First Edition: May 11, 2012
Today's headlines include a report about how a federal rule change might have unintended consequences for dialysis patients, as well as details about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's veto of legislation to set up a state health exchange.
Kaiser Health News: What's In A Name: Health Exchanges, Marketplaces … Or Swap Meets
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, in collaboration with Politico Pro, Susan Jaffe writes: "If a Medicare staff recommendation is approved, health insurance exchanges may be up for a rebranding. Because, Medicare officials say, consumers understand words like 'marketplace' better" (Jaffe, 5/10). Read the story.
Kaiser Health News: Former CMS Chiefs: Medicare SGR Problem Can Be Fixed (Video)
Kaiser Health News offers video excerpts from yesterday's Senate Finance Committee, which featured a group of former Medicare administrators: Gail Wilensky (1990-92), Bruce Vladeck (1993-97), Thomas Scully (2001-2003) and Mark McClellan (2004-6). They discussed how they viewed the current crisis on physician fees and the sustainable growth rate formula (5/10). Watch the video.
Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Reassessing McAllen’s Health Bill; Which Hospitals’ Patients Cost Medicare The Most?
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Jordan Rau reports: "[T]he government has identified hundreds of hospitals where Medicare patients are incurring especially high or low bills. Hospitals in the McAllen region, it turns out, aren't as terrible as they were made out to be, according to Medicare's calculations of how much it spent for the average patient from three days before admission to a month after discharge" (Rau, 5/10).
In another Capsules post, Rau reports: "New government data identify which hospitals' patients cost Medicare the most. Below are the 10 hospitals whose patients cost Medicare the most–both during their stays and for all services in the month afterward" (Rau, 5/11). Check out what else is on the blog.
The New York Times: House Approves $310 Billion In Cuts, But Passage In The Senate Very Unlikely
Of the savings, $23.5 billion came from Medicaid and children's health care; $4.2 billion from hospitals that serve the poor and uninsured; and $33.7 billion from supplemental nutrition assistance. In all, about a quarter of the cuts would come directly from programs that benefit the poor (Weisman, 5/10).
Los Angeles Times: House Approves Republican Plan For Spending Cuts
The legislation to cut $240 billion over a decade is expected to stall in the Senate, where Democrats have the majority, but the exercise Thursday allowed the GOP to contrast its agenda with President Obama's efforts to reduce the deficit (Mascaro, 5/10).
Politico: GOP Leaves Debt Accord In Dust
The long-term unemployed, who have swelled the food stamp rolls, are among the most vulnerable, together with single-mother households and working-class immigrant families. Depressed swing states like Florida would begin to feel the pinch in late summer, and the 167-page bill carries with it big implications for the November elections and the fiscal crisis facing Congress in the weeks after. … Building on the March budget resolution, the measure continues what has become an aggressive Republican rewrite of last summer’s agreements both in terms of annual spending caps and now the sequester mechanism. Nondefense appropriations in 2013 already face cuts of $27 billion from what was anticipated under the Budget Control Act, and the new measure adds a second round of savings, culled from President Barack Obama’s signature initiatives as well as core benefit programs such as Medicaid, food stamps and the child tax credit (Rogers, 5/10).
The New York Times: Unintended Consequence For Dialysis Patients As Drug Rule Changes
A shift last year by the federal government in how it pays for drugs to treat dialysis patients may have had an unintended and potentially dire consequence, according to new research: a significant jump in blood transfusions for patients who now may not be getting enough of the medications (Sack, 5/11).
The Associated Press/Los Angeles Times: Pill To Prevent HIV Gets An FDA Endorsement
The first drug shown to prevent HIV infection won the endorsement of an FDA advisory panel Thursday, clearing the way for a landmark approval in the 30-year fight against the virus that causes AIDS. The Food and Drug Administration panel recommended approval of the daily pill Truvada for healthy people who are at high risk of contracting HIV, including gay and bisexual men and heterosexual couples with one HIV-positive partner (5/11).
Politico: NARAL President Leaving At End Of Year
Keenan’s decision comes as abortion opponents have stepped up their attacks at the federal and state levels. NARAL warned in a report earlier this year that the anti-abortion activity, in the form of various restrictions being considered by Congress and state legislatures, reached its highest level in years in 2011 and was likely to continue throughout 2012 (Nather, 5/10).
The New York Times: Christie Vetoes Health Insurance Exchange
In a swipe at President Obama's signature health care legislation, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey vetoed on Thursday an online marketplace that the Legislature created to help residents and small businesses buy health insurance (Zernike, 5/10).
The Wall Street Journal: Health Exchange Dismissed
With the 11th-hour veto, Mr. Christie, a Republican, waded into a polarized debate over the implementation of the national health-care law signed by the president in 2010. Mr. Christie has been a vigorous surrogate for Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee who has pledged to repeal the health-care law if he is elected. Health-insurance exchanges must be launched in all 50 states to comply with the federal Affordable Care Act. In states that don't set up an exchange, the federal government will create one for them (Haddon, 5/10).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: NJ Gov Vetoes Bill Creating Online Marketplace For Subsidized Health Insurance Under Obama Act
The state legislation would have established an online marketplace for the middle-class to buy federally subsidized health plans starting in 2014. The governor said he intends "to fully oversee New Jersey's compliance in a responsible and cost-effective way" if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the overhaul. A decision is expected in June (5/10).
Los Angeles Times: Gov. Jerry Brown Warns More Budget Cuts Are Coming
Activists who have met with administration officials said they expect cuts in health and welfare programs in particular. Casey Young, a lobbyist for AARP, said Brown's health secretary, Diana Dooley, "appeared visibly shaken by the choices she was having to sort through" in a recent meeting (Megerian and York, 5/11).
Chicago Tribune: Senate Approves Cuts To Retirement Perk
Retired state workers stand to pay more for health insurance that thousands of them now get for little or nothing under legislation the Senate approved Thursday and Gov. Pat Quinn plans to sign (Groeninger and Long, 5/11).
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