First Edition: May 16, 2011

In today's headlines, reports about the politics and policy news surrounding the budget debate and health overhaul.

Kaiser Health News: Florida Pushing New Fees For Medicaid Recipients
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz reports: "Florida wants to be the first state in the nation to charge most of its Medicaid recipients a monthly premium as well as $100 for using the ER for routine care. But even supporters acknowledge that the new fees, passed recently by the state legislature as part of a sweeping Medicaid measure, face long odds getting federal approval" (Galewitz, 5/15).

Kaiser Health News: Gloomier-Than-Expected Forecast For Medicare
Kaiser Health News staff writers Phil Galewitz and Mary Agnes Carey report: "Medicare will start running out of money in 2024 -- five years earlier than projected last year — as a result of the sluggish economic recovery, the program's trustees reported today. The outlook for the federal health insurance program that covers 47.5 million elderly and disabled Americans is a dramatic shift from last summer. That's when the trustees, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, proudly projected that the new health law had extended the solvency of the program by 12 years from 2017 to 2029" (Galewitz and Carey, 5/13).

Kaiser Health News Guest Column: Newt And The Health Wonks: A Tale Of Lust And Power
In his latest Kaiser Health News column, Michael Millenson writes: "When former House Speaker Newt Gingrich announced his bid for the GOP presidential nomination, I found myself singing a few bars from Night Moves, Bob Seger's hard-driving tribute to teenage hormones: 'I used her, she used me/But neither one cared./We were gettin' our share'" (5/13).

The New York Times: Gingrich Calls GOP's Medicare Plan Too Radical
Days after formally announcing his candidacy for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, Newt Gingrich on Sunday sharply criticized a plan by House Republicans that would drastically overhaul Medicare, the federal health care program for retirees (Hernandez, 5/15).

Los Angeles Times: New Gingrich Slams Paul Ryan's Plan To Overhaul Medicare
Presidential contender Newt Gingrich took a potshot Sunday at Republican House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan’s proposal to reform Medicare, becoming the most prominent Republican to distance himself from the plan (Skiba, 5/15).

The Wall Street Journal: Gingrich Blasts House GOP's Medicare Plan
The moves suggest the Republican primary contest, which will include both men, could feature a robust debate on health care, with GOP candidates challenging the Democratic law while defending their own variations (Meckler, 5/16).

Politico: Medicare Cost-Cutting Job Could Be Worst In D.C.
Wanted: nationally known health care experts to serve on controversial health care board that will make painful Medicare spending cuts. Must be willing to quit current job to do it. Also, must be willing to go through bloody and humiliating confirmation fight. That's the job description for the 15 members of the Independent Payment Advisory Board — the new panel created by President Barack Obama’s health care law to come up with ways to cut Medicare spending if it grows too fast (Nather, 5/14).

The Washington Post: Partisan Fights In Congress Stall Panel On Primary-Health-Care Shortage
When the government set out to help 32 million more Americans gain health insurance, Congress and the Obama administration acknowledged that steering more people into coverage had a dark underside: If it works, it will aggravate a shortage of family doctors, internists and other kinds of primary care. So Page 519 of the sprawling 2010 law to overhaul the health-care system creates an influential commission to guide the country in matching the supply of health-care workers with the need. But in the eight months since its members were named, the commission has been unable to start any work (Goldstein, 5/13).

The Wall Street Journal: WellPoint Shakes Up Hospital Payments
WellPoint Inc. is raising the stakes for reimbursing about 1,500 hospitals across the country, cutting off annual payment increases if they fail to deliver on the big health insurer's definition of quality patient care. WellPoint is replacing the system it uses to help offset rising medical and other costs at hospitals in 14 states that serve its Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, which cover 34 million people. In recent years, it has raised its payments to those hospitals by an average 8% a year (Adamy, 5/16).

The New York Times: Nursing Homes Seek Exemptions From Health Law
It is an oddity of American health care: Many nursing homes and home care agencies do not provide health insurance to their workers, or they pay wages so low that employees cannot afford the coverage that is offered (Pear, 5/15).

The Washington Post: NY Race Is Referendum ON GOP Medicare Plan
Special congressional elections tend to be sleepy affairs, campaigns so condensed and out of step with the normal political calendar that they're often missed. But they can be mirrors of the national moment, too, and that's what's happening in the suburbs of Buffalo and Rochester, where a race to fill a vacant U.S. House seat has turned into a referendum on the Republican plan to overhaul Medicare (Rucker, 5/15).

The New York Times: Rhode Island's Medicaid Experiment Becomes A Talking Point For Budget Cutters
With Republicans pushing to rein in Medicaid costs, an experiment in Rhode Island is drawing the attention of some conservatives who say it has led to substantial savings without reducing care for the state’s poorest patients (Roberts, 5/15).

Los Angeles Times: Proposals Aim To Improve Safety In State Mental Hospitals
Nearly eight months after a Napa State Hospital patient strangled a psychiatric technician, lawmakers and employee groups are pushing proposals aimed at reversing a worsening safety trend at California's mental health facilities (Romney, 5/16).

Kaiser Health News also tracked the weekend’s health policy news developments, including  reports about the Medicare Trustees' predictions, consumer and insurer behavior, and Newt Gingrich's vision of health reform. 

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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.