First Edition: July 7, 2011

Today's news highlights include reports about signs of progress in the debt-reduction talks and details of a new study that finds Medicaid makes a big difference in people's lives.

Kaiser Health News: Health Law Provision Could Cost Delaware Hundreds Of Insurance Jobs
Kaiser Health News staff writers Phil Galewitz and Christopher Weaver report: "Some of the nation's largest insurers are complaining that the Obama administration isn't doing enough to ease health law requirements they say threaten their ability to sell health coverage for millions of Americans working abroad" (Galewitz and Weaver, 7/6).

Kaiser Health News: Utah Health Exchange Is Geared To Small Business Employees – The KHN Interview
Kaiser Health News' Juan E. Gastelum recently spoke with Patty Conner, the director of the Utah Health Exchange, about building a successful exchange and adapting it to meet federal regulations (Gastelum, 7/6).

Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill: Democrats, Republicans Stake On Positions On Debt Limit
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey and Jackie Judd discuss what congressional leaders said – and what they meant – about Thursday's budget discussions at the White House and how they might affect health care programs (7/6). 

Kaiser Health News: Why It’s Okay That EHR Adoption Will Fall Behind 2011 Goals (Guest Opinion).
In their latest Kaiser Health News column, Brian Klepper and David Kibbe write: "David Blumenthal, the former national coordinator, had hoped large numbers of doctors and hospitals would adopt EHRs starting in 2011, the first year bonuses are available. But, in reality, by the end of the year the percentage of physicians using EHRs won't likely rise much above the current 20 to 25 percent rate. This isn't necessarily a bad thing" (6/7).

The New York Times: President Looks For Broader Deal On Deficit Cuts
The president’s renewed efforts follow what knowledgeable officials said was an overture from Mr. Boehner, who met secretly with Mr. Obama last weekend, to consider as much as $1 trillion in unspecified new revenues as part of an overhaul of tax laws in exchange for an agreement that made substantial spending cuts, including in such social programs as Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security — programs that had been off the table (Hulse and Landler, 7/6).

The Washington Post: In Debt Talks, Obama Offers Social Security Cuts
President Obama is pressing congressional leaders to consider a far-reaching debt-reduction plan that would force Democrats to accept major changes to Social Security and Medicare in exchange for Republican support for fresh tax revenue. At a meeting with top House and Senate leaders set for Thursday morning, Obama plans to argue that a rare consensus has emerged about the size and scope of the nation's budget problems and that policymakers should seize the moment to take dramatic action (Montgomery, 7/6).

Los Angeles Times: Obama, Boehner Hold One-On-One Deficit Talks
As a deadline nears, top aides for Obama and Boehner have privately been exchanging views about budget proposals, a sign of efforts underway to work through key issues that have separated the two sides for more than two months (Mascaro and Parsons, 7/6).

The Wall Street Journal: Movement In Budget Impasse
Discussions also have touched on changes to all three major safety-net programs—Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, these people say. Participants in the debt talks had been weighing changes to Medicare and Medicaid, but tinkering with Social Security had not been part of the discussion until recently. Such a move would be anathema to many Democrats (Bendavid, Hook and Lee, 7/7).

The New York Times: First Study Of Its Kind Shows Benefits Providing Medical Insurance To Poor
When poor people are given medical insurance, they not only find regular doctors and see doctors more often but they also feel better, are less depressed and are better able to maintain financial stability, according to a new, large-scale study that provides the first rigorously controlled assessment of the impact of Medicaid (Kolata, 7/7).

NPR: Medicaid Makes 'Big Difference' In Lives, Study Finds
As high-level budget talks drag on in Washington, the Medicaid program for the poor remains a prime candidate for cuts. In recent months, Republicans have criticized Medicaid for badly serving its target population. But a new study — the first of its kind in nearly four decades — finds that Medicaid is making a bigger impact than even some of its supporters may have realized. We report almost a one-third increase in the probability that you report yourself as being happy. - Amy Finkelstein, one of the study's principal investigators. The study, being published as a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research, has a distinctly bipartisan flavor (Rovner, 7/7).

The Associated Press: Study: Medicaid Does Make A Difference After All
Signing up for Medicaid could improve your overall health and financial security, says a surprising new study that offers clues on how President Barack Obama's health care overhaul might affect millions of low-income uninsured Americans.
The findings run counter to a widespread perception that having a Medicaid card is no better than being uninsured, and maybe even worse (Alonso-Zaldivar, 7/7).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Health Care Law Opponents Submit Petitions In Push To Exempt Ohio Residents From Fed Rules
Opponents of the new federal health care overhaul are one step closer to having voters in the political bellwether of Ohio decide whether the state constitution should be amended to keep people from being required to buy health insurance or face penalties (7/6).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Calif. Bill To give State Officials Power to Reject Health Insurance Rate Hikes Moves Forward
A California legislative committee on Wednesday narrowly approved a bill that would give state officials the power to reject proposed health insurance rate increases, but even some supporters said it will need major changes to survive (7/6).

Los Angeles Times: California State Psychiatric Workers Call For Greater Safety
Since a psychiatric technician was strangled by a patient at Napa State Hospital in October, the rising violence at the state's mental hospitals has come under increased scrutiny. Unions that represent workers formed a statewide coalition to press for major improvements. But the employees who slipped on union T-shirts, hoisted posters and chanted demands say little has happened. The workers said Metropolitan needs more staff, hospital police officers stationed full time on the units, high-security housing for the most dangerous patients and an improved alarm system (Hoeffel and Romney, 7/7).

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