Today’s Headlines – Nov. 3, 2011

Good morning world! Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including reports about a bipartisan group of lawmakers who are urging the super committee to consider “all options.”

The New York Times: Deficit Committee Could Seek More Time, A Top Democrat Says
A top House Democrat said Wednesday that a bipartisan committee seeking ways to slash the budget deficit could seek an extension if it was unable to meet its deadline, just three weeks away. With no visible signs of progress, 6 of the 12 committee members have begun meeting privately in hopes of overcoming what appears to be the biggest obstacle to agreement: a deadlock over whether tax increases should be part of a deficit-reduction deal (Pear, 11/2).

For more headlines …

Los Angeles Times: Bipartisan Group Says Deficit Panel Should Consider ‘All Options’
They’re not explicitly agreeing to raise taxes to reduce deficits, but a bipartisan group of 100 House lawmakers — including 40 Republicans — urged the congressional “super committee” to put everything in the mix and strive for a larger, $4-trillion deficit reduction deal. A letter released Wednesday by the group was seen as a possible opening in the partisan stalemate as the committee on deficit reduction appears to be deadlocked. So far, Republicans have refused to raise taxes to bring down deficits and Democrats are willing to put Medicare and other entitlement cuts on the table, but only if the GOP agrees to new revenue (Mascaro, 11/2).

The Washington Post: House Republicans Make Cross-Party Pitch to Embolden Debt ‘Supercommittee’
The letter comes as pessimism that the supercommittee can find agreement by a Nov. 23 deadline is running high on Capitol Hill. Aides to both sides have said the six House members and six Senators who serve on the panel are stuck on the same issue that has divided previous efforts to cut the deficit — Democrats want Republicans to accept sizable new revenue generation before agreeing to significant entitlement cuts and Republicans do not want to back a tax increase (Helderman and Montgomery, 11/2).

The Wall Street Journal: Lawmakers Prod Panel On Deficit Agreement
The 100 lawmakers who signed the letter said they wanted to signal to the committee that Republicans would support tax increases and Democrats would accept cuts in social-safety-net programs (Bendavid and Boles, 11/3).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: 100 Bipartisan Lawmakers Tell Debt Supercommittee To Consider All Options, Save $4 Trillion
The GOP lawmakers joined with 60 House Democrats in the letter, which also called on the supercommittee to keep the door open for savings culled from benefit programs like Medicare, a path opposed by many Democrats. In addition, the letter said the special committee should aim for $4 trillion in 10-year savings — more than triple the panel’s mandated minimum target of $1.2 trillion (11/2).

Politico: President Obama Stays Away From Deficit Panel
The strategy isn’t without peril. Popular entitlement programs face cuts, and there has been serious discussion about making changes to Social Security if Republicans accept increased revenue — developments that are already eliciting furor from the Democratic base. As the committee nears its Nov. 23 deadline, Obama will be thousands of miles away, traveling through Hawaii, Indonesia and Australia and opening himself to criticism that he’s skipping town while legislators are furiously trying to assemble something he will need to sign (Sherman and Budoff Brown, 11/2).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Herman Cain Answers Questions – On Health Insurance
After the GOP presidential candidate finished a speech to Republican lawmakers on health care policy, he ignored the questions reporters shouted at him about sexual harassment allegations. He did answer questions about his own insurance plan, saying that he was paying “expensive” premiums to keep coverage he had had from his previous job as a talk show host through the Cobra system (Radnofsky, 11/2).

Los Angeles Times: Herman Cain Dodges Scandal Questions On Capitol Hill
Herman Cain came to Capitol Hill to address the congressional healthcare caucus at a House office building Wednesday, but it was clear from the media scrum inside the room and outside in the hallway that health policy was the last thing on anyone’s mind. … Cain gave a short speech on healthcare policy, citing, as has in the past, his own experience as a cancer survivor as an argument against the Democratic healthcare reform law. He said he would plan to sign a bill repealing the plan on March 23, 2013, his son’s birthday. “I’m going to unpass it on my son’s birthday,” he pledged (Oliphant and Hennessey, 11/2).

NPR Shots Blog: Rising Health Costs Lead Companies To Drop Part-Time Benefits
Wal-Mart’s recent decision to cut benefits for new, part-time employees may be part of a trend, as companies grapple with higher health costs (Husted, 11/2).

The Wall Street Journal: Glaxo Settles With U.S. For $3 Billion
GlaxoSmithKline PLC said it will pay the U.S. government $3 billion to settle several long-running criminal and civil investigations into the company, including allegations that Glaxo marketed some drugs illegally and defrauded the Medicaid program. The settlement will also cover a Department of Justice probe into Glaxo’s development and marketing of the diabetes drug Avandia, which has been linked to heart attack risks (Whalen, 11/3).

NPR Shots Blog: Religious Groups Want Relief From Birth Control Mandate
Faith-based health providers got a chance to vent about new federal rules that require them to offer prescription contraceptives as part of their health insurance plans at a House subcommittee hearing today. They also proposed some changes (Rovner, 11/2).

Los Angeles Times: Shortage Of Cancer Drugs Tied To Simple Economics
Economics are no small part of the problem, according to a Perspective published online this week in the New England Journal of Medicine. In this eye-opening report, a pharmacist and a physician explain why so many cancer drugs are in short supply and offer some prescriptions for how to fix things (Kaplan, 11/2).

Los Angeles Times: Hospital Group Sues Over Cuts To Medi-Cal Program
The trade group for California’s hospitals has sued state and federal officials to block a 10% cut in government reimbursements for healthcare providers who treat low-income patients. The California Hospital Assn. said in its suit, filed in federal district court in Los Angeles, that cuts to the Medi-Cal insurance program will threaten the ability of many hospitals to continue operating skilled nursing facilities (Helfand, 11/2).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: 12 Charged In NYC With $95 Million Medicare Fraud
Federal authorities in New York City charged 12 people — including several doctors — with scheming to submit more than $95 million in false Medicare claims. The 12 were charged Wednesday with participating in Medicare fraud and money-laundering offenses in Brooklyn and Queens. In addition to three medical doctors, they include a chiropractor and a doctor of osteopathy (11/2).