First Edition: June 9, 2011

Today's headlines include reports from yesterday's action in an Atlanta courtroom where oral arguments were held in an appeal related to the multi-state challenge to the health law.

Kaiser Health News: Blue Shield Of California Sets Profit Cap Other Insurers May Not Imitate
Kaiser Health News staff writers Julie Appleby, Christopher Weaver and Phil Galewitz, working in collaboration with The Washington Post, report: "Blue Shield of California's surprising announcement that it will cap profits at 2 percent and issue millions in policyholder refunds sparked hopes that other health insurers would follow suit, but many experts said yesterday that was unlikely" (Appleby, Weaver and Galewitz, 6/9).

Kaiser Health News: 'Cautious,' 'Even-Handed' Hearing For Health Law In Atlanta Appeals Court
Kaiser Health News staff writer Bara Vaida talked with Alyson M. Palmer, a legal reporter in Atlanta, about Wednesday's oral arguments in an appeal related to the multi-state challenge to the overhaul (Vaida, 6/8).

Kaiser Health News: Another Day In Court For The Individual Mandate (Guest Opinion)
In his latest Kaiser Health News column, Jonathan Cohn writes: "Opponents of the Affordable Care Act had another day in court on Wednesday, this time before federal judges in Georgia, representing the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. These opponents want the judges to uphold a ruling, made by a lower federal judge in Florida, that the law is unconstitutional. It's the third such appeal to go before a Circuit Court -- and perhaps a prelude to consideration before the Supreme Court" (6/8).

The New York Times: Judges Weigh Limits Of Health Law's Powers
In perhaps the weightiest of the dozens of challenges to the Obama health care law, a panel of appellate judges grappled Wednesday with the essential quandary of the case: if the federal government can require Americans to buy medical insurance, what constitutional limit would prevent it from mandating all manner of purchases and activities? (Sack, 6/8).

Los Angeles Times: Judges Sharply Challenge Healthcare Law
If the Obama administration had any doubt that its signature healthcare law faces a severe challenge in court, it was erased soon after Chief Judge Joel Dubina opened the proceedings here. "I can't find any case like this," Dubina said. "If we uphold this, are there any limits" on the power of the federal government? (Savage, 6/8).

The Washington Post: Legal Battle Over Obama's Health-Care Law Moves To Atlanta Courtroom
Lawyers for the 26 states challenging the constitutionality of the nation’s new health-care law squared off against the Obama administration in an appeals court in Atlanta on Wednesday, where a panel of three judges asked tough questions of both sides. One judge, Frank M. Hull, appeared more sympathetic to the law — at one point interrupting an attorney for the states to tell him that his central argument "doesn't get me very far" (Aizenman, 6/8).

The Wall Street Journal: Judges Offer Mixed View On Health Law
A federal appeals court Wednesday took up the most significant legal challenge to last year's health law, with judges giving mixed signals on the central issue of whether it was constitutional to require people to carry insurance or pay a penalty (Adamy, 6/9).

The Associated Press: US Judges Seem Receptive To Health Care Challenge
Judges on a federal appeals court panel on Wednesday repeatedly raised questions about President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, expressing unease with the requirement that virtually all Americans carry health insurance or face penalties (Bluestein, 6/8).

NPR: Appeals Court Hears 2-State Challenge To Health Law
Atlanta was today's host city for the latest skirmish in the battle over last year's federal health overhaul, as the measure went before a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (Rovner and Elliott, 6/8).

The Washington Post: Washington Post-ABC News Poll Shows Americans Torn Over Raising Debt Limit
Democrats have a nine-point edge on the trust question, but Republicans have momentum on the deficit issue. More voters now side with congressional Republicans than with President Obama, with a slim majority saying the debt should be tackled primarily through spending cuts, not new taxes. However, Republicans appear to have handed Obama an opening on Medicare in the budget blueprint they adopted this spring. Nearly half of voters say they trust the president to protect Medicare, compared with 35 percent who trust congressional Republicans (Montgomery and Cohen, 6/9).

Politico: New Urgency In Joe Biden's Budget Talks
Thursday’s discussions are expected to focus on taxes. Republicans oppose raising them to narrow the budget deficit, which means chopping away at entitlement programs such as Medicare that Democrats want to protect (Boak, 6/8).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Cantor Says 2012 GOP House And Senate Candidates Should Back Ryan's Budget Proposal
Republicans facing voters next year became skittish about Ryan's plan after a Democrat upset a Republican in a special election in a conservative New York state district last month where Ryan's budget cuts to the health care entitlement program for the elderly was a driving factor, particularly among seniors (6/8).

Los Angeles Times: WellPoint To Buy CareMore Health Group For About $800 Million
Cerritos healthcare provider CareMore Health Group is being acquired by health insurance giant WellPoint Inc. for about $800 million as part of an effort to bolster the insurer's profile in senior care as baby boomers age (Li, 6/9).

The Wall Street Journal: WellPoint To Buy Senior Health-Care Provider
In purchasing senior health-care provider CareMore Health Group, WellPoint Inc. signaled the growing reach of the insurance industry, as carriers ramp up outside their traditional health-coverage business (Wilde Mathews and Loftus, 6/9).

USA Today: Greater Patient Access To Records Proposed
A proposed federal rule would require hospitals, doctors' offices and health insurers to tell patients of anyone who has accessed their electronic medical records, if requested. Under the rule proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), health-care-related businesses must list everyone in their firms — from doctors to data-entry clerks — who has accessed a patient's electronic records and when (Kennedy, 6/9).

The Wall Street Journal: Senators Request Probe Of Surgeons
Five U.S. senators asked the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services to open an investigation into physician-owned distributorships, middleman entities that allow surgeons to profit from the medical devices they use on their patients, to determine whether they are legal (Carreyrou, 6/9).

The Wall Street Journal: Pension Deals Elusive In Both N.J. And N.Y.
A sweeping deal to cut pensions and health-care benefits for hundreds of thousands of New Jersey public workers was teetering Wednesday, as rank-and-file Assembly Democrats refused to go along with an agreement struck between top legislative Democrats and Gov. Chris Christie (Fleisher and Gershman, 6/9).

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