First Edition: July 6, 2011

In today's headlines, reports about how budget pressures and the deficit reduction negotiations are having an impact on Medicare and Medicaid. 

Kaiser Health News: A Dozen States Slice Medicaid Payments To Doctors, Hospitals
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz, working in collaboration with USA Today, reports: "To contain soaring Medicaid costs, about a dozen cash-strapped states are kicking off their new budget years by reducing payments to doctors, hospitals and other health care providers that treat the poor" (Galewitz, 7/5). Read more on Medicaid payment cuts.

The New York Times: Obama Summons GOP And Democratic Leaders For Deficit Reduction Talks
President Obama stepped up pressure on Congressional Republicans on Tuesday to agree to a broad deficit-cutting deal, pledging to put popular entitlement programs like Medicare on the table in return for Republican acquiescence to some higher taxes (Landler and Hulse, 7/5).

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Calls For Debt-Limit Summit
President Barack Obama called a budget-deficit summit Thursday at the White House, suggesting he and congressional leaders are moving closer to a deal that would clear the way for a vote to raise the government's borrowing limit and avoid default. … The two sides had agreed to about $1 trillion in cuts in talks led by Vice President Joe Biden, people familiar with the negotiations said. But those talks broke down when Democrats proposed roughly $400 billion in tax increases, prompting Republicans to walk out (Lee and Hook, 7/6).

The Washington Post: Medicare And Medicaid Chief In Race Against Time
Don Berwick, the administrator in charge of Medicare and Medicaid, was having dinner in Dupont Circle not long ago with five of his predecessors when the conversation veered to how long he could keep his job. In the realms of health care, his is a pivotal role: overseeing two entitlement programs that insure nearly one in three Americans, sheperding the profound insurance changes spurred by the new health-care law and serving as chief cheerleader for better care at lower cost. A pioneer in improving medical quality, but a neophyte in Washington politics, Berwick ran into a buzz saw of Republican opposition over old academic writings when President Obama chose him for the task 16 months ago (Goldstein, 7/5).

Politico: What Became Of Repeal And Replace
When they took control of the House, Republicans could barely stop talking about their plans to "repeal and replace" the health care reform law. Six months later, they hardly talk publicly about those plans at all. And they're nowhere close to "replacing" the law (Haberkorn, 7/6).

Politico: 'Death Panels' Haunt  Health Care Debate
It has been about two years since accusations of "death panels" began dogging Democratic lawmakers, and the charge persists as the health reform boogeyman. In January, the Department of Health and Human Services was forced to retreat from a regulation that would reimburse for "advance care" counseling, and Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) tarred the Independent Payment Advisory Board with a related accusation (Feder, 7/5).

The Washington Post: At NH Town Hall, Romney Says Obama Has Made The Economy Worse
Romney said that cap-and-trade climate legislation, which died in the Senate; Obama's 2010 health-care law; and increased financial regulations have chilled economic growth as businesses have sat on the sidelines (Henderson, 7/5).

The Wall Street Journal: House Republicans Scrutinize Kagan's Health Care Role
49 Republicans have asked the House Judiciary Committee to look into Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan's supposed prior role in devising a legal defense of President Obama's health care overhaul, in hopes of warranting the justice's recusal from hearing any future cases related to the law (Lee, 7/5).

The Wall Street Journal: Heart Treatment Overused
Outside of heart attacks, doctors are often too quick to use a common $20,000 procedure to treat patients suffering from coronary artery disease, a new study suggests. About 600,000 angioplasty procedures, which almost always involve placement of a tiny metal tube called a stent, are done in the U.S. each year. Roughly 70% of these procedures are performed on patients suffering symptoms of a heart attack and aren't medically controversial. But the remainder are done on stable patients who are suffering mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. Of those, 50% are deemed appropriate, 38% uncertain and 12% inappropriate, the report says (Winslow and Carreyrou, 7/6).

The Associated Press: Calif. Bill Targets Excess Health Insurance Rates
A bill that would allow state officials to reject rate increases proposed by health insurers is under intense lobbying pressure as it faces a key committee vote this week. Groups representing insurers, doctors and hospitals are trying to have the California bill weakened or killed, although for different reasons (Weintraub, 7/5).

The Associated Press: Kan. Abortion Rules Spur Fear Over Patient Privacy
Abortion-rights supporters worried Tuesday that regulations Kansas is trying to enact would give the state health department unfettered access to patient medical records and suggested it could endanger the privacy of women who have terminated pregnancies (Hanna, 7/5).

Los Angeles Times: California Pays More Than 1,400 Workers In Excess Of $200,000
More than 1,400 state employees were paid in excess of $200,000 last year, according to compensation data made public for the first time Tuesday on Controller John Chiang's website. Of those, 790 were prison doctors, dentists or nurses. More than 300 others were psychiatrists and other medical professionals working for the Department of Mental Health (Dolan, 7/6).

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