First Edition: September 9, 2011

In today's headlines, reports about the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision blocking two health law challenges and the congressional debt panel's first meeting.

Kaiser Health News: Scoreboard: Tracking Health Law Court Challenges
Appeals courts have ruled on five challenges to the health law, and two more currently await appeals courts rulings. On Sept. 8, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on two challenges to the health law, brought by the Commonwealth of Virginia and Liberty University, and in both cases they vacated the district court ruling and instructed the lower court to dismiss the challenges. Kaiser Health News is tracking the status of 26 federal lawsuits seeking to overturn the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and will update those and other new cases on this page (Vaida and Eisenhower, updated 9/8).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Berwick Turns 65; Where To Find The Best Of Long-Term Care 
Now on the blog, Phil Galewitz writes that Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Chief Donald Berwick will turn 65 today and become a Medicare beneficiary. Also on the Capsules, Galewitz reports on a report released Thursday that details the availability of accessible, affordable and quality long term care to the elderly and disabled. Check out the blog.

The New York Times: Court Blocks Suit Against Health Law
A federal appellate court in Richmond, Va., on Thursday threw out a pair of cases challenging the constitutionality of President Obama's 2010 health care law, ruling for varying reasons that the plaintiffs did not have legal standing to sue (Sack, 9/8).

Los Angeles Times: Appeals Court Dismisses Challenges To Health Reform Law
A federal appeals court in Virginia on Thursday rejected two conservative challenges to President Obama's healthcare law, ruling that the legal dispute over the mandate to have insurance cannot be decided by judges until after 2014 when the tax penalty takes effect. The first decision overruled a Virginia judge, who was the first to declare the healthcare law unconstitutional, and it threw out the suit brought by Virginia Atty. Gen. Kenneth Cuccinelli on the grounds that he had no standing to sue in the first place. But the second decision could change the brewing legal battle over the healthcare law, which appears headed for a Supreme Court showdown early next year (Savage, 9/8).

The Associated Press: Obama’s Health Care Reform Survives Va. Challenges
The federal health care overhaul survived two lawsuits dismissed Thursday on technicalities, leaving President Barack Obama's signature initiative headed toward a final resolution in the U.S. Supreme Court as early as next year. It's possible the high court could rule on the issue by June 2012, in the midst of Obama's re-election bid (9/8).

The Wall Street Journal: Court Upholds Health Law
In a unanimous opinion Thursday, a three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond found that Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli lacked legal standing to bring his challenge. That threw out a ruling last year by a lower court judge who said Mr. Cuccinelli was entitled to sue and found the law's requirement to carry insurance went beyond Congress's powers under the U.S. Constitution (Adamy, 9/9).

The Washington Post: Appeals Court Rejects Va. Challenge To Federal Health-Care Law
In a surprise move, a three-judge panel of a federal appeals court based in Virginia has tossed out one of the most prominent challenges to the health reform law. This is the first appeals court to throw out a case for lack of standing after a lower court had ruled on the merits. It leaves the Affordable Care Act with an even scorecard in the courts, with one appeals court ruling in favor of the health-care law’s constitutionality and one against it. Both cases have centered on the law's individual mandate, which requires nearly all Americans to purchase health insurance beginning in 2014 (Kliff, 9/8).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Obama Would Pay For Jobs Plan With Spending Cuts, Tax Hikes And Trimming Medicare And Medicaid
President Barack Obama wants to pay for his new $450 billion jobs plan with a mixture of tax increases, spending cuts and trims to Medicare and Medicaid. He says he’ll release specifics a week from Monday along with a proposal to stabilize the country’s long-term debt (9/8).

The New York Times: A Bipartisan Move To Tackle Benefits Programs
In a significant shift driven by bipartisan concern about the looming long-term debt, Republicans and Democrats are no longer fighting over whether to tackle the popular entitlement programs — Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — but over how to do it (Calmes and Pear, 9/8).

The Washington Post: Senators Meet Privately On Urging Broad Debt-Reduction Plan From Supercommittee
More than two dozen senators from both parties met privately this week to revive hopes of a grand debt-cutting bargain — exploring how to push the newly formed debt "supercommittee" to find far more than its assigned goal of $1.5 trillion in deficit reductions. The senators want at least $3 trillion slashed from the deficit over the next decade. In addition, they plan to press the committee to pass a major tax overhaul to lower rates and close special-interest loopholes, as well as changes to entitlement programs such as Medicare, according to several participants (Wallsten, 9/8).

Los Angeles Times: Deficit Reduction Panel Starts On Bipartisan Note
The first meeting of the super-committee on deficit reduction opened in outwardly bipartisan fashion, with members unanimously approving ground rules as it begins the daunting task of cutting federal deficits by $1.5 trillion by Thanksgiving. That may be the only uncontested vote the 12-member panel takes in the months ahead (Mascaro, 9/9).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Congressional Debt Reduction Panel Starts Its Work With Vows To Lift Sluggish Economy
In an early show of optimism, Republicans and Democrats on a powerful committee charged with cutting deficits pledged Thursday to aim higher than their $1.2 trillion target, work to boost job creation and reassure an anxious nation that Congress can solve big problems. Tax reform as well as cuts to benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare will be among the options considered, members of the so-called supercommittee emphasized, although no specific proposals were debated at an opening session than ran scarcely an hour (9/8).

Politico:  Medicare Eligibility Age Should Go Up, Hospitals Say
The American Hospital Association has a strategy for heading off any more Medicare payment cuts: Tell Congress to get the money from Medicare beneficiaries instead. The association is urging its nearly 5,000 members to lobby Congress to raise the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67, in addition to other money-saving alternatives, according to spokeswoman Marie Watteau (Jaffe, 9/8).

Politico: Conservative Wonks: Talk Medicare
To conservative policy hands, one fiscal and policy problem stands well above virtually all others: Medicare. The federal health care program figures hugely in two crucial issues for whomever is sworn in as president in January 2013: it's the key force driving a widening deficit in the years to come and taming it is the necessary first step in a broad campaign of entitlement reform (Smith and Schultheis, 9/8).

Los Angeles Times: Texas Healthcare System Withering Under Gov. Perry
When Texas went to court last year to block President Obama's healthcare overhaul, Gov. Rick Perry pledged to do everything in his power to "protect our families, taxpayers and medical providers." Texas, he said, could manage its own healthcare. But in the 11 years the Republican presidential hopeful has been in office, working Texans increasingly have been priced out of private healthcare while the state's safety net has withered, leaving millions of state residents without medical care (Levey, 9/8).

The New York Times: Patient Data Posted Online In Major Breach Of Privacy
A medical privacy breach led to the public posting on a commercial Web site of data for 20,000 emergency room patients at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif., including names and diagnosis codes, the hospital has confirmed. The information stayed online for nearly a year. … Although medical security breaches are not uncommon, the Stanford breach was notable for the length of time that the data remained publicly available without detection (Sack, 9/8).

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