First Edition: October 28, 2011

In today's headlines, reports about the health law's public support, the latest on the super committee and news about the cost of Medicare Part B premiums.

Kaiser Health News: Public Support Of Health Law Drops Sharply
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jordan Rau writes: "Public support of last year's health care law hit an all-time low in October as many Democratic voters lost confidence that one of President Barack Obama's major programs will improve their lives, a new poll finds. For the first time, as many people believe the law won't make the country better off as believe it will. The poll found that 51 percent of the public now dislikes the law and only 34 percent favor it. The scores were the least favorable in the 19 months the Kaiser Family Foundation has been tracking public perceptions (Rau, 10/28).

Kaiser Health News: Seniors Get A Break On Medicare Part B Premiums
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey reports: "For most beneficiaries, premiums will be $99.90 a month in 2012, a $3.50 increase over the $96.40 paid this year by a majority of elderly and disabled beneficiaries. Part B pays for physician visits, hospital outpatient costs and certain other services. Earlier this year, Medicare trustees had predicted that Part B premiums would increase to $106.60 next year" (Carey, 10/27).

Kaiser Health News: State Medicaid Spending Skyrockets
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz reports: "State Medicaid spending is projected to grow by an average of 29 percent in the budget year that began July 1, the biggest increase in the history of the federal-state health insurance program for the poor and disabled, according to a report released Thursday” (Galewitz, 10/27).

Kaiser Health News: Managing Asthma With More Than Medicine
WHYY reporter Taunya English filed this story as part of a reporting partnership that includes Kaiser Health News, NPR and member stations: "Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease that requires lifestyle changes to tamp down triggers and vigilance to ward off attacks. In a typical attack, airways become inflamed and swollen; muscles squeeze and tighten; and mucus build-up makes breathing difficult. But it's the time after the attack that can make managing the disease a challenge" (English, 10/27). This story is part of the series "In the Gap: Voices from the Health Divide," a news and dialogue partnership between WHYY and 900 AM WURD.

The Wall Street Journal: Repeal Health Law? It Won't Be Easy
Every Republican presidential candidate has promised to repeal the Obama administration's health-care overhaul. But despite full-throated criticism, it's going to be hard for any of them to fulfill that pledge if elected. Standing in the way of that seemingly simple campaign promise—an article of faith among GOP voters—is a welter of practical and political obstacles (Radnofsky, 10/29).

Politico: Kaiser Poll Finds Drop In Democratic Support For Law
The health care reform law's popularity hit an all-time low this month, largely driven by Democrats' eroding confidence in the historic overhaul, according to a new poll released Friday. Just 34 percent of those surveyed said they have a favorable view of the Affordable Care Act, the lowest ranking in Kaiser Family Foundation's monthly Health Tracking Poll since the law passed in March 2010. By contrast, 51 percent said they have an unfavorable view (Millman, 10/28).

The Washington Post: Boehner Rejects Democrats' $3 Trillion Deficit Reduction Proposal To 'Supercommittee'
Amid a flurry of counter-proposals from the deficit-reduction committee, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday rejected a Democratic offer to slash $3 trillion from future debts because it contained significant tax increases. While GOP negotiators offered a slimmer package of savings with virtually no tax hikes, Boehner said the Democratic request for $1.3 trillion in new tax revenue was a non-starter and gave his most pessimistic outlook to date that the so-called "supercommittee" would achieve its deficit target by its Thanksgiving deadline (Kane and Helderman, 10/27).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Deficit-Reduction Panel Weighs Proposals To Slow Benefits COLAs, Raise Taxes On Some
Rival deficit-cutting plans advanced by Republicans and Democrats on Congress' secretive supercommittee would both mean smaller-than-expected cost of living benefit increases for veterans and federal retirees as well as Social Security recipients and bump up taxes for some individuals and families, according to officials familiar with the recommendations. In all, the changes would reduce deficits by an estimated $200 billion over a decade, a fraction of the committee’s minimum goal of $1.2 trillion in savings (10/27).

Politico: Parties Still Far Apart On Supercommittee Deficit Deal
Rank-and-file Democrats are sniping at the nearly $3 trillion budget-cutting proposal put forth by members of their party who are on the supercommittee; Republicans are taking shots at their own leadership; and House Speaker John Boehner's top aides advised members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction that the Democratic offer is "not a serious proposal" (Sherman and Bresnahan, 10/27).

The New York Times: Rise In Medicare Premium Is Lower Than Predicted
Administration officials rejoiced at the modest increase, which could pay political dividends to President Obama as he tries to win the votes of older Americans in his bid for re-election (Pear, 10/27).

The Associated Press/Los Angeles Times: Medicare Monthly Premiums For 2012 To Be Lower Than Expected
The new Part B premium for outpatient care will be $99.90 a month for 2012, about $7 less than projected as recently as May. The bottom line: Most seniors will pay an additional $3.50 a month next year, instead of $10.20, as forecast earlier (10/27).

The Washington Post: Medicare Part B Premium Increase To Be Less Than Expected
The announcement was the third piece of good news about Medicare premiums this year. The White House said in August that premiums would drop 4 percent in Medicare Advantage, the privately run alternative to the traditional program. Premiums for Medicare's prescription drug program, Part D, also will drop slightly in 2012 (Kliff, 10/27).

The Wall Street Journal: Medicare Premiums Rise Less Than Expected
Medicare trustees predicted earlier this year they would boost premiums by up to $10 a month for most beneficiaries. A law prevents most Medicare premiums from rising if Social Security payouts stay flat, which has been the case since 2009. The premiums paid by those not in a high-income category have been frozen for three years because of the law. But the Social Security Administration said last week that recipients will see a 3.6% cost-of-living increase in their checks next year. That allowed Medicare's costs to be spread across more recipients, not just those with higher incomes (Radnofsky, 10/27).

The New York Times: In Small Burst Of Bipartisanship, House Passes Two Pieces Of Jobs Bill
More controversial was another measure that passed the House on Thursday, this one meant to compensate for the projected loss in withholding revenues and fix an apparent error in the health care law, under which hundreds of thousands of middle-income early retirees can get nearly free Medicaid coverage meant for the poor. Under the new measure, those recipients would no longer be eligible. … While Obama administration officials have acknowledged that the coverage was unintended when the legislation was written, it is popular among many Democrats who believe it is a way for retirees who cannot afford health care plans to obtain them (Steinhauer, 10/27).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: House Votes To Trim Some Medicaid, Other Subsidies Under Obama's Health Care Overhaul
The House has voted to make it harder for hundreds of thousands of people to qualify for Medicaid under the president’s health care overhaul. The Congressional Budget Office says that would knock 500,000 to 1 million people off coverage by the federal insurance program for the poor — though some would qualify to buy coverage under new insurance exchanges. The budget office has estimated the change would save about $13 billion over the next decade (10/27).

Politico: House Passes Measure To Correct Medicaid Glitch
The House easily passed a bill Thursday to strike out part of President Barack Obama's health care law in a vote that had the White House's strong support — but much less from House Democrats. The bill, which passed 262-157, fixes a widely cited glitch in the law's expansion of Medicaid that would have allowed up to 3 million middle-class couples earning as much as $64,000 onto the already struggling Medicaid rolls starting in 2014 (Millman, 10/27).

NPR Shots Blog: A Tweak To Health Law would Eliminate Medicaid For Some
Should the middle class be eligible for Medicaid? The health program, funded jointly by the feds and the states, was devised to cover the poor. But if a provision in last year's health law isn't changed that could be the case for people with pretty healthy incomes. So today, the House approved a bill that would make the change. The bill is backed by President Obama, among others, and it passed relatively easily in a vote of 262-157 (Rovner, 10/27).

The Washington Post: State Spending On Medicaid Up Sharply
The expiration of federal stimulus funding for Medicaid has dealt a blow to states still struggling to recover from the economic downturn, according to figures released Thursday. To compensate for the loss of extra federal Medicaid dollars this June, states have increased their spending on the program by an average of 29 percent in the current fiscal year (Aizenman, 10/27).

Los Angeles Times: California Gets OK For Large Cuts To Medi-Cal
The Obama administration will allow California to cut hundreds of millions of dollars from Medi-Cal, a move doctors and experts say will make it harder for the poor to get medical treatment. California plans to reduce rates by 10% to many providers, including physicians, dentists, clinics, pharmacies and most nursing homes, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Thursday (Gorman, 10/28).

The Wall Street Journal: Insurers Agree To Share Data
Seven more health insurers have agreed to disclose the details of their requests for insurance-rate increases in New York, bringing a standoff with state regulators closer to an end (Rappaport and Scism, 10/28).

Los Angeles Times: 17 Accused Of Medicare Fraud
A physician, a pharmacist and 15 others have been charged with bilking Medicare and Medi-Cal out of millions of dollars in an elaborate prescription drug fraud that resulted in the government paying over and over for the same pills (Girion, 10/28).

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