First Edition: December 7, 2011
In the news today, a status check on the work -- including the Medicare doc fix -- that Congress still needs to attend to before leaving Washington for the holidays.
Kaiser Health News: Medicare Extends Enrollment Deadline For Some
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Susan Jaffee writes: "Federal officials are extending the Dec. 7 deadline for two days for some people enrolling in a Medicare prescription drug or private health plan because of the crush of last-minute sign-ups. But a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid said the 'increased flexibility' is limited only to seniors who contact any of several sources of assistance on or before the close of business Wednesday: counselors with the government-funded State Health Insurance Information Program (SHIP), Medicare's toll-free information line, 1-800-633-4227; and other Medicare-partner organizations such as the Medicare Rights Center, local agencies on aging, and the National Council on Aging. They can leave messages if necessary requesting help. Then, starting on Thursday, those beneficiaries will be called back and will receive assistance. All 'call-back enrollments' must be completed before 12:01 a.m. Saturday, the spokesman said" (Jaffee, 12/7).
Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill: Clock Is Ticking For 'Doc Fix,' Medicare 'Extenders'
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey talks with Jackie Judd about the prospects for an agreement this month on Medicare reimbursement rates, and what happens if nothing is done before the end of the year (12/6). Listen to the interview or read the transcript.
Kaiser Health News: Florida Grappling With Questions About Taxes For Indigent Care
WFSU's Lynn Hatter filed this story as part of a partnership with Kaiser Health News, NPR and WFSU. Hatter reports: "A special panel appointed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott has been meeting to figure out a way to scale back what taxpayers at the local level contribute to hospital costs in some parts of the state" (Hatter, 12/6).
Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Home Health Advocates Push Remote Monitoring In Medicare
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Jessica Marcy writes: "Home care technology can play a critical role in keeping patients out of hospitals and at home, but many providers believe new policies should be used to encourage its adoption" (12/6). Check out what else is on the blog.
The Washington Post: Republicans Split On Democratic Plan To Extend Payroll Tax Cut
Many predict that the tax cut will ultimately be extended as part of a broad bill that would address other budget issues facing end-of-the-year deadlines, such as an extension of unemployment insurance benefits and an adjustment of scheduled cuts to Medicare payments for doctors (Helderman, 12/6).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: House Payroll Tax Bill To Include Higher Medicare Premiums For The Wealthy
House Republicans intend to propose a gradual increase in Medicare premiums for wealthy seniors to help cover the cost of renewing Social Security payroll tax cuts and benefits for the long-term unemployed, officials said Wednesday. The precise details remain to be worked out as the leadership consults with rank-and-file Republicans about the legislation, which … is expected on the House floor next week. … In addition to the extension of payroll tax cuts and jobless benefits that are at the heart of President Barack Obama’s jobs program, House Republicans plan to include a provision to avert a 27 percent cut in payments to doctors who treat Medicare patients. All three face a Dec. 31 deadline for action (12/6).
The Wall Street Journal: Latest Payroll-Tax Plans Fail To Gain Traction
Democrats and Republicans on Tuesday struggled to make progress on renewing an expiring payroll-tax cut, pointing to a bumpy road ahead if Congress is to act before its target adjournment date for the year of next Friday (Peterson and Hughes, 12/6).
Politico: GOP Won't Go Down Without A Tax Fight
All this needs to be resolved soon or the Social Security payroll tax will go up next year for every working American; unemployment benefits will run dry; and doctors who treat Medicare patients will have their fees cut. House Republicans are expected to delay any action until next week (Raju and Sherman, 12/6).
Politico: Reid Threatens Sessions Through Christmas
If the Senate fails to wrap up business this month, Majority Leader Harry Reid could turn into the Grinch. …"We are not going to leave Washington until we pass the extenders and until we pass the payroll tax cut … unemployment compensation, omnibus, and I'm missing one thing," Reid said at a news conference after the weekly caucus lunch, echoing his similar threats for Christmases past. "Anyway, there are five things that we have to do." The forgotten fifth item, aides said, is the extension of the so-called "doc fix," which pays for the reimbursement formula for Medicare providers. That expires at on Dec. 31, along with a number of other tax provisions, including the Social Security payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance for those out of work (Wong, 12/6).
The Washington Post: Wonkblog: The Feds' Big Medicaid Spend, In One Chart
Spending on Medicaid increased a mindboggling 344 percent between 1990 and 2007, according to a new S&P analysis. The paper raises one counterintuitive point: Despite advocates constant fear of federal cuts, any changes to Medicaid financing policy in Washington tend to mean more money for the program, not less. Washington does tinker with how the program is paid for, but it tends to be a good thing for states (Kliff, 12/6).
The Washington Post: In Health Technology, An Enthusiasm Gap Between Startups And Doctors
Topol and the other presenters at this week's mHealth Summit predict that health care in coming years will be highly personalized, ultra-efficient and will most likely involve smart phones and tablets. That is, of course, only if mobile health entrepreneurs can get health care providers to embrace the new technologies, which so far they have been slow to do (Khazan, 12/6).
The New York Times: Study Raises Concerns About A Faster Radiation Therapy For Breast Cancer
The study, which looked at Medicare records of more than 130,000 women, found that those who underwent the faster treatment, called brachytherapy, were about twice as likely to have a mastectomy in the following five years — a probable sign that the cancer had come back — as those who received conventional whole breast radiation (Pollack, 12/6).
The Wall Street Journal: Albany Boosts Taxes On Wealthiest
The governor's office estimated that the state would recoup an extra $1.9 billion in revenue—more than half the size of next year's projected deficit. This year's approved budget is $132.5 billion. The governor and lawmakers have already agreed to increase spending on Medicaid and public schools. The cash infusion would make it easier for the governor to avoid slashing other programs (Gershman and Grossman, 12/7).
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