First Edition: August 9, 2011

Today's news highlights include more speculation about the 'super committee' and how difficult it will be for the panel to reach it's savings target without cutting into Medicare and Medicaid.

Kaiser Health News: Q & A: Where Do I Find A Community Health Center (Video)
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews answers a question from an uninsured reader with a big insurance bill. She's looking for advice on future care (8/8).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: New Data Show Double Chest Scan Persist; Newly Insured In Mass. Still Use Community Health Centers
Today on Capsules, KHN's news blog, Phil Galewitz reports on community health centers in Massachusetts: "Community health centers in Massachusetts saw a surge in patients after the state expanded health insurance coverage, indicating that the safety-net clinics remain a vital source of care even when people gain insurance, according to a study released today."

Also on the blog, Jordan Rau offers a report on rates of double chest CT scans: "Hospital use of double chest scans in 2009 barely changed from the previous year, despite clinical guidelines that say these CT tests should be used sparingly, according to newly released Medicare data." Check out Capsules.

Kaiser Health News: Obama: 'Lack Of Political Will' On Tackling Deficits (Video)
In this Kaiser Health News video clip, President Barack Obama made remarks to the country about the S & P downgrade and also said the country needed tax reform and "modest adjustments to health care programs like Medicare." Here's a video and a transcript of the President's excerpted remarks (8/8).

Kaiser Health News: Letters To KHN: Prominent Doctor, Nurses And Other Readers On Medicare Readmissions
In this new Kaiser Health News feature, readers respond to a story by Jordan Rau, in which he reported on an upcoming Medicare push to make hospitals more accountable for what happens after patients are released.

Los Angeles Times: Obama Says U.S. Remains 'AAA Country'
He said that rising deficits can't be ignored. In the second round of deficit reduction talks that will play out this fall, he recommended an approach that would combine spending  cuts with tax revenue increases along with what he called "modest adjustments" to popular entitlement programs like Medicare. Obama could not persuade Congress to adopt that formula in the debt negotiations that were concluded last week (Nicholas, 8/8). 

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Bid To Boost Confidence Fall Short
President Barack Obama, speaking Monday as stocks were plunging after the first-ever downgrade of the U.S. government's credit rating, tried to rally confidence that Washington will be able to address growing concerns about the federal debt. Mr. Obama said he would place ideas for tax revisions and Medicare "adjustments" before a new congressional committee charged with cutting the deficit (Lee, 8/9).

The Washington Post: The Debt 'Super Committee': Who Will Serve On It?
With an Aug. 16 deadline ahead for making the 12 picks, the top four congressional leaders have so far held their cards close to the vest, not publicly declaring which lawmakers will be tapped for the committee. It's not even clear whether the leaders will announce their selections on the same day, at the same hour, or if they will dribble out over the next week. … But there is no upward limit to how much they produce in savings and no restriction as to how they come up with the savings, through increased tax revenue or cuts to entitlement programs (Kane, 8/8).

Politico: The Super Committee Health Care Menu
Okay, super committee — ready to cut some entitlements? Oh, stop making those excuses. Like, "We haven't been appointed yet." Or, "We like our town halls quiet." The super committee is going to have to come up with at least $1.2 trillion in spending cuts by Nov. 23, and it's going to be awfully hard to get that without dipping into the big health care entitlement programs — Medicare and Medicaid (Nather, 8/9).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: States Await Fallout From Federal Debt Downgrade, Some Expected To Be More At Risk Than Others
States with high numbers of federal workers or contractors, large military presences or generous Medicaid programs for the needy are among the most vulnerable from Standard & Poor's recent downgrade of U.S. government debt (8/8).

The New York Times: Democrats Challenging Administration On Medicaid
In an unusual break with the White House, the Democratic leaders of Congress told the Supreme Court on Monday that President Obama was pursuing a misguided interpretation of federal Medicaid law that made it more difficult for low-income people to obtain health care. The Democratic leaders said Medicaid beneficiaries must be allowed to file suit to enforce their right to care — and to challenge Medicaid cuts being made by states around the country (Pear, 8/8).

Politico: Health Care Reform Rules Have GOP Mum
Republicans who swept to power last year vowing to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law have been nearly silent about new rules that will force health insurance companies to cover birth control and other women's health services without co-pays. The new standards are a piece of the law Republicans might predictably oppose: a coverage mandate at the intersection of Americans' most personal lives. But a week after the rules were announced, most Republicans have stayed mum, with Hill leaders laying off press releases and declining to comment when asked directly (Titus, 8/9).

Los Angeles Times: Democrats Seek To Counter Republicans' Iowa Blitz
Iowa will be ground zero for Republican politicking this week ahead of the Ames straw poll this weekend, the latest milepost in the developing presidential nominating race. But as the GOP hopefuls log valuable face time with voters in the early-voting state, Democrats won't be far behind attempting to define the party's candidates as extreme in what is also a likely general election battleground. The Democratic National Committee produced a Web video saying the candidates running for the White House are, just like their counterparts in Congress, "offering no new ideas." "Just like Washington Republicans and the tea party, Republican presidential candidates want to end Medicare as we know it, … " an announcer says (Memoli, 8/8).

Los Angeles Times: Demand For Safety-Net Care Remains High In Massachusetts
Massachusetts, whose 2006 healthcare overhaul provided a template for the landmark national law signed by President Obama last year, has already demonstrated that it is possible to achieve almost universal health coverage (Levey, 8/8).

Los Angeles Times: Hospitals Not Immune To Rising Insurance Costs For Their Staffs
Here's an irony: California's hospitals, the very places that care for the sick, are struggling to afford healthcare for their own employees (Helfand, 8/8).

The New York Times: Bernadine P. Healy, A Pioneer At National Institutes Of Health, Dies At 67
Dr. Bernadine P. Healy, the first woman to lead the National Institutes of Health and the first physician to lead the American Red Cross until she was forced out in a storm of criticism over flawed responses to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, died on Saturday at her home in Gates Mills, Ohio. She was 67 (McFadden, 8/8).

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