Today’s Headlines – Oct. 6, 2011

Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including reports about the latest from Capitol Hill and on the campaign trail, as well as findings from new research related to health care quality issues.

Politico: If The Mandate Goes, Will The Health Law Stay?
While the impending Supreme Court debate over President Barack Obama’s health law is steeped in politics, a ruling striking down a piece of the health care law would have significant policy implications, too. If the mandate is struck the justices would have to decide how much of the law would have to come down with it — a complicated calculus at the intersection of law and health policy (Haberkorn, 10/5).

The Wall Street Journal: Real Time Economics Blog: Nearly Half Of U.S. Lives In Household Receiving Government Benefit
Means-tested programs, designed to help the needy, accounted for the largest share of recipients last year. Some 34.2% of Americans lived in a household that received benefits such as food stamps, subsidized housing, cash welfare or Medicaid (the federal-state health care program for the poor). Another 14.5% lived in homes where someone was on Medicare (the health care program for the elderly). Nearly 16% lived in households receiving Social Security (Murray, 10/5).

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Politico: Denny Rehberg: Health Law Cuts A ‘Super’ Idea
A top House Republican says he has an idea for how the supercommittee can reach its entire $1.2 trillion savings goal with two simple cuts from the health care reform law. Rep. Denny Rehberg of Montana, chairman of the House Appropriations Labor-Health and Human Services subcommittee, is proposing cutting the law’s Medicaid expansion and subsidies to help consumers buy insurance (Haberkorn, 10/6).

The Wall Street Journal: Congressman Investigates High Drug Markups
The top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has launched an investigation into drug distributors that are obtaining cancer and other critical-care products in short supply and offering to resell them to hospitals at several times the wholesale price. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland sent document requests to five closely held companies Wednesday seeking information about how they obtained drugs and how much they paid for them before offering to resell them to hospitals and other health-care facilities (Dooren, 10/5).

The Washington Post: Health Executive Lobbied In Washington To Advance Medicare Fraud Scheme
Miami health-care executive Larry Duran orchestrated one of the largest Medicare frauds in U.S. history, submitting more than $205 million in phony claims and landing a record-breaking 50-year prison sentence for his crimes. But another piece of Duran’s scheme also caught the eye of prosecutors. They say he extended his fraud through his lobbying efforts, all aimed at getting official Washington to make it easier for mental-health centers such as his to make money (Eggen, 10/5).

Los Angeles Times: Conservative Group Seeks To Derail Mitt Romney’s Run
Mitt Romney may be closer than ever to the Republican nomination—and that has one independent conservative group determined to slow him down. … According to CNN, the group seeks to run TV and radio ads in Iowa.  … The spots highlight Romney’s shifting positions over the years on a host of hot-button issues, including abortion, climate change and gun control. They also squarely link him to the healthcare plan passed while he was governor of Massachusetts and his past support for the requirement to purchase health insurance (Oliphant, 10/5).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Sebelius to Abortion Rights Group In Chicago: GOP Wants To Roll Back Women’s Health 50 Years
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told abortion rights supporters at a Chicago fundraiser Wednesday that Republicans want to roll back women’s health gains 50 years. In a strongly worded speech, Sebelius said Republicans are not only working to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, but also want to take away benefits in Medicare, cut back Medicaid and eliminate health services provided by Planned Parenthood (10/5).

Los Angeles Times: Providence, Doctors Join To Study And Improve Care, Cut Costs
One of Southern California’s largest hospital systems is teaming up with hundreds of doctors in a new alliance designed to better manage patient care, improve medical outcomes and reduce costs. Under the partnership with Providence Health & Services of Southern California, doctors will share and analyze data about diabetes, congestive heart failure and other conditions to identify effective practices and eliminate inefficiencies that drive up expenses (Helfand, 10/6).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Study: Worst Hospitals Treat Twice The Proportion Of Older Blacks And Poor Than Best Hospitals
The nation’s worst hospitals treat twice the proportion of elderly black patients and poor patients than the best hospitals, and their patients are more likely to die of heart attacks and pneumonia, new research shows. Now, these hospitals, mostly in the South, may be at higher risk of financial failure, too. That’s because the nation’s new health care law punishes bad care by withholding some money, says the lead author of the study published Wednesday in the journal Health Affairs (10/5).

The New York Times: Patient Data Landed Online After A Series Of Missteps
Private medical data for nearly 20,000 emergency room patients at California’s prestigious Stanford Hospital were exposed to public view for nearly a year because a billing contractor’s marketing agent sent the electronic spreadsheet to a job prospect as part of a skills test, the hospital and contractors confirmed this week. The applicant then sought help by unwittingly posting the confidential data on a tutoring Web site (Sack, 10/5).

The New York Times: Surgery Rate Late In Life Surprises Researchers
Surgery is surprisingly common in older people during the last year, month and even week of life, researchers reported Wednesday, a finding that is likely to stoke, but not resolve, the debate over whether medical care is overused and needlessly driving up medical costs (Kolata, 10/5).