First Edition: June 22, 2011

Today's headlines include an exclusive AP report detailing a "twist" in the health law that would allow millions of middle class Americans -- mainly early retirees -- access to Medicaid.

Kaiser Health News: Consumers Add Their 2 Cents To Health Law's Plan Labels
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Susan Jaffe writes: "Starting next March, all insurers and employers will have to make it easier for consumers faced with the ordeal of picking a health plan. Under the 2010 health law, they'll have to provide health policy information that the average enrollee can understand and use to compare with other plans. The forms were developed by a group assembled by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, and policymakers are getting feedback the same way advertisers learn the best way to sell orange juice: consumer-focus-group testing" (Jaffe, 6/21).

The Washington Post: Senate Budget Chairman Says $2 Trillion Not Enough
The debt-reduction package emerging in talks between the White House and congressional leaders would not "fundamentally change" the alarming rate of growth in the national debt, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee said Tuesday. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said the goal of slicing more than $2 trillion from the federal budget by 2021 falls far short of the savings needed to stabilize borrowing, reenergize the economy and avert the threat of a debt crisis (Montgomery and Helderman, 6/21).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Seeking Sweeping Cuts, Negotiators In Budget Talks Are Tempted By Gimmickry
Negotiators seeking to carve trillions of dollars from the deficit are facing temptation to use iffy assumptions and outright gimmickry to exaggerate the size of spending cuts to accompany any increase in the government's ability to borrow to stay afloat. With both sides reluctant to abandon long-held positions — Republicans are against tax increases, Democrats oppose cutting benefit programs like Medicare — those watching the talks being led by Vice President Joe Biden are on the lookout for a familiar set of accounting tricks (6/22).

Politico: AARP In Damage Control As Democrats Criticize Shift
But the damage had been done: It's exposed divisions within the Democratic Party over whether to take on Social Security with a Democratic president in the White House, and it gave Republicans new ammunition to push entitlement reforms in talks over slashing the deficit (Raju, 6/21).

Reuters: US Healthcare Law Seen Aiding Employer Coverage
Even though the number of Americans with health insurance through employers has declined, most will continue to get coverage through their jobs after the new healthcare law takes full effect, studies released on Tuesday said. About 61 percent of non-elderly Americans got their healthcare coverage through employers in 2009, down from 69 percent in 2000, according to a study sponsored by the non-partisan Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Low and moderate-income families employed by small firms were the most likely to be affected by a loss of employer-sponsored coverage (Smith, 6/21).

The Associated Press: AP Exclusive: Medicaid For The Middle Class?
President Barack Obama's health care law would let several million middle-class people get nearly free insurance meant for the poor, a twist government number crunchers say they discovered only after the complex bill was signed (Alonso-Zaldivar, 6/21).

Politico: Tim Pawlenty To Bring Back 'Obamneycare'
Republican primary voters haven’t heard the last of "Obamneycare."  Tim Pawlenty said Tuesday he plans to keep using the term, which he first used to whack Mitt Romney over his health care record on the eve of last week's GOP presidential primary debate (Burns, 6/21).

The Associated Press/New York Times: Walgreens And Express Scripts Are At A Contract Impasse
The Walgreen Company said on Tuesday that it was willing to walk away from more than $5 billion in annual revenue because the pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts did not pay it enough to fill prescriptions (6/21).

The Washington Post: DC Residents See AIDS As City's Biggest Health Problem
Despite the city's efforts to prevent the spread of the disease and make treatment available, HIV/AIDS tops the list as the District's most urgent health problem, according to a new survey by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation. More than a third of city residents single out HIV/AIDS — first identified 30 years ago — as the city's biggest health concern. Nationally, cancer and obesity get far more mentions (Fears, Craighill and Arnsdorf, 6/20).

Los Angeles Times: Restaurants Revamping Menus In Response To Calorie Count Rules
[A]s part of the recent federal healthcare overhaul, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to roll out national rules by year-end requiring any chain with 20 or more locations to post calorie counts for every item they sell. Chains are scrambling to rework consumer favorites so they have fewer calories, and they are redesigning menus so that high-calorie items are balanced out by more-healthful options (Berstein, 6/22).

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This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.