First Edition: September 24, 2010

In today’s news, more reports regarding the health reform provisions that took effect yesterday and more details on the GOP’s “Pledge To America.”

Health Law’s 8 New Changes – And 7 Caveats
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey writes: “If you’ve tuned out the health care law you might want to tune back in. A set of new consumer protections goes into effect today, the six-month anniversary of the law. Here’s a guide to some of the changes – and some of the caveats. Keep in mind that how they affect you will depend on what kind of insurance you have” (Kaiser Health News).

Democratic Pollster: White House Needs To Go ‘Back To Basics’ To Sell Health Law
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jenny Gold spoke with Peter Hart, a Democratic pollster and chairman of Peter D. Hart Research Associates, who said he doesn’t expect a sea change in public opinion in coming weeks and that Democrats might want to avoid discussing the health care law in their campaigns (Kaiser Health News).

Competition On Access: A Role For Government In Health Care Markets
In this Kaiser Health News column, Austin Frakt and Rexford Santerre write: “In late August, The Wall Street Journal reported that government-owned hospitals are ‘drowning in debt’ due to high health care costs, high rates of uninsured patients and cuts in public payments. Some government facilities are closing while others are being sold to private-sector firms. These developments may result from normal market competition that tends to drive inefficiencies from the system. But something important could be lost when public facilities disappear from the marketplace: access” (Kaiser Health News).

New Healthcare Rules Debut To Administration Cheers, GOP Jeers
The insurance reforms at the heart of the Democrats’ healthcare law started to take effect Thursday, six months after President Obama signed the legislation (The Hill).

Small Businesses Prepare For Health-Care Changes
Several provisions of the health-care overhaul that go into effect on Thursday will expand the amount of coverage that many small-business owners provide their employees. But the changes are also expected to increase insurance premiums (The Wall Street Journal).

Seeking Clarity On ‘Grandfathered’ Health Plans
Some provisions of the nation’s new health law that began taking effect this week come with a catch: They don’t apply to plans existing before March 23 and remaining substantially unchanged (USA Today).

Proposed Rules Rankle Insurers
One of the most critical aspects of the federal health overhaul for insurers is shaping up as a mixed bag for the industry, as regulators issued draft rules Thursday on how the companies must account for how much they spend directly on patients’ medical care (The Wall Street Journal).

State Insurance Commissioners Unveil Draft Medical Loss Ratio
The group is inviting comment on the regulation by Oct. 4. The NAIC hopes to adopt the regulation later next month and send it to the Department of Health and Human Services for certification, as required by the healthcare reform law (The Hill’s Healthwatch Blog).

Double-Digit Hikes For Some Medicare Drug Plans
Millions of seniors face double-digit hikes in their Medicare prescription premiums next year unless they shop for cheaper coverage. A new analysis of government data finds that premiums will go up an average of 10 percent among the top plans that have signed up some 70 percent of seniors. That’s according to Avalere Health, a private research firm that crunched the numbers (The Associated Press).

GOP’s ‘Pledge’ Aims To Walk A Fine Line
The document reflects Republicans’ struggle to harness the energy of the insurgent “tea party” without hitching their wagons to some of the movement’s more politically difficult policy ideas. Though laden with the tea party’s patriotic rhetoric and calls for a constitutional revival, the pledge only dabbles in what might be described as tea party policies. Rather, in large part, its proposals are the stuff of traditional Republican doctrine — tax cuts, fewer mandates on business, and repeal of the healthcare overhaul (Los Angeles Times).

Republicans: From ‘Party Of No’ To ‘Party Of Stop’
At its heart, the Republicans’ “Pledge to America” represents a promise to stop Obama in his tracks – stop the economic stimulus, stop the financial bailout program, repeal and (try to) replace the health-care law, stop other spending and stop the elimination of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans (The Washington Post).

Republicans Offer Their Agenda For Midterm Elections
The approach Mr. Boehner set out is based on a belief that smaller government, lower taxes and less regulation will fuel economic growth, create jobs and ultimately lead to a more prosperous nation. … But even conservative-leaning budget and policy analysts said that the Republican blueprint, as drafted, would lead to bigger, not smaller, deficits and that it did not contain the concrete, politically difficult steps needed to alter the nation’s fiscal trajectory. … In addition, the House Republicans said that repealing the Democrats’ health care law would be the centerpiece of their agenda. But they also indicated they would retain popular provisions that would probably lead to a big increase in health care costs (The New York Times).

Republicans Take Aim At Outspoken Liberal In Florida
Rep. Alan Grayson represents a district that — until his election — had long been Republican. Instead of keeping his head down and playing it safe, once he got to Congress, Grayson quickly made a name for himself as one of the House’s most outspoken liberals — and one not afraid to attack Republicans directly. He showed that last year during the health care debate with a speech on the floor of Congress that quickly went viral (NPR).

Caritas Warns Of 2 Hospital Closures
Caritas Christi Health Care executives have told union negotiators they will shutter St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton and Carney Hospital in Dorchester if they can’t close a deal for the six-hospital chain to be bought by a New York private equity firm (The Boston Globe).

California Has Paid Scores Of Criminals To Care For Residents
Scores of people convicted of crimes such as rape, elder abuse and assault with a deadly weapon are permitted to care for some of California’s most vulnerable residents as part of the government’s home health aide program (Los Angeles Times).

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