First Edition: November 6, 2012

Today's headlines include an array of stories previewing today's election possibilities and what the outcome might mean for the health law, Medicare and the health care industry.

Kaiser Health News: Election Will Decide Health Law's Future
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jay Hancock reports: "The highest court in the country upheld most of the Affordable Care Act in June. But everybody knew it was only an overture. The law 'will fall in November by a vote of the American people,' Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant pledged that day, speaking for many other Republicans. Democrats were more reluctant to paint the election as a referendum on what even they came to call 'Obamacare.' But privately they admitted the stakes" (Hancock, 11/5). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Employers Expected To Keep Some Of Health Law's Popular Provisions, Even If Obama Loses
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Appleby reports: "Employers will continue looking for ways to cap expenses, moving toward higher deductible policies, or placing limits on how much they pay toward their workers' premiums -- both trends that predate the federal health law, analysts say" (Appleby,11/5). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Health Care Stakes Are High In California
Kaiser Health News staff writer Sarah Varney reports: "More than any other state, California has wagered heavily on the Affordable Care Act: It has moved quickly to erect an insurance exchange and establish the high risk pool. It's also codified federal consumer protections into state law. In 2010, the state signed a $10 billion Medicaid waiver with the Obama administration that has allowed counties here – from Democratic Los Angeles to Republican San Diego – to enroll as many as 500,000 low-income adults into a 'Medicaid-lite' program years ahead of the law’s expansion of the federal-state program for the poor. Similar to the high risk pool, 'Medicaid-lite,' which is officially called the Low Income Health Plan, is envisaged as a temporary measure until January 2014. That’s when California would open up its Medicaid program to millions of poor people, an expansion paid for largely by the federal government" (Varney, 11/5). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Medicare Trying To Nudge Seniors Out Of Plans With Low Ratings
Reporting for Kaiser Health News in collaboration with USA Today, Susan Jaffe writes: "Medicare officials are trying a novel approach during this open enrollment season to gently nudge a half million beneficiaries out of 26 private drug and medical plans that have performed poorly over the past three years. It begins with letters informing seniors they are enrolled in a plan that received low ratings" (Jaffe, 11/5). Read the story or check out the related chart.

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Dispelling Some Rumors About Medicare And The Health Law Limiting Care
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews answers questions from readers about provisions in the Affordable Care Act related to drugs and medical-care coverage under Medicare and high-risk insurance plans (11/5). Read the column.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Less Experienced Doctors Cost Health System More; Are ACOs Doomed To Fail?; Study: Depression A Leading Risk For Higher Health Spending
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Jenny Gold reports on a commentary on the future of ACOs: "Accountable care organizations are widely touted as one of the most effective cost-containing measures of the 2010 federal health law. Yet they have a great deal in common with the integrated delivery networks of the 1990s, leaving some wondering whether the bold experiment might come to the same disappointing end" (Gold, 11/5).

Also on Capsules, Jordan Rau writes about a new study finding that depression is a leading driver of health spending: "Depression was the most costly among 10 common risk factors linked to higher health spending for employees, according to a new study of seven companies. The study published in Health Affairs found that the 10 factors — which also included obesity, high blood sugar and high blood pressure — were associated with nearly a quarter of the money spent on the health care of the workers" (Rau, 11/6).

In addition, Alvin Tran reports on a study about the physicians who may cost the health system more:  A new study "found that doctors with less experience spend more money treating patients than their veteran colleagues" (Tran, 11/5). Check out what else is on the blog.  

The Associated Press/Washington Post: No More Days: Obama, Romney Fight On Into The Night At The End Of Long Presidential Campaign
The White House the prize, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney raced through a final full day of campaigning on Monday through Ohio and other battleground states holding the keys to victory in a tight race. Both promised brighter days ahead for a nation still struggling with a sluggish economy and high joblessness (11/5).

The Wall Street Journal: Obama And Romney Battle Down To Wire
After more than one million television ads, countless appearances and three contentious debates, the 2012 presidential election remained on a knife's edge with both candidates seeking to shore up support in states crucial to their chances Tuesday. … With the margin of victory for the winner expected to be narrow, a likely outcome is a political system as split as the country. It isn't clear either party would be positioned to emerge Wednesday with a clear mandate for tackling some the nation's biggest problems—including the looming tax increases and spending cuts known as the fiscal cliff (Meckler and Murray, 11/5).

The Washington Post: On Election Eve, President Obama Has A Slim Edge In Polls
President Obama held a slim advantage in national and battleground polls going into Election Day as the candidates made their last mad dashes across swing-state America and their campaigns braced for a day of intense battle — and the legal fights that may follow. A Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll showed Obama at 50 percent to Republican challenger Mitt Romney's 47 percent. That is Obama's best showing since July and a reversal of the three-percentage-point edge Romney held last month (Fahrenthold and Barnes, 11/5).

Los Angeles Times: Wall Street May Rally Regardless Of Presidential Election Winner
If nothing else, the end of the grueling presidential campaign will bring a long-awaited dose of certainty to the stock market. Given the divergent economic and fiscal policies of President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, investors have strained for months to divine who will win and how they should position their portfolios. … A second Obama term, for example, could boost shares of technology and alternative-energy companies. It also could help industries as varied as home builders, hospitals, fast-food chains and aluminum makers, analysts say. A Romney victory, by contrast, could lift financial-services firms, coal and other energy producers, high-end retailers and restaurants and dividend-paying companies. … Meanwhile, healthcare companies and their investors have been watching the campaign closely in light of Romney's repeated vow to repeal Obama's signature law, the Affordable Care Act. The federal healthcare overhaul imposes new rules on insurers and cuts reimbursements for many hospitals. But some experts think the net effect could be positive for many healthcare companies because the law expands coverage to an estimated 30 million Americans and requires most people to purchase health insurance (Hamilton, Terhune and Reckard, 11/6).

The Wall Street Journal: Democrats Outraise GOP In Senate Tossups
In the battle for the Senate, which could determine the next president's room for maneuver, Democrats have built a surprising advantage: They have outraised Republicans. In the 11 Senate races considered tossups, Democratic candidates outraised their Republican opponents by a combined $45 million, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal (Mullins and Bendavid, 11/5).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Health Care Appears On Some Ballots
When Florida voters cast their ballots, they will be asked to decide on a state constitutional amendment trying to block the federal health law's requirement that people purchase insurance or pay a penalty. They may find the question surprising following the Supreme Court's ruling in June that Congress had the authority to pass the individual mandate as part of its taxing power. … The question is appearing on the ballot because state legislators decided in 2011 to put it there. Florida lawmakers had tried to get a similar measure on the ballot for 2010 elections but state courts nixed it, saying the language was misleading. Similar questions are on ballots in Alabama, Montana and Wyoming, all placed there by state legislators before the Supreme Court's ruling. Some 16 states already had provisions on the books that tried to block the health law (Radnofsky,11/5).

The Wall Street Journal: Tough Calls On Deficit Await The Winner
If the winner of the presidential election wants to tackle America's groaning debt load, he will probably have to break a campaign promise or two. President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney have hammered at each other's plan for tackling the nation's growing debt. They are similar, though, in one key regard: Both offer prescriptions that largely exempt the vast middle class from the bitterest medicine (Paletta, 11/5).

The Washington Post: Young Workers' Retirement Hopes Grow Bleaker Amid Economic Downturn
As Washington turns in the coming weeks from the presidential election to the long-term debt issues facing the nation, the discussions will center on whether the country can afford programs such as Social Security and Medicare in their current form (Fletcher, 11/5).

The New York Times: Michigan Judge Temporarily Blocks Health Law Mandate On Birth Control
A federal judge has issued an order shielding a Michigan business from a requirement of the new health care law to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives at no charge to female employees (Pear, 11/5).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Federal Appeals court Begins Hearing Arguments For And Against Arizona's 20-Week Abortion Ban
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal cast a skeptical eye Monday on the country's most-restrictive abortion law, which prohibits the procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless there's a medical emergency. Even Judge Andrew Kleinfeld, a reliably conservative jurist appointed to the appeals court by former President George H.W. Bush, said Arizona’s law appears to wrongly prohibit abortions before "viability," when the fetus can live outside the womb. Viability is generally considered to occur sometime after 23 weeks of pregnancy. The county's seminal Supreme Court 1973 abortion ruling, Roe v. Wade, said states cannot prohibit abortions outright prior to viability (11/5).

NPR: For Simple Care, Retail Clinics Are A Popular Choice
If you've got the sniffles or need a shot, do you go to the doctor or stop in at a clinic in a nearby drugstore? Lots of people are opting for the clinics, which are springing up inside grocery stores, big-box retailers and chain drugstores across the country. There are already 1,388 clinics like these in the U.S., according to data from Merchant Medicine, a consulting firm (Hensley, 11/5).

The Washington Post: Previous Fungal Meningitis Outbreak A Decade Ago Resulted In No Oversight Changes
First, David Brannon couldn't believe it. Then he couldn't stand hearing about it. Hundreds of people were ill with fungal meningitis they had contracted after getting pain-killing injections made by a compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts. Dozens were dead, and the numbers were still rising (Brown, 11/5).

Politico: Nationwide Drug Recall Likely To Deepen Shortages
The recall of all drugs from a Massachusetts manufacturer — in the latest response to the meningitis outbreak — will most likely exacerbate a critical shortage of at least six drugs that were already in short supply. Hundreds of products were recalled Wednesday by Ameridose, a sister company to New England Compounding Center that is at the center of the Food and Drug Administration’s investigation into the fungal meningitis outbreak that has killed 29 and sickened more than 400. The FDA recommended the recall after saying that it "could not assure the sterility" of Ameridose products but has offered no other details (Norman, 11/6).

Los Angeles Times: Kaiser Permanente Promotes Longtime Executive To Be Next CEO
Kaiser Permanente's board said it would promote a veteran executive to be the next chairman and chief executive of the healthcare giant, effective next year. Bernard J. Tyson will replace George Halvorson, 65, who announced last month that he was retiring after a long tenure at the helm of the Oakland company. Halvorson was instrumental in building Kaiser into the nation's largest nonprofit insurer and hospital system, with more than 9 million customers and nearly $50 million in annual revenue. It employs 17,000 physicians nationwide (Terhune, 11/6).

Los Angeles Times: Health Net Posts Plunge In Profit, Strikes Deal With California
Woodland Hills insurer Health Net Inc. said third-quarter net income plunged 71%, but its shares rose as the company resolved a dispute with California officials over reimbursement for government health programs. Health Net disappointed investors in August when it slashed its full-year profit outlook and reported higher-than-expected medical costs. On Monday, Chief Executive Jay Gellert said the company was making progress on its turnaround plans. He cited a wide-ranging agreement with California healthcare officials as a major step forward (Terhune, 11/6).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Humana Posts Lower 3Q Net, Hikes 2012 Earnings Forecast, Names CEO, Deal To Expand In Florida
Health insurer Humana Inc. said Monday that its third-quarter net income fell 4 percent as more premium dollars from its members went to pay for medical claims, offsetting continued growth in its lucrative Medicare Advantage business. But its earnings still beat analysts' expectations and the company raised its earnings forecast for the full year (11/5).

The Wall Street Journal: Humana Brings Doctors In-House
Humana Inc.is accelerating its move into directly providing health care, with new deals and planned investments that are expected to expand the number of physicians under its umbrella to more than 2,600 (Mathews and Kamp, 11/5).

Los Angeles Times: Quiz: Test Your Healthcare Knowledge
Healthcare costs continue to climb, putting pressure on employers and consumers in a sputtering economy. In the past decade, U.S. health premiums have shot up 97%, three times as fast as wages and inflation nationwide, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Test your knowledge of healthcare costs and some of the changes under the federal healthcare law (Terhune, 11/5).

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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.