First Edition: February 14, 2013

Today's headlines include a variety of stories about state health law implementation developments. 

Kaiser Health News: California Health Chief Looks Within For Solution To Rising Health Costs
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Russ Mitchell writes: "Van Gorder, an ex-cop turned hospital executive, rescued troubled Scripps from near insolvency a dozen years ago as its new CEO. Now, he's put Scripps in the middle of a cultural transformation aimed at saving hundreds of millions of dollars a year by -- get this -- coaxing physicians and managers at Scripps to work together, and standardizing care across every hospital in the system" (Mitchell, 2/14). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: President Obama Calls For 'Modest Reforms' To Medicare
Kaiser Health News' Mary Agnes Carey and Jackie Judd examine the health care issues in Tuesday night's State of the Union address -- and Sen. Rubio's Republican response -- in this Health on the Hill discussion (2/13). Read the transcript.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Study: Expanding Medicaid Cheaper Than Not In Colorado; California Sets Standard Deductibles, Copays For Insurance Plans; The 'Yawning' Chart Med School Students Fear
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Colorado Public Radio's Eric Whitney, working in partnership with KHN and NPR, reports on Colorado's Medicaid expansion: "Opponents of the Medicaid expansion called for in the Affordable Care Act say states can't afford it, even with the federal government picking up most of the tab. But a new analysis says it would actually be more expensive for Colorado to not expand Medicaid" (Whitney, 2/14).

In addition, Julie Appleby reports the latest on California's new online marketplaces: "California on Wednesday became the first state to standardize health insurance plans under the federal health law, which regulators say will make shopping for health insurance easier  when new online marketplaces begin enrolling customers in the fall" (Appleby, 2/14).

Also on Capsules, Ankita Rao reports on the supply and demand of medical residency slots: "The graph from the Association of American Medical Colleges displays a yawning gap between the increasing number of med school grads looking for residencies and the number of residency slots available to them" (Rao, 2/13). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Baucus Plans Hearing For Medicare-Medicaid Nominee
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said Wednesday that he plans to hold a confirmation hearing for President Barack Obama's pick to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, raising the prospect of another nomination fight that will revive health-care and entitlement program debates (Radnofsky, 2/13).

The Wall Street Journal: Treasury Pick Focuses On Taxes, Spending
Jacob Lew, the Treasury secretary nominee, told lawmakers Wednesday he would work to overhaul the tax code and reduce costs of programs such as Medicare, but largely avoided delving into specifics about how he would tackle such tasks (Paletta, 2/13).

The Washington Post's The Fact Checker: Obama And Rubio: Dueling Visions Of 'Obamacare'
Obama's health-care law was in many ways the dog that did not bark during the State of the Union. Obama felt no need to defend it, and Republicans no longer declared that they would repeal it. Rubio simply referenced "Obamacare" as a government program that could hurt the middle class — while Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), in the Tea Party response, made no mention of the health-care law.  In other words, the law is more or less here to stay. The race is now on to define the law's legacy and impact. Let's take a look at whether either man has the facts to back up their diametrically opposed statements (Kessler, 2/14).

The New York Times: Debt Mounting, Postal Service Asks To Alter Business Model
During a hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Patrick R. Donahoe, the postmaster general, asked Congress to give the Postal Service permission to run its own health plan for employees and retirees, modify a Congressional mandate that requires the agency to pay $5.5 billion a year into its fund for future employee health benefits, and end Saturday mail delivery. Mr. Donahoe said the changes would allow the agency to save $20 billion by 2016 (Nixon, 2/13).

The Wall Street Journal: Senator To Press For Overhaul Of U.S. Postal Operations
The Postal Service recorded a nearly $16 billion loss during its last fiscal year. Mr. Donahoe said losses near that level are likely to continue, as mail volumes continue to decline and as Congress restricts the ability to take cost-saving actions such as placing postal workers on a private health care plan (Morath, 2/13).

Politico: Obamacare Deadline Looms For Holdout States
For those states that just can't quite make up their mind, time's up. Friday is the day when states are due to declare whether they'll partner with the White House to build Affordable Care Act health insurance exchanges. After that, the sprint to the finish begins (Cheney and Millman, 2/13).

Politico: Scott Walker Picks Obamacare Over Medicaid
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, avowed Obamacare foe, proposed an ambitious plan Wednesday to cut his state's uninsured population in half — by getting them covered through Obamacare. The Republican announced that he is rejecting Medicaid expansion and the billions of federal dollars that would come with it. In fact, he's proposing a net cut in the state Medicaid program (Cheney, 2/14).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Catholic Hospitals: Latest Compromise On Birth Control An Improvement For Faith Groups
A trade group for Roman Catholic hospitals says the latest federal rules on birth control coverage are an improvement. But the Catholic Health Association said Wednesday it won't make a final judgment until after canvassing its members (2/13).

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Catholic Health Assn. Sees 'Progress' In Contraception Proposal
The Catholic Health Association said Wednesday that the Obama administration’s latest proposal on how employees of religiously affiliated institutions would get contraception under the 2010 health law represents "substantial progress." The response from the group's president, Sister Carol Keehan, was considerably warmer than the one issued last week by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who said the new rules "fall short" (Radnofsky, 2/13).

The New York Times: Use Of Morning-After Pill Is Rising, Report Says
The use of morning-after pills by American women has more than doubled in recent years, driven largely by rising rates of use among women in their early 20s, according to new federal data released Thursday (Tavernise, 2/14).

NPR: Report: Action Needed To Wipe Out Fake And Substandard Drugs
The National Academies of Science, of which the IOM is part, was commissioned by the Food and Drug Administration to look at how to protect people against fake and substandard drugs (Knox, 2/13).

Los Angeles Times: New WellPoint CEO Gets Cool Reception On Wall Street
Investors didn't give a warm welcome to the incoming chief executive of health insurance giant WellPoint Inc. Shares of the nation's second-largest health insurer fell $3.01, or nearly 5%, to $63 in trading Wednesday, a day after the company named a veteran hospital executive to be its next CEO (Terhune, 2/13).

The Wall Street Journal: Investors Balk At WellPoint's Pick For CEO
Investors reacted with surprise to WellPoint Inc.'s choice of hospital executive Joseph R. Swedish as its new chief executive, sending the company's shares down 4.6% Wednesday as many scrambled to learn more about the incoming leader of the second-largest health insurer (Mathews, 2/13).

Los Angeles Times: California Reveals Details Of Health-Law Insurance Plans
Consumers are getting their first glimpse at what health insurance will look like in California as the state prepares to implement the federal healthcare law. On Wednesday, state officials will spell out the details on policies available next year to people buying their own coverage. In January 2014, most Americans will be required to have health insurance or face a penalty (Terhune, 2/13).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Measure Would Create Funding Stream For Exchange And Expand Medicaid
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and state health officials on Wednesday outlined some of the final steps in a three-year effort to create a health benefit exchange in Maryland as part of the federal health care overhaul (2/13).

The New York Times: Comptroller Criticizes Budget Plan Of Governor
But the comptroller's office raised concerns that the budget depended on federal aid that might not come to fruition, including $1.1 billion in Medicaid reimbursements, and counted on wage and job growth producing significant increases in tax collections (Kaplan, 2/13).

The New York Times: Four Years Later, Slain Abortion Doctor's Aide Steps Into The Void
This spring, Julie Burkhart, an abortion-rights advocate who lives in Wichita, is planning to reopen the abortion clinic that occupied this space for decades, setting the stage for a re-emergence of the fiery passions that once made this conservative manufacturing town the center of the abortion battle in the United States (Eligon, 2/13).

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