First Edition: January 26, 2012

Today's health policy headlines include reports about House GOP plans to offer a 'replace' bill after the Supreme Court rules on the health law.

Kaiser Health News: Majority Of Americans Think Ideology Will Affect High Court's Ruling On Health Law
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey reports: "With the Supreme Court just two months away from hearing a historic legal challenge to the 2010 health law, nearly 60 percent of the public expects the justices to depend more on personal ideology than a legal analysis of the individual mandate, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation's January health tracking poll" (Carey, 1/26).

Kaiser Health News: Can Insurers Charge You More Due To A Pre-Existing Condition? (Video)
Kaiser Health News "Insuring Your Health" columnist Michelle Andrews answers questions regarding the confusion about whether pre-existing conditions matter when it comes to the cost of your health insurance premium (1/25).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Important New Understanding About Essential Benefits? Not Everyone Thinks So
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Marilyn Werber Serafini reports: "The Department of Health and Human Services today released a document intended to preview the kinds of benefits most health plans must offer starting in 2014. But one consumer advocate said it does not provide nearly enough information to be helpful" (Werber Serafini, 1/25). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: House GOP Leaders Want 'Replace' Bill Ready If Supreme Court Strikes Down Obama's Health Law
House Republican leaders are drafting a bill to replace President Barack Obama's health care overhaul if the Supreme Court strikes it down this summer. Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Pitts, chairman of a health care panel, says the GOP leadership wants to seize the opportunity if Obama's signature legislation is ruled unconstitutional (1/25).

Politico: House GOP To Offer Health Reform 'Replace' Plan After SCOTUS Rules
A top House Republican on Wednesday said GOP lawmakers will put forward an alternative to the health care reform law after the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the law. "We will be ready to respond to the Supreme Court decision, which is expected in June, with a replacement package," House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee chairman Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) told a small group of reporters in the Capitol on Wednesday. Pitts said he personally anticipates that the court could strike the mandate but is unlikely to strike the entire law (Haberkorn, 1/25).

The Washington Post: Center For Medicare And Medicaid Innovation Aims To Cut Health-Care Costs
The Obama administration touts it as a key solution to the nation's runaway health-care spending: a new national center set up by the 2010 health-care law to test and implement groundbreaking ways to cut costs while improving patient care. On Thursday, a little more than 14 months after the center opened, officials will release a report summarizing its progress: 16 recent initiatives, funded with more than $1.7 billion in federal money, that will involve more than 50,000 providers over the next five years (Aizenman, 1/26).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Consumer Groups Fear White House May Water Down Rule On User Friendly Health Plan Summaries
At issue is a requirement that health plans provide simple, standard summaries of coverage and costs to help consumers pick benefits that are right for them — a sort of "CliffsNotes" version of cryptic insurance company jargon. Consumer advocates say they fear the administration may heed industry complaints that the regulation as proposed last summer is too costly, burdensome and intrusive (1/26).

The New York Times: Analysis: Obama Returns To Familiar Theme In Case For 2nd Term
President Obama's election-year State of the Union address on Tuesday echoed a theme that has run through his career: Government and citizens are responsible together for the common good, even as they celebrate individualism and free markets. … Mr. Obama's argument reflects a long-standing debate, one that is especially divisive now, given Americans' polarization. … Yet voters are conflicted, as hostile toward government in the abstract as at any time in the history of polling, but demanding of government services, not least Medicare and Social Security (Calmes, 1/25).

Politico: House Members Demand 'Obama Memos' From White House
On Monday, The New Yorker published "The Obama Memos," Lizza's in-depth look at hundreds of pages of previously unreleased White House documents, including some involving the White House Office of Health Reform (WHOHR) and how it negotiated and decided upon health care reform legislation. In the letter sent to White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley on Tuesday, Chairman Fred Upton and three other members of the committee complain that their ongoing requests for these documents have been denied, despite President Barack Obama's promises to make such documents public (Byers, 1/25).

The Wall Street Journal: Care For Seniors Saps WellPoint Profit
WellPoint Inc.'s profit fell 39% as high medical costs for seniors continued taking a toll, bucking a trend of generally light costs seen elsewhere in the managed-care sector. The Indianapolis-based firm's results fell short of analysts' expectations, even though the company said it met its own guidance. WellPoint set financial targets for the new year that also missed Wall Street expectations (Kamp, 1/26).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Bill Gates Injects $750 Million Troubled Health Fund After Director Says He's Resigning
Bill Gates rode to the rescue of a beleaguered health fund Thursday by pledging $750 million to fight three of world's killer diseases. The Microsoft founder says the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's donation to the Geneva-based Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria comes on top of $650 million it contributed to the fund over the past decade (1/26).

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