First Edition: February 2, 2011

Today’s headlines include continuing coverage of Monday’s federal court ruling on the health law, with additional analysis about its impact and how stakeholders at the state level, in Congress and in the business community are responding.

Kaiser Health News: Defending The Flex Spending Accounts
KHN staff writer Jordan Rau, working in collaboration with Politico, reports: “The repeal effort will move ahead next week when Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn., are expected to file bills that would allow FSA money to once again pay for OTC medications. The legislation also would eliminate the law’s $2,500 annual limit on contributions to FSAs, a provision that takes effect in two years. Currently, employers decide limits” (Rau, 2/2).

NPR: How Will Supreme Court Rule On Health Care Law?
This week, for the second time, a federal judge has struck down part or all of the health care law enacted by Congress last year. But legal experts caution against drawing any conclusions from these decisions. … History indicates that early court decisions are hardly predictive (Totenberg, 2/2).

The Washington Post: State Officials Divided On Meaning Of Judge’s Health-Care Ruling
A day after a federal judge struck down the government’s plan to overhaul the health-care system, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen issued a stern statement: “This means that, for Wisconsin, the federal health care law is dead,” and that his state “was relieved of any obligations or duties” to carry out the statute (Goldstein and Aizenman, 2/1).

The New York Times: States Diverge On How To Deal With Health Care Ruling
States took broadly divergent approaches on Tuesday to a federal judge’s ruling that invalidated the Obama health care law, while Congressional Republicans used the decision to build momentum for a vote on repealing the act (Sack, Herszenhorn and Pear, 2/1).

The New York Times: Reporter’s Notebook: Tea Party Shadows Health Care Ruling
Among the legal commentariat, which blogs its instant analysis after each turn in the health care litigation, one assertion in Monday’s ruling against the law by Judge Roger Vinson is receiving particular attention (Sack, 2/1).

The New York Times: Awaiting Health Law’s Prognosis
With a court decision on Monday declaring the health care law unconstitutional and Republicans intent on repealing at least parts of it, thousands of Americans with major illnesses are facing the renewed prospect of losing their health insurance coverage (Abelson, 2/1).

Los Angeles Times: Senate To Vote On Healthcare Repeal
The Senate plans to vote Wednesday on legislation to repeal President Obama’s healthcare overhaul, following a deal between Democrats and Republicans to schedule the largely symbolic roll call (Levey and Mascaro, 2/1).

Politico: Mandate Opposition Tests GOP Principles
In a different context, the Republican Party might cheer one of the fundamental tenets of the health care law, a requirement that all Americans buy health insurance (Nather, 2/2).

The Wall Street Journal: Senate To Vote On Health-Law Repeal
Senate Republicans, seizing on a court ruling that the health-care overhaul passed last year is unconstitutional, will push ahead with a vote to repeal the legislation (Bendavid, 2/2).

The Wall Street Journal: Health-Care Companies Staying The Course
Health-care companies said they were pressing forward with plans to implement the federal health-overhaul law, despite a new legal ruling that declared it to be unconstitutional (Johnson and Hobson, 2/2).

The Wall Street Journal: Waivers From Rules Granted To Many
Hundreds of employers have received federal waivers from a new requirement in the health-care overhaul law. Government figures show that 733 applicants, mainly employers and union-affiliated insurers, received an exemption from a requirement that puts their plans on the hook for up to $750,000 in eligible medical bills for each covered worker this year. Most of those plans now have reimbursement limits that are a fraction of that amount (Adamy, 2/2).

Los Angeles Times: Blue Shield Agrees to Postpone Rate Increase For 60 Days
After initially balking, health insurer Blue Shield of California has agreed to a request by California’s insurance commissioner to delay a March 1 rate increase for 60 days (Helfand, 2/2).

Los Angeles Times: Whistle-Blower Ven-A-Care Wins Texas Case Against Drug Company
A Texas jury on Tuesday ordered two subsidiaries of Icelandic pharmaceuticals company Actavis to pay $170 million for overcharging the Texas Medicaid program. That means the whistle-blower — Ven-A-Care of the Florida Keys Inc. — is in line to receive millions in reward money for acting as the public’s watchdog (Zajac, 2/2).

Los Angeles Times: For Profit Hospices May Choose Cheaper-To-Treat patients, Study Finds
Study results released Tuesday by the Journal of the American Medical Assn. report that for-profit hospice services may be selecting patients who are less expensive to treat — leaving the pricier patients to nonprofit agencies (Brown, 2/1). 

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