First Edition: October 21, 2011

In the news today, more details about the Department of Health and Human Services' revised rule for accountable care organizations.  

Kaiser Health News: HHS Releases Final Regulations For ACOs
Kaiser Health News staff writers Phil Galewitz and Jenny Gold report: "The Obama administration on Thursday bowed to health industry concerns about its plans for Medicare accountable care organizations, making it easier for doctors and hospitals to participate in the program designed to lower medical costs. Physician and hospital groups applauded the changes in the final ACO rule announced by officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The administration is betting the new design will entice scores of health care providers to form into an untested health care model next year" (Galewitz and Gold, 10/20).

Kaiser Health News: It's A Federal Case
Minnesota Public Radio reporter Elizabeth Stawicki, as part of a partnership between Kaiser Health News, public radio member stations and NPR, writes: "Legal challenges to President Barack Obama's federal health care law are percolating around the nation, and one of them had a major court date Thursday in Minnesota. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit heard arguments in St. Paul on whether to revive a lawsuit brought by two Missouri residents" (Stawicki, 10/20). A version of this story aired on Minnesota Public Radio.

The Washington Post: Obama Administration Revises Medicare Rules For Coordinated Care
The move was greeted with jubilation by groups representing doctors and hospitals. But organizations for insurers and employers complained that the administration’s concessions increased the likelihood that providers will consolidate, reducing competition and driving up prices (Aizenman, 10/20).

Los Angeles Times: Changes Seek To Save Key Aspect Of Healthcare Law
The Obama administration moved Thursday to salvage a much-touted initiative in the new healthcare law aimed at controlling costs, revising regulations to encourage doctors, clinics and hospitals to take greater responsibility for improving patients' care. The new rules will reward healthcare providers who form partnerships to reduce the cost of caring for Americans on Medicare while also boosting quality, two goals of the sweeping overhaul the president signed last year (Levey, 10/20).

Politico: Health Cost-Cutting Program To Get Do-Over From HHS
The Obama administration needed final rules for its most ambitious health care payment reform program that could win over skeptical providers — and initial industry reaction suggests it just may have pulled that off. The final rule, released Thursday, lays the groundwork for creating accountable care organizations in Medicare, networks of doctors and hospitals that are rewarded for delivering care at lower cost by keeping a share of savings they produce (Feder and Millman, 10/20).

The Wall Street Journal: Rules Loosened For New Medicare Program
The program—a part of the 2010 health overhaul designed to cut costs—provides incentives for groups of medical professionals to provide every aspect of a patient's care, including preventive medicine and treatment after a patient leaves the hospital. If the coordination in the "accountable-care organizations" reduces costs, Medicare will reward the providers with a portion of the savings (Radnofsky, 10/21).

Politico: Supercommittee: Recycling Bin For Old Ideas?
Rather than taking the legislative all-star team's offer to make recommendations as an opportunity to offer big new ideas to solve a big problem, think tanks, congressional committees and outside interest groups read it as a good time to pull the leftovers off the shelf. Not terribly original but also not necessarily a bad approach, according to congressional experts (Allen and Kim, 10/20).

The Wall Street Journal: Health-Care Bill Opponents Eye March For Top Court Hearing
A small-business group opposed to the Obama administration’s health-care overhaul hopes the Supreme Court will hear the case in March, rather than schedule it in April, the last month the justices will hold arguments in their current term (Loten and Bravin, 10/20).

The New York Times: Wal-Mart Cuts Some Health Care Benefits
After trying to mollify its critics in recent years by offering better health care benefits to its employees, Wal-Mart is substantially rolling back coverage for part-time workers and significantly raising premiums for many full-time staff (Greenhouse and Abelson, 10/20).

The New York Times: Two Major Hospital Groups In City Explore A Partnership
Two of New York City's major hospital organizations are exploring a partnership that would give them a large share of the city's patients and make them a formidable rival for other city hospitals in tough economic times (Hartocollis, 10/20).

Los Angeles Times: Free Clinic Puts Emphasis On Prevention
Amid makeshift exam rooms and rows of dental chairs, the Sports Arena has been transformed into an enormous health fair. While waiting for treatment, patients watch videos about how to brush their teeth and learn about the amount of sugar in soda. They receive vaccinations and read fliers about healthy eating and exercise. The event, organized by the L.A.-based nonprofit CareNow, will run through Sunday and expects to treat 5,000 patients for high blood pressure, tooth decay and diabetes (Gorman, 10/21).

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