First Edition: June 14, 2010

Today's health policy headlines report on new White House rules on changes to health insurance benefits, a study regarding employers' medical costs and the likely impact of retirements within the health care workforce.

KHN Column – Medicare Advantage: You Get What You Pay For
In this column for Kaiser Health News, Austin Frakt writes: The Obama administration seems worried. In an election year, any change to Medicare that adversely affects beneficiaries is a political liability for incumbents. And big changes to Medicare are coming, beginning with Medicare Advantage, the program that provides private insurance alternatives to traditional fee-for-service Medicare, the program’s public option (Kaiser Health News). 

New Rules On Changes To Benefits
The White House on Monday will issue new rules that strongly discourage employers from cutting health insurance benefits or increasing the costs of coverage to employees, administration officials say (The New York Times). 

Report: Employers To See 2011 Medical Costs Jump
Companies that offer employee health insurance expect another steep jump in medical costs next year, and more will ask workers to share a bigger chunk of the expense, according to a new PricewaterhouseCoopers report (The Associated Press).

Retirements By Baby-Boomer Doctors, Nurses Could Strain Overhaul
Since the passage of the health-care law in March, much has been said about the coming swarm of millions of retiring baby boomers and the strain they will put on the nation's health-care system (The Washington Post). 

Doctors Face 21 Percent Cut In Medicare Payments
Doctors with Medicare patients will start seeing a 21 percent pay cut this week after Congress failed to defer the cuts by two more years (The Washington Post). 

Study: Millions Of Cancer Survivors Put Off Care
Millions of cancer survivors have put off getting medical care because they couldn't afford it, according to a new study (The Associated Press).

Drug-Benefit Fights Loom At Navistar, Other Firms
A plan by Navistar International Corp. to drop some retirees' prescription benefits has run into union opposition, turning into a skirmish that is likely to be replayed at other U.S. companies amid federal health-care changes (The Wall Street Journal).

Massachusetts Race Highlights Health Care
High health-care costs are so sensitive in Massachusetts that when two health-care company executives suggested consumers could help by watching their weight, the Boston Herald ran a sarcastic page-one headline: "It's Your Fault, Fatso" (The Wall Street Journal).

Big State, Big Cuts, Little Room
As the new head of the Illinois Department of Human Services, Michelle R.B. Saddler knew she would confront tough choices in preparing a budget that juggled rising needs for services with tumbling state revenue (The Wall Street Journal).

Dems Not Showing Barrow The Money After His Vote On Healthcare
Far fewer of Barrow's colleagues in the House have contributed to the Georgia Democrat's reelection campaign this cycle than they did in previous years. Barrow attracted widespread criticism from the left after voting no on the final health reform bill earlier this year. That vote has been a focal point of his primary challenger's campaign (The Hill). 

GOP: No Notice On Tanning Tax?
When the IRS made about $40 billion in tax credits available for small businesses in accordance with the health care overhaul, it sent out 4 million postcards informing likely participants about the credit. Now, Republicans are asking why a similar campaign isn't in the works to inform tanning salons and customers that they're about to get hit with a 10 percent tax on their services (Politico).

For Forgetful, Cash Helps The Medicine Go Down
One-third to one-half of all patients do not take medication as prescribed, and up to one-quarter never fill prescriptions at all, experts say. Such lapses fuel more than $100 billion dollars in health costs annually because those patients often get sicker. Now, a controversial, and seemingly counterintuitive, effort to tackle the problem is gaining ground: paying people money to take medicine or to comply with prescribed treatment. The idea, which is being embraced by doctors, pharmacy companies, insurers and researchers, is that paying modest financial incentives up front can save much larger costs of hospitalization (The New York Times).

Obama, GOP Spar On Medicare 'Doc Fix'
Kaiser Health News tracked the weekend developments related to the politics surrounding the Medicare pay fix, President Obama's weekly radio and internet address, and the GOP's reaction.

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