First Edition: June 16, 2010

Today's health policy headlines focus on the latest Senate developments regarding the Medicare 'doc fix' as well as continuing health reform implementation news.  

Young Canvassers Part Of Nationwide Health Care Drive
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz, working in collaboration with USA Today, writes: "On a cool weekday afternoon, a small group of young adults gathers outside Covenant House, a homeless shelter where some of them live or go to school. Armed with clipboards, they jump into a van and head out to search for their target: uninsured children" (Kaiser Health News). 
 
Renewed Threat Of Medicare Pay Cuts Leaves Doctors With 'Sense Of Fatigue'
Doctors across the country find themselves – once again – putting their Medicare claims on hold while they wait for Congress to take action. … Kaiser Health News checked in with several physicians to find out their thoughts on the current situation and what impact it is having on their practices and patients (Kaiser Health News). 

Health On The Hill – June 15, 2010
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey and the Los Angeles Times' Noam Levey talk with KFF's Jackie Judd about recent events in Congress. For instance, the Senate is debating ways to reverse a 21 percent cut in Medicare physician payments that began on June 1. The legislation would also include additional Medicaid money for states. Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services released new guidelines that would determine whether or not "grandfathered" health insurance plans could retain that status (Kaiser Health News). Read the transcript

Senate Democrats Dismantling Aid Package Due To Deficit
The slimmed-down measure was still evolving late Tuesday. But Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) was trying to salvage one of Obama's top priorities -- $24 billion to avert the layoffs of state workers -- by scaling back other pieces of the sprawling package, including a provision to postpone a scheduled pay cut for doctors who see Medicare patients. Instead of postponing the cut until 2012, Reid is considering protecting doctors only through the rest of this year (The Washington Post).

Amid Deficit Worries, Senate Dems Trim Unemployment Bill
Virtually certain of losing a showdown vote in the Senate, Democrats frustrated in their quest to extend jobless benefits and help for doctors facing Medicare payment cuts are scaling back a catchall tax and spending bill (The Associated Press).

Doctors Chafe As Medicare Cuts Loom
For more than two decades, internist Lee Antles has treated Medicare patients at his practice in Olympia, Wash. Last month, he started turning them away. What pushed him over the edge was Congress's failure to end the looming threat—which no one expects to be carried through—of a 21% payment cut for doctors who participate in the seniors' insurance program. Last year, he and his wife, Margie, who manages the office, took home $55,000 before taxes, he said (The Wall Street Journal).

Health Insurers' Rate Hike Proposals Get State Scrutiny
California health insurance regulators have ordered independent reviews of rate hikes being sought by four of the state's largest insurers, a move that could lead to smaller increases for consumers (Los Angeles Times).

Employers Race For Retiree Funds
Big employers shaped the health overhaul bill to tap a $5 billion fund to offset the cost of health benefits for early retirees. Now, some companies worry the early-retiree fund will be exhausted quickly (The Wall Street Journal).

GOP Health Care Repeal Vote Fails
A Republican effort to repeal the individual mandate in the Democrats’ health care overhaul failed Tuesday afternoon on a largely partisan vote (Politico). 

White House Wants Authority To Boot Corporate Execs From Medicare For Fraud
White House investigators hoping to rein in Medicare fraud are asking Congress for broad new authority to boot offending corporate executives from the insurance program (The Hill).

Paul Taking Heat On Medicare Payments
Kentucky GOP Senate candidate Rand Paul says he opposes federal handouts, but the eye doctor takes government payments for treating Medicare and Medicaid patients. The dichotomy has drawn taunts of hypocrisy from his Democratic opponent, Jack Conway who on Tuesday called on Paul to quit "stonewalling" and release his Medicare billing records (The Associated Press).

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