KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: November 2, 2011

In today's headlines, reports about Tuesday's super committee hearing and the message communicated by bipartisan budget hawks to the panel -- raise revenue and revamp health programs.

Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill: Budget Experts Warn Super Committee About Consequences Of Failure
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey talks with Jackie Judd about the super committee's public hearing Tuesday when it heard from the leaders of previous deficit reduction groups (11/1). Read the transcript or listen to the interview.

Kaiser Health News Video: Simpson, Bowles Blast Health Care Spending
In this video, former Sen. Alan Simpson and former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles both zeroed in on health care costs and the deficit during testimony before the super committee on Tuesday (11/1).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Cain On Health Care: What To Expect From Capitol Hill Speech; Medicare Cuts Home Health Pay
Now on Capsules, KHN’s news blog, Marilyn Werber Serafini writes: “When GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain comes face-to-face with a crowd of legislators and news reporters Wednesday, the subject will be health care policy, not sexual harassment- – if Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, has his way” (11/1). Also on the blog, Phil Galewitz writes: “Medicare will cut payment rates to home health agencies by 2.3 percent in 2012 — the sixth consecutive annual decrease in fees to the industry. The decision which will lop off an estimated $430 million from the program next year, follows concerns by a congressional advisory panel that the agencies are overpaid” (11/1). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Bipartisan Budget Hawks To Debt-Cutting Panel: Raise Revenue, Revamp Health Programs
Four prominent deficit-cutters told Congress’ bipartisan supercommittee on Tuesday that they should raise revenues and make major changes to expensive health programs on their way to a debt-reduction compromise that should exceed their $1.2 trillion, 10-year mandate. But in an indication of the partisan divisions that have stalled the evenly divided panel, lawmakers on the committee spent much of their time touting their own plans for mopping up red ink and sparking the economy (11/1).

Los Angeles Times: Budget Veterans Have Advice For ‘Super Committee’
Failure by Congress to approve a compromise would trigger mandatory cuts, slicing equally across defense and domestic accounts, that both sides want to avoid. But because the mandatory cuts would not take effect until 2013, many in Congress think they can undo them in the year ahead. Even as private conversations among smaller groups of committee members continue, the panel has essentially deadlocked along partisan lines. … But the experts warned that entitlement programs should not be off-limits. Simpson called the AARP ads "disgusting" for trying to dissuade committee members from cutting entitlement programs (Mascaro, 11/2).

The New York Times: Deficit Panel Is Warned That It Must Not Fail And Is Urged To Compromise
Four experts on fiscal policy — two Democrats and two Republicans — told the panel that Congress should reduce the budget deficit by adopting spending cuts and increases in tax revenues. One co-chairman of the president’s fiscal commission, Erskine B. Bowles, said he had great respect for each member of the committee, but added, “I am worried you’re going to fail — fail the country” (Pear, 11/1).

The Washington Post: Supercommittee Must Not ‘Fail The Country,’ Bowles Says, Offering His Own Plan
Bowles then surprised the committee by laying out a path to compromise that would split the difference between the competing debt-reduction proposals each side offered last week. He challenged Democrats to accept deeper cuts to federal health programs and Republicans to embrace $800 billion in new taxes, as House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) did during this summer’s negotiations over the federal debt limit (Montgomery, 11/1).

The Washington Post: Supercommittee’s Secrecy Disappoints Republican House Freshman
But the hesitation of some freshmen suggests that the supercommittee’s recommendations may face the type of challenge that has become familiar in the House since Republicans took over in January. A bloc of Republicans might reject the supercommittee’s strategy, despite the fact that the group was formed specifically to tackle the problem that propelled many of them to office (Helderman, 11/1).

Politico: Health Law Ruling Could Be Political Earthquake
If the Supreme Court next year gets rid of the health reform law’s requirement to buy insurance, Republicans could gain momentum to get rid of the rest of the law — and President Barack Obama would suffer a huge embarrassment at the height of an election year. But Democrats and supporters of the law also see a silver lining: If the least popular part of the law goes away, they think what’s left could become stronger and more popular with the public (Haberkorn, 11/1).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Back On The Brink: Doctors Again Face Steep Medicare Cuts Unless Congress Acts Before Jan. 1
It’s become a regular exercise in budget brinksmanship. Medicare is again warning that doctors face draconian pay cuts on Jan. 1 unless Congress acts. Officials said Tuesday it works out to a 27.4 percent cut (11/1).

The Washington Post: Fact Checker Biography: Romney’s Problematic Claims Of Reducing Health Care Subsidies
Romney’s comments suggest he crafted a successful solution for the problem of free riders who were costing his state loads of money. We looked at the outcomes of the Massachusetts Health Care Reform plan — ie, “RomneyCare’ — to find out whether the program worked as he intended. … Romney appears to have conflated the fact that his program reduced the number of uninsured with fixing the problem of free riders. He deserves credit for giving Massachusetts the lowest rate of uninsured in the nation, but his state remains saddled with equal or greater costs for those who can’t or won’t buy insurance. … Overall, the former governor earns three Pinocchios for his remarks (Hicks, 11/1).

The New York Times: For Whistle-Blower In Medicaid Suit, Finding Guidance In Parents And Capra
It has not always been a wonderful life for Dr. Gabriel Ethan Feldman. … His determination to do the right thing paid off on Monday, when he was awarded $14.7 million from a $70 million settlement in a Medicaid fraud case against New York City. When his mother heard about the award, she said: “Good. Now I hope you’ll get married,” Dr. Feldman, 50, said Tuesday (Hartocollis, 11/1).

NPR: Miss. Set To Vote ON Measure Making Fetus A Person
Next week Mississippi voters will decide whether to pass a constitutional amendment that redefines a person. Under the proposal, fertilized human eggs would be considered human beings, which would ban all abortions in the state. But abortion-rights activists say it would also limit contraception and threaten fertility treatments (Lohr, 11/2).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Report: Universal Health Care System In Vermont Could Cost As Much As $9.5 Billion A Year By 2020
New projections by the state of Vermont say a public, universal health care system would cost between $8.2 billion and $9.5 billion a year — roughly $13,000 to $14,000 per resident — by 2020, but that sticking with the current system based on private insurers would cost even more (11/1).

The Associated Press/ Wall Street Journal: Austism Coverage Grows
New York soon will require insurers to cover screening, diagnosis and treatment for autism spectrum disorders, which will increase premiums for all individuals and businesses. Supporters say the new law will include routine toddler screenings, behavioral health treatments, speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy. That should bolster early and effective treatment and save families as much as $50,000 a year in out-of-pocket cost for 30,000 autistic New York children (11/ 2).

The New York Times: To Survive, Medical Companies In New Jersey Are Building New Hospitals
The dazzling new hospital that will open here on Sunday looks more like a five-star resort than a medical center. It may also be the best hope for survival of its corporate parent, Capital Health, a nonprofit company that operates three health care facilities in New Jersey (Kaysen, 11/1).

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