Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thursday Themes

A rush this morning -- an early meeting outside the office and piles of work to be done. So here's the news, fast as I can:

Big shock -- the parties are split on extending the payroll tax decrease. The GOP wants to pay for it by freezing the pay of federal employees and gradually shrinking the federal workforce; the Dems (and a handful of GOP) want to pay for it by raising revenue from a surtax on incomes over $1 million. Meanwhile, Dems are also pushing for an extension of unemployment benefits before they run out at the end of the year.

States are moving towards setting up their health insurance exchanges (online marketplaces, essentially), including some states who are suing to strike down the law. Now, 29 states have accepted exchange planning grants from the federal government.

Hospitals are hiring as health reform continues to drive job growth in the health care sector.

Will there be Supreme Court recusals in the health reform case? The left wants Clarence Thomas out because his wife's job is to oppose health reform and he "forgot" to report her income on his financial statements for many years. The right wants Elena Kagan out because she was Solicitor General when the law was passed and they allege -- with no evidence -- that she participated in designing the legal strategy to defend the law. My prediction: Both will hear the case.

Fewer children lack health insurance now, with 1 million kids getting insured in the past three years. Health reform has been a key to getting this done.

The Governors of Rhode Island and Washington have asked the federal government to reclassify marijuana so that it can be used legally for medical purposes.

New York City wants to get meds to people with HIV sooner to stop the spread of AIDS.

Here's a troubling one. Cedars Sinai Medical Center is going to eliminate all psychiatric services. It's already hard enough to get insurance coverage of psych services; now, they will be harder to find, even if you have the money to pay for them.

Highmark (Blue Cross) and UPMC (the largest health care provider in the Pittsburgh area) are battling over provider reimbursement rates. State legislators are considering stepping in to referee the fight.

Should you be able to sue for emotional distress when a federal agency discloses your health information to another agency? The Supreme Court heard argument yesterday, so we'll have to see where they end up.

A Medicare anti-obesity plan raises questions about how to treat obesity. Now, doctors can be paid to provide weight-loss counseling, but most of them are not trained in how to do so. I say obesity is an eating disorder and should be treated as such.

Wheelchair accessible taxis will begin to be available in Connecticut, but advocates -- including our friend Michelle Duprey -- are still fighting, saying the number the Department of Transportation has approved is still too low to meet demand.

And there you go -- in record time, and I don't think I missed anything! Have a great day! Jennifer

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