The White House says it won't; abortion opponents say it will (Politico).

Poll Shows Majority Of Seniors Are Bewildered By New Healthcare Reform Law
The majority of the nation's seniors have little understanding of what the Democrats' newly enacted healthcare law actually does, according to poll results released Monday (The Hill).

Seniors Still In The Dark On New Health Law
That fact that people don't know a lot about what's in the new health law isn't exactly news. But a new poll that shows just how little Grandma and Grandpa know about it must be giving the new law's supporters a serious case of heartburn (NPR’s Shots Blog).

Agents Want Piece Of Health Reform Pie
A group of lawmakers, many of whom voted against the Democrats' health care overhaul, are asking the administration to preserve a role in the renovated health system for insurance agents and brokers (Politico).

States Expect Tax Collections To Rise
State governments expect tax collections to grow for the first time in two years as tax increases and a recovering economy lead to higher collections. But states are still likely to face at least two more years of financial troubles and about half will see gaps in this year's budgets if Congress doesn't extend special Medicaid payments that were part of the 2009 stimulus act, according to a report expected to be released Tuesday by the National Conference of State Legislatures (The Wall Street Journal).

Republicans And The U.S. Chamber Target New Tax-Reporting Rule In Health Law
Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) this week continued his push to eliminate a controversial tax-reporting provision of the new healthcare reform law, vowing to offer his repeal bill at every turn (The Hill).

SEIU Attacks Rival Union's Tentative Deal With L.A.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and his top budget advisers thought they negotiated a labor contract last week that would begin to address the steadily rising cost of employee healthcare benefits. But that deal, reached with the 4,800-member Engineers and Architects Assn., has come under attack from members of another civilian employee union, which contends that the agreement contains "unprecedented and dangerous" concessions and should be rejected (Los Angeles Times). 

Md. Could Save $829 M Under Health Care Reform
Maryland could save about $829 million on health care costs between fiscal year 2011 and 2020 because of federal health care reform, according to a model the state released Monday (The Associated Press/The Washington Post).

The Do-It-Yourself House Call
The idea is for heart patients to take readings like their weight, blood pressure and other key metrics using wireless and other technologies; the data are then transmitted to a case manager or medical care giver. That way health care givers can catch, and address, warning signs before the patient lands in the ER with shortness of breath or a heart attack. In the past, patients have found such technology difficult to use. But a number of managed-care companies are experimenting with electronic devices meant to make the process easier (The Wall Street Journal).

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