Health Care 2012: Medicare Faces Big Changes, New State Laws Include Abortion Issues

News outlets began 2012 by looking ahead at what is promising to be a busy health care year, especially because of the 2010 federal health law.

The Associated Press: 2012 Medicare Debate Is All About The Baby Boomers
Baby boomers take note: Medicare as your parents have known it is headed for big changes no matter who wins the White House in 2012. You may not like it, but you might have to accept it. ... Limit the overall growth of Medicare spending? It's in both approaches. Squeeze more money from upper-income retirees and some in the middle-class? Ditto. Raise the eligibility age? That too, if the deal is right (Alonso-Zaldivar, 1/1).

NPR: A New Year's Forecast For The Health Care Bill 
One of the biggest political question marks going into 2012 is the fate of the Affordable Health Care for America Act. Audie Cornish speaks with Noam Levey of the Los Angeles Times about what's ahead for Americans in terms of health care in the new year, including a constitutional challenge to the law's mandatory health care provision (1/1).

The New York Times: What to Expect in New York in 2012
The federal health care overhaul will introduce a new catchphrase, "accountable care," really a system of financial incentives for doctors, clinics and hospitals to coordinate care and reduce costs. To make accountable care work, hospital systems are likely to become bigger than ever, with academic medical centers gobbling up smaller community hospitals. Patient satisfaction will be their new mantra, even as they argue that patients cannot always tell the difference between great care and great atmosphere (Hartocollis, 1/1).

The Wall Street Journal: Voter ID Laws Lead Flurry of New Statutes
Higher discounts on generic drugs for some Medicare patients and a pilot program to test new payment methods and better coordinate care for others in the program will take effect in January under the far-reaching federal healthcare law, which will go to the Supreme Court for arguments in March (Smith, 12/31).

Kaiser Health News: New Year, New Health Care Battles
KHN reporters preview some of the big issues coming this year: The GOP's fight to repeal the law and what the party can offer instead; states' efforts to beat back growing Medicaid costs; consumers' troubles affording care (12/21).

The California Report/KQED: New Year Brings New Health Care Laws
Some new laws and regulations taking effect in 2012 affect health care in the Golden State. Insurers who offer individual and small group coverage must spend at least 80 percent of premiums on actual medical care. And legislators will continue laying the groundwork for the health insurance marketplace mandated by federal health care reform (Varney, 1/2).

Los Angeles Times: New Year Brings New Laws In California
Of 760 bills signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011, most take effect Jan. 1. Here are some highlights. ... Maternity leave: requires employers to maintain and pay for health coverage while women are on maternity leave. Medical consent: gives children 12 and older the authority to get medical care for the prevention of sexually transmitted disease, including the HPV vaccine, without parental consent (McGreevy, 12/31).

The Texas Tribune: What Will 2012 Hold for Texas Politics, Policy?
The new year will determine how Texas proceeds with two contentious public health matters: family planning and the state’s huge uninsured population. The Obama administration has rejected Republican state lawmakers’ efforts to block Planned Parenthood from participating in the Medicaid Women’s Health Program, but has extended the program into March so the state can reconsider its options. ... It’s a game of who will blink first, with cancer screenings and birth control for some 130,000 low-income Texas women hanging in the balance (Ramshaw, 1/1).

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Doomsday Forecasts Aside, Changes Coming In 2012
A 20-20 party split in the Virginia Senate, with the tie-breaking vote cast by Lt. Gov. Bolling, a Republican, makes it likely that numerous pieces of legislation previously killed by the Senate Democratic majority will now sail comfortably through the General Assembly and land on the desk of Gov. Bob McDonnell. Already, women's-rights advocates predict that new rules regulating abortion clinics like hospitals, recently signed by McDonnell, will lead to the closing of some of the state's 21 first-trimester abortion clinics (Nolan, 1/1).

The Tennessean: Health Care Faces A Year Of Uncertainty
[L]egislators in Tennessee have been mulling over whether the state should create its own health insurance exchange. The issue is likely to be a tough one for politicians and state bureaucrats, which may be why several lawmakers, including Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, have suggested deferring it until after the election. While politicians continue to debate what to do about health care, clinicians on the front lines will continue trying to meet the needs of the uninsured at community health clinics, which are receiving less federal funding in the wake of budget cuts (Wilemon, 1/1).

Mississippi Clarion Ledger: 2012 Legislature: Power, Agenda In GOP's Grip
Health care also could become a big issue as the state meets requirements under the federal health care overhaul, which stands to add more than 400,000 people to the Medicaid rolls. Lawmakers have discussed possible changes in Medicaid services (Crisp and Bakeman, 12/31).

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.