Today’s Headlines – February 28, 2012

Good morning! Here are your early-morning headlines:

The New York Times: At-Risk Patients Gain Attention Of Health Insurers
One percent of patients account for more than 25 percent of health care spending among the privately insured, according to a new study. Their medical bills average nearly $100,000 a year for multiple hospital stays, doctors’ visits, trips to emergency rooms and prescription drugs. And they are not always the end-of-lifers. They are people who suffer from chronic and increasingly common diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure (Abelson, 2/27).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: More Americans Seek Dental Treatment At The ER; Costs Can Be 10 Times More Than Checkups
More Americans are turning to the emergency room for routine dental problems — a choice that often costs 10 times more than preventive care and offers far fewer treatment options than a dentist’s office, according to an analysis of government data and dental research (2/28).

For more headlines …

The New York Times: Democrats See Benefits In Battle On Contraception
Democratic leaders, who set the Senate floor schedule, plan to hold a vote this week on a measure offered by Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, that would in effect reduce insurance coverage of contraception, by allowing religious institutions not to cover it in the health plans they offer employees. Democrats see the vote as a way to embarrass Republicans — especially those up for re-election in moderate states like Maine and Massachusetts — and believe that the battle may alienate women and moderates from the Republican Party (Steinhauer and Cooper, 2/27).

The Washington Post: The Fight For The Senate Majority Headed For Deadlock
A key reason is that the Senate, which will provide some of the most competitive and expensive contests on the election calendar, is likely to function, or not, in January 2013 the way it does now, regardless of which party holds the majority. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are expected to make the sort of sweeping gains at the polls that are necessary to take effective control of the chamber, where work has been hobbled by a constant flow of filibusters and other political and procedural gimmicks (Kane, 2/27).

Los Angeles Times: Poll: Most Voters Believe Healthcare Mandate Is Unconstitutional
Nearly two years after President Obama signed his landmark healthcare package into law, three-quarters of registered voters believe the law’s requirement that every American carry health insurance is unconstitutional, according to a new survey. A USA Today/Gallup poll taken earlier this month and released Monday found that a majority of voters — those surveyed in battleground states and nationwide generally — agreed in their dislike of the Affordable Care Act. Voters in battleground states are more likely to want it repealed, the poll showed (Geiger, 2/27).

Los Angeles Times: Rick Santorum Predicts A ‘Surprise’ On Eve Of Primaries
[Santorum] contrasted that with President Obama, who he said claimed that America was not a great country until entitlement programs were passed. [The president actually said “we would not be a great country” without safety-net programs such as Social Security and Medicaid.] … Santorum also repeated his arguments that Romney would be a weak competitor for Obama because of the healthcare plan he crafted while he was governor of Massachusetts and his positions on issues such as global warming. He also argued that voters ought to consider that while Romney and his supporters spent millions of dollars in state-by-state battles to crush rivals, such a strategy would not work in the general election against Obama (Mehta, 2/27).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Gingrich Turns To Health Care, Etc.
Newt Gingrich sat in a law firm’s event room here Monday with a small panel of health-care professionals to discuss overhauling President Barack Obama’s 2010 health-care law, among other things. For the first 20 minutes, he let others talk. Apparently realizing their guest had gone silent — an aide to Mr. Gingrich at one point brought him a cup of coffee — a panelist turned the microphone over to the presidential candidate. But the former House speaker did not seize the opportunity to reassert himself in the conversation (Yadron, 2/27).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: FBI Says Probes Of Financial Crime Led To Restitution Orders In The Billions
The FBI said Monday that its probes of financial crime last year led to more than 3,000 convictions and over $12 billion in court-ordered restitution as agents attacked insider trading, Ponzi schemes and Medicare fraud in high-dollar scams that victimized thousands of investors and the government (2/27).

The Washington Post: CareFirst To Give $8.5 Million In Grants To Safety-Net Clinics
CareFirst BlueCross Blue¬Shield, the largest private insurer in the Washington region, plans to announce Tuesday that it will give $8.5 million to a dozen safety-net clinics to help them use a coordinated primary-care approach to treat their most vulnerable patients, executives said (Sun, 2/27).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: NY Probe Results In Medicaid Overbilling Recovery
A New York state commission says a joint investigation has resulted in recovering more than $153,000 in Medicaid funds overbilled for services to the disabled. The Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities says Guest House Community Services, a Peekskill-based provider, has agreed to repay that amount (2/28).