The Wall Street Journal: Lawmakers Reach Deal On Doctor Payments
House and Senate lawmakers have agreed on a five-year plan to change how physicians are paid for treating Medicare patients, an issue that has created a recurring scramble in Congress for over a decade. Under the deal announced Thursday, Medicare would increase the amount it pays physicians by 0.5% each year for the next five years. The agreement was the result of talks that included the top members of the Senate Finance, House Energy and Commerce, and House Ways and Means committees (Radnofsky, 2/6).
The Washington Post: House Speaker John Boehner Mulling Over Debt-Ceiling Options
On Thursday, however, two ideas gained traction, with dozens of Republicans predicting that versions of the pitches could hit the floor next week once House members return to Washington. At the top of the list: a proposal to link a one-year extension of the debt ceiling to a restoration of recently cut military benefits. Another popular option is tying the "doc fix," which would alter the way doctors are reimbursed for Medicare treatments, to an extension. Changes to the federal budget that would reduce fraud or mandatory spending levels also have been mentioned (Costa, 2/6).
The New York Times: Skating Close To The Edge, Again, On The Debt Ceiling
Even as some Republicans continued to hunt for one policy concession or another to demand from Democrats in exchange for lifting the ceiling, leadership has indicated it has no appetite for brinkmanship -; particularly as Republicans head into a midterm campaign for control of Congress where they feel they have an upper hand, given the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act and President Obama's low approval ratings. And the White House has made clear that it has no intention of giving Republicans anything in exchange for increasing the limit (Lowrey, 2/6).
The Wall Street Journal: Aetna Expects To Lose Money On Health-Law Marketplaces
Aetna Inc. said it expects to lose money on its business in the health-law marketplaces this year, with the demographics of enrollees skewing slightly more than expected toward people likely to rack up higher costs. The insurer, which is participating in public consumer exchanges in 16 states and the District of Columbia, the most of any carrier, said it has signed up about 135,000 paid members through the end of January (Mathews, 2/6).
The Wall Street Journal: Cigna Earnings Slip On Decline In Health-Care Margins
Cigna Corp. said its fourth-quarter profit declined 11% as the health insurer's global health-care margins slipped and it lost members from the prior quarter. For the new year, the company predicted earnings of $6.80 to $7.20 a share, compared with estimates of $7.32 a share from analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. Cigna has logged increased revenue in recent quarters, aided by growing membership and acquisitions. The company, which traditionally focused more on commercial health insurance, pushed further into the market for senior-focused plans by recently buying Medicare insurer HealthSpring Inc. and American Financial Group Inc.'s Medicare supplement and critical-illness businesses (Rubin, 2/7).
The Washington Post: AOL Chief Cuts 401(k) Benefits, Blames Obamacare And Two 'Distressed Babies'
AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong on Thursday offered a number of unusual explanations for why his company pulled back its 401(k) benefits for employees this year. The first reason: Obamacare. The second: two women at the company who had "distressed babies" in 2012 (Yang, 2/6).
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.