Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including a number of reports about congressional efforts to avert the "fiscal cliff."
Kaiser Health News: Health Care Predictions For A New Year (Video)
Kaiser Health News reporters preview some of the big issues coming this year: The fight over controlling spending and what it means for Medicare; state decisions on health law implementation; and changing how hospitals and doctors are paid (1/1). Watch the reporter' videos.
Kaiser Health News: When Employers' Health Plans Disappear, Workers Often Have Few Options
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "For some people, the promise of employer-provided health insurance is reason enough to take a job or stay put in one. But unexpected events -- a corporate bankruptcy or sale, for example -- can undermine the security of on-the-job coverage and leave both employees and retirees with few affordable options" (Andrews 12/31/12). Read the column.
Kaiser Health News: Capsules: 'Doc Fix' In 'Fiscal Cliff' Plan Cuts Medicare Hospital Payments; School Cafeterias Join Fight Against Childhood Obesity
Now Kaiser Health News' blog, Mary Agnes Carey reports on "doc fix" details: "The bill would require that, over the next decade, hospitals pick up nearly half of the approximately $30 billion cost of stopping a 26.5 percent payment cut for Medicare physicians, scheduled to begin today" (Carey, 1/1).
Also on KHN's blog, Colorado Public Radio's Eric Whitney, working in partnership with KHN and NPR, reports on how school cafeterias are battling obesity: "Increasingly, though, the movement to reduce childhood obesity by improving what kids eat in school has changed the game. It means schools are now required to serve more fresh fruits and vegetables. And there's a movement within the movement that promotes the retro notion of cooking meals from scratch. And that takes a change in the hearts and minds of those behind the lunch line" (Whitney, 12/28). Check out what else is on the blog.
Kaiser Health News also has been tracking headlines related to health policy issues and the fiscal cliff, including specifics of the deal approved by the Senate (1/1), the intense negotiations that lead to that point (12/31) and other related coverage.
And, in case you missed it before the holidays -
Kaiser Health News: Feds Approve Minn. Exchange, Insurers Scramble To Develop Health Plans
Minnesota Public Radio's Elizabeth Stawicki, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "The federal government's conditional approval Thursday for Minnesota to operate a health insurance exchange means the state has cleared a key hurdle to develop a system designed to reshape the insurance market under the health law" (Stawicki, 12/21). Read the story.
The New York Times: Amid Pressure, House Passes Fiscal Deal
Ending a climactic fiscal showdown in the final hours of the 112th Congress, the House late Tuesday passed and sent to President Obama legislation to avert big income tax increases on most Americans and prevent large cuts in spending for the Pentagon and other government programs. ... In approving the measure after days of legislative intrigue, Congress concluded its final and most pitched fight over fiscal policy, the culmination of two years of battles over taxes, the federal debt, spending and what to do to slow the growth in popular social programs like Medicare (Steinhauer, 1/1).
The Wall Street Journal: Congress Passes Cliff Deal
But the compromise bill, which blocked most impending tax increases and postponed spending cuts largely by raising taxes on upper-income Americans, left a host of issues unresolved and guaranteed continued budget clashes between the parties. ... At the same time, the bill defers some of America's toughest spending problems-;in particular the ballooning cost of health care-;and it doesn't come close to the kind of $4 trillion deficit-reduction deal the country's leaders had hoped to negotiate (Hook, Boles and Hughes, 1/2).
USA Today: Divided GOP House Approves Senate 'Fiscal Cliff' Plan
A divided Republican House passed the Senate's "fiscal cliff" agreement Tuesday night, following a tense day of GOP protests that the plan does not do enough to rein in federal spending. ... Spending cuts totaling $24 billion over two months aimed at the Pentagon and domestic programs would be deferred. That would allow the White House and lawmakers time to regroup before plunging very quickly into a new round of budget brinkmanship certain to revolve around Republican calls to rein in the cost of Medicare and other government benefit programs (Davis and Jackson, 1/2).
Los Angeles Times: 'Fiscal Cliff' Plan Clears House With GOP Divided
Speaking at the White House before leaving to rejoin his family on vacation in Hawaii, Obama called the compromise "just one step in the broader effort" to reduce the deficit, and specifically pointed to spending on Medicare for an aging population as the major force driving the red ink. "I am very open to compromise," he said. But, he added, "we can't simply cut our way to prosperity." Solving the problem will (Mascaro and Hennessey, 1/1).
Politico: The Fiscal Cliff Deal That Almost Wasn't
But the failure to address several big issues sets up another fiscal showdown in late February, when the two-month delay in the sequester coincides with the deadline to raise the country's $16.4 trillion debt limit. The pact also does little to reduce trillion-dollar-plus deficits, shore up entitlement programs, overhaul the tax code or stimulate the U.S. economy -; the casualty of a polarized political culture that scorns compromise (Bresnahan, Budoff Brown, Raju and Sherman, 1/2).
The New York Times: Insurance Program Is Cut To Help Reach An Accord
The bill, the American Taxpayer Relief Act, also freezes Medicare payments to doctors, which otherwise would have been cut by at least 26.5 percent in 2013. The Congressional Budget Office said the freeze would cost $25 billion over 10 years, with most of that coming in 2013-14. Congress offset the cost with changes in Medicare and other federal health programs. For example, it reduced Medicare payments to hospitals by $10.5 billion over 10 years after finding that many hospitals had increased their Medicare revenue by describing the severity of patients' illnesses in more detail (Pear, 1/1).
The Wall Street Journal: Senate Cliff Bill Would Avert Cuts For Doctors
The Senate's fiscal cliff package would avert a steep cut in payments to doctors and officially wipe out a contentious piece of the health overhaul law. The bill would delay for one year a cut in reimbursements to physicians who treat patients on Medicare, the federal insurance program for the elderly and disabled. The cost: $25.2 billion (Adamy, 1/1).