First Edition: May 10, 2012

Today's headlines include reports about Capitol Hill's guns vs. butter budget battles as well as news about Medicaid physician payments.   

Kaiser Health News: Medicare Spotlights Hospitals With Especially Costly Patients
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jordan Rau reports: "The government has identified hundreds of hospitals whose Medicare patients are incurring especially high bills, a first step toward using bonuses and penalties to encourage more efficient care" (Rau, 5/9). Read the story. Check out the interactive charts detailing Medicare spending by state and Medicare spending at individual hospitals.

Kaiser Health News: Lawsuit Challenges Medicaid Managed Care Decision In Missouri
KCUR's Elana Gordon, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "Molina Healthcare is suing the state arguing that Missouri changed the rules in the midst of a competitive bidding process. Molina is one of five companies currently managing care for about 430,000 of the state's Medicaid beneficiaries, who are mainly low-income children and pregnant women" (Gordon, 5/9). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill: Federal Budget: Health Care Politics Trumps Policy (Video)
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey and Jackie Judd discuss the congressional wrangling over the federal budget and what’s ahead for the automatic cuts scheduled for December (5/9). Watch the video or read the transcript.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Study: Privately Insured Kids Get More Care In ED
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Jenny Gold writes: "Insurance coverage may play a major role in the kind of care a patient receives, according to a study published in the most recent edition of The Journal of Pediatrics" (Gold, 5/10). Check out what else is on the blog.

NPR: House To Vote On GOP Bill Favoring Guns Over Butter
Republicans who control the House want to block some $55 billion worth of automatic cuts to the Pentagon budget next year. Instead, they want to cut funding for social programs such as food stamps, Medicaid and Meals on Wheels. The Obama administration has threatened to veto the legislation. But the president is willing to leave the Pentagon cuts in place for now, in hopes of bringing Republicans back to the bargaining table (Horsley, 5/10).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: House GOP Plan Cuts Food Stamps, Health Care, Other Social Programs To Stave Off Pentagon Cuts
Moving to protect the Pentagon, Republicans controlling the House are pressing cuts to food stamps, health care and pensions for federal workers as an alternative to an automatic 10 percent cut to the military come January. The automatic spending cuts, totaling $98 billion next year in a new estimate, are punishment for the failure of last year’s deficit-reduction "supercommittee" to strike a deal (5/10).

The Washington Post: House To vote ON GOP Plan That Would Forestall Pentagon Cuts
The House is expected to vote Thursday on a Republican plan that would spare the Pentagon from the deep across-the-board spending cuts envisioned as part of last summer’s debt-ceiling agreement, reviving what has been an emotional debate in Washington about the best ways to reduce the federal budget deficit. … To forestall the defense hit, the GOP proposal would cut funding for food stamps, eliminate key pieces of the federal health-care law and slash funding designed to help the government better monitor the financial sector (Helderman, 5/9).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Top Senate Democrat Reid Stands Behind Automatic Defense Cuts to Pressure GOP On Budget
President Barack Obama's top Democratic ally in the Senate said Wednesday that he won't block much-feared automatic spending cuts to the Pentagon and Medicare providers from taking effect unless Republicans show more flexibility on cutting the budget deficit (5/9).

Politico: Harry Reid: No Rollback Of Automatic Budget Cuts
In his strongest words yet, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid warned Wednesday that he is not prepared to stop automatic spending cuts in January unless Republicans accept a more "balanced" approach to deficit reduction including revenues (Rogers, 5/9).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Medicare Paid $5.6B to 2,600 Pharmacies With Patterns Of Questionable Billing
Medicare paid $5.6 billion to 2,600 pharmacies with questionable billings, including a Kansas drugstore that submitted more than 1,000 prescriptions each for two patients in just one year, government investigators have found (5/10).

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Progress Made On How Medicare Pays Doctors
A Democratic congresswoman and Republican congressman made a small move forward in an effort to change the way Medicare pays doctors Wednesday, introducing a bill that would end regular congressional scrambles to stave off physician pay cuts by tapping savings from winding down the war in Afghanistan (WSJ Staff, 5/9).

Politico: GOP Grills HHS ON Rising Payroll, Travel Costs
Too-big-to-fail banks? Meet "too-big-to-control" government. That's the label House Republicans slapped on the Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday during a hearing on the agency's spending (Chaney, 5/9).

The Washington Post: Medicaid Payments To Primary Care Doctors Will Rise Under New Regulation
Primary care doctors could get a pay raise next year for treating Medicaid patients, under a rule announced by the Obama administration Wednesday (Aizenman, 5/9).

The New York Times: Working Late, By Choice Or Not
With the value of many 401(k)'s and homes taking a beating during the recession and with energy and health care prices climbing, many who dreamed that retirement was just around the corner have reluctantly kicked their retirement plans down the road (Greenhouse, 5/9).

The Wall Street Journal: Health Exchanges Vex GOP
The controversy over President Barack Obama's sweeping health-insurance law is putting the nation's 29 Republican governors in an awkward position. On one hand, opposition to "Obamacare," as opponents derisively dub it, is now doctrine among Republicans and a winner among many voters. On the other, a pillar of the Affordable Care Act, as it is formally known, is the creation of exchanges, online state marketplaces where individuals and small business can shop for coverage from competing private insurers. A lot of Republican governors like the concept (Wessel, 5/9).

The New York Times: After Questions On Tactics, Accretive Cuts Forecast
Despite a surge in revenue in the first quarter, Accretive Health on Wednesday lowered its earnings estimate for 2012 because of the loss of an important contract amid accusations that the medical debt-collection company had used overly aggressive tactics (Silver-Greenberg, 5/9).

Politico: Republicans Find Lots To Love In PhRMA
If Republicans are mad about PhRMA's betrayal during the health reform debate, they sure have a funny way of showing it. Even though the pharmaceutical trade group was the first industry group to make a deal with the Obama administration to support health reform, Republicans are working hard to fast-track the passage of the industry's top legislative priority — the reauthorization of the Food and Drug Administration "user fee" bill that regulates drug approvals (Feder, Norman and Dobias, 5/9).

The New York Times' The Caucus Blog: Brown Releases First TV Ad
Ms. Warren's campaign rebuked the advertisement in an e-mail to supporters on Wednesday afternoon, calling it "misleading" and citing several of Mr. Brown's votes alongside his fellow Republicans, including his votes against recent Senate jobs packages; the Buffet rule, which would have increased taxes on some of the nation's highest earners; and in support of the Blunt Amendment, which would have allowed employers to refuse to provide birth control coverage on employee health insurance plans (Bidgood, 5/9).

Los Angeles Times: California Medical Spending Grew In 2009, But Rate Slowed
Californians spent less per person for healthcare in 2009 than residents of all but eight other states. But the total tab is mounting, according to a new report from the California HealthCare Foundation. Total spending for healthcare in California was $230 billion, nearly triple the level in 1991 (McMahon, 5/9).

The Wall Street Journal: Massachusetts Is Closer To Controlling Health Costs
Just days after the House introduced a long-awaited proposal that set a target growth rate for health spending and establish a new authority to oversee it, the Senate on Wednesday afternoon released its own bill that sets similar, albeit less-aggressive, goals (Levitz, 5/9).

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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.