First Edition: July 25, 2011

In today's headines, reports on the status of efforts to reach a debt-ceiling deal.  

Kaiser Health News: Kaiser Permanente CEO Sees Openings For Accountable Care Organizations – The KHN Interview
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Joanne Silberner writes about her recent conversation with George Halvorson, who offers his take on the future of health care under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, including the role ACOs are likely to play. Read the interview (Silberner, 7/25).

KHN’s Capsules: Medical Loss Ratio Deadline Extended For Two States
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Appleby writes: "Iowa and Kentucky late Friday joined the list of states granted extra time for health insurers to meet rules requiring at least 80 percent of revenue on medical care. North Dakota’s request was rejected." Check out what else is on the blog.

The New York Times: Rival Debt Plans Being Assembled By Party Leaders
The House speaker, John A. Boehner, and the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, were preparing separate backup plans to raise the nation's debt ceiling on Sunday after they and the White House were unable to form a bipartisan plan that would end an increasingly grim standoff over the federal budget (Steinhauer and Cooper, 7/24).

The Washington Post: Obama Takes Political, Policy Gamble On 'Big Deal'
When President Obama last spoke to the nation, he said he was ready to make Republicans an offer they couldn't refuse. In exchange for trillions of dollars in cuts, including to Medicare and Social Security, Republicans would have to agree to a fraction of that in increased tax revenue. … Obama's political advisers have long believed that securing such an agreement would provide an enormous boost to his 2012 campaign, according to people familiar with White House thinking. … The risk for Obama now is that his pursuit of a far-reaching package could deeply disappoint his Democratic allies. … By calculating that an ambitious plan to reduce the nation's debt by $4 trillion over 10 years is so important, he's willing to endanger one of the best weapons in his party's arsenal — the argument that Democrats will protect Medicare and Social Security at all costs (Goldfarb, 7/24).

Los Angeles Times: Debt- Ceiling Standoff Grinds On
The day ended with the two dueling plans trying to avoid the grim fate of roughly half a dozen proposals put forth in recent weeks, a period of especially dramatic political theater and little legislative progress. Every other proposal has imploded when it could not bridge the now-familiar gulf of differences between the two sides or overcome factions within the parties. Along with the dollar-for-dollar increase, Republicans have refused any proposal that raises taxes. Obama and congressional Democrats have sought a long-term increase — and insisted that any large package achieve deficit reduction by also raising revenues. But the constant negotiation has yielded substantial common ground (Hennessey and Parsons, 7/24).

The Wall Street Journal: Gridlock For Debt Talks
Congressional leaders from both parties were developing competing deficit-reduction plans, but they released only broad outlines and few details. Several aides stressed the plans were still evolving. One currently under discussion, a plan from House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), would cut the budget deficit by $1.2 trillion over 10 years and raise the debt ceiling in two phases—one that would enable the government to cover its bills through the end of the year, and a second in January 2012 depending on recommendations from a congressional commission. … Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said in a written statement Sunday evening he is pushing ahead with a plan for $2.7 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years, along with an increase in the debt limit sufficient to carry the government through the end of 2012 and no increase in tax revenue. The details of the cuts had not been finalized, but none of them would be to entitlement programs like Medicare, a Democratic aide said (Lee and Bendavid, 7/25).

Los Angeles Times: Deficit Talks Strain Obama’s Bipartisanship Goals
Obama has pushed congressional leaders from both parties to set aside partisan differences. He has urged them to pass a sweeping plan that, he says, would cut trillions of dollars from the nation's debt and shore up Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare for years to come. White House aides believed an achievement on that scale would prove that Obama could overcome the acrimony that has crippled the political process, and help his standing with independent voters who are at the heart of his 2012 reelection strategy. Instead, after negotiations appeared to collapse Friday night, Obama's options narrowed (Nicholas, 7/24).

The Washington Post: Tom Coburn's Cuts: Military's Tricare Prime Health Care Program Targeted
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) wants to cut taxpayer funding for non-military elements of the Defense Department, starting with making retired, uninjured service members pay more for what he described as "extremely low-cost health care for life" for themselves, their spouses and dependents under the Tricare Prime system (Pincus, 7/24).

USA Today: Health Care Providers Embracing Cost-Saving Groups
Health care providers are embracing accountable care organizations, a key part of last year's health care law, as they try to control rising Medicare and health care costs. Accountable care organizations are networks of doctors and hospitals that band together to better coordinate patient care by using computerized medical records and increased analysis of various treatments. Instead of the current system in which a patient sees a variety of doctors with little coordination, this new system is meant to eliminate duplication and provide financial incentives for providers to improve quality while also cutting costs (Kennedy, 7/24).

Kaiser Health News also tracked weekend health policy headlines, including developments on Saturday and Sunday related to the ongoing debt talks. 

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