Today’s Headlines – Nov. 8, 2011

Good morning! Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including stories on malpractice reforms and previews of voting in Ohio on two ballot questions affecting health care issues and a Mississippi abortion issue.

Politico: Medical Malpractice Reform Efforts Stalled
In a bid to win support for health reform from skeptical doctors back in 2009, President Barack Obama pledged action on an item near the top of their wish list — malpractice reform. And he delivered an initial step: $25 million to test alternatives to the medical liability system. That won praise from the American Medical Association, among others. But since then, tort reform on the federal level has been put on ice, a victim of both tight money and bitter politics (Norman, 11/7).

The Associated Press: Doctor Gaps In Texas Persist Despite Perry’s Stats
An analysis of (Gov. Rick) Perry’s tort reform initiative in Texas reveals a more complicated bottom line than his campaign rhetoric on the issue would suggest. State medical data show that the number of physicians practicing in Texas has increased since the initiative passed in 2003, though by considerably less than the total Perry cites. And the bulk of that influx has come in larger cities where health care was already abundant, leaving large rural swaths of Texas still without doctors (Weber, 11/7).

For more headlines …

Politico: Republicans Put Revenue In The Mix
A remarkable thing has happened on the way to the supercommittee deadline: Republicans are beating the “we-want-more-revenue” drum. … Republicans believe they can raise revenues — and not taxes — on several fronts. First, there’s talk about raising Medicare premiums for high-income seniors (Sherman and Kim, 11/7).

The Wall Street Journal: Study Raises Questions About ‘Bundling’ To Pay Doctors.
One of the fashionable suggestions for new-style (health system) payment is “bundling”, in which providers typically get a set amount that is supposed to cover an episode of care – a surgery, say – or a disease state such as diabetes. The idea is that the set payment will push providers to avoid unneeded procedures, as well as to do high-quality work. … But a new study published in Health Affairs raises questions about the feasibility of bundling (Wilde Mathews, 11/7).

Politico: Election Day: A POLITICO Cheat Sheet
Voters will answer only one federal election question Tuesday, but there are a number of state and local issues at play that could make national waves. … Mississippi voters will vote on a state constitutional amendment that would determine that, per state law, human life begins at conception. Polling on the measure shows a toss-up, according to Public Policy Polling, with the difference between support and opposition within the margin of error (Epstein, 11/8).

USA Today: Voters Go To Polls In Off-Year Elections
Ohio’s voters were asked to decide whether to repeal or let stand a law pushed and signed by Republican Gov. John Kasich that limits the collective-bargaining abilities of more than 350,000 public employees, including teachers, police and firefighters. The new law says workers can negotiate over wages but not over pensions or health benefits, bans public worker strikes, scraps binding arbitration and eliminates automatic teacher pay increases. … A second politically charged issue is on Ohio’s ballot. A Tea Party-backed constitutional amendment proposal would block for Ohioans the federal health care overhaul’s requirement that people buy health insurance (Welch, 11/8).

The New York Times: California Dispensaries Moving To Block U.S. Marijuana Crackdown
Lawyers for the medical marijuana industry said on Monday that they would seek court orders to halt a threatened federal crackdown on marijuana dispensaries, their landlords and marijuana growers (Eckholm, 11/7).

The New York Times: Intern Gap Frustrates Clinicians In Training
They call it “the match.” Every year, thousands of graduate students in clinical psychology pick the hospitals and clinics where they would like to do yearlong internships. … Last year, 937 students, or 24 percent of those who applied, were not accepted by any of the sites they had chosen — and students must complete internships to earn their degrees and venture out into the workplace. … Students who do not match must hunt for unaccredited internships, positions that can hobble their careers. Almost half end up without an internship at all and must try again the next year (Berger, 11/7).

The Wall Street Journal: A Financial Incentive For Better Bedside Manner
How patients feel they were treated has always colored their opinions of a hospital. Now, those feelings are being factored into how hospitals get paid. Starting next fall, the federal Medicare program will withhold 1% of a vital payment—totaling an estimated $850 million, with the percentage doubling to 2% in 2017—as part of a program in last year’s U.S. health-care overhaul designed to force hospitals to improve the quality of care and trim costs (Landro, 11/7).

The Wall Street Journal: The Hidden Toll Of Traffic Jams
As roadways choke on traffic, researchers suspect that the tailpipe exhaust from cars and trucks—especially tiny carbon particles already implicated in heart disease, cancer and respiratory ailments—may also injure brain cells and synapses key to learning and memory (Hotz, 11/8).

The Washington Post: Migraine And Headaches Prompt New Research Focused On Military Personnel
Over the past decade, migraine and headache have become a significant problem for U.S. armed forces. A 2008 Defense Department report said diagnoses of migraine increased across all branches of the military between 2001 and 2007. Another, more recent study found that, among nearly 1,000 soldiers evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan because of some form of headache between 2004 and 2009, two-thirds did not return to duty (Torres, 11/7).

The Associated Press/USA Today: New Social Security Formula Could Cut Benefits, Raise Taxes
Congress is looking at reducing future raises by adopting a new measure of inflation that also would increase taxes for most families. … If adopted across the government, the new inflation measure would have widespread ramifications. Future increases in veterans’ benefits and pensions for federal workers and military personnel would be smaller. And over time, fewer people would qualify for Medicaid, Head Start, food stamps, school lunch programs and home heating assistance (Ohlemacher, 11/7).