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Today’s Headlines – Sept. 21, 2011

Good morning! Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including additional anaylsis of President Barack Obama’s deficit-reduction plan and how it could impact patients.

The New York Times: In Cuts To Health Programs, Experts See Difficult Task In Protecting Patients
President Obama and some members of Congress assert that, in cutting Medicare and Medicaid, they can whack health care providers while protecting beneficiaries. But experts say it is not so simple (Pear, 9/20).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Harder Squeeze On Costs, But No Radical Changes to Medicare And Medicaid In Obama’s Debt Plan
When it comes to health care savings, President Barack Obama’s deficit plan borrows a familiar strategy from corporate America’s playbook: cut costs or shift them to others. Drug companies, hospitals, nursing homes and state health care programs assessed the damage Tuesday from the president’s latest deficit-reduction proposal to Congress. While Medicare and Medicaid would be spared radical reengineering, the plan spreads plenty of pain. Future retirees would be on the hook for a greater share of their Medicare costs (9/20).

For more headlines …

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Cantor Tells Deficit Panel To Think Small
A panel of lawmakers tasked with finding at least $1.2 trillion in spending cuts should avoid discussion of raising taxes or making substantial changes to large entitlement programs and focus just on areas where a deficit-reduction agreement is more likely, a top House Republican said Tuesday. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) told reporters that the group should use the efforts of an earlier round of deficit talks that he participated in and that were led by Vice President Joe Biden as a framework for their discussions. … The No. 2 ranking House GOP leader said that Republicans wouldn’t agree to support tax increases, while Democrats continue to insist that there should no changes to benefits paid out through large entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. Instead, he said the committee should focus on areas that were less controversial (Boles, 9/20).

The Hill: HHS Spending Bill Stuck In Impasse
Two conservative Republicans are holding up the Health and Human Services spending bill. Two conservative Republicans are holding up the Health and Human Services spending bill. The two lawmakers, Reps. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), say the spending measure costs too much and are demanding spending reductions, sources tell The Hill. Last week they sent a letter to House leaders saying they want spending levels for the bill to be in line with the budget put forward by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and approved by the House instead of the debt ceiling deal (Pecquet, 9/20).

Los Angeles Times: 29 States Get Grants To Boost Health Insurer Oversight
The Obama administration Tuesday announced $109 million in grants to states to help them beef up oversight of health insurers, a key goal of the healthcare law the president signed last year. The grants come on the heels of new rules that require insurers to post on their websites explanations of premium increases exceeding 10% and to justify the hikes to state and federal regulators, who also will post them starting this year (Levey, 9/20).

USA Today: Senior Medicare Patrols Help Fight Fraud
Officials believe that if older Americans — including the growing crop of eligible Baby Boomers — know how to spot errors and fraud, “more criminals will be put in jail where they belong,” Barbara Dieker told a group of volunteers recently. Dieker directs the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Elder Rights, which oversees the Senior Medicare Patrols (Kennedy, 9/20).