Today’s Headlines – Oct. 3, 2011

Good Monday morning! Today’s headlines include stories previewing how health policy issues will fit into the Supreme Court’s new term.

Politico: Larger Deal May Elude Deficit Panel
A month into the supercommittee’s term, Senate Republicans are telling K Street that they don’t believe the powerful deficit-cutting panel can reach a “grand bargain” agreement, sources familiar with the negotiations say. But the only way that a grand bargain could pass muster with the GOP, the Senate Republican aides say, is if it were tied to an overhaul of Social Security or the controversial proposal by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to turn Medicare into a voucher-based system for future recipients. And neither plan could pass this Congress, they believe (Raju and Bresnahan, 10/2).

USAToday: Five Ways To Squeeze Medicare
Nearly 50 million people on Medicare, as well as those entering the program at a pace of one every eight seconds, are likely to get more than their money’s worth before they die. The same can’t be said for anyone under 55 who will rely on the federal health care program for those 65 and older in the future. They face higher costs and, possibly, longer waits before they qualify for coverage. Medicare — one of the most popular programs ever devised by the federal government — is on the chopping block. Again (Wolf, 10/3).

For more headlines …

Los Angeles Times: Supreme Court To Open Crucial Term
The cases coming before the court “address some of the central issues facing the country,” said former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger. The clashes over healthcare and immigration “are not mere lawyers’ issues, but fundamental questions about how the country is governed” (Savage, 10/2).

NPR: IN New Term, Supreme Court To Tackle Divisive Issues
The constitutional challenge to President Obama’s health care overhaul almost certainly will be decided this term, but at this point it has not formally made it onto the docket. Also making their way to the court are cases involving almost every hot-button issue in America: immigration; affirmative action; gay marriage; and the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law barring federal recognition of gay marriage even in states where it is legal (Totenberg, 10/3).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: First Monday In October Marks Start Of New Supreme Court Term; Justices To Hear Medicaid Case
The Supreme Court is beginning a term expected to be dominated by health care with arguments Monday in a closely watched case involving the Medicaid program for poor Americans. … the justices will hear arguments in a case that centers on California’s plan to cut Medicaid payments to doctors, hospitals and other medical providers to close the state’s budget gap (10/3).

The Wall Street Journal: Home-Health Firms Blasted
An inquiry by the Senate Finance Committee has found that the nation’s three largest home-health companies tailored the care they provided to Medicare patients to maximize their reimbursements from the federal program (10/3).

The New York Times: Blue Shield Of California Won’t Cover Breast Cancer Drug
Blue Shield of California will no longer pay for the use of the drug Avastin to treat breast cancer, a sign that support for the widely debated and expensive treatment may be eroding among health plans (Pollack, 10/2).

Los Angeles Times: Individual Insurance May Have To Cover Maternity Care
Although HMOs and employer-based insurance policies in California are required to include maternity care, individual policies are not. That leaves women who are self-employed or not covered at work with few options, including paying out of pocket for pregnancy and childbirth costs. A bill on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk would change that, mandating that insurance plans in the individual market cover maternity care (Gorman, 10/1).

NPR: Shortages Lead Doctors To Ration Critical Drugs
Drug shortages mean a growing number of Americans aren’t getting the medications they need. That’s causing drug companies and doctors to ration available medications in some cases (Knox, 10/3).

The Associated Press: Denmark Introduces Fat Tax To Curb Unhealthy Habits, Improve Life Expectancy
Denmark has imposed a “fat tax” on foods such as butter and oil as a way to curb unhealthy eating habits. The Nordic country introduced the tax Saturday, of 16 kroner ($2.90) per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of saturated fat in a product (10/2).