First Edition: May 26, 2010

Today's headlines detail the latest developments regarding legislation moving through Congress that would prevent scheduled cuts in Medicare physician payment and extend health insurance subsidies for unemployed people.

Experts Worry: Government Loans To Doctors Could Raise Health Costs
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz reports: "Eager to expand or modernize, about 5,000 doctors, dentists and other health care providers have obtained more than $2.5 billion in government-backed loans under the economic stimulus law, according to federal records. But those loans, some experts say, could produce an unwanted side effect: higher health costs" (Kaiser Health News).

Health On The Hill: May 25, 2010
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey talks with KFF's Jackie Judd about the possibility that the House of Representatives may vote on legislation this week that would stop a scheduled June 1 payment cut for doctors who accept Medicare physicians (Kaiser Health News). Read the transcript.

Chart: Medicare Spending Growth Varies Widely Around The Country
Medicare spending is growing much faster in some areas of the country than others, including places that once had been reliably low-cost regions. Here are the top ten areas with the greatest annual Medicare spending growth between 2000 through 2007. The national average annual growth rate during this period was 4.7 percent (Kaiser Health News).

'Doc Fix’ Cut Could Yield Extra $27B
Senate Democrats are pressing for the $200 billion tax extenders bill to be scaled back because of the nation's $1.5 trillion budget deficit. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and others in his party want to reduce the bill's price tag by changing the "doc fix," which at $65 billion accounts for nearly a third of the tax bill's cost (The Hill).

Top Senate Democrat Concerned About Tax Credit, Benefit Bill
Sen. Kent Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said Tuesday he has concerns with the size of a large tax and benefit bill Democratic leaders hope to pass this week, casting doubt on the chances of the legislation being approved. … The legislation renews a series of popular tax credits aimed at businesses and individuals. The cost of these extensions is offset by tax increases elsewhere in the U.S. budget. But the bill also includes several items that aren't paid for. These include an extension of U.S. jobless benefits and health-insurance subsidies through the Cobra program through the rest of 2010 (The Wall Street Journal).

Survey: Big Companies Expect Reform To Raise Costs
Big companies think health care reform will hike their costs, but most expect to continue offering subsidized benefits to workers, according to a new Towers Watson study (The Associated Press).

Popular Benefit Of Health-Care Law Excludes Military Families
By the time Congress passed the national health-care overhaul, anxiety about it was so widespread that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates issued a statement reassuring military families. The legislation, Gates said, "will not negatively impact the TRICARE medical insurance program" for members of the armed forces. Indeed, partly to avoid such criticism, the legislation left Tricare untouched. Now, some military families have a different concern: They are discovering that a popular and highly publicized benefit of the new law does not apply to them (The Washington Post).

Dems Say 9/11 First Responders Have Earned Guaranteed Healthcare
First responders to the 9/11 attacks became unwittingly caught up in election-year partisanship on Tuesday as a House panel considered healthcare for those sickened by exposure to the World Trade Center site (The Hill).

Medical Pot Trips Up Cities
Cities across this state are rushing to contain a pot-store boom and an uptick in related violence that underscore the struggles of local governments nationwide to manage the growing medical-marijuana industry (The Wall Street Journal).

Healthcare Reform Raises The Stakes In California Insurance Commissioner Election
California's elected insurance commissioner — one of the most powerful jobs of its kind in the nation — is likely to get even more authority over the next four years as President Obama's new healthcare law takes effect (Los Angeles Times).

Okla. Legislature Overrides Another Abortion Veto
The Oklahoma Legislature overrode Gov. Brad Henry's veto of an abortion bill that will require women seeking abortions to complete lengthy questionnaires beforehand about their finances, education and relationships (The Associated Press).

Sign up to receive this list of First Edition headlines via e-mail. Check out all of Kaiser Health News' e-mail options including First Edition and Breaking News alerts on our Subscriptions page.

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.