First Edition: June 8, 2011

Today's headlines include reports about an announcement by Blue Shield of California that it plans to cap it's earnings.

Kaiser Health News: Berwick: 'I've Got The Back' Of Medicare Beneficiaries – The KHN Interview
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey recently discussed a range of topics with Donald Berwick, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. He talked about the agency's work with governors on Medicaid, how to make Medicare more efficient and what he's hearing from health care providers about a proposed Medicare regulation to create accountable care organizations, or ACOs, networks of doctors and hospitals that share responsibility for providing care to patients (Carey, 6/7). Watch the video.

Los Angeles Times: Blue Shield Of California To Cut Many Premiums 2.5% This Year
Health insurer Blue Shield of California, under fire for a series of recent rate hikes and the pay of its chief executive, plans to cut this year's premiums by 2.5% for many of its 3.3 million policyholders as part of a new initiative to hold down costs (Helfand, 6/8).

The New York Times: California Insurer Says It Will Cap Earnings
Blue Shield of California, a large nonprofit health insurer that has come under sharp criticism in recent months for its double-digit rate increases, said on Tuesday that it planned to cap its earning and refund the bulk of any excess income to its policyholders (Abelson, 6/7).

The Wall Street Journal: Insurer Sets Earnings Cap
Blue Shield of California said it would limit how much of its earnings it keeps, amid public pressure to control health costs. The nonprofit said it would cap its annual net income at 2% of revenue, a pledge that could put pressure on other insurers at a time when the industry's profits have been strong (Mathews, 6/8).

The Washington Post: Sen. Kyl Refines Republicans' Demands In Debt-Ceiling Talks
The Senate's No. 2 Republican on Tuesday spelled out GOP leaders' conditions in the negotiations over reducing the federal deficit. … Kyl is one of six lawmakers participating in a working group led by Biden; its aim is to produce a comprehensive deficit-reduction plan in exchange for a vote to raise the debt ceiling, which the Treasury Department has said must be increased by Aug. 2. … Biden said last month that the group was on track to identify at least $1 trillion in cuts, but there is a philosophical impasse between the parties: Democrats oppose any deal that would include cuts to entitlement programs such as Medicare, and Republicans have said they will not support any plan that includes tax increases (Sonmez, 6/7).

Politico: Medicare Pay Board Is Losing Vital Support
One of the key provisions in President Barack Obama’s health care reform law — his preferred method for getting Medicare costs under control — is facing a groundswell of opposition from unexpected corners. Several House Democrats have signed on to support a bill to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a panel created by the law that is supposed to help control rising costs in Medicare. The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, a prominent supporter of the law, is now actively lobbying for its repeal, too (Haberkorn, 6/8).

The Wall Street Journal: Study Sees Cuts To Health Plans
A report by McKinsey & Co. has found that 30% of employers are likely to stop offering workers health insurance after the bulk of the Obama administration's health overhaul takes effect in 2014. The findings come as a growing number of employers are seeking waivers from an early provision in the overhaul that requires them to enrich their benefits this year. At the end of April, the administration had granted 1,372 employers, unions and insurance companies one-year exemptions from the law's requirement that they not cap annual benefit payouts below $750,000 per person a year (Adamy, 6/8).

USA Today: Many With HIV Don’t Know They Have It
Experts at the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) have long estimated that 20% of people infected with HIV don't know it. One-third are diagnosed so late in the course of their infection that they develop AIDS within one year. The new analysis found that the states with the biggest epidemics and the greatest number of late diagnoses are Florida, New York, Texas, Georgia and New Jersey (Sternberg and Gillum, 6/8).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Dallas Pays Almost 2.5 Million To Resolve Allegations Of Improper Claims On Ambulance Runs
The city of Dallas will pay Texas and the U.S. government almost $2.5 million to resolve allegations of miscoded claims submitted to Medicare and Medicaid for ambulances dispatched from 911 calls between 2006 and 2010 (6/7).

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