Today’s Headlines – August 30, 2011

Good morning! Today’s headlines include a report about a new federal and state program that will apply scrutiny to any health-premium increase of more than 10 percent.

The Wall Street Journal: Steep Rises In Health Premiums Scrutinized
A new federal and state program on health-insurance rates will determine whether bad publicity alone is enough to stop insurers from levying steep increases. Starting Thursday, the Obama administration and states will automatically scrutinize any proposed health-premium increase of 10% or more as part of the 2010 health-overhaul law. The change applies to an estimated 34.8 million insurance policies that Americans buy on their own or get through a small employer—two markets where consumers have faced particularly hefty increases in recent years (Adamy, 8/30).

USA Today: Health Care Fraud Prosecutions On Pace To Rise 85%
New government statistics show federal health care fraud prosecutions in the first eight months of 2011 are on pace to rise 85% over last year due in large part to ramped-up enforcement efforts under the Obama administration. The statistics, released by the non-partisan Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, show 903 prosecutions so far this year. That’s a 24% increase over the total for all of fiscal year 2010, when 731 people were prosecuted for health fraud through federal agencies across the country. Prosecutions have gone up 71% from five years ago, according to TRAC (Kennedy, 8/29).

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The Washington Post: The Fix: Democrats Gain Partial Victory In Town Halls
Democrats and union activists have made a concerted effort to play the town hall game this summer, pressing lawmakers to preserve Medicare and end tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. In 2009, tea party activists overwhelmed town halls around the country, creating angry confrontations over health-care legislation that dominated the news. A Pew poll showed that nearly eight in ten Americans were paying either “a lot” (49 percent) or “a little” attention (29 percent) to the rowdy town halls (Weiner, 8/29).

The Washington Post: Health Reform Implementation In One Map
A few interesting things to note here: The map doesn’t break down nicely on party lines. States that have passed exchange bills tend to lean Democratic, but it’s by no means a clear dichotomy.  Both Nevada and California passed exchange bills under Republican governors; Mississippi and Idaho have, over the past few weeks, become increasingly aggressive about setting up exchanges (Kliff, 8/29).

The Hill: Nursing Homes Launch TV, Lobbying Campaign To Ward Off Medicare Cuts
The nursing-home industry is launching a multimillion-dollar ad buy and advocacy campaign this week in an effort to prevent more Medicare and Medicaid cuts once Congress comes back to Washington. The industry says previous Medicare and Medicaid cuts have already hampered nursing homes’ ability to stay fully staffed and provide top-quality care. Further reductions — including cuts from the deficit-cutting supercommittee — would be devastating, industry groups argue (Baker, 8/29).

NPR: Uninsured Largely Unaware Of Benefits Coming From Health Overhaul
When it comes to last year’s Affordable Care Act, there’s not much people agree on. Except, says Kaiser Family Foundation President and CEO Drew Altman, this one thing: “It really does help the uninsured; 32 million uninsured people will get coverage.” But according to the foundation’s latest monthly tracking poll, it appears that only about half of uninsured people have any idea that help is on the way. And fewer than a third (31 percent) say they think the law will help them obtain health insurance (Rovner, 8/29).

The Hill: Poll Finds That Knowledge Of Healthcare Reform Law Is Slipping
People seem to be forgetting what the healthcare reform law does, according to a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation. The monthly tracking poll found a sharp decline in the number of people who are aware that the new law will offer financial help to people who must buy insurance on their own, rather than getting it from an employer. Last summer, 72 percent of those polled were aware of that benefit. Now it’s down to 58 percent (Baker, 8/29).

Politico: Kaiser Poll: Uninsured Don’t Understand ACA
About half of the uninsured Americans who stand to benefit the most from the health care reform law aren’t aware of how the legislation is designed to help them buy insurance, according to a new poll released Monday (Haberkorn, 8/29).