First Edition: December 6, 2012

Today's headlines include a report that some in the GOP are urging lawmakers to support the idea of trading tax breaks for changes in safety-net programs.  

Kaiser Health News: Huge Experiment Aims To Save On Care For Poorest, Sickest Patients
Kaiser Health News staff writers Mary Agnes Carey and Sarah Varney, working in collaboration with USA Today, reports: "Patient advocates around the country, and some lawmakers in Congress, warn that managed care plans – some run by for-profit, publicly traded companies – are ill-equipped to deal with the complex health needs of those who are elderly, mentally ill or disabled. Advocates are looking closely at the experiences of patients like Saavedra in California to see what the pitfalls of the national program may be" (Carey and Varney, 12/6). Read the story or watch the video.

Kaiser Health News: Medicare Changes Loom As ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Negotiations Pick Up
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey talks with Jackie Judd about the "fiscal cliff" negotiations in Congress and possible cuts in federal spending on health care programs (12/5). Listen to the interview or read the transcript.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: KHN Changes How It Describes Medicaid Eligibility Level Under Health Law
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Phil Galewitz writes: "Since President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in March 2010, most news organizations including Kaiser Health News have reported that in 2014 the law would expand Medicaid coverage to nearly everyone with a household income below 133 percent of the federal poverty level, which this year is nearly $31,000 for a family of four. But that doesn’t describe the full picture for those newly eligible for Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program for the poor" (Galewitz, 12/5). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Washington Post: Some In GOP Urge Lawmakers To Back Tax Hikes For Changes In Safety-Net Programs
A growing chorus of Republicans is urging House leaders to abandon their staunch opposition to higher tax rates for the wealthy with the aim of clearing the way for a broad deal that would also rein in the cost of federal health and retirement programs (Montgomery and Helderman, 12/5).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: AP-GfK Poll: Support For Boosting Taxes On Rich; Fewer Now Back Cutting Government Services
Americans prefer letting tax cuts expire for the country's top earners, as President Barack Obama insists, while support has declined for cutting government services to curb budget deficits, an Associated Press-GfK poll shows. Fewer than half the Republicans polled favor continuing the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy. There's also a reluctance to trim Social Security, Medicare or defense programs, three of the biggest drivers of federal spending, the survey released Wednesday found (12/6).

Los Angeles Times: Public Wary Of Cutting Hospital Payments To Reduce Deficit
American voters may be concerned about government spending, but they don't want federal budget negotiators to cut payments to hospitals, a new poll indicates. Nearly seven in 10 registered voters said they oppose reductions in what the government Medicare and Medicaid health insurance programs pay hospitals, the survey found. Two-thirds believe that such cuts would harm access to healthcare (Levey, 12/5).

The New York Times: Interest Groups Push To Fill Margins Of Health Coverage
The chiropractors were out in force, lobbying for months to get their services included in every state's package of essential health benefits that will be guaranteed under the new health care law. … The acupuncturists were modest by comparison, ultimately focusing on a few states, like California, where they had the best odds of being included. … Both efforts seem to have shown results. Most of the roughly two dozen states that have chosen their essential benefits — services that insurance will have to cover under the law — have decided to include chiropractic care in their package (Goodnough, 12/5).

Politico: Medical Device Tax Set But Industry Still Fighting
The IRS has finalized details on the new medical device tax — as the medical device industry has redoubled its efforts to get it repealed. The 2.3 percent excise tax on many medical devices, which is part of the 2010 health care law, takes effect Jan. 1. On Wednesday, an Internal Revenue Service final rule detailed plans to levy the tax. It was originally projected to raise up to $20 billion in revenues over 10 years, but the Joint Committee on Taxation later estimated it would be around $29 billion (Millman, 12/6).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Olive Garden Owner Darden Restaurants To Hold Off Worker Changes Tied To Health Care Reform
The company, based in Orlando, Fla., is set to announce Thursday that none of its current full-time employees will have their status changed as a result of the new regulations. The move will come just two days after the company lowered its profit outlook for the year, citing failed promotions and negative publicity from its tests that used more part-time employees. The tests were aimed at keeping down costs tied to new health care regulations, which will require large companies to provide insurance to full-time workers starting in 2014 (12/5).

USA Today: Study Finds Hospital Bed Alarms Don't Deliver Results
Now a new University of Florida study casts doubt on one of hospitals' primary fall-prevention measures, bed alarms, which were designed to alert medical staff when patients are getting up when they're not supposed to.The study highlights a persistent problem for hospitals and the leading cause of injury and death for adults older than 65. U.S. emergency departments treat more than 2 million such injuries a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at a cost of about $30 billion (Gluck, 12/5).

The New York Times: Bigger Role Seen For Breast Cancer Drug
The widely prescribed drug tamoxifen already plays a major role in reducing the risk of death from breast cancer. But a new study suggests that women should be taking the drug for twice as long as is now customary, a finding that could upend the standard that has been in place for about 15 years (Pollack, 12/5).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Proponents For Abortion Coverage For Military Women Press To End Restrictions
Proponents of ending the ban on women in the military using their health insurance to pay for abortions in cases of rape and incest stepped up the political pressure on Wednesday, insisting that this year's defense bill be used to finally lift the prohibition (12/5).

The Wall Street Journal: Courts To Weigh Free Speech Rights In Pharmaceutical Marketing Cases
Free speech in prescription drug marketing will get a fresh look on Thursday when a federal appeals court in San Francisco considers whether a biotech executive committed fraud in touting a lung-disease drug (Burton, 12/5).

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This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 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.