June 13, 2009Socialism=skullduggery
Latest Developments |
By Robert Pear
For more than 75 years, Democrats have dreamed of creating a comprehensive national health insurance program. With the election of President Obama, they believe they may have the best chance in a generation to accomplish that goal.
Mr. Obama has made changing the health system a central part of his agenda, arguing that the nation's long-term economic growth and the government's long-term fiscal health both depend on significant reform. In the first budget he submitted to Congress he proposed a tax increase worth $600 billion to pay for expanded coverage. After that, however, Mr. Obama generally left negotiations on developing legislation to Democratic committee chairmen. But in early June, as the time for crucial decisions on a wide range of issues drew near, Mr. Obama decided he needed to more directly involved in drumming up support and shaping bills scheduled for votes over the summer.
Broadly speaking, he wants to extend coverage to the 45 million uninsured while lowering costs, improving quality and preserving consumer choice. His budget includes what he called a "historic down payment" of $634 billion over 10 years, accomplished mostly by slowing Medicare growth and limiting tax breaks for those with high incomes.
The effort has so far succeeded in drawing a measure of support from insurers, pharmaceutical companies and big providers, some of whom had bitterly fought earlier attempts at reform. Insurance companies indicated that they would be willing to drop limits on coverage for people with preexisting conditions if universal coverage were made mandatory. And a broad coalition of leaders in the field offered to cut costs over the next decade.
Many of the most explosive questions have yet to be dealt with, including the details of a public insurance plan that Mr. Obama supports as an alternative to private coverage, and idea that Republicans strongly oppose.
New Resources Examine Racial and Ethnic Disparities Among Women at the State Level
The Kaiser Family Foundation this week released a package of resources including a comprehensive report, state fact sheets, and interactive data tables, that illuminate and document the persistence of disparities on 25 indicators between white women and women of color, including rates of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, AIDS and cancer, and access to health insurance and health screenings. The report, "Putting Women's Health Care Disparities on the Map: Examining Racial and Ethnic Disparities at the State Level,” moves beyond national statistics to provide a rare look at state-level variations, quantifying where disparities are greatest. Also available are state-level data for women of many racial and ethnic populations that are often difficult to obtain. The data show that, a decade after U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher called for the elimination of racial disparities in health; women of color i n every state continue to fare worse than white women on a variety of measures of health and health care access. The Foundation released the report and other resources, including a video documenting the real-life struggles of women at a community clinic in Arlington, Va.,at a June 10 briefing in our Washington, D.C. office. The report and other resources, including an archived webcast of the briefing, are available online.
New Explaining Health Care Reform Brief Examines Medicaid's Role
The latest brief in the Foundation's Explaining Health Care Reform series explains the role of Medicaid in the health care system and addresses some key questions and issues related to Medicaid that could emerge in the context of current health reform discussions. The explainer series, which also includes briefs examining health insurance exchanges and "pay-or-play" provisions, are part of the Foundations' broader collection of resources on health reform.
New Analysis Reveals Rising Costs for Medicare Part D Enrollees Over Time
Since 2006, Medicare has provided beneficiaries with a wide range of private plan options to obtain their Part D prescription drug benefit – with more than 26 million beneficiaries now enrolled in a Medicare drug plan. New trend analysis released this week from the Foundation shows that the coverage provided by these private drug plans has eroded for many enrollees. Premiums and cost-sharing requirements have increased over time, while options for low-income beneficiaries have declined. The analysis included in a new summary of the Foundation’s 2009 Medicare Part D Data Spotlights series reveals a pattern of beneficiaries paying more for less over time, The summary and two new spotlights on specialty tiers and the 10 most commonly prescribed drugs for Medicare beneficiaries were released this week. E arlier spotlights examined premiums, gap coverage and low-income subsidy plans.
Latest CHIP TIP Examines Changes in the Children's Health Insurance Program's Financing Structure
A new brief from the Foundation’s Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured (KCMU) examines changes to CHIP's financing structure under the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009. The law includes a number of programmatic and financing changes that affect both Medicaid and CHIP. Among the most important changes include significant new funding for the CHIP program, changes in the formula for distributing CHIP funds among states and a new option for states to decide whether to use CHIP or Medicaid funding to cover children. The new brief is the fourth in a series of papers that explores opportunities for covering children following the reauthorization and expansion of CHIP this year. The series is jointly produced by KCMU and the Center for Children and Families at the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute. The brief is available online.
Briefing for CSIS Commission on Smart Global Health Policy on Foundation's Poll on U.S. Role in Global Health
Kaiser and the Center for Strategic & International Studies' Commission on Smart Global Health Policy reviewed the findings from KFF's recent survey of Americans on the U.S. role in global health. Kaiser President and CEO Drew Altman and Vice President and Director of Public Opinion Survey Research Mollyann Brodie provided an overview of the American public’s attitudes towards U.S. global health and development assistance to help inform the deliberations of the members of the Commission . This was the first meeting of the CSIS Commission, a high-level group of diverse experts who are working to develop actionable recommendations for a long-term, strategic U.S. approach to global health. The Foundation's full report on the survey's findings can be found online.
Data Note: Predictors of Support for Increased U.S. Spending on Global Health
One of the key questions explored in the Kaiser Family Foundation Survey of Americans on the U.S. Role in Global Health is the public’s level of support for U.S. government spending to improve health for people in developing countries. The survey found that about two thirds of Americans say current levels of U.S. spending in this area are too low (26 percent) or about or about right (39 percent). A new Data Note takes a deeper look at those who want to increase spending – the 26 percent who say the U.S. currently spends too little on global health efforts – and attempts to determine which factors are the strongest predictors of such support.
How Does Health Coverage and Access to Care for Immigrants Vary by Length of Time in the U.S.?
A new issue brief from the Foundation’s KCMU examines how health coverage and access to care for non-elderly adults vary based on immigrants’ length of time in the U.S., and between immigrants, second generation Americans and third generation and higher Americans. The analysis, based on data from the 2007 Health Tracking Household Survey, also identifies the primary factors contributing to lower health coverage rates and greater access barriers among immigrants. While, overall, immigrants have a high uninsured rate and face greater access barriers relative to U.S.-born residents, the findings suggest that many immigrants eventually gain insurance and improved access to health care as they acquire language and job skills, improve their economic standing and become more familiar with the U.S. health care system. Recent immigrants are most at risk for lacking coverage and facing access problems. Addressing coverage and access barriers for this group will be important to any effort to reduce overall disparities between immigrants and U.S.-born residents. The brief is online.
New Stories from Kaiser Health News:
Democrats Target A Dozen GOP Senators In Quest For Health Reform Deal, Mary Agnes Carey and Eric Pianin
FSAs Could End Up On Chopping Block In Hunt For Health Overhaul Money, Jordan Rau
Labor Leaders Wary As Democratic Allies Weigh Health Reform Proposals, Jordan Rau
President Courts Fiscal Conservatives In Reform Push, Eric Pianin
New Yorker Article Sparks Strong Reaction, Jenny Gold and Kate Steadman
Lawmakers Pick Up Pace on Health Legislation, Mary Agnes Carey and Eric Pianin
HELP Committee Postpones Day Of Reckoning, Mary Agnes Carey
Baucus: Comp Effectiveness Will Be In Health Reform Bill, Julie Appleby
Checking In With Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., Mary Agnes Carey
Health On The Hill
How Congress Might Tax Your Health Benefits, Julie Appleby