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  • Finally...
    Killer asbestos prompts EPA’s first public health emergency in Libby, Montana
  • Ezra has the latest version of the Finance Committee's health plan:
    Beyond the changes, this is also the clearest look we've had at the specific policies being considered. There's a fairly strong individual mandate, albeit with exemptions for those beneath the poverty line, those who would have to spend more than 15 percent of income for a plan, and undocumented workers. There are a variety of options for an employer mandate, or the absence of one. Sen. Kent Conrad's co-op idea is up for discussion. There's no public plan mentioned anywhere in the document.
    DrSteveB breaks it down further.

    Meanwhile:

    House Democrats planned to unveil a draft of their sweeping health care bill Friday. It would require all individuals to obtain health insurance and force employers to offer health care to their workers, with exemptions for small businesses. A new public health insurance plan, strongly opposed by Republicans, would compete with private companies within a new health care purchasing "exchange" where Americans could shop for coverage. Government subsidies would help the poor buy care.
    slinkerwink has more.
  • Kaiser Health News highlights what's really driving health reform:
    Setbacks for Democrats on health reforms earlier this week – including delays in one Senate committee and a higher-than-expected cost estimate in another – are good for the market, Dow Jones Newswires reports. "Health-care stocks rose Thursday on doubts that the Obama Administration's health reforms would be as extensive or speedy as anticipated. Humana, Coventry Healthcare and Health Net were all up more than 8 percent today, while four major insurers, UnitedHealth Group, Aetna, WellPoint and CIGNA Corp. all gained 4 to 7 percent, Dow Jones reports.

    "There are doubts as to whether health reform gets done this year at all," one financial analyst who specializes in managed-care stocks told Dow Jones  (Conway, 6/18).

  • From the WaPo:
    President Obama's plan to rein in federal spending on health care could end up shifting costs to the private sector, economists say.

    Unless doctors and hospitals are able to respond to the government cuts by becoming more efficient, the result could be higher costs for insurers, employers, and people with private medical coverage, they say.

    Historically, health-care spending has been a bit like a balloon: If it is squeezed in one place, it tends to bulge in another.

    Who pays isn't going to change what it costs all by itself.
  • USA today:
    Employers who offer health insurance coverage could see a 9% cost increase next year, and their workers may face an even bigger hit, according to a report Thursday from consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

    Costs will rise in part because workers worried about losing their jobs are using their health care more while they still have it, the firm said in the report released to the Associated Press. The report also said rising unemployment is driving up medical costs.

    Health care reform legislation currently being hashed out in Congress likely will have little impact on next year's costs, said PWC Principal Michael Thompson. But he noted that the intense focus on health care may slow price increases.

  • Some basic explanations:
    • CNN's health reform basics:
      I have a pre-existing condition and can't get health insurance. Will health care reform help me?

      You have a terrible problem and you're in good company. Millions of people who don't get insurance through their employer try to get insurance on their own and are turned down because they have a pre-existing condition. Obama said at the Green Bay town hall meeting that under his reforms, no insurance plan "would be able to deny coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions," but he didn't explain how he would force insurance companies to insure people with pre-existing health problems. Similarly, Boehner wrote on his blog that "quality health coverage must exist for every American, regardless of pre-existing health conditions," but did not explain how he would pay to insure people with pre-existing conditions.

    • MSNBC:
      Decoding the health care debate — a glossary
      What do politicians mean when they say 'single payer' or 'public option'?
    • NY Times: Key Challenges in the Health Care Debate
    • AP: Meltdown 101: Why high health costs hurt economy
  • Pay attention to swine flu:
    The first study of U.S. health care workers with swine flu found that many didn't do enough to protect themselves against the virus.

    Researchers focused on 13 nurses and other health care workers who were likely infected at work in the early days of the U.S. outbreak. They found that only half always wore gloves, and even fewer routinely wore other protection around patients who might have the virus.

    In late April _ just as U.S. cases were first mounting _ the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said health care workers should wear gloves, gowns, eye protection and respirator masks when dealing with patients suspected of having swine flu. The CDC also advised sick workers to stay home.

    To date, about 80 health care workers have been confirmed with swine flu. The study examined the 26 cases of infected workers with detailed information as of mid-May.

    The CDC discussion of the findings is here (transcript). Summer camp impact is here.
  • Double, double toil and trouble:
    The U.S. will likely continue to see influenza activity through the summer, and at this point we're anticipating that we will see the novel H1N1 continue with activity probably all the way into our flu season in the fall and winter.  The amount of activity we expect to be low, and then pick up later.
    From Canada:
    Swine flu patients in ICU tough to manage, 'just really, really sick': doctors
    From Wisconsin:
    The swine flu pandemic that has killed four Wisconsin residents, including two children, and sickened thousands more across the state continues to escalate as camps and summer schools prepare to open.
    More news here.
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Originally posted to Daily Kos on Fri Jun 19, 2009 at 07:00 AM PDT.

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