Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hump Day Headlines

Only Wednesday? Really? Oh well -- I guess we might as well check out the news.

As you know, there are 3 issues that have to be resolved in the next week or so. First, the extension of the payroll tax cut; second, extension of unemployment benefits; and third, the 2012 budget. Well, the House passed a payroll tax extension, but it contains several "poison pills" that will make it impossible to pass in the Senate, and if it did, the President would veto it. It includes speeding up an oil pipeline from Canada to Texas, block air pollution rules, freeze the pay of federal employees, increase Medicare premiums for people earning over about $85,000/year, eliminate some portions of the health reform law, restructure unemployment so the max would be 59 weeks instead of 99 -- in short, it would do a lot of things that have nothing to do with a payroll tax cut. In addition, if Congress doesn't get its act together and pass a 2012 budget, the federal government will run out of money on Friday. The Dems are still pushing for a payroll tax cut extension that would be paid for with a surcharge on income over $1 million. The general consensus is that this House bill sets the stage for last minute negotiations, and it gives the GOP some leverage. Will the Dems cave again?

Medicaid is responsible for an ever-increasing portion of state spending. With people who are unemployed and have lost their health insurance, it's no wonder that Medicaid is growing. The feds are allowing more and more states to move to managed care, with private HMOs administering the program, but they are tying this approval to improved performance.

A new strategy for catching Medicare fraud up front, before the dollars are out the door. Great move.

Doctors have mixed feelings about health reform, with those under age 40 supporting and those over age 40 opposing. Interesting.

Health reform has allowed 2.5 million young adults to get health insurance. The provision that allows kids to age 26 to stay on their parents' policy has become one of the strongest early provisions of the health reform law.

Remember the CLASS Act, the long-term care insurance part of health reform? A while back, the Administration acknowledged that it is not economically feasible, so they put it on the back burner. Well, some bipartisan lawmakers have come up with an alternative. We'll have to see where this goes.

Hospitals are making sales calls on doctors, just like the pharmaceutical industry does. Interesting.

The Hartford Courant has called for the addition of consumer voices on the health insurance exchange board.

A new New York law bans mandatory mail-order pharmacy benefits, as a boost to small pharmacies. People still have the mail order option, but insurers can't force it on them.

Aid for childcare has dropped, just when people need it the most, in order to stay employed.

Some nonprofits in New York are raking in huge amounts from the state for home care to the disabled. This is how people scam the system and then blame the disabled for being so expensive.

And that's today's news. Have a great day! Jennifer

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