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Obama's Health Care Dilemma Evokes Memories Of 1974

Kaiser Health News reports on similarities between past and present health reform efforts. "As soaring health care costs threatened to push medical care out of reach for many families, the president offered an ambitious new plan to curb the growth in spending and extend health coverage to every American. But he faced fierce opposition from Capitol Hill. Sound like the current political wrangling? Well, that was 1974 and the president was Richard M. Nixon" (Weaver, 9/3). This information was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with kind permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives and sign up for email delivery at kaiserhealthnews.

Fixing Health Care Costs By Changing Patient Behavior

Patient behavior plays a central role in fixing health. NPR reports: "Economists have long said health care, as a market, is a strange animal. A large part of this is because patients don't act like regular consumers." Patients "don't know what anything costs, and even if we did, it does not matter because we are not covering most of the cost. This is not necessarily wrong. It simply means that as consumers, we are not very involved in containing costs. There is debate about whether this should change, with economic arguments on both sides. ... If you make patients more like customers - force them to chip in more with co-pays for drugs, doctor visits and procedures - that does seem to eliminate waste.

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Expectations High For Obama's 'Major Address' To Congress On Health Reform

President Obama plans to address Congress on Wednesday, only a day after lawmakers return from their August break, to spell out in detail his vision for overhauling health care, The Associated Press reports. The move signals that "Democrats have all but given up hope for a bipartisan breakthrough by Senate Finance Committee negotiators, " because that committee - the only one seeking across-the-aisle compromise - had been given a Sept. 15 deadline. Democrats have long pressed the president to offer a more specific plan, and the timing - immediately after the recess - may help "buck up" those supporters and dispel any advantage opponents gained during the recess (Babington, 9/3).

State Round-Up: News From California, Colorado And Massachusetts

The Los Angeles Times : The California State Senate Wednesday approved a $196-million plan to tax insurance companies and capture federal dollars to keep about 700, 000 children from being dropped from a governmental insurance program for the working poor. "The state Senate passed a measure to create a new tax on insurance companies and bring in federal money to rescue the decade-old Healthy Families program, which had been cut deeply in recent months as lawmakers scrambled to balance the state budget" (Bailey and Mcgreevy, 9/3). The Denver Post : In Colorado, health clinics for the poor will have to cut nearly $33 million from their budgets to deal with that state's fiscal shortfall.

A California Consumer Group Says Major Insurers Coerced Employees To Lobby

"The nation's two largest health insurers have been pressuring employees to lobby against healthcare reform in Congress in violation of a California law against coerced political activity, a consumer group alleged Wednesday, " the Los Angeles Times reports. The group, Consumer Watchdog, alleged in a letter to California's attorney general that WellPoint and UnitedHealth pressured "workers to write their elected officials, attend town hall meetings and enlist family and friends to ensure an overhaul that matches their interests." A UnitedHealth executive said in an internet message to employees that they could contact an "advocacy specialist" in the company's lobbying arm for advice on how to get involved, "including during work hours.

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White House 'Rallies The Faithful' For Health Overhaul Push

The White House is going beyond the Wednesday speech to take control of the health reform debate, including a road trip to urge passage of legislation. The New York Times : "The 11-city tour to rally the faithful for President Obama's health care plan has been tapping the party's inner Hamlet. How much should liberal Democrats compromise with Republicans, and with moderates in their own ranks? How strongly should they cling to the notion of a public-option health provider?" At recent town hall meetings, "democracy was served up at its most raw and confrontational. The bus tour has been different, with Democrats mostly talking politely among themselves - a modern-day version of the parlor game 'telephone, ' where one person whispers in the ear of a neighbor, communicating a message they both hope will come out in coherent fashion at the end" (Johnson, 9/2).

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