First Edition: March 5, 2013

Today's headlines include reports about how health programs might fair in the context of efforts to balance the budget. 

Kaiser Health News: Hospitals Crack Down On Tirades By Angry Doctors
Sandra G. Boodman, writing for Kaiser Health News in cooperation with The Washington Post, reports: “At a critical point in a complex abdominal operation, a surgeon was handed a device that didn't work because it had been loaded incorrectly by a surgical technician. Furious that she couldn't use it, the surgeon slammed it down, accidentally breaking the technician's finger. 'I felt pushed beyond my limits,' recalled the surgeon, who was suspended for two weeks and told to attend an anger management course for doctors" (Boodman, 3/5). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Caveat For Contraceptive Coverage; Early Retirees May Get Cheaper Plans On Exchanges
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews answers readers' questions about birth-control coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act and subsidized coverage on the state-based health insurance exchanges (Andrews, 3/4). Read the story

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Florida House Panel Opposes Medicaid Expansion; C-Section Delivery Rates Vary Widely Across Nation; Prostate Screening Tests In Older Men Decline, But Many Still Get Them, Study Finds
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, WFSU’s Lynn Hatter, working in partnership with KHN and NPR, reports on Florida action related to the Medicaid expansion: "The Florida House of Representatives has signaled it won't go along with Gov. Rick Scott to expand Medicaid coverage to more than a million low-income Floridians under the Affordable Care Act. The party-line vote came Monday shortly after a joint committee hearing on the law's financial impact on the state" (Hatter, 3/4).

Also on Capsules, Alvin Tran reports on a study regarding c-section rates: "The study, published Monday in the journal Health Affairs, found that the overall rates of C-sections — the most common type of surgery in the U.S. — varied from about 7 to 70 percent  across the nation's hospitals" (Tran, 3/4).

In addition, Julie Appleby writes about new findings related to prostate screening tests in older men: "Fewer men over age 75 are being routinely screened for cancer with a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test following a 2008 recommendation against the tests, researchers said today, suggesting a less-is-more approach sometimes works. But while the numbers have declined, they remain significant – more than 4 in 10 men in that group still get the tests" (Appleby,  3/4). Check out what else is on the blog

The Washington Post: Republican Goal To Balance Budget Could Mean Deep Cuts To Health Programs
Anxiety is rising among House Republicans about a strategy of appeasement toward fiscal hard-liners that could require them to embrace not only the sequester but also sharp new cuts to federal health and retirement programs. Letting the sequester hit was just the first step in a pact forged in January between conservative leaders and Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) to keep the government open and the nation out of default. Now comes step 2: adopting a budget plan that would wipe out deficits entirely by 2023 (Montgomery, 3/4).

Politico: Paul Ryan Floats Change To Medicare Plan
Paul Ryan’s budget will show how Republicans can balance a budget that’s trillions of dollars out of whack. But the most significant unresolved issue comes down to a minuscule number: one year. Ryan — the House Budget Committee chairman — has privately been floating the idea of allowing his changes to Medicare to kick in for Americans younger than 56.  In previous budgets, those 55 and older were exempted from his plan to turn Medicare into a premium-support — or voucher — program (Sherman and Allen, 3/4).

The New York Times: Lax Policing Of Doctor And Pharmacy Conflicts Is Found In Medicare Coverage Decisions
Deciding which drugs will be covered by Medicare can influence huge amounts of spending, but government officials do little to police conflict of interest among doctors and pharmacists who make those decisions, federal investigators said Monday (Pear, 3/5).

USA Today: Health Care Spending Is Transferred Out Of ICU
Health care spending last year rose at one of the lowest rates in a half-century, partly the result of cost-saving measures put in place by the 2009 health care law, a USA TODAY analysis finds. Spending for medical care has increased modestly for five consecutive years, the longest period of slow growth since Medicare began in 1966 (Cauchon, 3/4).

USA Today: Gunshot Wounds Drive Up Government Health Care Costs
Gunshot wounds and deaths cost Americans at least $12 billion a year in court proceedings, insurance costs and hospitalizations paid for by government health programs, according to a recent study (Kennedy, 3/4).

Politico: For Doctors, Too Much Information?
A new research letter published in JAMA Internal Medicine on Monday finds just that: Electronic health records may cause doctors the unintended side effect of information overload. The survey of primary-care practitioners from the Department of Veterans Affairs shows nearly one-third of those using the EHR system reported having missed or failed to follow up on key electronic alerts about patient test results (Smith, 3/5).

The New York Times: Texas Rebut Governor On Expansion Of Medicaid
Hundreds of activists and uninsured Texans plan to rally at the steps of the Capitol here Tuesday, increasing the pressure on Gov. Rick Perry and other Republican leaders to switch their stance on expanding Medicaid, a major provision of President Obama’s health care overhaul (Fernandez, 3/4).

Los Angeles Times: Key Senate Panel Approves Medi-Cal Expansion
A key Senate panel supported legislation Monday that would dramatically expand Medi-Cal, the state's public insurance program for the poor. The proposal, authored by state Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) and Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), is part of a legislative package that aims to help California implement President Obama's healthcare overhaul (Mishak, 3/4).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: Women's Group Works With Cuomo On Rights, Abortion
A new coalition lobbying for Gov. Andrew Cuomo's women's rights agenda said it supports his decision to link popular measures against workplace discrimination and human trafficking with a hotly debated abortion measure. It's a political gamble that faces strong opposition among Senate Republicans (3/4).  

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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.