First Edition: March 17, 2011

Today's headlines include reports about a new GAO report showing success in health insurer appeals and a decision by Blue Shield of California to retreat from proposed rate increases.  

Kaiser Health News: Brokers Seek To Preserve Role In Health Insurance Marketplace
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jordan Rau, working in collaboration with The Washington Post, writes: "Insurance brokers, worried their livelihoods are in jeopardy from the health law, are pressing Congress and state legislatures to safeguard agent commissions and guarantee them a key role in new marketplaces being created for consumers to obtain coverage" (Rau, 3/16).

Kaiser Health News: Doctor shortages Under Health Law May Depend On Geography
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jessica Marcy reports: "States in the South and Mountain West, which traditionally have the lowest rates of primary care physicians, could struggle to provide medical services to the surge of new patients expected to enroll in Medicaid under the health overhaul and federal incentives may not provide much help, according to a report issued today by a Washington health research group" (Marcy, 3/17).

Kaiser Health News Column: Healthy Indiana: Conservatives' Reform Poster Child Or Another Costly Program?
In his latest Kaiser Health News column, Jonathan Cohn writes: "Conservatives don't know whether Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana, will run for president. But they know about the health care plan he introduced. And many of them are excited about it. The Healthy Indiana Plan, as it's known, is the Hoosier state's alternative to traditional Medicaid. It's also a viable alternative to the dreaded federal Affordable Care Act, if its boosters on the right are to be believed. Do they have a case?" (3/16).

Kaiser Health News: Scoreboard: Tracking Health Law Court Challenges
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Bara Vaida is tracking developments in the many court challenges to the health law now working their way through the federal courts. She updated the scoreboard March 16.

Kaiser Health News Video: Sebelius Questioned By Senate Finance Committee
Kaiser Health News has excerpts from Wednesday's Senate Finance Committee hearing titled "Health Reform: Lessons Learned During the First Year." In her testimony, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius praised the health law and faced questions from critical Republican members on the panel (3/16).

The New York Times: Boehner Tries To Serve Two Masters In Budget Deal
Such is the tension that Mr. Boehner will face throughout the 112th Congress as he negotiates with a Democratic Senate and White House while trying to manage a restless band of government-slashing Republicans who are going to press him to hold the party line if he values their support. Once this year's budget battle is settled, Congress will move on to potentially bigger fights over whether to raise the national debt limit and how to rein in the costs of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security (Hulse, 3/16).

Politico: Orrin Hatch: Health Care Law Can't Be Fixed
Sen. Orrin Hatch says there are too many problems with the health care law to fix it, and he doesn't rule out an all-out push to repeal or defund the law — as House Republicans want — even if that means defeating a long-term spending agreement to fund the government for the rest of the year (Nather, 3/16).

The Associated Press: GAO Report Shows Success In Health Insurer Appeals
Don't take no for a final answer when a health insurer rejects a claim and leaves behind an unpaid medical bill. As many as 50 percent of some appeals prompt insurers to reverse their decisions, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office (3/16).

The Wall Street Journal: Drug Prices Rise Despite Calls For Cuts
Even as government and private health plans push to restrain spending on medicines, the prices of brand name prescriptions are climbing rapidly, reaching the steepest rate of the decade last year (Rockoff, 3/17).

Los Angeles Times: Blue Shield Cancels Rate Hike
Blue Shield of California's decision to cancel a big rate hike for nearly 200,000 people followed mounting pressure from the public and political leaders. But an unforeseen factor may have made the retreat easier for the company to accept: It's paying out less for medical claims than it had anticipated (Helfand, 3/16).

The New York Times Prescriptions Blog: California Insurer Retreats On Raising Rates
Blue Shield of California, a nonprofit health insurer, said on Wednesday that it would no longer seek a rate increase this year for individuals who buy coverage on their own rather than through an employer (Abelson, 3/16).

Los Angeles Times: Lawmakers OK Billions In Program Cuts In California Budget
State lawmakers Wednesday approved billions of dollars in cuts to welfare, medical programs for the poor and in-home care for the elderly and frail, among other services, moving forward key pieces of Gov. Jerry Brown's budget reduction package (Goldmacher and McGreevy, 3/17).

Politico: A Second Stimulus For K Street?
For all his anti-lobbyist rhetoric, President Barack Obama has done more than almost anyone to help K Street fatten its wallet. First came his push to pass health care and Wall Street reforms, an epic two-year stretch of bruising legislative battles that saw lobbying revenues skyrocket. But the boom didn’t end when the legislation became law (Frates, 3/17).

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