First Edition: June 13, 2012

Today's headlines feature reports about new government projections for the nation's health care spending and the latest from the campaign trail.  

Kaiser Health News: Drug Makers Say If Court Strikes Health Law, Medicare Discounts Could End
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Susan Jaffe writes: "Billions of dollars in drug savings for Medicare beneficiaries may come to an end if the Supreme Court overturns the 2010 federal health law, a drug industry spokesman said Tuesday" (Jaffe, 6/12). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Kaiser Permanente's Ross: There's No Effective Substitute For The Mandate (Video)
In this Kaiser Health News video, Murray Ross, director of the Kaiser Permanente Institute for Health Policy, says he believes that the health law's requirement that most Americans have coverage by 2014 or pay a fine is necessary. By design, says Ross (who is also a vice president in the part of the company that sells health plans), the "individual mandate" would attract both the healthier and sicker individuals to balance risk and the cost of coverage. This interview is part of KHN's video series "Supreme Uncertainty: What's Next After The Court Rules," which solicits views from public officials and policy experts about the upcoming Supreme Court ruling on the health law and its implications for the future of health care (6/12). Watch the video.

Kaiser Health News: Taking A Risk To Secure Health Insurance
In this Kaiser Health News "first-person" story, California-based writer Randy Dotinga explains how he hopes to obtain health insurance by going without: "Last January, I cancelled my existing, very expensive individual coverage through California's state-run high risk plan and became insurance-free to gain eligibility for the federal alternative. That means that if I get a cancer diagnosis tomorrow, I'll end up with huge medical bills. I did this because I want to take advantage of the federal government's efforts to help people like me who have pre-existing conditions and no access to a group plan" (Dotinga, 6/12). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Report: Health Spending Will Climb to Near One-Fifth Of GDP
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Christian Torres reports on new federal health spending estimates: "National health spending will account for nearly one-fifth of the U.S. economy in 2021, according to updated estimates from the federal government" (Torres, 6/12).

Also on Capsules, Sarah Barr reports on how Medicaid costs continue to be a drain on state budgets: "The economic outlook for the states is starting to brighten, but growth is slow and budgets still are tight, said the National Governors Association  and the National Association of State Budget Officers in their semi-annual fiscal survey of the states" (Barr, 6/12). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Wall Street Journal: Health-Care Law Or Not, Insurance Is Set To Change
As the Supreme Court prepares to rule on the federal health overhaul, health insurers are in the spotlight. The law has been reshaping the health insurers' business—requiring, for instance, that they spend a set share of premium dollars on health care, or send refunds to customers if they fall short—and this month could see the law vanish or change markedly. … Mark T. Bertolini, the Hartford, Conn., company's chief executive, says the new, more collaborative approach makes sense no matter what the court decides. The 56-year-old CEO spoke in an interview about the coming ruling and new consumer efforts, including a planned service similar to OpenTable, an online restaurant-reservation service (Mathews, 6/12).

The New York Times: Navigating The Health Care Maze
[Peter Kim] and his wife resorted to catastrophic coverage, paying out of pocket for routine medical care — until they discovered the health insurance exchange that Massachusetts set up in 2006. A linchpin of the state law passed under Mitt Romney as governor, which requires most residents to have health coverage, the exchange is an online marketplace meant to simplify buying insurance and thus help people find a plan they can afford. If the Supreme Court upholds President Obama’s federal health care law in a decision expected this month, proponents say that exchanges will be a crucial tool for extending insurance to most Americans (Goodnough, 6/12).

The Wall Street Journal: Steep Rise In Health Costs Projected
Economists have been puzzling over whether a three-year slowdown in the growth of health-care spending, prompted by the economy, portends a permanent change. Federal projections indicate that isn't the case (Radnofsky, 6/12).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Gov't. Report: With Or Without Obama's Law, US Health Care Costs Will Keep Outpacing The Economy
Despite a recent easing of medical costs, the nation's health care spending will keep outpacing economic growth for the foreseeable future, government experts said Tuesday in a forecast that signals more upheaval for Medicare and Medicaid, as well as private insurance (6/12).

Reuters/Chicago Tribune: Government Forecasts Modest Health Spending Growth
The annual growth rate for U.S. healthcare spending will hover near historic lows in 2013 and rise at a modest pace for much of the next decade, even if the Supreme Court allows the expansion of coverage to millions more Americans to proceed, a government report said on Tuesday (Morgan, 6/12).

Politico: Projections: ACA Will Have Small Impact On Spending Growth
Health care spending will spike in 2014 as millions of people gain coverage, but the overall rate of annual growth for the decade ending in 2021 will average 5.7 percent — 0.9 percentage point faster than the economy, according to new Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services projections released Wednesday (Dobias, 6/12).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Obama Doesn't Emphasize Health Care, Stimulus Because GOP Succeeded In Making Them Unpopular
Fighting for re-election, President Barack Obama is playing down his historic health care overhaul and the multibillion-dollar recession-fighting stimulus — two landmark efforts of his first three years in office. Those signature policies are unpopular, and voters clearly want the candidates to focus instead on jobs (6/12).

Politico: GOP Adjusts Health Care Strategy
The episode underscores both the GOP's recognition that it needs to be ready to respond to the Supreme Court's looming decision on the health care law and the delicacy with which Republicans must fashion that response. There's no time to waste: GOP leaders plan to bookend July with a weeklong debate on health care after the court releases its ruling in late June and a tax-cut fight at the end of the month (Sherman and Allen, 6/12).

Los Angeles Times: Romney Touts Healthcare Plans Ahead Of Supreme Court Ruling
With the Supreme Court on the verge of determining the fate of President Obama's healthcare overhaul, Mitt Romney sought to position himself Tuesday as a champion of affordable coverage for the middle class. In remarks to a few hundred supporters in the warehouse of an air-filter maker, Romney expanded on his pledge not just to repeal "Obamacare," but to replace it (Finnegan, 6/12).

The Washington Post: Romney Outlines Plan To Make Health-Care System Like 'Consumer Market'
Addressing supporters in Orlando, Romney fleshed out a plan that he proposed earlier, one that would apply free-enterprise principles to the nation's health-care system rather than operate it like a "government-managed utility," letting competition drive down prices and increase quality. He also vowed to divert federal Medicaid money and other federal funding to state governments, making them responsible for covering the uninsured. And he promised that his plan would help cover people with preexisting conditions, one of the more popular components of Obama's law (Rucker, 6/12).

Reuters/Chicago Tribune: Romney Sees 'Consumer' Healthcare After Obama Plan
Republican Mitt Romney on Tuesday laid out his vision for a "consumer market" healthcare approach to replace President Barack Obama's sweeping reform law, whether or not the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the legislation this month. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee told supporters in Orlando, Florida, that he would prevent people with pre-existing medical conditions with a history of health coverage from losing their insurance (6/12).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Promising The End Of 'ObamaCare,' Romney Health Care Vision Short On Detail
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee promised to help maintain coverage for those with pre-existing health conditions and expand tax breaks to individuals wishing to purchase health insurance directly, instead of through their employer. In some cases, his health care proposal entails turning over the problem to individual states (6/12).

Religion News Service/The Washington Post: Religious Leaders Ask HHS To Broaden Birth Control Exemption
A coalition of nearly 150 religious leaders, led by conservative Protestants, have petitioned the Obama administration to broaden the exemption that allows churches and some religious organizations to avoid a controversial new mandate that all health care insurers provide free contraception coverage (Gibson, 6/12).

Los Angeles Times: Use Of Imaging Tests Soars, Raising Questions On Radiation Risk
Advanced imaging adds about $100 billion to U.S. medical bills each year, said study leader Rebecca Smith-Bindman, a radiologist and epidemiologist at UC San Francisco. There is widespread agreement in the medical community that imaging tests are overutilized, particularly CT scans (Bardin, 6/12).

Los Angeles Times: CalPERS Health Premiums Expected To Jump Average Of 9.6% In 2013
California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the third-largest purchaser of health benefits in the country, said its health premiums next year are expected to increase 9.6% on average for nearly 1.3 million members. These recommended rates from the CalPERS pension and health benefits committee await full board approval Wednesday. If adopted, the rates for various health plans would take affect Jan. 1 (Terhune, 6/12).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: NYC Health Board Likes Big Drink Ban Proposal
New York City's Board of Health signaled strong support Tuesday for the mayor's plan to fight obesity by banning the sale of large, sugary beverages at local restaurants (6/12). 

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