First Edition: August 10, 2011

Today's headlines include reports about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's picks for the debt panel and what Americans -- according to two new polls -- expect the 'super committee' to accomplish.

 Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill: Sen. Frist: 'Super Committee' Has 'Shot This Time' At Reining In Debt Through Medicare Spending
Kaiser Health News' Mary Agnes Carey talks to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist about the "super committee's" chance at tamping down the nation's debt. Frist says the panel has a chance to lower the debt and Medicare spending growth because the American public understands the stakes this time — the American Dream. Listen to the audio or read the transcript (8/9).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: High Medical Spending Found In Unexpected Places; Health Insurance Premiums Vary Widely
On Capsules, KHN's news blog, Jordan Rau reports on an analysis of 382 metropolitan areas examined by Thomson Reuters, a consulting firm that has one of the biggest databases of insurance claims from employers that finds where medical spending is high. The answers are unexpected. Meanwhile, also on the blog, Julie Appleby reports on a report released Tuesday that attempts to answer the deceptively simple question: How much does health insurance cost? Check out what else is on Capsules.

The New York Times: Murray Is Chosen As A Leader Of Deficit Panel
Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, will be co-chairwoman of a powerful new Congressional committee that is supposed to recommend at least $1.5 trillion of additional deficit-reduction measures, the Senate majority leader announced Tuesday. The leader, Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, also appointed two other Democratic senators, Max Baucus of Montana and John Kerry of Massachusetts, to the panel. Mr. Baucus is chairman of the Finance Committee, which has authority over Medicare, Medicaid and taxes — three prime areas of attention for the new 12-member panel, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction  (Pear, 8/9).

Los Angeles Times: First Senators Named To Deficit Panel
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced the first three appointees to a congressional "super committee" charged with tackling the federal deficit, but the Democratic choices offer few signs that the panel can resolve the partisan stalemate that has only hardened in Congress amid the nation's worsening economic outlook. The fledgling congressional committee has three months to recommend $1.5 trillion in deficit reductions over the next decade — a goal that eluded congressional negotiators during prolonged debates during the recent debt ceiling fight (Mascaro, 8/9).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Reid Names Sen. Patty Murray To Be Debt Panel Co-Chair; Baucus, Kerry Also Tapped
Murray, who is chairwoman of the committee to elect Democratic senators, is a longtime protector of Democratic priorities such as Medicare, Social Security and veterans' benefits, as are Kerry and Baucus. … In naming the trio, Reid opted against picking Democrats like Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad of North Dakota or Dick Durbin of Illinois, who backed curbs on Medicare spending and Social Security benefits as members of President Barack Obama's deficit commission (Taylor, 8/9).

Politico: Harry Reid Super Committee Picks In Place
A senior appropriator and Budget Committee member, Murray is also the chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which has made the GOP's focus on overhauling Medicare a centerpiece of the 2012 campaign. Baucus is the chairman of the powerful Finance Committee, while Kerry - the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee - has been lobbying for a spot. But the choice of Murray was already spawning anger from Republicans, who called it a blatantly political move aimed at filling up coffers for the Democratic campaign committee. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus called on Reid to withdraw the appointment immediately (Raju and Bresnahan, 8/9).

USA Today: American's Message On Joint Debt Panel: Let's Make A Deal
In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, six in 10 of those surveyed say members of the joint panel established in the debt-ceiling negotiations should be willing to reach an accord, even if it means making major compromises. Just over a third say the members should stand firm on principle, even if doing so blocks an agreement (Page, 8/10).

Politico: Poll: Supercommittee Should Hike Taxes
Congress' new deficit supercommittee should push for tax increases on the wealthy and major cuts in domestic spending - but not entitlement programs, most Americans say in a new CNN poll. … Only 12 percent of the Americans surveyed said they think tax hikes on middle class and lower-income Americans should be a part of the agreement, and just 35 percent think the supercommittee should propose significant changes to Social Security and Medicare, the CNN poll found (Weinger, 8/10).

The Wall Street Journal: Hospitals Put On Sick List
Nonprofit hospitals are under increasing financial pressure, with revenue growing at the slowest rate in at least two decades, according to a new report from Moody's Investors Service. The 4% median revenue growth rate, based on a review of 401 hospitals' fiscal 2010 financial results, is the lowest the firm has seen since it started tracking the figure two decades ago, Moody's officials said in a report set to be issued Wednesday. Though the hospitals have been pushing hard to reduce expenses over the past few years, around 20% of those in the study were still running in the red on an operating basis. Even those that were in the black achieved fairly thin margins, with 63% of all the hospitals achieving results between break-even and 5% (Mathews, 8/10).

Politico: Kansas Returns $31.5M Exchange Grant
Kansas is returning a $31.5 million grant to lead the way on exchange development, marking one of the largest rejections of federal money to implement a piece of health reform. Kansas will send back to HHS an Early Innovator Grant it was awarded in February to build technology infrastructure for the exchanges that other states could use as a model (Millman and Nocera, 8/9).

Los Angeles Times: California Medical Board Fails To Discipline 710 Troubled Doctors
California's medical board failed to discipline 710 troubled doctors even as they were disciplined by hospitals, surgical centers and other healthcare organizations in the state, according to a report released Tuesday. The report by Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Public Citizen was based on an analysis of doctors' records in the National Practitioner Data Bank from 1990 to 2009. The Department of Health & Human Services uses the data bank to track doctors' discipline, medical malpractice payments and other actions. The data released to Public Citizen did not name the doctors or their workplaces (Hennessey-Fiske, 8/10).

The Washington Post: Wisconsin GOP Holds Off Democrats In Recall Elections
The recalls were triggered by outrage over Walker's move to sharply curtail collective-bargaining rights for public employees. But the races have become a national referendum on the competing views of government held by Republicans and Democrats. … After taking office, Walker moved aggressively to curb collective-bargaining rights and have public employees contribute more to their pensions, igniting huge protests at the state capitol in Madison (Fletcher, 8/9).

Los Angeles Times: California Health Insurance Premiums Lower Than In Other States
Californians who bemoan high insurance premiums may not have it as bad as they think. It turns out that people in other states pay a lot more for health coverage. A new analysis of individual insurance markets across the country shows that Californians pay $157 a month on average for coverage (Helfand, 8/10).

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