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Insurance Industry May Benefit From Reform, Employees Attend Town Halls To Counter Criticism

"Lashed by liberals and threatened with more government regulation, the insurance industry nevertheless rallied its lobbying and grass-roots resources so successfully in the early stages of the healthcare overhaul deliberations that it is poised to reap a financial windfall, " The Los Angeles Times reports. "The half-dozen leading overhaul proposals circulating in Congress would require all citizens to have health insurance, which would guarantee insurers tens of millions of new customers -- many of whom would get government subsidies to help pay the companies' premiums." Linda Blumberg, a health policy analyst at the Urban Institute, says insurers "are going to have this very stable pool, they're going to have people getting subsidies to help them buy coverage.

Finance Panel Negotiators To Test Bipartisan Water On Co-op Plan

Key Senate negotiators - a group of three Republicans and three Democrats on the Finance Committee - will test the traction of a plan to create private health insurance cooperatives instead of a government-run insurance plan during a conference call today, The Los Angeles Times reports. The group's "prospects for keeping a bipartisan health plan alive‚ could hinge on the acceptability of co-ops to both sides." The co-op idea has been gaining prominence, although the president and many Democratic lawmakers have advocated the so-called public option. Opponents of that approach, including most Republicans, say it would drive insurers out of business.

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Public Plan And Co-Ops Battle For Public Hearts, Political Minds

What started with a "couple of liberal policy wonks" is now in the center of the debate over government's role in the health care system and has placed President Obama "uncomfortably in the middle, " The Associated Press reports. "A look at the roots of the idea shows that the policy experts who proposed early versions believed the government plan would become one of the largest insurers in the country. But Obama and other candidates saw it as a compromise between rival Democratic factions. One side wants Medicare-for-all, while the other prefers to subsidize coverage through private insurance plans - as Massachusetts has done. The debate within the party still rages, with Obama in the crossfire.

Health Coverage Issues Around The Country

News from around the country includes a lawsuit over Medicaid in Alaska, a health care mandate in California and the future of a multimillion-dollar contract for uninsured children in Mississippi. McClatchy/The Anchorage Daily News reports: "Some disabled, ill and elderly Alaskans are suing over a temporary ban that prevents them from getting help in their home through Medicaid. The class action lawsuit targets a federal moratorium that bars new people from being admitted to certain Medicaid programs that offer help including nursing care in the home. The programs were started so that people don't have to live in nursing homes or be stuck in a hospital, but according to the suit, that's what is happening as a result of the moratorium" (Demer, 8/20).

Doctors' Strange Economic Role

Doctors play an unusual role in the economy. "When asked what profession, economically speaking, the doctor resembles most, many economists say auto mechanic - because of‚ the information problem, " NPR reports. Like doctor's patients, a mechanic's customer may not be able to understand what he or she is buying. In one example, "'Car doctor' Ari Cohen, who runs ABC Erikson, says that recently a customer came in with a Buick. The customer says that every time he steps on the brakes, the entire steering wheel shakes. Cohen says, no problem, it's a $320 fix, " NPR reports. "But then, Cohen says, the mechanics examine the car more closely and discover problems with the wheel bearings and axles.

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Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Increase Lobbying

The Associated Press reports: "The pharmaceutical industry's primary trade group spent nearly $6.2 million lobbying in the second quarter on health care reform provisions, confirmation of two top federal officials and other issues, according to a recent disclosure report. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America spent about $5 million on lobbying in the year-ago period. The group's members include drug giants Pfizer Inc., Merck & Co., Johnson & Johnson and more than two dozen other U.S. and foreign companies. PhRMA lobbied on multiple aspects of health care reform, including funding for specific reform provisions, a proposal requiring research comparing effectiveness of different drugs and other medical treatments, and on multiple bills to allow approval of generic versions of expensive biologic drugs, " as well as many other issues (8/20).

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