Today's headlines include news about yesterday's "fiscal cliff" meeting between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, as well as other health policy reports.
Kaiser Health News: How Much For An MRI? $500 Or $5,000? A Reporter Struggles To Find Out
WBUR's Martha Bebinger, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, tries to solve the mystery of her migraines with a doctor-recommended imaging test, but trying to find out the real cost of that test induces headaches of its own (Bebinger, 12/9). Read the story.
Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Report: Payment Reform Leaves Docs Uneasy
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Shefali S. Kulkarni writes: "A new report from insurer UnitedHealth Group shows that doctors have mixed views on the new pay-for-performance model promoted in the 2010 health care law as a means of controlling health care costs and improving quality" (Kulkarni, 12/7). Check out what else is on the blog.
Kaiser Health News also tracked weekend health policy headlines, including how key players discussed the "fiscal cliff" and entitlement program spending during the Sunday morning talk shows (12/9).
The Washington Post: Time Running Out On 'Fiscal Cliff' Deal
The contours of a deal to avert the year-end fiscal cliff are becoming increasingly clear. But progress has been slow, and time is running out for leaders to seal an agreement and sell it to restless lawmakers who so far have been given little information. … Lawmakers say action this week is vital if Obama and Boehner hope to win approval by the end of the year for complex, bipartisan legislation that would raise taxes, push down social-safety-net spending and lift the federal debt limit (Montgomery and Kane, 12/9).
Los Angeles Times: Boehner, Obama Talk 'Fiscal Cliff' At White House
After days of theatrics and threats from both sides, President Obama met privately with House Speaker John A. Boehner at the White House on Sunday afternoon as the two principal negotiators stepped up discussions aimed at crafting an agreement to thwart a looming budget showdown. … Obama and his allies on Capitol Hill increasingly believe they have the stronger hand over congressional Republicans in their effort to push up marginal tax rates for high-income earners. … Boehner, of Ohio, continues to press for deep spending reductions, including cuts to Medicare, Social Security and other widely popular programs, and he has said he is prepared to increase revenue by changing the tax code to lower deductions, not by raising taxes (Mascaro and Hennessey, 12/9).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Obama, Boehner Discuss 'Fiscal Cliff' While Lawmakers Offer Proposals To Break Stalemate
President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner met at the White House to discuss the "fiscal cliff," while rank-and-file Republicans stepped forward with what they called pragmatic ideas to break the stalemate. The Obama-Boehner meeting Sunday was the first between just the two leaders since Election Day (12/10).
Politico: Fiscal Cliff: Barack Obama, John Boehner Meet At White House
Before the meeting, top aides said there was little progress made over the weekend. But the meeting between Boehner and Obama signals a new stage in the process to resolve tax hikes and spending reductions that take hold at the beginning of 2013 (Sherman and Budoff Brown, 12/9).
The Wall Street Journal: Both Parties Divided Over GOP 'Cliff' Idea
In all, budget experts figure a switch to the chain-weighted CPI would reduce the projected deficit by about $200 billion over the next decade. Of that, about $72 billion would come from increased tax revenue. It's not a huge number, but if the new index were approved, Republicans would see that as proof of Democrats' willingness to countenance changes to entitlement programs (McKinnon, 12/9).
Politico: What Medicaid Cuts Might Look Like
In the ongoing battle over the fiscal cliff, Democrats and Republicans have exchanged plenty of words about what they would or wouldn't do to Medicare. The same can't be said about Medicaid. But behind the scenes, they're going to have to work that out to give Republicans enough entitlement savings -; because Republicans have been demanding big changes in the low-income health program for years, and the Democrats are nowhere close to ready for the same level of savings (Millman, 12/9).
The Washington Post's The Fact Checker: Lindsey Graham's 'Bankruptcy' Trifecta
In dismissing the administration's offer to resolve the so-called "fiscal cliff," Sen. Graham referred to the "imminent bankruptcy" of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. We have warned before that politicians in both parties are guilty of misusing such phrases as "bankruptcy" or "broke" when talking about Medicare. But Graham hits the trifecta here-;Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. We take no position on whether the White House's proposals are adequate but what's he talking about? (Kessler, 12/10).
The New York Times: New Taxes To Take Effect To Fund Health Care Law
For more than a year, politicians have been fighting over whether to raise taxes on high-income people. They rarely mention that affluent Americans will soon be hit with new taxes adopted as part of the 2010 health care law. The new levies, which take effect in January, include an increase in the payroll tax on wages and a tax on investment income, including interest, dividends and capital gains. The Obama administration proposed rules to enforce both last week (Pear, 12/8).
The Washington Post: GOP Governors Seek Leeway On Medicaid Expansion
Republican governors are ratcheting up pressure on President Obama to scale back a key provision of his health-care law. In a letter to Obama last week, 11 governors asked for a meeting "as soon as possible" to negotiate for greater control over their Medicaid programs. Among other things, the governors want the option of expanding Medicaid -; the state-federal program for the poor and disabled -; in a much more modest way than envisioned in the law (Aizenman, 12/8).
The Wall Street Journal: Health-Care Law May Free Some Workers To Switch Jobs
The health-care overhaul, whatever its larger merits, might offer some relief for individuals in their 50s and early 60s in the grips of "job lock." That's a term used to describe workers who are unable or reluctant to leave their current jobs for fear they won't be able to find health insurance. Older employees in particular-;who are likelier than younger workers to have health problems and who don't qualify for Medicare until age 65-;see that uncertainty as a "major barrier" to changing jobs or retiring, says Michael Thompson, New York-based principal of human-resource services at consulting firm PwC (Coombes, 12/10).
Politico: Supreme Court Takes Up Case On Generic Drugs
The Supreme Court will take up "pay for delay" -; the multibillion-dollar dispute over whether brand-name drug makers should be able to pay generic drug companies for agreeing to delay putting cheaper versions on the market (Norman, 12/10).
Los Angeles Times: Surgeon Infected Patients During Heart Procedure, Cedars-Sinai Admits
A heart surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center unwittingly infected five patients during valve replacement surgeries earlier this year, causing four of the patients to need a second operation. The infections occurred after tiny tears in the latex surgical gloves routinely worn by the doctor allowed bacteria from a skin inflammation on his hand to pass into the patients' hearts, according to the hospital. The patients survived the second operation and are still recovering, hospital officials said (Gorman, 12/8).
The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: NY Ex-Con Says He Shoplifted To Get Health Care
A 56-year-old ex-convict says he purposely got arrested for shoplifting to get prison health care for his leukemia. Frank Morrocco of Amherst tells The Buffalo News that he stole shoelaces and other items from Wegman's as "an act of desperation" because he can't afford health care. He was released from federal prison a year ago after serving 20 years on drug charges. He was getting cancer treatment as an inmate (12/9).
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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.