Today’s Headlines – August 16, 2011

Good morning! Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including reports about how the influence industry is jockeying for position with the ‘super committee’ as well as details of how Medicaid payments for prescription drugs stack up against those made by Medicare.

Politico: Lobbyists Get An Early Jump On The Debt Committee
Now that the members of the supercommittee have been named, lobbyists have begun strategizing in earnest. And they’ve got their sights set beyond just the elite 12. Several lobbyists said they are focused on the committees of jurisdiction that have until Oct. 4 to send their recommendations to the debt panel as the first line of defense to keep their clients’ interests off the chopping block. …  While there is still a high level of pessimism downtown that the supercommittee won’t reach a deal, lobbyists aren’t counting on the panel failing (Palmer, 8/15).

For more headlines …

The Hill: Club For Growth Leads In Donations To ‘Supercommittee’
The fiscally conservative Club for Growth may have opposed the compromise that raised the debt ceiling and led to the creation of the supercommittee of 12 members of Congress, but the organization has donated more to those members than any other. The Club for Growth and its members have given just over $1 million to the campaigns of some of the committee’s Republicans, including the group’s former head, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), as well as Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) according to a study by MapLight.org, a group which studies money in politics (Joseph, 8/15).

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog: Obama Confident Supreme Court Will Defend Health Care Law
Days after a federal appeals panel deemed the individual insurance mandate in Obama’s health care law unconstitutional, President Obama pushed back today and declared his confidence that the Supreme Court would uphold it, so long as they adhere to existing precedents and laws (Lee, 8/15).

The New York Times: Medicaid Pays Less Than Medicare For Many Prescription Drugs, U.S. Report Finds
Medicaid gets much deeper discounts on many prescription drugs than Medicare, in part because Medicaid discounts are set by law whereas Medicare prices are negotiated by private insurers and drug companies, federal investigators said Monday in a new report (Pear, 8/15).

USA Today: Hospice Lobbyists Battle Over Medicare Payment System
For-profit hospice organizations have spent more than $1million this year lobbying to prevent Medicare from reducing payments to try to curb the soaring cost of hospice care. The nation’s two largest for-profit hospice companies, Vitas and Gentiva, have together spent $1,188,100 on lobbying this year, records show. Their top priority is a bill by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., that would require the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs the Medicare program, to test a new payment system for two years. That program wouldn’t start until October 2013, the bill states, which would delay any changes in payments for at least four years (Kennedy, 8/15).

The Washington Post: ‘Comparative Effectiveness Research’ Tackles Medicine’s Unanswered Questions
American medical care is rife with such treatments, whose usefulness is uncertain not just to the doctors who deliver them but also to the patients who receive them.  These days, however, many people are pinning their hopes on “comparative effectiveness research” as way to solve the dilemma of how best to treat this and hundreds of other common problems in day-to-day medicine (Brown, 8/15).

The Washington Post: CT Scans For Lung Cancer Trigger Debate
Hospitals and radiology practices around the United States have increasingly begun using high-tech CT scans to screen people for lung cancer despite intense disagreement about whether the testing should be done widely and, if so, who should undergo the exams. The trend was triggered by a recent federal study, which found that screening certain heavy smokers and ex-smokers could slash their chances of dying from lung cancer. The finding was hailed as one of the most important advances in decades toward reducing the toll from the nation’s leading cancer killer (Stein, 8/15).

The Associated Press/ Chicago Tribune: State Board Vote On Oak Forest Hospital Expected
An Illinois health planning board may reach a decision today affecting the fate of a charity hospital in Chicago’s southern suburbs.  Cook County wants to close Oak Forest Hospital and convert it into an outpatient center (8/16).