First Edition: May 15, 2012
Today's headlines include reports from Capitol Hill about the continuing pressures surrounding health care costs and deficit issues.
Kaiser Health News: Many Businesses Offer Health Benefits To Same-Sex Couples Ahead Of Laws
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Appleby reports: "President Obama's pronouncement last week in favor of same-sex marriage has no legal effect on employers' decisions on whether to offer benefits to workers' domestic partners, but some advocates believe it could reinforce a decade-long trend toward coverage" (Appleby, 5/14). Read the story.
Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Some States Mandate Better Coverage Of Oral Cancer Drugs
In her latest Kaiser Health News consumer column, Michelle Andrews writes: “Health plans, however, have been slow to adjust to the change. People who get traditional IV chemotherapy on an outpatient basis often pay a flat co-payment that covers the drug as well as the cost of administering it. Annual out-of-pocket costs are also typically capped” (Andrews, 5/14). Read the column.
Kaiser Health News: Capsules: How Much Do The Nation's Pre-Eminent Hospitals Cost Medicare?
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Jordan Rau reports: "Can you cut health care spending without undermining the quality of care? It's a major concern as Medicare prepares to prod hospitals to provide medical care more efficiently by giving bonuses to those whose patients cost less and taking money away from places that send the government higher bills" (Rau, 5/14). Check out what else is on the blog.
The Washington Post: Taxmageddon Sparks Rising Anxiety
The halls of the U.S. Capitol are already teeming with people warning of disaster if lawmakers fail to defuse a New Year’s budget bomb scheduled to raise taxes for every American taxpayer and slash spending at the Pentagon and most other federal agencies. Last week, hospital executives came to complain about big scheduled cuts in Medicare payments. Next month, university presidents plan to raise the alarm about big scheduled cuts in federal research grants. And the chief executives of Lockheed Martin and other aerospace giants last Wednesday passed out digital countdown clocks ticking off the seconds until "over 1 million American jobs" will be lost to big scheduled cuts in defense (Montgomery and Helderman, 5/15).
The Washington Post: Boehner Sees Battle Over Debt Limit As 'Action-Forcing Event'
Republicans alarmed by the depth of cuts on tap for the Pentagon are scrambling to replace them, but Democrats say they will only agree to undo the defense cuts in exchange for higher taxes on the wealthy. Boehner’s remarks suggest that Republicans believe they have leverage, too, and that they are willing to resist a needed increase in the debt limit unless Democrats agree to far-reaching changes to federal health programs such as Medicare and Medicaid (Montgomery, 5/15).
The New York Times: Romney Medicare Plan Draws A Stark Contrast
President Obama and Mitt Romney agree on one thing about Medicare: the differences between them are huge. Each man says his opponent’s policies would end Medicare as it now exists, undermining the rock-solid guarantee of health care for older Americans (Pear, 5/15).
Politico: Gay Marriage Is One Thing, Benefits Another
President Barack Obama's endorsement of same-sex marriage may have given the marriage equality movement a big morale boost. But it won't, on its own, give gay couples equality when it comes to health insurance. The Defense of Marriage Act, which forbids the federal government from recognizing any marriage not between a man and a woman, has hog-tied federal agencies when it comes to liberalizing gay Americans’ access to federal government benefits, from collecting their spouse’s Social Security benefits to marriage-related tax breaks (Norman, 5/14).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Clock Ticking As Alzheimer's Strategy Sets 2025 Goal For Better Ways To Treat, Stall, Disease
The clock is ticking: The first National Alzheimer's Plan sets a deadline of 2025 to finally find effective ways to treat, or at least stall, the mind-destroying disease. The Obama administration finalizes the landmark national strategy on Tuesday, laying out numerous steps the government and private partners can take over the coming years to fight what is poised to become a defining disease of the rapidly aging population (5/15).
Politico: Bernie Sanders Floats Plan To Make HIV Drugs Less Costly
Why do American patients pay tens of thousands of dollars each year for HIV drugs that cost just hundreds in Africa? Drugmakers wave their patent rights in developing countries as part of the President's Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief. But the higher cost of brand-name drugs in the United States makes it difficult for many HIV patients to stay on drug regimens that can cost as much as $30,000 a year (Feder, 5/14).
The Wall Street Journal: Another Disability Judge Placed On Leave
The judges have wide discretion in how to decide cases, with Mr. Krafsur awarding benefits in virtually every case that crosses his desk. In the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, Mr. Krafsur awarded benefits in 338 of the 339 decisions he has reached. … The Social Security Disability Insurance program is one of the government's most rapidly growing entitlement programs, and it is projected to pay more than $130 billion in benefits to close to 11 million people in 2012. Those collecting benefits receive monthly payments from the government, and they also qualify for early Medicare benefits (Paletta, 5/14).
NPR: Should Parents Be Able To Sue For 'Wrongful Birth'?
Several states, including Kansas and New Jersey, are debating so-called "wrongful birth" laws that would prevent parents from suing a doctor who fails to warn them about fetal problems. Abortion rights activists say the laws give doctors the right to withhold information so women don't have abortions (Lohr, 5/15).
NPR: Sick From Fracking? Doctors, Patients Seek Answers
The natural gas industry says there's no evidence the drilling is causing health problems. Public health experts say the only way anyone's going to really know whether the drilling is making people sick or not is to do some big studies (Stein, 5/15).
The Washington Post: Gray, Catania Face Off Over Health Funding
Mayor Vincent C. Gray is heading for a final showdown Tuesday with D.C. Council member David A. Catania over city funding for a health insurance program that pays for hospital care for thousands of undocumented immigrants (Craig, 5/14).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: California Gov. Jerry Brown Urges Austere Cuts, Tax Hikes To Tackle Reemerging Deficit
Brown said California's sputtering economic recovery is putting a heavier-than-expected drag on state tax revenue. The state has been blocked from making cuts to Medi-Cal and In-Home Supportive Services in court and by federal requirements. The revised budget deficit is $6.5 billion more than the $9.2 billion gap Brown anticipated in January (5/15).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: RI Governor Signs Order To Recognize Same-Sex Marriages Performed Out Of State
Rhode Island’s governor on Monday declared that the state will recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, giving gay couples the same rights as heterosexual ones when it comes to health insurance and a slew of other benefits (5/14).
The Wall Street Journal: Espada Guilty Of Stealing Clinic's Funds
Former state Sen. Pedro Espada Jr., the flamboyant Bronx politician who claimed one of New York's most powerful offices only to quickly fall from power, was convicted Monday on federal charges of theft from a health clinic he founded (El-Ghobashy, 5/14).
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