First Edition: June 23, 2011
In today's headlines, reports that the Department of Health and Human Services will scale back the health law's rules on patient health care appeals.
Kaiser Health News: HHS Scales Back Rules On Health Insurance Appeals
The Obama administration announced Wednesday that it is scaling back some of its earlier rules under the 2010 health law that governed consumers' right to appeal denials by health plans, disappointing patient advocates and earning praise from industry groups (Jaffe, 6/23).
The Wall Street Journal: Bipartisan Debt Talks Grow More Contentious
The bipartisan deficit-reduction talks led by Vice President Joe Biden grew more contentious Wednesday as Democrats and Republicans became increasingly entrenched on key issues, people familiar with the matter said. Republicans are staunchly opposed to raising taxes, something Democrats believe must be part of any deficit-reduction plan. Many Democrats, meanwhile, oppose certain changes to entitlement programs like Medicare, but Republicans say these are the biggest drivers of the deficit and must be tackle (Paletta, 6/23).
Politico: Democrats Fret Over White House Dealmaking
As bipartisan debt limit negotiations between congressional leaders and the White House rev up, a number of Democrats are worried that President Barack Obama will agree to a deal with the GOP that cuts federal spending too deep, undermines the social safety net, slashes entitlement programs and does not include a single dime in tax increases (Sherman and Bresnahan, 6/22).
The Washington Post: Congressional Budget Office Warns Of Debt Explosion
The national debt will exceed the size of the entire U.S. economy by 2021 - and balloon to nearly 200 percent of GDP within 25 years - without dramatic cuts to federal health and retirement programs or steep tax increases, congressional budget analysts said Wednesday. The dire outlook from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office comes as the White House and congressional leaders are locked in negotiations aimed at cutting spending and stabilizing future borrowing. The CBO report highlights the enormity of that task and the immense difficulty of paying off the debt, given an aging population and soaring health-care costs (Montgomery, 6/22).
The Associated Press/New York Times: Budget Office Warns About Debt
The national debt is on pace to equal the annual size of the economy within a decade, levels that could provoke a European-style crisis unless policymakers take action on the federal deficit, according to a report by the Congressional Budget Office. Those projections are based on the assumption that tax cuts from the Bush administration are extended and that other current policies, like maintaining doctors' fees under Medicare, are continued as well (6/22).
The Washington Post: Federal Reserve, Acknowledging Slowdown, Reins In Forecasts For Economic Growth
The economic recovery is slowing and the outlook for next year has gotten worse, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said Wednesday, backing away from the view that the slowdown of the past few months was merely temporary. Even as the central bank's leaders lowered their expectations for the days immediately ahead, a different set of government economists offered a dire long-term forecast for the federal government's fiscal health. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the rising cost of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security would, if left unchecked, lead to a national debt twice as big as the economy (Irwin, 6/22).
The Wall Street Journal: HHS Delays Rules On Consumer Appeals By Six Months
The Obama administration on Wednesday delayed a piece of the health overhaul designed to help consumers appeal insurance-claim denials. The 2010 health law requires insurance companies to offer an explanation when they refuse to pay a claim and grant consumers an internal and external review of such a denial. States are expected to handle the review, and if they don't, the federal government will step in to do it (Adamy, 6/22).
The Washington Post: Obama Administration Narrows Rules For Patient Health-Care Appeals
The Obama administration tinkered on Wednesday with recent rules that provide patients more clout in disputes with health insurers, altering the standards in ways that disappointed leading advocates for health-care consumers. The rules are intended to guarantee patients nationwide the same rights to appeal if their insurers do not cover care that they consider necessary. The federal standards, part of the 2010 law to overhaul the health-care system, replace a patchwork of separate state policies. The rules allow patients to protest to their health plans and, if that does not work, to take their complaints to an outside arbiter (Goldstein, 6/22).
The Washington Post/Associated Press: Attorneys Argue In NJ Court Over Constitutionality Of Federal Health Care Reform Law
A federal appeals court hearing arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of last year's U.S. health reform law focused primarily on whether plaintiffs need to demonstrate they are suffering economic harm now or will when the part of the law mandating that everyone have health coverage takes effect (6/22).
USA Today: News Analysis: Comparing Obama And Romney Health Laws
When the federal health care overhaul now demonized by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and others was being crafted in 2009, Democrats found a role model: the Massachusetts health care overhaul signed in 2006 by then-governor Mitt Romney. Today, Romney is in the awkward position of taking credit for that Bay State law, which has extended coverage to 98% of the population, while denouncing Obama's version as overreaching and unaffordable. The White House and Romney's Republican opponents argue that the two laws are near-mirror images. Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty went so far as to coin a term: "Obamneycare" (Wolf, 6/23).
Los Angeles Times: Seeking Breakthrough, Tim Pawlenty Is First Republican To Launch Iowa TV Ad
Making a move to regain momentum and boost his standing in the leadoff nominating state, Tim Pawlenty is launching the first television ad campaign by a presidential candidate in Iowa, his campaign announced Wednesday. "In a liberal state, I reduced spending in real terms for the first time, took on the government unions and won, appointed a conservative Supreme Court, and passed healthcare reform the right way no mandates, no takeovers," Pawlenty says. "If I can do it in Minnesota, we can do it in Washington." The healthcare point, in particular, is another shot at front-runner Mitt Romney. But it's one again fired on the air, like his criticism of "Obamneycare" made during a Sunday show appearance (Memoli, 6/22).
Politico: Phil Gingrey: IPAB Will Cause Seniors To Die
The much-maligned independent Medicare board created by the Democrats' health reform law will cause seniors to die - and might actually be worse than "pushing grandmother over the cliff," the co-chairman of the GOP House Doctors Caucus charged Wednesday afternoon (Millman, 6/22).
NPR: GOP Hopefuls Divided Over Anti-Abortion Pledge
For the first time in memory, every Republican candidate running for president in 2012 proclaims him or herself to be anti-abortion. But just how anti-abortion are they? (Rovner, 6/23).
Los Angeles Times: Obama Administration Favored Union Worker Pensions In GM Bailout, House Republicans Say
House Republicans lashed out at what they called preferential treatment the Obama administration gave to certain union pensions in the bailout of General Motors Corp. during the 2008 financial crisis. The government took over Delphi's pension plan during the company's reorganization in Bankruptcy Court. Roughly 21,000 salaried employees lost up to 70% of their pensions, as well as life and health insurance (Seidman, 6/23).
The New York Times: Cuomo Secures Big Givebacks In Union Deal
State officials expect that, as in the past, the health care changes will also apply to retirees (Hakim, 6/23).
Check out all of Kaiser Health News' e-mail options including First Edition and Breaking News alerts on our Subscriptions page.This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.