Health and Fitness

In White House Meeting, Obama And GOP Discuss Partisan Divide

President Obama met with Republicans Tuesday. The Washington Post : "Obama outlined issues that could bridge the divide, including job creation, health-care reform, energy and trade. But he extracted few concrete commitments from his GOP visitors." In the meantime, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll reports that 57 percent of Americans view the loss of Senate Democrats' filibuster-proof majority in the upper chamber as a good thing. "On the issue of health care reform, public attitudes about the stalled Democratic legislation remain virtually deadlocked. But nearly two-thirds of voters, or 63 percent, want Congress to keep trying to tackle the issue" (Murray and Kane, 2/10). The Washington Post, in a second story analyzing the poll's findings: "Last summer, the president enjoyed advantages of more than 20 points over the GOP on the handling of health care. ... Those leads have all slipped, reflecting both the partisan polarization that has colored the political landscape for many months and the sharp erosion in support for Obama among independents" (Balz and Cohen, 2/10).

Today's Opinions And Editorials: A Litigation Explosion, Anthem Blue Cross And Starting Fresh

Start Fresh With What People Agree Upon Des Moines Register What would a fresh start look like? It would begin with a new bill. Amending the 2, 000 pages in either the Senate or House bill would prove to be impossible. They were born of an unseemly process and based on a premise already rejected by the American people. Language from the existing bills, in areas of agreement, could obviously be used to expedite drafting (Michael O. Leavitt, 2/11). Opening Minds Or Closing Ranks Politico President Barack Obama is summoning Democratic and Republican congressional leaders to a health care summit on Feb. 25. The president has already signaled that he will not discard the House and Senate bills, so Republican ideas remain in the wilderness. The meeting is apt to be more about digging in than opening up (Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Paul Howard, 2/11). Don't Stop Now: Lawmakers Should Pass The Senate Bill Kaiser Health News The fact that we still need a little heavy political lifting to take it over the finish line would hardly surprise Sen.

Mass. Gov. Seeks Greater Authority To Attack Health Costs

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick asked the state legislature to grant his administration broad new authority to "review and reject" excessive rates charged by medical providers in hopes of curbing costs and making health care more affordable, The Boston Globe reports. Under a bill filed Wednesday by Patrick, the rates that "hospitals and other health providers charge insurers would be 'presumptively disapproved as excessive' if they increased faster than the level of medical inflation, and they could be rejected after a public hearing." Insurance premium hikes that exceed 1.5 times medical inflation could also be rejected (Lazar, Levenson and Weisman, 2/11). GateHouse News Service/Dedham (Mass.) Transcript : "Patrick told business leaders he would subject all health insurance rate increases to his insurance commissioner's discretion, and vowed that any increases 'significantly higher' than the 3.2 percent medical cost inflation would be 'challenged.'" The effort particularly targets small businesses, which Patrick said need "some economic breathing room.

KHN's Blog Watch: Different Shades Of Blue

In this installment of KHN's Blog Watch, Kate Steadman writes: "A snow-buried capital slowed many DC-based bloggers' production (cabin fever, perhaps?) but some are reflecting on the administration's public rebuke of health insurer Anthem Blue Cross. The California for-profit company announced rate increases Monday of as much as 39% for many individual plans" (Steadman, 2/10). Read entire article. This information was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with kind permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives and sign up for email delivery at kaiserhealthnews.org. © Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

Obama Calls For Bipartisanship On Health Reform; Pelosi Open To Reconciliation

President Obama on Tuesday met with Democratic and Republican leaders at the White House to discuss health care reform and other legislative priorities, USA Today reports. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) were among the attendees (Jackson, USA Today, 2/10). The two-hour meeting was the start of fresh efforts by Obama to draw greater input from Republicans for developing a health reform bill through "consensus, regardless of party label, " according to the Washington Post (Murray/Kane, Washington Post, 2/9). The meeting came ahead of a televised summit -- scheduled for Feb. 25 -- during which Obama plans to lead a bipartisan effort to move reform legislation forward (Gerstein, Politico, 2/9). McConnell repeated an earlier call to scrap the House and Senate bills ( HR 3962, HR 3590 ) passed last year, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Health Plans Collaborate On Landmark Initiative To Reduce Time, Expense For Physician Office Practice Paperwork

Health plans today launched a landmark initiative to make delivering and getting health care easier for patients and their physicians by reducing the time, effort, and expense for the "paperwork" required for each patient office visit. The initiative, which will simplify information flow between health plans and doctors' offices, and between health plans and hospitals, is comparable to what ATMs did for banks and consumers. America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) are sponsoring regional and statewide initiatives to assess how best to offer physicians access to multiple insurers through the same information channel (e.g., a web portal) in a given region of the country for the purpose of conducting key office tasks. Savings are estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars as the entire health care system achieves efficiencies through similar moves to automation and consistent business practices. The initiative announced today in New Jersey is being led by local health plans representing greater than 95% of state residents with private health insurance, and major statewide physician organizations.

Gregg Ready For 'Dialogue' On Health Reform, Pelosi Ready For Reconciliation Fight

Politico : "Is [Sen.] Judd Gregg [R- N.H.] a tease or a real potential partner for President Barack Obama in trying to salvage some health care reform in this Congress? ... [T]he New Hampshire conservative brings both a proven ability to swing Republican votes and a background in health care and deficit issues. In a letter to Obama released late Tuesday, Gregg welcomed the [Feb. 25] meeting as a chance for 'constructive dialogue'" and he told Politico he is "open to specific deficit-reduction and cost-containment steps that could be taken to win Republicans' support for health reform, " though he has rejected the president's proposals. "He brings a record of bipartisan deal making and good personal ties to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid" (Rogers, 2/11). Meanwhile, Roll Call reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "is pinning the blame on Republicans for a lack of bipartisanship in Congress and plans to bypass them if they continue to oppose efforts to enact near-universal health care.

Anthem Blue Cross 39 Percent Rate Hike Draws Ire Of Federal, Calif. Regulators

Los Angeles Times : "California insurance regulators asked Anthem Blue Cross to delay controversial rate increases of as much as 39% for individual policies, hikes that have triggered widespread criticism from subscribers and brokers -- and now from the federal government. In a rare step, the Obama administration called on California's largest for-profit insurer to justify its rate hikes, saying the increases were alarming at a time when subscribers face skyrocketing healthcare costs." "In a letter to Anthem's president, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius voiced serious concern over the higher premiums, which go into effect March 1 for many of the insurer's estimated 800, 000 individual policyholders" (Helfand, 2/9). Reuters : "Sebelius called for Anthem to offer the public a detailed explanation of the rate hike as well as other information about how much of consumers' premium dollars go toward medical care rather than other expenditures. ... While it was unclear what, if any, steps the U.

States Push Ahead On Health Care Reforms And Policy Issues, Pre-Empting Some Provisions Of Congressional Efforts

Politico : "State lawmakers in at least three dozen states are pushing ahead with a series of measures aimed at pre-empting whatever might come out of Washington. On the left, Democrats in the California Senate recently approved a measure to establish a state-run, single-payer health care system favored by liberals on Capitol Hill. And on the right, conservatives in Virginia and other states are pushing legislation to stave off federal efforts to mandate that individuals secure insurance coverage or require businesses to provide it" (O'Connor, 2/9). Columbia Missourian : "The Missouri Senate spent nearly all of its session time Monday on resolutions that would urge the state's attorney general to sue the federal government for legislation that may never see the light of day in the U.S. Congress." The legislation would urge the state attorney general to join with "other state attorneys general in threatening a lawsuit against the federal government if a version of the health care reform is passed into law.

As Health Overhaul Stalls, Hospitals Face Rising Cost Of Uncompensated Care

For American hospitals, "the cost of doing nothing in Washington translates into tens of billions of dollars each year in medical bills that go unpaid by patients with little or no insurance, " The New York Times reports. "Nationwide, the cost of unpaid care for hospitals, which includes charity care as well as money that could not be collected from patients, was around $36 billion in 2008. It is expected to spiral higher." Some hospitals, such as Park Nicollet Health Services near Minneapolis, are already cutting back services and staff. "Even for many patients who do have coverage under Medicaid or Medicare, some experts say, severe state and federal budget constraints mean hospitals will probably get squeezed by significant government payment cuts, whether or not the overhaul legislation moves forward" (Abelson, 2/8). The Wall Street Journal : "Hospital stocks have dropped as much as 20% from their January peaks, " in part because health overhaul would have reduced uncompensated care, which "amounts to more than 20% of revenue for hospital operators such as Health Management Associates and Community Health Systems, said John Ransom of Raymond James.

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