First Edition: November 10, 2012

Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including news about effort to cut a deal on taxes and entitlements to avoid the "fiscal cliff."

Kaiser Health News: After The Election: A Consumer’s Guide
Kaiser Health News staff writers Mary Agnes Carey and Jenny Gold write: "Now that President Barack Obama has won a second term, the Affordable Care Act is back on a fast track. ... Here's a primer on parts of the law already up and running, what's to come and ways that provisions could still be altered" (Carey and Gold, 11/9).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Medicare Extends Enrollment Period For Those Affected By Sandy; Bloggers Parse What Happens Next On Health Law; Status Update: Medical Schools May Check Applicants On Facebook
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Susan Jaffe reports on Medicare's effort to help people caught in the path of the recent hurricane: "Medicare beneficiaries battered by Superstorm Sandy have one less problem to worry about: Federal officials have extended the Dec. 7 deadline to enroll in a private medical or drug plan for next year for those still coping with storm damage" (Jaffe, 11/8).

Also on Capsules, Andrew Villegas examines in his Blogwatch column what bloggers are saying about the health law following Tuesday's election: "The health policy world has moved on from what happens IF the health law survives to what happens NEXT now that its future appears secure" (Villegas, 11/8).

In addition, Alvin Tran writes about a new study looking at whether medical schools check out applicants' social media accounts: "While applying to medical school as a college student, Drew Lee did what many of his fellow “premeds” were doing at the time – he gave himself an anonymous name on his Facebook account. ... a new study by researchers at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, suggests his concerns were well-founded" (Tran, 11/8). Check out what else is on the blog.

The New York Times: With Obama Re-Elected, States Scramble Over Health Law
After nearly three years of legal and political threats that kept President Obama’s health care law in a constant state of uncertainty, his re-election on Tuesday all but guarantees that the historic legislation will survive. Now comes another big hurdle: making it work (Goodnough and Pear, 11/8).

Politico: ACA Opponents Scramble For A Plan B
What’s the plan for Obamacare’s opponents now? Judging from Republicans’ mixed messages Thursday, the plan is: disarray. On a day when House Speaker John Boehner declared that “Obamacare is the law of the land” — and then quickly scrambled to insist he hadn’t given up on repeal after all — the law’s critics often seemed to be scrambling to find a game plan. That doesn’t mean they’d given up the fight, though (Norman and Millman, 11/8).

Politico: ACA Now Faces Contraception Test
President Barack Obama’s health reform law has cleared its biggest obstacle to date — Obama’s reelection — but a wave of lawsuits means a new hurdle is quickly taking shape.
Dozens of lawsuits have been filed challenging the law’s requirement that employers cover contraceptives in their health insurance policies, arguing that it’s a violation of their right to exercise their religion without government interference. In recent days, two developments have emerged that show the challenge could get significant attention from the courts (Haberkorn and Smith, 11/9).

The Washington Post: Obama, Boehner Again Prepare To Tackle National Debt
With another dangerous deadline for the economy approaching, Tuesday’s election returned to power the same men who have battled for two years over the nation’s budget problems: President Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio). The president and the most powerful Republican in Washington hold the keys to any deal to tame the national debt. And as they prepare to go another round, the political winds have shifted in Obama’s favor. ... In Boehner’s view, aides said, the starting point should be the deficit-reduction deal that he and Obama were close to sealing in secret talks during the summer of 2011. With Congress locked in a bitter battle over the federal debt limit, the two tentatively agreed to slice $2.4 trillion from future borrowing in part by trimming Medicare and Social Security benefits and generating $800 billion in new revenue by overhauling the tax code (Montgomery and Goldfarb, 11/8).

The New York Times: Congress Sees Rising Urgency On Fiscal Deal
Senior lawmakers said Thursday that they were moving quickly to take advantage of the postelection political atmosphere to try to strike an agreement that would avert a fiscal crisis early next year when trillions of dollars in tax increases and automatic spending cuts begin to go into force. ... The accelerated activity in Washington showed that members of Congress believed the election had amplified the imperative to strike a deal. Still, signs that the two sides are open to some compromise are no guarantee that they can reach an agreement after warring for two years. Many Republicans will continue to resist any proposal that can be read as increasing taxes, and many Democrats will balk at changes in entitlement programs and spending cuts (Weisman, 11/8).

The Wall Street Journal: Pressure Rises On Fiscal Crisis
The White House and Republican lawmakers faced pressure to reach a solution to the looming budget crisis after a nonpartisan agency detailed Thursday how inaction would push the U.S. economy back into recession next year, and skittish investors continued to drive stocks lower. ... The White House is looking for a formula that would stabilize the government's debt as a share of the economy to around 75%, according to one person familiar with the matter. Before the 2007-09 recession, the debt-to-GDP ratio was below 65%. Offering a framework rather than a detailed proposal could be attractive to the White House because of concerns that Republicans might reject a plan with too many details. The White House also was trying to decide whether any offer should include deficit-cutting proposals that Democrats might find unappealing, such as changes to Medicare and Social Security (Paletta, Lee and Bendavid, 11/8).

USA Today: Boehner Sees Short-Term Budget Fix
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, says he will resist any effort to make major tax or spending changes in the lame duck session of Congress beginning next week, seeking instead a short-term deal to delay the year-end "fiscal cliff." "I've never seen a lame duck Congress do big things. And as speaker I feel pretty strongly that a lame duck Congress shouldn't do big things," he said in an interview with USA TODAY. ... Boehner is proposing what he calls a short-term "bridge" that would extend all of the tax rates for one year and buy more time to overhaul the federal tax code. Boehner says that would increase revenue by closing tax loopholes, not by raising the rates individuals pay on their wages. "There's a lot of ways you could do this that would allow the Congress to fix our tax code next year, look at real spending cuts and entitlement reforms that would produce what the president's called for — a balanced approach," he said (Davis, 11/8).

Politico: Behind Boehner's New Tone
Speaker John Boehner thinks he’s learned from his mistakes. After his secret debt negotiations last year with President Barack Obama sparked a sharp round of blowback from conservatives, his leadership and members of his House Republican Conference, Boehner has launched a carefully choreographed campaign on the high-stakes fiscal cliff talks. ... Boehner said he was prepared to raise new revenue for the government — but not increase tax rates — as long as the White House would agree to entitlement reform (Sherman, Budoff Brown and Bresnahan, 11/8).

Los Angeles Times: Boehner: Obamacare Is Law Of The Land, Ryan Not The GOP Leader
In a wide-ranging interview, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said raising tax rates is “unacceptable,” vice presidential nominee Paul D. Ryan is not the new leader of the GOP and the reelection of President Obama means the nation’s new healthcare law is “the law of the land.” ... Boehner also suggested House Republicans would not entertain repeated votes to repeal the nation’s new healthcare law, as happened this past session of Congress. “The election changes that,” Boehner said. “Obamacare is the law of the land.” The speaker later tweeted that “our goal has been, and will remain, full repeal” of the healthcare law. Boehner’s spokesman provided a transcript of the exchange in which the speaker also said, “There certainly may be parts of it that we believe – need to be changed.  We may do that.  No decisions at this point” (Mascaro, 11/8).

Los Angeles Times: Coalition Pushes New Proposal To Avoid Medicare, Medicaid Cuts
With President Obama and congressional Republicans turning to address the looming budget crisis, a coalition of consumer groups, labor unions and major employers is pushing new approaches to control federal health spending without cutting benefits for seniors and others who rely on Medicare and Medicaid. The plan, released Thursday by the National Coalition on Health Care, includes several potentially controversial proposals such as a new penny-per-ounce federal tax on sweetened beverages and tougher penalties on under-performing hospitals (Levey, 11/8).

The New York Times: Sanofi Halves Price Of Cancer Drug Zaltrap After Sloan-Kettering Rejection
In an unusual move, a big drug company said on Thursday that it would effectively cut in half the price of a new cancer drug after a leading cancer center said it would not use the drug because it was too expensive. The move — announced by Sanofi for the colon cancer drug Zaltrap — could be a sign of resistance to the unfettered increase in the prices of cancer drugs, some of which cost more than $100,000 a year and increase survival by a few months at best (Pollack, 11/8).

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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.