Friday, April 1, 2011

Finally Friday Edition

Whew -- I made it to Friday. What a week. Here's today's news:

Tea Partiers rallied outside the Capitol yesterday to urge the GOP to stand strong on massive cuts to the budget, even if it means a government shut-down. It turned out to be a small rally, though. They had a nifty slogan -- "cut it or shut it." Federal employees are worried about a shut-down. Still, conservatives in the House feel that $33 billion in cuts -- the largest cut in history -- is not enough. They would prefer a shut-down to compromise. Speaker Boehner is trying to get them to understand the need for compromise. But he also denies that any deal has been made. Meanwhile, the Senate waits, figuring that there's no point in debating a deal that can't pass the House -- although Mitch McConnell says Chuck Schumer is the extreme one, not the Tea Party. And 139 groups signed a letter demanding that the policy riders -- defunding health care, Planned Parenthood and more -- be left out of the budget deal. And Newt Gingrich, who supports the budget cuts generally, pleads with his GOP allies to protect funding for the National Institutes of Health.

And here we go -- the first specifics from the GOP 2012 budget. They plan to start with cutting $1 trillion from Medicaid, the health care program for the poor. Instead of providing health care, they would give each recipient $11,000 per year to go buy private health insurance. Of course, since they would also repeal health reform, and since most of these folks have pre-existing conditions, they won't be able to find health insurance at that price -- perhaps at any price -- and how will they pay deductibles and copays? This would essentially gut health care for the poor -- a disaster, and a cold-hearted one at that.

Yesterday, the feds released regulations for accountable care organizations. I confess, I haven't had a chance to read all 429 pages yet, but I will. The idea is that hospitals, nursing homes, and other providers will form alliances that will promote care coordination and bring down the cost of health care. However, insurers don't like ACOs because they will have greater bargaining power, so they could actually increase costs. For now, these arrangements are aimed at Medicare spending. For more on these new rules, go here. Fact sheets are here. And video is here.

One of health reform's most popular programs -- early retiree reinsurance -- will stop taking applications after April 30 because it will have hit its budget limit.

The Senate will vote on repealing the 1099 bookkeeping problem on Tuesday. Supposedly, they finally have the votes to pass it.

The House passed a Bill that would give control over health reform to Congress rather than the Obama Administration. Another trick that will never pass the Senate or be signed by the President.

Unfortunately, as a result of the health reform requirement that insurers cover kids with pre-existing conditions, child-only policies have disappeared in some states, creating a critical vacuum.

The growth of electronic medical records is intended to facilitate care coordination, but should patients have to give permission for providers to share their records? Some worry that patients won't know to opt-into this system; others worry about patient privacy. How to balance the two concerns is the issue.

Arizona proposes requiring beneficiaries to pay a $50 fee if they are overweight or smoke or engage in unhealthy behavior.

Medicare pays 100% for dialysis no matter what your age or circumstances, but some feel this is wrong because most beneficiaries are elderly and some should be considering hospice instead. Hmmm.

Lung cancer deaths in women have fallen, finally.

And that's this morning's news. Have a GREAT day! Jennifer

No comments:

Post a Comment