First Edition: May 9, 2012

Today's headlines include details of the Institute of Medicine report on the nation's obesity epidemic.  

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: These Health Law Bets Aren’t A Figure Of Speech
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jay Hancock, writing for the blog, Capsules, reports: "The stakes are high in the Supreme Court’s consideration of the 2010 health law, as countless commentators have observed. In some circles, however, the gambling metaphor has been pushed to its logical conclusion" (Hancock, 5/8). Check out what else is on the blog.

The New York Times: Republicans In Senate Block Bill On Student Loan Rates
Senators said quiet negotiations had begun to resolve the impasse, but Democrats sought to raise the political pressure. … [T]he Republicans would not accept the Senate Democrats’ proposal to pay for a one-year extension by changing a law that allows some wealthy taxpayers to avoid paying Social Security and Medicare taxes by classifying their pay as dividends, not cash income. But the Democratic line of attack has been complicated by the House’s actions. Shrugging off a veto threat, the House passed an extension of the subsidized rate last month, paid for with the preventive health care fund (Weisman, 5/8).

Los Angeles Times: Senate Republicans Block Proposal To Keep Student Loan Rates Low
Republicans also want to avoid raising the rate on college loans, but would pay for it by eliminating a public health fund in Obama's new healthcare law. The stalemate comes as both parties turn routine legislative votes into campaign debates (Mascaro, 5/8).

The Associated Press/Los Angeles Times: GOP Blocks Senate Debate On Dem Student Loan Bill
Republicans said they favor preventing the interest rate increase but blocked the Senate from debating the $6 billion measure because they oppose how Democrats would pay for it: Boosting Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes on high-earning stockholders of some privately owned corporations. GOP senators want a vote on their own version heading off the interest rate increases and paid for by eliminating a preventive health fund created by President Barack Obama's 2010 health care overhaul (5/8).

Politico: Jawboning By HHS Doesn't Scare Insurers
The health reform law gave HHS the power to scrutinize "unreasonable" rate hikes in states that didn't have robust review programs. But "scrutiny" doesn’t give the department power to actually block the rates from going into effect. HHS can use its bully pulpit to publicly shame insurers whose rates don't pass its sniff test – and HHS has done just that, holding four media calls since November to scold insurers each time it’s made a new "unreasonable" determination (Millman, 5/8).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Report Calls Schools Key To Fighting Obesity Epidemic But Says Changes Are Needed Society-Wide
Fighting obesity will require changes everywhere Americans live, work, play and learn, says a major new report that outlines dozens of options — from building more walkable neighborhoods to zoning limits on fast-food restaurants to selling healthier snacks in sports arenas (5/8).

Los Angeles Times: Obesity Vs. 'Nanny State'? Recommendations Lead To Backlash
A new report offers some of the most radical and sweeping recommendations yet for battling the nation's obesity problem, including: banning sugary drinks and junk food at schools, monitoring how much weight pregnant women gain, requiring child-care facilities to make sure young wards stay active, restricting the types of foods that can be marketed to children and putting the boss in charge of watching a workers' bottom line. … The Institute of Medicine would also encourage an infrastructure overhaul: that is, building communities that emphasize physical activity, such as adding sidewalks to encourage walking, running and biking (Lynch, 5/8).

The Wall Street Journal: The ABCs Of Beating Obesity
Obesity is so entrenched in the U.S. that it would take an intense push by schools, employers, doctors and others to reverse an epidemic that accounts for billions of dollars in annual health-care costs, concluded a report released Tuesday (McKay, 5/8).

The New York Times: Bans On School Junk Food Pay Off In California
Five years after California started cracking down on junk food in school cafeterias, a new report shows that high school students there consume fewer calories and less fat and sugar at school than students in other states. The findings suggest that state policies can be successful to some extent in influencing the eating habits of teenagers (O'Connor, 5/8).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Fidelity: Retired Couple Needs $240,000 For Health Costs, Up 4 Percent From 2011 Estimate
Couples retiring this year can expect their medical bills throughout retirement to cost 4 percent more than those who retired a year ago, according to an annual projection released Wednesday by Fidelity Investments. The estimated $240,000 that a newly retired couple will need to cover health care expenses reflects the typical pattern of projected annual increases (5/9).

NPR: When Religious Rules And Women's Health Collide
When you go to the hospital these days, chances are good that it will be affiliated with a religious organization. And while that may might just mean the chaplain will be of a specific denomination or some foods will be off limits, there may also be rules about the kind of care allowed (Rovner, 5/8).

The Washington Post: Virginia Poll: Kaine, Allen Still Tied In Much-Watched Senate Contest
Yet the new poll includes some negative trends for Kaine: Registered voters are now equally divided in their impression of him, with 41 percent apiece viewing the Democrat favorably and unfavorably. A year ago, Kaine’s rating was 2 to 1 positive, at 57 to 28 percent. Kaine's decline could be the partial result of negative ads that have aired against him in the state and efforts by Republicans to link him to health-care reform, the stimulus package and other controversial Obama administration policies (Pershing and Craighill, 5/8).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: Chamber To Run Congressional Ads
The ads, hitting Democratic incumbents over votes for President Barack Obama's health care overhaul and backing his energy policies, will begin airing Wednesday and Thursday and run for 10 days to two weeks, part of a multimillion-dollar buy six months before the election. The ads in House races will focus on contests in New York, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Rhode Island, Florida and Georgia (5/8).

Los Angeles Times: Kelly Thomas Video A Turning Point For Mental Health Care?
This week, after the tape was played for the first time in court, it exploded in the public consciousness — one YouTube version had been viewed 91 times each minute — and became an instant touchstone for those who advocate for a more robust and effective mental health system. Advocates for the mentally ill said they viewed the recording, the centerpiece of the prosecution's case against two officers accused in Thomas' death, as something akin to their Rodney King video (Gold, Winton and Sewell, 5/8).

The Washington Post: Report: D.C. Children Who Need Mental Health Services Not Getting Help They Need
Thousands of District children who need mental health services are not getting them, and the city’s complex system relies too heavily on institutionalizing and medicating those who do receive care, according to a report issued this week by a leading advocacy group (Moyer, 5/8).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: NY Fines 15 Insurers Over Mental Health Notices
New York regulators have fined 15 insurers $2.7 million for failing to notify small businesses they were eligible to buy special coverage for mental illnesses and children with serious emotional disturbances (5/8). 

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