Today’s Headlines – Nov. 17, 2011

Good morning!  The fallout from the Supreme Court’s decision on a hearing for the health law continues, as observers watch for signs that the super committee will find common ground before their Wednesday deadline.

The Washington Post: Supreme Court’s Planned Review Of Health-Care Law Shocks Medicaid Advocates
While there was no surprise over the Supreme Court’s decision Monday to review the 2010 health-care act’s insurance mandate, supporters of the law are reeling over the justices’ announcement that they will also consider a long-shot challenge to what many consider an even more central provision of the statute. That provision is the extension of Medicaid to cover a greater number of the poor. Twenty-six states say the expansion amounts to an unconstitutional coercion of state governments, which provide part of Medicaid’s funding (Aizenman, 11/16).

Politico: Health Care’s On Repeat For 2012
The Supreme Court’s decision to weigh the constitutionality of health care reform in the thick of the 2012 race has already thrust the issue back to the forefront on the campaign trail — and not just for President Barack Obama. A number of candidates in down-ballot races across the country seized on the court’s announcement almost instantly. Republican campaigns were especially eager to revive the health care debate, but the potential fallout from a ruling will pose challenges for candidates in both parties (Catanese, 11/16).

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Los Angeles Times: Gloom Around Deficit-Reduction Panel Grows

But the lawmakers’ willingness to set aside partisan differences appeared to do little to break the impasse gripping the 12-member super committee. With just a week remaining before the deadline to vote on a plan, gloomy forecasts began to proliferate. Republicans have drawn a line over the amount of new taxes they will agree to in exchange for reductions in spending on Medicare and other domestic programs (Mascaro, 11/16).

The Washington Post: GOP Supercommittee Members’ Tax Plan Gives Party An Identity Crisis
The two conservative lawmakers have pushed the increases as part of their work on the bipartisan congressional “supercommittee” tasked with finding at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions by a Thanksgiving deadline. Their plan, which also addresses entitlement spending, would generate at least $300 billion in new tax revenue over the next decade by overhauling the tax code to lower rates but also eliminate deductions and loopholes (Wallsten, 11/16).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Stalemated Debt-Reduction Panel Members Casting Blame More Than Trying To Resolve Differences
Increasingly gripped by stalemate, Republicans and Democrats on a congressional deficit-reduction supercommittee now seem to be devoting more time to assigning blame than working through the sharp differences that divide them. Despite small steps in recent weeks toward addressing core solutions to the nation’s intractable deficit problem, such as new taxes and curbs on the growth of enormously expensive government benefit programs, both sides said further progress had come to a halt (11/17).

The Wall Street Journal: Deficit Stalemate Signs Rise
One week before Congress’s deficit-cutting supercommittee hits its deadline, and with signs of stalemate increasing, lawmakers Wednesday grappled with the consequences of possible failure. Some lawmakers pushed to water down automatic budget cuts that kick in if the panel fails, especially those that would hit the Pentagon. The group has until Wednesday to find a way to reduce deficits by $1.2 trillion over the next decade (Bendavid and Hook, 11/17).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: GOP Deficit Reduction Plan Limits Itemized Tax Deductions, Health Insurance Tax Breaks
A GOP plan to raise taxes by $290 billion over the next decade would limit deductions for mortgage interest, charitable donations and state and local taxes as part of a deficit-reduction deal. Some workers could also see their employer-provided health benefits taxed for the first time, though aides cautioned that the plan is still fluid (11/17).

Politico: Supercommittee Searches For A Plan B
As Democrats continued to demand more revenue increases and Republicans called for deeper cuts to health care programs, there was increased chatter about the next steps to break the stalemate and avoid the full mandated budget cuts if no agreement is reached before Thanksgiving. One plan would have the supercommittee vote on competing Republican and Democratic proposals, aimed at forcing the other side’s hand (Sherman and Raju, 11/16).

The Washington Post: New Study Shows Health Insurance Premium Spikes In Every State
Premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance have risen faster than incomes in every state in the nation, according to a report released Thursday. The analysis of federal data by the Commonwealth Fund, an independent research organization, shed new light on the state-by-state picture while essentially confirming a national trend, highlighted in other recent surveys of employer-sponsored insurance, of greater premiums for skimpier benefits (Aizenman, 11/17).

The New York Times Prescriptions Blog: Employers Step Up Efforts To Curb Health Care Costs
Employers remain concerned about the relentless increase in the cost of providing health coverage for their workers, according to a new survey, and many companies are trying to do more about it. The new health care law has “emboldened employers in taking bolder steps,” said Susan Connolly, a partner at Mercer, the benefits consulting firm that conducted the survey, whose findings were released on Wednesday. “Going forward, we’re going to see more big steps and risk-taking on the part of employers” (Abelson, 11/16).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Ron Paul’s Rx For Health Care: Excise Government
The government should get out of health care, but not entirely and not yet, GOP presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul told the Congressional Health Caucus Wednesday (Radnofsky, 11/16).

Politico: Outside Groups Begin Assault With Ads
Television spots paid for by Americans United for Change, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and Service Employees International Union pressure Montana Rep. Denny Rehberg, Nevada Sen. Dean Heller and Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown to protect Medicare. Meanwhile, the Chamber of Commerce is on the air with its first commercials of the cycle, attacking Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown in Ohio and Jon Tester in Montana. Friends of the U.S. Chamber strikes Tester for supporting “government-run health care” and challenges Brown on energy taxes (Catanese, 11/16).

Los Angeles Times: Ruling Ordering Better VA Mental Health Treatment Is Withdrawn
A federal appeals court Wednesday withdrew its May ruling that ordered sweeping reform of the Department of Veterans Affairs to care for those returning from combat with post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological injuries. The full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will reconsider the case brought by two veterans advocacy groups alleging systemic failures to treat mental health injuries and help lower a suicide rate that takes the lives of 6,500 former service members each year, according to court records (Williams, 11/17).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Appeals Court Puts Its Order To Overhaul VA Health Care System On Hold, Will Rehear Case
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said a special 11-judge panel will reconsider the appeal of two veterans group who accused the VA of shoddy medical treatment and ignoring rising mental health problems, including an increase in suicides. The veterans alleged in their 2007 lawsuit filed in San Francisco federal court that the VA was taking too long to process claims (11/16).

NPR: Emergency Room Closures Hit Minorities, Poor Hardest
Patients in California may find a shuttered glass door the next time they seek out emergency care, as hospitals across the state close emergency rooms. California hospitals that serve large numbers of blacks and Medicaid patients, who often rely on ERs the most, run a higher risk of closing the emergency department, according to an analysis just published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine (Husted, 11/16).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: Health Insurance Rate Hike Requests Go Online
Consumers can check out detailed information regarding health insurers’ rate hike requests on a new website set up by the state Department of Financial Services (11/17).