First Edition: October 1, 2012

Today's headlines include news about the start of a Medicare pay-for-performance effort as well as reports from the campaign trail.   

Kaiser Health News: States Moving Ahead On Defining 'Essential' Health Insurance Benefits Under Federal Law
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz reports: "California and Washington state will require coverage of acupuncture. Arkansas wants prevention counseling for women at high risk of breast cancer but not coverage of expensive infertility treatment" (Galewitz, 9/30). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Eyes Turn To Arkansas' Bold Effort To Cut Medicaid Costs, Add Transparency
Kaiser Health News staff writer Shefali S. Kulkarni reports: "On Monday, Arkansas will kick off a program to reduce its Medicaid costs and improve care through a partnership with its largest private insurance companies -- Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield and QualChoice. If successful, experts say the state's Medicaid program could save about $4.4 million in FY 2013 and $9.3 million in 2014" (Kulkarni, 9/30). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Medicare's Pay For  Performance Effort Begins, Targeting Quality And Readmissions
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Jordan Rau writes: "Monday is the start of the federal fiscal year, and with it begins Medicare's biggest effort yet at paying for performance. Starting Oct. 1, Medicare is withholding 1 percent of its regular hospital reimbursements in the new Value-Based Purchasing Program, which was created by the 2010 health care law" (Rau, 10/1). Check out what else is on the blog.

Kaiser Health News also tracked weekend health policy headlines, including reports regarding a new Iowa poll and other developments on the campaign trail (9/30).

The Associated Press: Why It Matters: Issues At Stake In Election
America's health care system is unsustainable. It's not one problem, but three: cost, quality and coverage.
The U.S. has world-class hospitals and doctors. But it spends far more than other advanced countries and people aren't much healthier. And in an aging society, there's no reliable system for long-term care (Alonso-Zaldivar, 9/29).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Why It Matters: Fight Over Birth Control And Abortion Rages On National And State Levels
The issue: Whether women have access to abortion services and birth control is a longstanding and divisive issue in politics, and it has flared up from time to time in this campaign despite the candidates' reticence to dwell on such hot-button topics (10/1).

Politico: Big 'Romneycare' Secret: It Didn't Rein In Costs
It's one of the greatest stories never told. An ambitious Republican governor passes a revolutionary health reform plan that promises health insurance coverage for everyone but fails to reduce health costs or the growing reliance on the state's overburdened hospitals — and depends heavily on the financial support of the federal government (Haberkorn and Cheney, 9/30).

The Washington Post: Some Debate Questions For Obama And Romney To Lob At Each Other
All too often, neither (President Barack Obama nor GOP nominee Mitt Romney) has been directly challenged about his misleading statements. So here are some questions we would like to see. ... Obama to Romney: You keep saying that health-insurance premiums have gone up by $2,500, as if "Obamacare" had anything to do with it. You know that most provisions of that law have not gone into effect yet, so experts say only a small portion of the increase is due to the law. ... Romney to Obama: You keep claiming that health-care premiums will go down for people in the individual and small-group markets. But isn't it correct that, because of a variety of provisions in the law, premiums are going to go up for young Americans and healthier individuals? (Kessler, 9/30).

Los Angeles Times: Filmmakers Turn Cameras On America's Ailing Healthcare System
Healthcare reform is the focus of three new documentaries that explore the explosive issue through different lenses. "Doctored," which opened Thursday, focuses on the benefits of seeing chiropractors, while examining a wide range of medical, political and insurance topics. "The Waiting Room," which arrived Friday, provides an unflinching look at the uninsured trying to get healthcare at a big city hospital. "Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare," opening Oct. 5 in theaters and on video on demand, looks at ways to help cure the ailing system, including greater use of alternative healing (King, 9/30).

Los Angeles Times: Stalwart Missouri Conservatives Stick With Todd Akin For Senate
This land of Harry Truman has an increasingly Republican tilt. ... the race remains a challenge for (Democratic Sen. Claire) McCaskill, whose unfavorable ratings could still pose political problems. McCaskill was an early supporter of Obama's first campaign for president, but the nation's new healthcare law, his top domestic achievement, was overwhelmingly rejected by voters in a statewide referendum. (GOP challenger Todd) Akin is running a TV ad showing McCaskill in Obama's embrace (Mascaro, 9/30).

The Washington Post: Hospitals In DC, Va. To Lose Millions From Medicare
Hospitals in the District and Northern Virginia will lose millions of dollars in Medicare funding over the next year because too many of their patients were re¬admitted to a hospital within weeks of being released, according to Medicare data and interviews with hospital officials (Sun, 9/30).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: 2,200 Hospitals Face Medicare Penalties Averaging $125K For Patients Returning With Problems
If you or an elderly relative have been hospitalized recently and noticed extra attention when the time came to be discharged, there's more to it than good customer service (10/1).

Politico: Reform Law Seeks Savings In Hospital Operations
Two major but little discussed programs in the 2010 health care law take effect Monday, part of the law's efforts to deliver better medical care in addition to more insurance. Both programs are part of an effort to leverage the financial might of Medicare to reward hospitals for providing more efficient and higher quality care and penalize those that don't (Norman, 10/1).

The New York Times: After Decades In Institutions, A Bumpy Journey To A New Life
Once viewed as outcasts to be shunned and isolated in institutions, hundreds of Georgia's most disabled citizens are taking their first tentative steps back into society. Their fledgling journeys, marked by uncertainty, jubilation and some setbacks, are unfolding as officials embark on an ambitious plan to profoundly reshape the lives of the cognitively and physically impaired. It is a new strategy for Georgia, one of several states responding to mounting pressure from the Justice Department, which in recent years has threatened legal action against states accused of violating the civil rights of thousands of developmentally disabled people by needlessly segregating them in public hospitals, nursing homes and day programs (Swarns, 9/29).

The New York Times: California Is First State to Ban Gay 'Cure' For Minors
California has become the first state to ban the use for minors of disputed therapies to "overcome" homosexuality, a step hailed by gay rights groups across the country that say the therapies have caused dangerous emotional harm to gay and lesbian teenagers (Eckholm, 9/30).

The Wall Street Journal: Pittsburgh Health Merger Collapses
Pittsburgh's West Penn Allegheny Health System broke off its agreement to be acquired by Highmark Inc., saying the insurer had breached the deal's terms and was demanding the hospital operator file for bankruptcy. Highmark, for its part, said it "categorically denies" that it violated the terms of the deal and "continues to believe that an affiliation" is in the best interest of both companies and the community (Mathews, 9/28).

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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.