First Edition: May 10, 2010

Today's health policy headlines include the feature coverage of aspects of health reform implementation, including how "gradfathering" will be defined in regulations and the latest details on the early retiree reinsurance program.  

New Law Could Help Hospice Patients Continue Aggressive Medical Treatments
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jordan Rau, in collaboration with The Philadelphia Inquirer, reports: "After an excruciating bout of chemotherapy, Linda Meisenhelder gave up fighting colon cancer and last fall entered end-of-life hospice care. She was willing to quit curative treatments — a requirement for Medicare to pay for hospice — but says no one else in her cancer support group seemed ready to take that step" (Kaiser Health News).

Companies Get Help To Insure Early Retirees
Reporting for Kaiser Health News and USA Today, KHN staff writer Christopher Weaver reports: "The White House unveiled details last week of a $5 billion program to provide financial relief to companies that offer health coverage to early retirees. Officials say the effort, mandated by the new health care overhaul law, will help keep firms from ditching those benefits because of the high costs involved, a trend that has accelerated in recent years. Without health coverage, many early retirees find it difficult to get insurance until they're eligible for Medicare at 65" (Kaiser Health News).

Health Law's 'Grandfather' Clause Could Deprive Consumers Of Key Benefits
Kaiser Health News staff writers Phil Galewitz and Mary Agnes Carey write about a term that will be central to how health reform is implemented: "Under the law, existing, or 'grandfathered' health plans are exempt from several consumer protections, including a requirement that beginning as early as September prohibits health plans from charging co-payments and other cost-sharing for certain preventive health services such as immunizations and cancer screenings" (Kaiser Health News).

Kaiser Health News tracked weekend news coverage of health policy developments, including President Obama's weekly address in which he talked about health reform's already evident "real benefits," and other reports on efforts to expand coverage to young adults.

Fight Erupts Over Rules Issued For 'Mental Health Parity' Insurance Law
A huge fight has erupted over rules issued by the Obama administration to enforce a 2008 law that requires equal insurance coverage for the treatment of mental and physical illnesses (The New York Times).

A Healthcare Subsidy For Early Retirees
The new health reform law will be phased in in pieces over the next four years, but one benefit — for a specific group of consumers —starts June 1. Called the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program, it's a $5-billion federal subsidy to employers to help them pay for healthcare coverage for some retired workers ages 55 to 64 who don't yet qualify for Medicare (Los Angeles Times).

Premiums May Undermine Coverage Guarantee For Kids
Starting later this year, President Barack Obama's health care law requires insurers to accept all children regardless of medical history. But the law doesn't limit what the companies can charge, and the Thompsons fear that could leave them in the same predicament: still no insurance for two children because it costs too much (The Associated Press).

WellPoint, Obama Rift Escalates
A war of words between President Obama and health insurers escalated Sunday as industry giant WellPoint Inc. found itself under renewed attack for raising rates and canceling insurance policies of sick patients (Los Angeles Times).

Jay Rockefeller: Insurers 'Game' New Law
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) is scolding the nations' health insurance companies for "gaming" the new health care law and is pushing the administration and states to impose stringent controls under the law on industry expenditures for non-medical purposes (Politico).

Vangent Prepares To Tap Into Increased Federal Spending On Health IT
As a resident and then a fellow at George Washington University Hospital, Geeta Nayyar, a rheumatologist, saw firsthand the pitfalls and the payoffs of implementing technology to support health care (The Washington Post).

Harry Teague's New Mexico Health Care Record
When he ran for Congress in 2008, businessman Harry Teague boasted that he provided health insurance for all of his employees back home in New Mexico. But once he won his seat, Teague, a Democrat, voted twice against his party's health care reform bill because "it tells businesses to do the right thing and provide insurance for employees but doesn't guarantee or require affordable options" (Politico).

Right On Trend With All Health Spending, Cancer Costs Double
The cost of treating cancer has doubled over the past 20 years, but those costs are in line with overall trends in health spending. And while more people are getting cancer as the U.S. population ages, treatment has shifted away from hospitals to outpatient settings, finds a study in Monday's edition of the journal Cancer (USA Today).

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This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.