First Edition: June 6, 2011

In today's headlines, reports about Medicaid cuts and state-level health law implementation activities.

Kaiser Health News: States Turn To Foundations To Help Pay Costs Of Health Overhaul
Kaiser Health News staff writer Christopher Weaver reports: "Short on cash and time, officials in California and at least a dozen other states have turned to philanthropies to help pay for the extra work required under the federal health law" (Weaver, 6/5).

Kaiser Health News: Thirty Years Of AIDS (Guest Opinion)
In this Kaiser Health News column, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Gregory Folkers write: "Thirty years ago, the first five cases of what is now known as the acquired immune deficiency syndrome were reported in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The amount of knowledge gained since then has been extraordinary, and the pace at which research findings have been translated into lifesaving treatments and tools of prevention is unprecedented, although much remains to be done with regard to delivering the fruits of this research to the people who need them most" (6/3).

Kaiser Health News: ACO Debacle Exposes Obamacare’s Fatal Conceit
In his latest Kaiser Health News column, Michael Cannon writes: Obamacare's number-one idea for improving health care quality and reducing costs is to promote something called "accountable care organizations" in Medicare. That effort is sinking like a stone, because it – like the rest of this sweeping law – is premised on the fatal conceit that government experts can direct the market better than millions of consumers making their own decisions (6/3).

The Associated Press: Appeals Court To Hear Health Care Overhaul Lawsuit
An Atlanta federal courtroom will soon become the latest battlefield in the ongoing fight over President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments Wednesday on whether to reverse a Florida judge's ruling that struck down vast portions of the law (Bluestein, 6/4).

The Washington Post: States Slow To Adopt Health-Care Transition
As many legislatures around the country have finished their work for the year, fewer than one-fourth of states have taken concrete steps to create health insurance marketplaces, a central feature of the federal law to overhaul the U.S. health-care system. A total of 43 states, meanwhile, have made fresh cuts to Medicaid, even as lingering unemployment and diminishing access to private coverage continue to drive up the number of Americans turning to the public insurance program for the poor (Goldstein, 6/5).

Politico: Democrats Stay Quiet On Medicaid Cutbacks
Since Rep. Paul Ryan introduced his budget blueprint in April, Democrats have held countless news conferences and issued even more press releases condemning the plan — as they say — to eliminate, end or kill Medicare as we know it (Millman, 6/5).

The Associated Press: Health Care Law Waivers Stir Suspicion Of Favors
President Barack Obama's administration has granted nearly 1,400 waivers easing requirements of the new health care law, and some critics on the right say Obama is giving his political allies a pass from burdensome requirements everyone else will have to live with. But what if the waivers work more like a safety valve? What if during the transition to a new system they can prevent unintended consequences — such as people with bare-bones insurance losing their current coverage, or insurers closing shop in a particular state? (Alonso-Zaldivar, 6/6).

Los Angeles Times: Chances Fading For A Sweeping Deal On Spending Cuts
That means the standoff over raising the nation's nearly $14.3-trillion debt limit may conclude this summer with a more limited round of spending cuts and promises of future reform, pushing off the tough choices about taxes and Medicare until after next year's election (Mascaro and Levey, 6/6).

Politico: Dems See Chance For 2012 Payback
Now, thanks to the outcome of a May special election, resistance to the Republican-led plan to overhaul Medicare and the growing sense that new congressional maps aren’t going to produce a GOP windfall, an idea only dead-ender Democrats clung to is starting to gain currency: The House might be in play next year after all (Isenstadt, 6/6).

The Associated Press: Indiana, Planned Parenthood To Argue Abortion Law
The battle over Indiana's tough new abortion law cutting off much of the public funding for Planned Parenthood because it provides abortions moved back to the courts Monday where attorneys prepared to argue over the organization's request for a preliminary injunction blocking the statute (Kusmer, 6/6).

Politico: Alabama Pushes Health Reforms
Alabama is a deep red, Deep South state with a health policy that is taking on a decidedly blue tinge these days. Last week alone, Republican Gov. Robert Bentley issued an executive order to move forward on an Alabama health insurance exchange and lashed out at the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature for attempting to scale back his proposed $247 million increase in Medicaid funding by a mere $7 million (Kliff, 6/6).

The Wall Street Journal: Liberal Washington State Tries To Kiss Medicaid Goodbye
Medicaid has plunged Washington state into fiscal crisis. This fact was recognized by legislators from both sides of the aisle during a contentious special session that concluded last week. The result was Senate Bill 5596, a Medicaid block-grant bill. The block-grant concept was remarkably nonpartisan: The bill, requiring the state to apply to the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for a waiver that would replace its current Medicaid program with a block grant, passed with unanimous support. On Tuesday, Gov. Christine Gregoire, previously an opponent of block grants, signed the bill. Now the waiver request will go to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (Malin, 6/4).

The New York Times: Cuomo Health Adviser Absolved In Ethics Inquiry
A health care consultant with close ties to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo did not violate state lobbying regulations when he contacted state officials on behalf of a Queens hospital seeking more Medicaid financing, a confidential investigation by the state ethics commission has determined (Confessore, 6/5).

The New York Times: Abused And Used: A Disabled Boy's Death And A System In Disarray
O. D. Heck is one of nine large institutions in New York that house the developmentally disabled, those with cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome and other conditions. These institutions spend two and a half times as much money, per resident, as the thousands of smaller group homes that care for far more of the 135,000 developmentally disabled New Yorkers receiving services. But the institutions are hardly a model: Those who run them have tolerated physical and psychological abuse, knowingly hired unqualified workers, ignored complaints by whistle-blowers and failed to credibly investigate cases of abuse and neglect, according to a review by The New York Times  (Hakim, 6/5).

Kaiser Health News also tracked health policy developments over the weekend, including press coverage of the ongoing Medicare debate and how it is playing out among different age groups.

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