Today's headlines include news about the continuing partisan back and forth regarding "fiscal cliff" negotiations as well as reports on the health law's implementation.
Kaiser Health News: Analysis: Health Exchanges And The Litigation Landscape
In this Kaiser Health News analysis, Stuart Taylor, Jr. writes: "If you think that the Affordable Care Act has surmounted all of the major legal attacks its opponents could come up with, think again. Critics of the federal health law have only begun to fight, although most of their battles are decidedly uphill" (Taylor, 11/29). Read the story.
Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Missouri Governor Backs Medicaid Expansion
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, KCUR's Elana Gordon, working in collaboration with KHN and NPR, reports: "Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon wants the state to expand its Medicaid program, marking the strongest stance the Democratic governor has taken to date on the state's pending decision. Nixon previously said he was evaluating the issue to see what's best for Missouri" (Gordon, 11/29). Check out what else is on the blog.
The New York Times: GOP Balks At White House Plan On Fiscal Crisis
The proposal, loaded with Democratic priorities and short on detailed spending cuts, met strong Republican resistance. In exchange for locking in the $1.6 trillion in added revenues, President Obama embraced the goal of finding $400 billion in savings from Medicare and other social programs to be worked out next year, with no guarantees (Weisman, 11/29).
Los Angeles Times: Obama And Boehner Seem To Hit Wall As 'Fiscal Cliff' Looms
As Obama prepares to take his proposal on the road Friday, Democrats are increasingly buoyed, believing they hold a stronger hand. "Look, we don't expect the Republicans to be enthusiastic and start cheerleading about a deal that includes higher rates on the wealthiest Americans," said New York's Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the No. 3 Democrat. "But they see the handwriting on the wall." … Republicans are increasingly frustrated that Democrats have declined to outline specific cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and other government programs in exchange for Boehner's willingness to consider new revenue sources (Mascaro and Parsons, 11/29).
The Washington Post: Obama Makes Fresh Demands On 'Fiscal Cliff'
The offer lacks any concessions to Republicans, most notably on the core issue of where to set tax rates for the wealthiest Americans. … Democratic leaders, meanwhile, were triumphant after receiving similar briefings from Geithner and White House legislative liaison Rob Nabors. Top Democrats have for months insisted that an Obama victory would entitle them to demand far more in new taxes than Republicans have been willing to consider, to seek new measures to boost economic growth, and to avoid major cuts to entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare (Montgomery and Kane, 11/29).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: White House 'Fiscal Cliff' Offer Gets Withering GOP Response As Accusations Fly
The White House is seeking $1.6 trillion in higher taxes over a decade and an immediate infusion of funds to aid the jobless, help hard-pressed homeowners and perhaps extend the expiring payroll tax cut, officials said Thursday as talks aimed at averting an economy-rattling "fiscal cliff" turned testy. In exchange, the officials said, President Barack Obama will support an unspecified amount of spending cuts this year, to be followed by legislation in 2013 producing savings of as much as $400 billion from Medicare and other benefit programs over a decade (11/29).
The Wall Street Journal: Obama's Cliff Offer Spurned
The proposal marked an opening salvo in negotiations over the fiscal cliff and represented a particularly expansive version of the White House's wish list, with a heavy focus on tax increases and spending proposals-;including keeping in place a payroll-tax cut and extended unemployment benefits. Republicans haven't put any comparable offer on the table. They have indicated willingness to accept $800 billion in revenues over 10 years, half the amount Mr. Obama proposed. And they have sought far more in spending cuts in exchange for their concessions on taxes (Hook, Paletta and Lee, 11/29).
Politico: GOP Rejects White House Fiscal Cliff Offer
The back-and-forth exchanges underscored how the November election results have failed to clarify how Washington should resolve intractable policy disputes threatening to shake the economy if Congress and the White House cannot reach a deal by New Year's Day. And it left open the real possibility that the country could fall off the fiscal cliff when all the Bush-era tax rates expire, payroll taxes will increase, Medicare payments to physicians will drop and deep across-the-board spending cuts will go into effect (Sherman and Raju, 11/30).
USA Today: GOP Calls White House Cliff Offer A Non-Starter
The $4 trillion package includes a number of requests that stand have little no chance of passing the GOP-controlled House, because Republicans continue to oppose raising individual tax rates. The package also includes spending cuts that are considered insignificant to Republicans, who want more concessions on spending for entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid (Davis and Madhani, 11/29).
Politico: Providers: Doctors Face 'Worse' Fiscal Cliff
As the nation hurtles toward the fiscal cliff, doctors are staring down a much more daunting abyss, a panel of experts said Thursday at POLITICO Pro's health care breakfast briefing. Not only do doctors face a 2 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements because of the failure -; thus far -; to avoid sequestration, but they're also looking at a 27 percent reduction in pay in the absence of a deal to fix the Medicare payment formula (Cheney, 11/29).
Politico: Republicans Feud Over Obamacare
At issue are the state-based health care exchanges, set to start in 2014, which will create new marketplaces for people who can't get insurance elsewhere. If states don't declare their plans to set one up by Dec. 14, the Department of Health and Human Services will begin doing it for them. So Republicans face a choice: Create their own and appear to endorse a federal government health care takeover, or allow Washington to take control (Epstein and Cheney, 11/30).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Pay The Penalty, Or Insure Your Staff? Small Business Owners Face Tough Health Care Decision
Rose Wang looks at her staff of 70 employees and wonders if she'll have to lay off some of them to comply with the health care law. The owner of Binary Group Inc., an information technology firm based in Alexandria, Va., is one of many small business owners who will be required to provide health insurance for her staffers under a provision of the law that goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2014. Wang already provides insurance, but she has struggled with premiums that have soared as much as 60 percent annually, so she requires employees to contribute to their coverage. She's worried because she doesn't know how much she'll have to pay under the Affordable Care Act (11/29).
The Washington Post: Audit Finds Billions In Unverified Medicare Spending
Medicare has paid doctors and hospitals billions of dollars to switch from paper to electronic health records without verifying that the new systems meet required quality standards, according to a federal audit released Thursday (Aizenman, 11/29).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Right To Marry, Collect Federal Benefits At Issue In Gay Rights Cases Supreme Court Could Hear
Three weeks after voters backed same-sex marriage in three states and defeated a ban in a fourth, the justices are meeting Friday to decide whether they should deal sooner rather than later with the claim that the Constitution gives people the right to marry regardless of sexual orientation. The court also could duck the ultimate question for now and instead focus on a narrower but still important issue: whether Congress can prevent legally married gay Americans from receiving federal benefits otherwise available to married couples (11/30).
NPR: Clinton Reveals Blueprint For An 'AIDS-Free Generation'
Before Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton passes the reins to her successor, she's got a few loose ends to tie up. One of them is mapping out the U.S.'s continuing efforts to combat AIDS around the world. So today she unveiled a blueprint for what she called an "AIDS-free generation." Now Clinton isn't talking about ending the HIV pandemic altogether. Rather, she hopes to prevent most new infections from occurring in the first place and to stop HIV-positive people from developing AIDS (Knox, 11/29).
The New York Times: Maker Of Generic Lipitor Halts Production
Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals, the largest producer of the generic version of Lipitor, has halted production of the drug until it can figure out why glass particles may have ended up in pills that were distributed to the public, the Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday. The agency said it had not received any reports of patients being harmed by the particles, which are about the size of a grain of sand. Earlier this month, Ranbaxy recalled more than 40 lots of the drug because of the glass contamination (Thomas, 11/29).
The New York Times: Medical Technician Accused In Hepatitis C Infections Is Indicted On New Charges
A traveling medical technician who is believed to have infected at least 39 people with hepatitis C through his use of stolen hospital drugs and syringes was indicted late Wednesday in New Hampshire on 14 new charges (Seelye, 11/29).
Los Angeles Times: Ex-Medical Technician Indicted In Hepatitis C Outbreak
A nomadic medical technician who held hospital jobs from Arizona to New England has been indicted in connection with a hepatitis C outbreak that infected more than 30 patients at a New Hampshire hospital and exposed thousands of others in Pennsylvania, Maryland and other states (Serrano, 11/29).
This article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.