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Today’s Headlines – Sept. 25, 2012

Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including reports about a new study that details accelerating health care spending.

Los Angeles Times: Presidential Debate Questions Sync Up With Voter Concerns
A new Pew Research Center polling analysis, released Monday, finds that the economy is voters’ dominant concern in this fall’s presidential election. An overwhelming proportion 87% said the economy would be “very important” to their vote (the same percentage as in the 2008 presidential contest). The jobs issue was a close second. … Other topics — healthcare and the size and scope of government — will occupy most of the remainder of the initial debate, along with questions about governing. … On healthcare, a matter of greater importance for women than for men, recent polling by the Pew Center found that Obama holds an advantage over Romney when voters were asked which candidate would do a better job of dealing with the issue. The same goes for Medicare, which ranked sixth in importance for swing voters (West, 9/24).

NPR: Romney Medicaid Remarks Raise Eyebrows
It’s not so much what Mitt Romney said about whether the government should guarantee people health care in his interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes” Sunday that has health care policy types buzzing. It’s how that compares to what he has said before (Rovner, 9/25).

For more headlines …

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Romney Rebuke On Emergency Care Draws Rebuke
Mitt Romney’s comments in a CBS “60 Minutes” interview Sunday that emergency rooms provide care to people who don’t have insurance drew a rebuke from a group representing emergency-room doctors and a jab from the Obama campaign. But the question and answer weren’t so clear (Radnofsky, 9/24).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Report: Double-Digit Premium Hikes Seen In 7 of 10 Top Medicare Prescription Drug Plans
Seniors enrolled in seven of the 10 most popular Medicare prescription drug plans will be hit with double-digit premium hikes next year if they don’t shop for a better deal, says a private firm that analyzes the highly competitive market. The report Monday by Avalere Health is a reality check on the Obama’s administration’s upbeat pronouncements. Back in August, officials had announced that the average premium for basic prescription drug coverage will stay the same in 2013, at $30 a month (9/25).

The Washington Post: Health Insurance Costs Accelerate
U.S. spending on health insurance grew at an accelerated rate in 2011, breaking a two-year trend of smaller cost increases. The culprit, a new study suggests, is not Americans seeking more treatment but rather rapid growth in the price of medical care. Spending for private health insurance surged by 4.6 percent in 2011, according to a report from the Health Care Cost Institute. That growth rate is faster than the rest of the economy and higher than the previous year, which had 3.8 percent growth (Kliff, 9/25).

Politico: Medicare Advantage Bonuses Boost Plan Quality
The Obama administration will announce later this week that the quality of private Medicare plans is on the rise, thanks to an $8 billion demonstration project that pays them bonuses for good performance. And Republicans say that same project is covering up cuts to the popular program under the federal health care law (Norman, 9/25).

The Wall Street Journal: Workers Eye ‘Consumer-Directed’ Plans In Bid To Cut Health Costs
It soon will be time for the autumn ritual of open enrollment, as people who get insurance through their employers sign up for next year’s coverage. But this season, which kicks off next week, also will mark a seminal shift—with more workers than ever weighing whether a “consumer-directed” health plan might pay off for them (Marte, 9/24).

USA Today: Prescription-Drug Use Drops Among Young People
Prescription-drug abuse in the USA declined last year to the lowest rate since 2002 amid federal and state crackdowns on drug-seeking patients and over-prescribing doctors (Leger, 9/25).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: NY A Busy Battleground Of Competitive House Races
New York state’s congressional elections are testing the staying power of Republicans who rode a tea party wave to a House majority two years ago — as well as the resilience of Democrats striving to regain control. … The big money involved in the contests reveals the GOP’s intent on preserving its foothold in the heavily Democratic state. The National Republican Congressional Committee said it had reserved $5.25 million for TV time in New York, more than half to defend three freshmen. The rest is going to three districts held by Democrats, including the Buffalo area seat won by Kathy Hochul in a special election upset last year. … Hochul made national headlines by pioneering the strategy of casting the race as a referendum on the GOP plan to transform Medicare, authored by Rep. Paul Ryan, now the party’s vice presidential candidate (9/25).

NPR: Todd Akin Bets He Still Has A Chance
Republicans from presidential nominee Mitt Romney on down have called for Akin to stand down, believing that his infamous comments about “legitimate rape” have disqualified him as a candidate (Greenblatt, 9/24).

Los Angeles Times: California’s State Hospitals Mostly Released From U.S. Oversight
A U.S. District Court judge Monday released the state’s mental hospitals from federal oversight on all but one issue — a significant step in ending a costly six-year reform effort. The extensive court-supervised changes were imposed on four hospitals in 2006 as part of a settlement to a lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Justice. The department alleged that the state was violating patients’ civil rights by heavily drugging and improperly restraining them and failing to provide appropriate treatment (Kim and Romney, 9/25).