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Experts Duel On Plight Of Health Reform And Merits Of Specific Provisions

NPR interviewed two leading health care experts - Uwe Reinhardt, a Princeton professor, and Gail Wilensky, an economist who ran Medicare under the first President Bush - to shed light on the current plight of pending health care overhaul. Defending the legislation, and expressing hope for its survival, Reinhardt says, "The idea of taking the Senate bill, have the House endorse it and then pass it into law is not as far-fetched as even the president [seems to have made] it appear, because the Senate bill does many of the things Americans want. Americans need help buying health insurance. Well, it does that. Americans don't want the premiums based on their own health status, the bill outlaws that.

Commissions To Examine Paring Costs From Medicaid, Medicare

Medicaid payments are coming under review by a new commission, American Medical News reports. "MACPAC was created by a provision of the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act, signed by President Obama in February 2009. The act instructs the panel to examine the effect of Medicaid pay and other factors on the access and quality of care received by Medicaid and CHIP enrollees." Kaiser Family Foundation executive Diane Rowland will chair the panel. The panel has not yet gained federal funding (Trapp, 1/25). Another federal panel could be created to review overall federal spending, and a similar, unofficial taskforce has begun to coalesce that includes prominent former elected officials, The New York Times reports.

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Florida, California, Kansas Eyeing Cuts In Medicaid Funding

The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports that as the recession continues to increase the number of people without jobs, many more are seeking health care through the state's Medicaid program, "driving up costs and playing a major role in a potential $3 billion state budget shortfall next year. The shortfall could lead to cuts in Medicaid ... while also forcing lawmakers to make tough election-year spending choices among health and education programs. ... Florida has grappled with increasing Medicaid costs for years, but projections for the 2010-11 year are eye-opening: The program could serve nearly 3 million people -- at an overall cost of about $19.

In Medicare Age Patients, Virtual Colonoscopy An Effective Colorectal Cancer Screening Exam

Computed tomographic colonography (CTC), also known as virtual colonoscopy, remains effective in screening older patients for colorectal cancer (CRC), produces low referral for colonoscopy rates similar to other screening exams now covered by Medicare, and does not result in unreasonable levels of additional testing resulting from extracolonic findings, according to a study published in the February issue of Radiology. CT colonography employs virtual reality technology to produce a three-dimensional visualization that permits a thorough and minimally invasive evaluation of the entire colon and rectum. Previous CTC trials have demonstrated excellent performance in average risk individuals.

Budget Realities Are Rippling Through States' Health Institutions

The (Raleigh, N.C.) News-Observer: "The state's drug assistance program for HIV patients has been capped at its current enrollment, with budget cuts hitting at the same time more people need help, state officials said Monday." Because patients with HIV are more likely to spread the virus when not on medications, public health officials are worried about denying medications (Avery, 1/26). Kansas Health Institute News Service: "Last year, nine of the state's 27 community mental health centers spent more money than they took in. A new survey shows that even more of the centers are now facing potential money troubles" (Ranney, 1/25). Associated Press/The Seattle Times: "The uncertain future of the federal health-care overhaul has wrinkled Washington state's hopes of landing a $1 billion bailout to fix its budget deficit this year, Gov.

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Democratic Leaders Still Pondering Reconciliation Pros And Cons For Health Bill

Congressional Democrats are facing a critical decision about whether to use the procedural maneuver known as budget reconciliation to pass a health care reform bill, The New York Times reports. Democrats could push the measure through the Senate with a simple majority vote but could trigger "a political backlash." "The procedure is also subject to complex rules that could make it difficult for Democrats to include all the provisions needed to win approval of the bill, especially among rank-and-file House Democrats. For instance, it might be difficult to include provisions related to insurance coverage for abortions." Top Democrats have long known that they may need to use reconciliation, The Times reports, adding that leaders are "no longer confident" some House Democrats "would be willing to go along" with the vote(Herszenhorn and Pear, 1/25).

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