First Edition: March 12, 2013
Today's headlines include reports about this week's roll out of budgets on Capitol Hill and how Democratic and Republican fiscal blueprints will underscore key partisan differences.
Kaiser Health News: Osteopathic Physicians: An Answer To Rural Health Care Needs?
Kaiser Health News staff writer Ankita Rao, working in collaboration with The Washington Post, reports: "With a tradition more than 100 years old, osteopathic physicians are hardly the new doctors in town. But the profession's recent growth -- in both training facilities and number of graduates -- could help reverse a looming shortage of primary-care providers that experts say will hit rural communities especially hard" (Rao, 3/11). Read the story. Also, check out the sidebar, The Mainstreaming Of Osteopathic Medicine, and watch the related video.
Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Consumers Don't View Curbing Costs As Their Job When Choosing Treatments, Study Finds
In her latest Kaiser Health News consumer column, Michelle Andrews writes: "In recent years, consumers have increasingly been encouraged by employers and insurers to help control rising health care costs by avoiding unnecessary tests, buying generic drugs and reducing visits to the emergency room, among other things. The hope is that a patient better educated and more engaged in health decisions will choose options that will promote better health and decrease costs" (Andrews, 3/12). Read the column.
Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Mississippi Legislature Passes 'Anti-Bloomberg' Bill
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Mississippi Public Broadcasting's Jeffrey Hess, working in partnership with KHN and NPR, reports: "Mayor Mike and his public health edicts are having a rough ride. On Monday, a state judge in Manhattan knocked down the rule capping soda sizes that Mayor Michael Bloomberg championed. Lawmakers in Mississippi are taking things one step further" (Hess, 3/11). Check out what else is on the blog.
The New York Times: House And Senate Work Simultaneously To Create Budgets, A Rarity
But the fact that both houses of Congress are working on their budgets simultaneously after years of impasse raised some measure of hope — albeit slight — that Democrats and Republicans might be able to work out some sort of compromise. Compromise between the two parties, however, is only half of a more complicated bargain. Democrats also have to bridge the divide among a politically diverse group of Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee (Peters, 3/11).
USA Today: Obama, Hill Leaders Knuckle Down On Budget Talks
President Obama and a divided Congress kick off a week of jockeying over the federal budget as House Republicans and Senate Democrats unveil competing fiscal blueprints and the president heads to Capitol Hill to continue his personal campaign for compromise. The president spent part of Monday prepping for three trips to Capitol Hill over the next three days for closed-door meetings with House and Senate lawmakers in both parties. Obama is seeking an alternative to the sequestration, a $1.2 trillion, across-the-board spending cut over the next decade that kicked in March 1 after Congress failed to find a better alternative to cut spending (Davis and Jackson, 3/12).
The Wall Street Journal: Ryan Plan Revives '12 Election Issues
He will propose letting seniors buy private insurance or remain in Medicare, with premiums subsidized by the federal government, and turning Medicaid into a block-grant program. The moves would save hundreds of billions of dollars over 10 years, while potentially raising costs for Medicare beneficiaries and sharply cutting the number of Medicaid recipients. His budget would also repeal the White House's 2010 health-care law (Paletta and Peterson, 3/11).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: New House GOP Budget Again Takes Aim At Obamacare, Medicaid, Would Lead To Balance In 10 Years
House Republicans are sticking to their guns on the federal budget, promising to try to repeal so-called Obamacare, cut domestic programs from Medicaid to college grants and require future Medicare patients to bear more of the program's cost. The point is to prove it's possible to balance the budget within 10 years by simply cutting spending and avoiding further tax hikes, even as the fiscal blueprint to be released Tuesday by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., will be dead on arrival with the White House and Democrats controlling the Senate (3/12).
Politico: Ryan Budget Targets Obamacare, Oil Drilling
The House Republican budget will balance in 10 years by increasing oil drilling, repealing President Barack Obama's health care law, changing Medicare, overhauling welfare and rewriting the tax code (Sherman, 3/11).
Politico: Sen. Ron Johnson Pounds Obamacare
Sen. Ron Johnson on Monday ripped into Obamacare, trying to back up House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's decision to seek the law's repeal in his proposed budget. "I think the cost estimate of Obamacare is grossly understated," Johnson said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "I think far more Americans are going to lose their employer-sponsored care because there are incentives for employers to drop their coverage and make their employees eligible for huge subsidies and exchanges. I think this is going to explode our deficit, I think this is going to lead to rationing. It will lead to rationing, lower quality of care" (Robillard, 3/11).
The Washington Post: Senate Democrats Prepare To Roll Out Budget Blueprint
Murray plans to unveil her budget proposal on Wednesday, marking the first time Senate Democrats have drafted a budget since 2009. Aides said Murray will not offer explicit policies for raising new revenue or trimming expensive health programs, but will instead leave those details to other committees, including the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee. The president's budget request, meanwhile, is expected in early April — more than two months late (Montgomery, 3/11).
The New York Times: Obama's GOP Outreach Hits Barriers
What spurred Mr. Obama to reach out to rank-and-file Republicans with a flurry of phone calls, meals and now Capitol visits were the recent announcements by their leaders — Speaker John A. Boehner and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky — that they will no longer negotiate with Mr. Obama on budget policy as long as he keeps demanding more tax revenues as the condition for Democrats' support of reduced spending on Medicare and other entitlement programs. Both leaders face political risks from deal-making with the president — Mr. Boehner the potential loss of his leadership job; Mr. McConnell the danger of a Tea Party challenge as he faces re-election next year (Calmes, 3/11).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Senate Democrats Prepare Government Funding Bill To Prevent Shutdown As Long-Term Battles Loom
Senate Democrats are preparing a catchall government funding bill that denies President Barack Obama money for implementing signature first-term accomplishments like new regulations on Wall Street and his expansion of government health care subsidies but provides modest additional funding for domestic priorities like health research. The measure expected to be released Monday is the product of bipartisan negotiations and is the legislative vehicle to fund the day-to-day operations of government through Sept. 30 — and prevent a government shutdown when current funding runs out March 27 (3/11).
Politico: Senate Takes Its Own Path On CR
Behind the numbers is also a political lesson — aptly timed the week before St. Patrick's Day. President Barack Obama is denied added money he wanted for health care and Wall Street reforms —a penalty born of Democratic frustration with this White House's diffidence toward the appropriations machinery that funds its agenda (Rogers, 3/12).
The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Democrats Target Potential GOP Senate Candidates
Democrats will argue that the Republicans' budget will dismantle Medicare, make college education more expensive and eliminate jobs by reducing funding for infrastructure. Mr. Ryan said Sunday his budget will curb spending by about $5 trillion over 10 years, helping to eliminate the annual federal deficit in a decade. He is expected to again propose cutting Medicare costs by offering future retirees a subsidy to buy private health insurance as an alternative. Rep. Tom Cotton an Arkansas freshman and one of the 14 targeted GOP lawmakers, dismissed the threat of pressure from the Democratic organization (Peterson, 3/11).
The New York Times: Medicaid Expansion Is Rejected In Florida
Rebuffing Gov. Rick Scott's support of Medicaid expansion, a Florida Senate committee on Monday rejected the idea, all but ending the possibility that the state would add more poor people to Medicaid rolls (Alvarez, 3/11).
The Wall Street Journal: Florida Lawmakers Balk At Health Shift
The vote doesn't halt the Medicaid expansion in its tracks, as the panel could still make an alternative recommendation about expanding Medicaid, and other lawmakers could also propose their own bills. But it is a sign that Mr. Scott will continue to face high obstacles from members of his own party. The governor, a leading critic of the 2010 health-care law, changed his opposition to taking federal dollars to expand the program after reaching an agreement with Washington officials to let the state contract with private insurance companies to manage the care of new Medicaid enrollees (Radnofsky and Campoy, 3/11).
The Washington Post's WonkBlog: Florida Senate Panel Rejects Medicaid Expansion – But It's Not Dead Yet
It was a huge coup for the Obama administration when they won Florida Gov. Rick Scott's endorsement of the Medicaid expansion. In his state alone, the Obamacare program could cover 1.3 million people. But the governor wasn't the only endorsement they had to secure: The Republican-controlled Florida legislature would also need to sign off on the expansion. And as of Monday afternoon, they don't appear inclined to move forward: Committees in the Florida House and Senate have rejected the Medicaid expansion as proposed by Gov. Scott (Kliff, 3/11).
The Wall Street Journal: Private Medicaid Plans Get Push
A pair of states are proposing to use new Medicaid funding to help the poor buy private health insurance, a new twist in how to implement the 2010 federal health-care law that is winning support from some Republicans (Campoy and Radnofsky, 3/11).
The Washington Post's The Fact Checker: Does 'Obamacare' Have $1 Trillion In Tax Hikes, Aimed At The Middle Class?
The argument over President Obama's health-care law, aka Obamacare, never seems to end, as witnessed by the fact that House Republicans on Tuesday will unveil a budget that yet again seeks to eliminate it. This exchange on one of the Sunday shows caught our attention, as the battling lawmakers appear to be completely at odds. Are there $1 trillion in taxes in the law, which Wasserman Schultz denies? And are these "middle-income" tax increases, as Johnson asserts? (Kessler, 3/12).
The Wall Street Journal: Cleveland Clinic, Hospital Operator Forge Alliance
The Cleveland Clinic is forging an alliance with the big for-profit hospital operator Community Health Systems Inc., in a sign of how prestigious medical centers are leveraging their brands to extend their reach into untapped local markets. The new tie-up, which will involve quality-improvement efforts and other areas, comes as top medical names are creating more affiliations with health-care providers around the country (Mathews, 3/11).
Politico: Brand-Name, Generic Drugmakers Fight FTC
Brand and generic drug companies are usually at each other’s throats. But they will stand shoulder to shoulder against the Federal Trade Commission and other health care interests come March 25, when the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about a controversial way of settling patent disputes that’s worth billions to the drug industry (Norman, 3/12).
The New York Times: Judge Blocks New York City's Limits On Big Sugary Drinks
In an unusually critical opinion, Justice Milton A. Tingling Jr. of State Supreme Court in Manhattan called the limits "arbitrary and capricious," echoing the complaints of city business owners and consumers who had deemed the rules unworkable and unenforceable, with confusing loopholes and voluminous exemptions (Grynbaum, 3/11).
NPR: Judge Overturns New York City Ban On Big Sugary Sodas
A New York state judge has knocked down New York City's landmark new ban on big, sugary drinks, just one day before it was set to take effect. Calling them "arbitrary and capricious," state Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling on Monday invalidated regulations that would have banned New York City restaurants, movie theaters and other food service establishments from serving sugary drinks in sizes bigger than 16 ounces. The ban would have covered not just sodas but a wide array of other sugar-sweetened drinks, from smoothies to coffee (Godoy and Aubrey, 3/11).
The Wall Street Journal: Judge Cans Soda Ban
At a late afternoon news conference, Mr. Bloomberg and the city's top lawyer, Michael Cardozo, said they believed the judge erred in his ruling and vowed to appeal. The decision was both lauded and criticized by city officials and others. … New York state Supreme Court Judge Milton Tingling declared invalid Mr. Bloomberg's plan to prohibit restaurants, mobile food carts, delis and concessions at movie theaters, stadiums or arenas from selling sugary drinks in cups or containers larger than 16 ounces. The ban was set to begin Tuesday (Saul, 3/11).
Los Angeles Times: Survey: Kaiser Tops In Customer Satisfaction For Health Insurance
For the sixth consecutive year, Kaiser Permanente ranked highest in customer satisfaction for health insurance among California policyholders, according to ratings firm J.D. Power and Associates. Anthem Blue Cross, the state's largest for-profit health insurer, and Woodland Hills insurer Health Net Inc. scored the lowest on customer satisfaction among seven California health plans (Terhune, 3/11).
Los Angeles Times: LA Population Will Be Much Older, More Settled, Study Says
The predicted result is fewer young workers to care for the growing ranks of the elderly – a trend that could pinch pocketbooks for families and the government. The study predicts that over the next two decades, Los Angeles County will gain 867,000 senior citizens and lose 630,000 people younger than 25. A similar trend is underway nationwide but Los Angeles stands out because the shift comes after its earlier explosion in immigration and growth, Myers said (Alpert, 3/12).
The New York Times: Arkansas’s Abortion Ban And One Man’s Strong Will
The adoption by Arkansas last week of the country’s strictest abortion ban — at 12 weeks of pregnancy, when a fetal heartbeat is typically detected — gave a new jolt of energy to a loose band of abortion foes who are pushing similar measures in several states (Eckholm 3/11).
Los Angeles Times: Parents Of Prescription Overdose Victims Plead With Legislators
After hearing emotional testimony from parents whose children died of drug overdoses, lawmakers in Sacramento called Monday for the Medical Board of California to mine a statewide database of prescriptions to help identify doctors who recklessly prescribe narcotics (Girion and Glover, 3/11).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Veterans Administration Says Its Mental Health Counselors Won’t Obey NY Gun Reporting Laws
The federal Department of Veterans Affairs said Monday its mental health professionals won’t comply with a new gun law in New York that requires reporting the names of patients they believe likely to hurt themselves or others. That provision is set to take effect Saturday. Several veterans and their advocates warned it would deter many from seeking counseling and medications to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder or other psychological issues (3/11).
Editor’s Note: A video featuring “Insuring Your Health” columnist Michelle Andrews contained out-of-date information for uninsured consumers seeking coverage when they have a medical problem. The video, published March 11, had been taped before the federal government announced last month that it was stopping enrollment in the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plans (PCIP). Those plans, also known as high-risk pools, operate in each state and were established as part of the 2010 federal health law to help provide coverage to people with medical problems who could not get insurance on the private market. The government began closing enrollment on Feb. 15 and the last enrollments were allowed on March 2.
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