First Edition: December 23, 2010

Today’s headlines include stories that look back and examine the role of the health overhaul in creating the 2010 political climate, as well as reports that look forward to what changes are in store for 2011.

Kaiser Health News Video: Insuring Your Health: Looking At The Changes 2011 Brings
KHN columnist Michelle Andrews speaks with KFF’s Jackie Judd about upcoming health insurance developments including changes to lifetime limits, rising health costs and consumers misperceptions about the new law (12/23).

KHN Column: Long-Term Care: Another Tough Subject For The Next Round Of Reform
In his latest Kaiser Health News column, Harold Pollack writes: “Democrats and Republicans may spend the next two years fighting about what to jettison or retain in the Affordable Care Act. However, in whatever fashion these conflicts are resolved, we’ll be back — at some point soon — to address another looming challenge: long-term care” (12/23).

Los Angeles Times: Major Health Insurers In California To Resume Offering Individual Policies For Children
California’s largest health insurers, fearing they’ll lose new customers in the state’s lucrative individual insurance market, have canceled controversial decisions last fall to stop selling policies for children (Helfand, 12/23).

The Wall Street Journal: Law Prompts Some Health Plans To Cut Mental-Health Benefits
Members of the Screen Actors Guild recently read in their health plan’s newsletter that, beginning in January, almost 12,000 of its participants will lose access to treatment for mental-health and substance-abuse issues. The guild’s health plan represents one of a small number of unions, employers and insurers that are scrapping such benefits for their enrollees because of a 2008 law that requires that mental-health and substance-abuse benefits, if offered, be as robust as medical or surgical benefits. By dropping such coverage, providers can circumvent the requirements (Adams and Johnson, 12/23).

The Washington Post: Stormy But Highly Productive 111th Congress Adjourns
Congress approved an $814 billion economic stimulus, a massive health-care overhaul, and new regulations on Wall Street trading and consumer credit cards. The list grew longer during this month’s frenetic lame-duck session: tax cuts, a nuclear arms treaty and a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military. But the 111th Congress will also be remembered for endless filibuster threats, volcanic town hall meetings, and the rise of the tea party. All were symbols of a dissatisfaction that peaked on Nov. 2, with a Republican rout in the midterm elections (Fahrenthold, Rucker and Sonmez, 12/22).

The New York Times: After Bruising Session, Congress Faces New Battles
It was a dizzying, maddening, agonizing, exhilarating, arduous, bruising and, for scores of Democrats, ultimately career-ending journey from the stimulus to Start — and the party paid a devastating price for its accomplishments, losing control of the House and six Senate seats. … But it is already clear that much of the next two years will be spent fighting over what was done in the past two (Hulse and Herszenhorn, 12/22).

The New York Times: Senate Passes 9/11 Health Bill As Republicans Back Down
After years of fierce lobbying and debate, Congress approved a bill on Wednesday to cover the cost of medical care for rescue workers and others who became sick from toxic fumes, dust and smoke after the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center (Hernandez, 12/22).

The Washington Post: 9/11 Bill Passes Senate, House In Final Hours Of Lame-Duck Session
After a years-long battle and a bout of last-minute opposition by Senate Republicans, the House on Wednesday passed a bill that would provide $4.2 billion in compensation and long-term health-care benefits for first responders who became ill from working at Ground Zero in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, sending the measure on to President Obama for his signature (Sonmez, 12/22).

The New York Times: Doctor Arrested In Whistle-Blowing Case
Texas officials have filed criminal charges against a West Texas physician over accusations that they say he orchestrated against two nurses who had filed a complaint against him with the state medical board (Sack, 12/23).

The Washington Post: Advocates Set To Sue D.C. On Behalf Of Disabled Confined To Nursing Homes
Eleven years after the Supreme Court ruled that state and local governments must provide services to the disabled in the least restrictive settings possible, more than 500 disabled D.C. residents are confined to nursing homes against their wishes because the city has not provided services that would allow them to live independently, according to a lawsuit that disability rights advocates plan to file Thursday in federal court (Shin, 12/22).

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