Today’s Headlines – Nov. 7, 2011

Good morning! Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including reports on venture capitalists’ new interest in companies that can curb health costs and concerns among states on implementing the federal health law.

NPR: Raising Medicare Age Could Lead To Higher Costs
Congress’s so-called deficit reduction “supercommittee” is down to the final weeks of deliberations in its efforts to come up with $1.2 trillion in budget savings. And one proposal that keeps cropping up is the idea of raising the eligibility age for Medicare. GOP Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney became the just the latest to propose it in his speech to the Americans for Prosperity Foundation last Friday (Rovner, 11/7).

The Washington Post: A Scramble To Shape The New Health Insurance Exchanges
From insurance companies to drugstores to doctors, just about every industry that touches the health-care system has a different opinion on how the Obama administration should shape the new insurance markets at the heart of the health-care reform law. But they all agree on one thing: Now is the time to weigh in (Kliff, 11/5).

For more headlines …

Politico Pro: NAIC Puts Off Vote On MLR Resolution
A contentious battle over whether to endorse a motion to remove broker and agent fees from the medical loss ratio brought some drama to a relatively low-key meeting of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners this weekend (Nocera, 11/6).

The Hill: States Worried They’ll Bear The Brunt Of Anger Over Health Law’s Shortcomings
State officials are pushing back hard against what they view as shortcomings in the healthcare reform law for fear they’ll be barraged with complaints when people have trouble affording insurance. Federal regulators are writing the rules governing key aspects of the law, including the guidelines to determine who’s eligible for subsidies to buy private insurance. Those benefits will be delivered through state-based exchanges, however, leaving state officials on the receiving end of angry phone calls if glitches in the law aren’t ironed out by 2014 (Pecquet, 11/6).

Politico: Ex-Pelosi Aide’s Turnabout Work
Even by the revolving-door standards of Washington, this one has heads spinning: The Democratic staffer who was Nancy Pelosi’s messaging guru during the health care debate is now working for a group led by the law’s most powerful opponents. [Brendan Daly is] now representing a group called the Essential Health Benefits Coalition. … the group’s members include a veritable who’s who of reform-law opponents (DoBias, 11/6).

The New York Times: In State Care, 1,200 Deaths And Few Answers
In New York, it is unusually common for developmentally disabled people in state care to die for reasons other than natural causes. One in six of all deaths in state and privately run homes, or more than 1,200 in the past decade, have been attributed to either unnatural or unknown causes, according to data obtained by The New York Times that has never been released. … The Times reviewed the case files of all the deaths not resulting from natural causes that the commission investigated over the past decade and found there had been concerns about the quality of care in nearly half of the 222 cases (Hakim and Buettner, 11/5).

The Wall Street Journal: Abortion Resurfaces For GOP Field
Moves in several states to restrict or criminalize abortion are pushing one of the most divisive issues in politics up the Republican presidential-campaign agenda, complicating life for candidates who have been focused almost entirely on the economy. The result has been the emergence of some fissures within the GOP field, as well as some stumbles by candidates as their anti-abortion credentials are challenged (Williamson, 11/7).

USA Today/Jackson Clarion Ledger: Mississippians To Vote On ‘Personhood’ Initiative
Mississippians will vote Tuesday on a proposal that would define life as beginning “from the moment of fertilization,” possibly the first state to put such language in its constitution. Initiative 26, which got more than 100,000 signatures to appear on the ballot, proposes to define a “person” as “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.” The so-called personhood measure has split many in the state, particularly in religious and medical communities (Crisp, 11/6).

The New York Times: Storm Has Vermont Scrambling To Find Beds For Mentally Ill
Among the casualties of the flooding that ravaged Vermont during Tropical Storm Irene was a faded brick hospital that housed the state’s most seriously ill psychiatric patients. Eight feet of water from the Winooski River inundated the century-old building on Aug. 28, forcing the 51 residents, most of whom had been sent there involuntarily, to the upper floors. The next day, they were evacuated by bus to temporary placements around the state. Two months later, the Vermont State Hospital remains closed — for good, Gov. Peter Shumlin says — and the state is grappling with how to care for acutely mentally ill residents (Goodnough, 11/4).

Los Angeles Times: Ohio Voters Look Set To Dump Republicans’ Anti-Union Law
An aggressive Republican drive to weaken the labor rights of government workers appears to have crested, at least in Ohio, where voters are expected to throw out a far-reaching anti-union law this week. … Supporters of the law argued that government workers had received excessive healthcare and pension benefits at taxpayer expense, and ran ads declaring that “enough is enough.” But the closing arguments by both sides converged on a common theme — jobs — rather than labor rights (West, 11/5).

The New York Times: Settlement Prompts Fear About Cuts To Medicaid
When New York City agreed to pay $70 million this week to settle accusations of Medicaid fraud in a program intended to take care of disabled people at home, it seemed like a victory for the disabled. But now, in a letter sent late Thursday to federal law enforcement and Medicaid officials, dozens of organizations representing disabled people are saying there is a dark side to the settlement. They say that as a result of the deal, the city is telling elderly clients that it intends to reduce or discontinue 24-hour services like bathing and toileting that have kept them at home and out of a nursing home (Hartocollis, 11/4).

The Los Angeles Times: Twenty Years Later, Magic Johnson Is ‘Living Proof’ Of Surviving HIV
It wasn’t only basketball players who heard (Magic) Johnson on that day and expected only sadness and illness to follow. Michael Weinstein, president and co-founder of AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), said the general feeling in the HIV and AIDS community was simple. “He won’t be with us much longer,” Weinstein said. Now, Weinstein said, Johnson is a symbol that people can live well with the disease (Pucin, 11/6).

NPR: Why HPV Vaccination Of Boys May Be Easier
(I)n the wake of CDC expert panel’s recommendation to extend vaccination to 11- and 12-year-old boys, there’s reason to think things might be different this time. “There’s been a surprisingly muted reaction,” says Dr. Don Dizon, a Brown University oncologist. “We tend to believe that girls are chaste and are going to ‘save themselves for marriage.’ But, you know, sexual activity is something that’s almost expected of boys” (Knox, 11/7).