First Edition: March 25, 2011

Today's headlines include reports about mini-med plans and accountable care organizations as well as the ongoing impasse in Congress regarding current year spending. 

Kaiser Health News: Administration Delaying Some Rules For Appealing Health Insurance Denials
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Susan Jaffe writes: "The Obama administration is delaying until next January its enforcement of some new rules designed to protect patients who appeal insurers' decisions to deny or reduce health care benefits" (Jaffe, 3/25).

Kaiser Health News: Housing Bust Hurts County Health Efforts
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz, working in collaboration with The Washington Post, reports: "In cities and counties across the nation, the housing bust has hit health care. In Genesee County, where housing prices have plunged and foreclosures have been widespread, property tax revenues have declined by 15 percent over the past two years" (Galewitz, 3/27).

The Washington Post: Controversial Mini-Med Plans To Live On Through Waivers
Consumer advocates condemn them as the worst form of health insurance: "mini-med" plans that limit payouts to as low as $2,000 a year, leaving often unsuspecting customers to fend for themselves if they develop a costly and serious disease (Aizenman and Barnes, 3/27).

The Wall Street Journal: The Model Of The Future?
The 2010 health-care law encourages the development of accountable-care organizations as a way to improve care and reduce costs. So what exactly are accountable-care organizations, anyway? (Johnson, 3/28).

The Associated Press: Medicare Rise  Could Mean No Social Security COLA
Millions of retired and disabled people in the United States had better brace for another year with no increase in Social Security payments (Ohlemacher, 3/27).

Los Angeles Times: Parties In Congress Still Far Apart On Spending Cuts
A top Senate Democrat said Friday that progress was being made in closed-door negotiations to resolve the budget impasse in Congress, but a government shutdown is at risk if an agreement over wide disparities is not reached in a matter of weeks. … But Democrats want to look beyond the narrow slice of domestic discretionary programs that have been targeted by the GOP. Such programs make up just 12% of the budget. It is unclear whether Republicans would agree, in the closed talks, to cuts in such mandatory programs as agricultural subsidies, health or Medicare programs (Mascaro, 3/25).

The Wall Street Journal: Fiscal Showdown Looms In Capitol
Congress returns from a weeklong recess Monday facing an array of budget issues, including a deadline of April 8 to reach agreement on a spending plan for the current fiscal year (Hook and Paletta, 3/28).

The Hill: Poll: Planned Parenthood Cut Splits Voters By Gender, Race
Likely voters are split on whether Congress should cut funding for Planned Parenthood, according to a new poll conducted for The Hill that also found a significant gender gap on the issue (Schroeder, 3/28).

The New York Times: N.Y. Budget Deal Cuts Aid To Schools And Health Care
Capping weeks of secretive negotiations and intense political jockeying, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and leaders of the Legislature on Sunday announced a $132.5 billion budget agreement that would cut overall spending, impose no major new taxes and begin a long-term overhaul of New York State's bloated Medicaid programs (Confessore and Kaplan, 3/27).

Los Angeles Times: The Consequences Of A Donor Kidney Market
Should you be paid to part with a kidney? It's an unseemly question, but it's one that medical professionals have been grappling with as the waiting list for kidneys gets longer, supply of the organs stagnates and other solutions fall short (Ogilvie, 3/28).

Kaiser Health News tracked weekend headlines, including news about the Medicaid positions being taken by Democrats and Republicans;  how GOP presidential candidates lashed out at the health law and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s call for a quick review of the measure by the Supreme Court.

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