First Edition: June 29, 2011

In today's news, two senators offer a new plan for Medicare cuts -- which includes increasing the eligibility age -- but top Democrats lined up against it.  

Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill: Obama Confers With Senate Leaders On Budget
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey talks with Jackie Judd about President Obama's separate meetings with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in which the trio is trying to find common ground on Medicare cuts and other controversial proposals to lower the deficit (6/28). Read the transcript.

Kaiser Health News Video Q & A: Should I Consider The High-Risk Pools For Insurance Coverage
Kaiser Health News Insuring Your Health columnist Michelle Andrews answers a question from a reader who wonders if they should look for catastrophic insurance coverage if traditional coverage is out of reach. Consider high-risk pools, Andrews says (6/28).

Kaiser Health News: The Most Commonsensical And Hopeless Reform Idea Ever (Guest Opinion)
In his latest Kaiser Health News column, Michael Millenson writes: "The way that Michael Long and Sandeep Green Vaswami want to change hospital care may well rank as both the most commonsensical and most hopeless health reform proposal ever. The real question is whether they can show the same tenacity in pursuing their goal as an elderly Jewish woman from Munster, Ind., who has invested nearly two decades in a similar effort" (6/28).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: The KHN Blog
Capsules, the new Kaiser Health News blog, will provide a venue for staff-written news and observations, outside voices and commentary, and other timely and interactive features. Yesterday's posts included a report about some of the issues involved in raising Medicare's eligibility age and the return of KHN's Blogwatch. We look forward to your feedback and hope you will make Capsules an important part of your daily dose of health news.   

The Washington Post: Top Democrats Reject New Plan To Cut Medicare Spending
Leading congressional Democrats immediately recoiled Tuesday from a new proposal to cut $600 billion in Medicare spending over the next decade — in part by raising the eligibility age. Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Tom Coburn (R-Olka.) unveiled the proposal as part of a bipartisan effort to produce the kind of savings necessary to achieve the $2 trillion in debt reduction both parties say is needed to convince reticent lawmakers to vote to raise the debt ceiling. It would raise Medicare’s eligibility age from 65 to 67 and assess higher premiums on wealthier seniors. The proposal echoes Republican demands that entitlement reform — especially deep cuts in Medicare spending — be a part of any agreement to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. But the swift rejection of the proposal among Democrats reflects the significant obstacles that remain to any agreement to cut the deficit and raise the nation’s legal borrowing limit (Helderman and Kane, 6/28).

The Associated Press: Coburn, Lieberman Seek To Raise Medicare Age To 67
Two Senate rebels jumped into Congress' cut-the-deficit competition on Tuesday, proposing to raise the age of Medicare eligibility to 67 and increase monthly premiums for millions of current beneficiaries. … Democrats reacted with criticism of the proposal, which Coburn said was designed to rescue the financially imperiled program and help the nation confront a "wall of debt." Republicans betrayed no sign of support either (Espo, 6/28).

Los Angeles Times: White House Pushes For Progress On Debt Talks As Senators Float New Medicare Proposal
Republicans want to extract steep spending cuts in exchange for their vote to allow more borrowing capacity. Democrats want to reduce tax loopholes on corporations and wealthy Americans to raise new revenue, a proposition the GOP has refused. On Tuesday, a bipartisan pair of senators introduced a proposal that would cut the costs of Medicare a main driver of budget deficits — by gradually increasing the eligibility age to 67 and requiring wealthier seniors to pay more out of pocket for premiums and care (Mascaro, 6/28).

NPR: Medicare Proposal Could Stress Strapped Seniors
Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK) Joe Lieberman (I-CT) say the savings to be realized from their bill would both help reduce the nation's debt and shore up Medicare's shaking financial situation. Among other things their bill would combine the current separate deductibles for Medicare's Part A (hospital and inpatient care) and Part B (physician and outpatient care) into one single deductible. Because so few Medicare patients actually use hospital care each year, that would have the effect of raising out-of pocket spending for the majority of people on the program (Rovner, 6/28).

Politico: Medicaid Cuts Could Come From Democrats
Defenders of Medicaid have been fighting hard against Republican proposals to cut the program, but they're just waking up to the threat of one proposed by the Obama administration. It's an idea to change the way federal matching funds work and save money in the process — and it would probably do it by shifting costs to the states. If that happens, Medicaid advocates fear, the states will just pass on the cuts to providers and, ultimately, the patients (Feder, 6/28).

The New York Times: Administration Halts Survey Of Making Doctor Visits
The Obama administration said Tuesday that it had shelved plans for a survey in which "mystery shoppers" posing as patients would call doctors' offices to see how difficult it was to get appointments (Pear, 6/28).

Politico: White House Dumps 'Secret Shopper' Survey Of Doctors
The Obama administration will not move forward on a controversial proposal to have "secret shoppers" pose as patients to investigate how difficult it is for Americans to obtain primary care (Kliff, 6/28).

Los Angeles Times: New Jersey Shifts More Costs To Government Workers
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation Tuesday that would require government workers to pay more for healthcare and pensions, making the state among the largest in the nation to roll back employee benefits to offset fiscal woes (Simon, 6/28).

Politico: Chris Christie Signs Bill Requiring Unions Pay More
In one of his biggest legislative victories since taking office, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill into law Tuesday that requires state workers to pay more for their pensions and health insurance (Epstein, 6/28).

The Wall Street Journal: California Budget Deal Leaves GOP Out In Cold
The plan includes $15 billion in what the Democrats call "expenditure reductions," including $1.7 billion in cuts to higher education and $1.6 billion in cuts to health care for low-income Californians, but also including moves such as collecting $1.7 billion from community redevelopment agencies. In addition, the budget assumes $8.3 billion in additional state revenue will come in since a January estimate—some of which has already appeared as the economy has improved (Vara, 6/29).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Indiana Appeals Judge's Injunction Letting Planned Parenthood Get Medicaid Funds
Indiana’s attorney general on Tuesday appealed a judge’s ruling that blocked key aspects of a new state law that cut some public funding for Planned Parenthood because the organization provides abortions (6/28).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: 2 Kansas Doctors Who Perform Abortions File Federal Lawsuit To Block State's New Regulations
Two doctors who perform abortions in Kansas filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday to block a new licensing law and regulations that abortion rights advocates fear will make Kansas the first state in the country without an abortion provider (6/28).

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