First Edition: January 4, 2011

The House GOP leadership sets Jan. 12 as the date for a vote on repealing the health law. Meanwhile, California’s new health insurance commissioner takes action on health insurers’ expenditures while New York’s governor targets Medicaid spending.

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Insurers Sometimes Reject Neonatal Intensive Care Costs
In her latest KHN  consumer column, Michelle Andrews writes: “Many expectant parents are pretty savvy these days about making sure that their obstetrician and the hospital where they plan to have their baby are in their health insurance network. Using an out-of-network provider would almost certainly mean higher out-of-pocket costs: The plan might pay just 60 percent of charges, for example, instead of 80 percent or more. However, fewer parents-to-be realize that they may be in for a nasty surprise if their baby is premature or for some other reason needs special care immediately after birth: The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) personnel at their in-network hospital may be out of network” (Andrews, 1/4).

Kaiser Health News: 2 Million Medicare Beneficiaries Missing Out On Discounted Drug Coverage
KHN staff writer Phil Galewitz reports: “More than 2 million Medicare beneficiaries have failed to sign up for a program that could save them thousands of dollars a year in drug costs despite government mailings, ads and even pitches from rock and roll legend Chubby Checker” (Galewitz, 1/4).

Kaiser Health News: Rebranding ‘Obamacare’
KHN staff writer Marilyn Werber Serafini, working in collaboration with The Washington Post, reports: “Puh-pack-uh? Is that some kind of llama? In fact, it’s the ungainly acronym of the new health-care law – PPACA, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Many people who support the law, or are neutral toward it, call it ‘puh-pack-uh’ or ‘pee-pack-uh.’ Others call it the Affordable Care Act or plain old health-care reform. But those less-than-inspiring monikers aren’t much help to Democrats trying to convince the public that ‘Obamacare’ — the Republicans’ pejorative name for the law — is worth keeping, said Robert J. Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health” (Serafini, 1/3. Story was originally published Dec. 23).

KHN Column: Improving The Health Law In 2011: Realistic Ways to Reach Bipartisan Compromise
In his latest Kaiser Health News column, Robert Laszewski writes: “The new health care law can be changed in ways that would make it acceptable to a bipartisan majority in the new Congress — and, therefore, to the American people. But to find this elusive middle ground requires consideration of the competing philosophies at the heart of the nation’s political divisions regarding this sweeping measure” (1/4).

The Washington Post: House Sets Jan. 12 Vote On Repeal Of Health-Care Law
House Republicans have set Jan. 12 as their day to vote on a repeal of President Obama’s health-care law, after a midterm election in which they campaigned against the landmark legislation as a government takeover of the health industry (Kane, 1/3).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Jan. 12 Is The Date For Health-Law Repeal Vote
The long-anticipated vote on repealing the health-overhaul law is coming next week in the House. It’ll be a symbolic move, since Democrats still control the Senate and the White House, but an important one for House Republicans who want to express their discontent with the overhaul passed last March (Adamy, 1/3).

NPR: GOP Faces Uphill Climb to Undo Health Law
One of the top items on Republicans’ to-do list when they take over control of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday is to undo one of the Democrats’ signature achievements of the last Congress: the sweeping health system overhaul. And when that vote comes, which could be as soon as next week, it’s expected to pass with overwhelming — possibly even unanimous — Republican support. But while House Republicans are likely to hail it as a major victory and campaign promise kept, it’s unlikely to get far in the Senate, which remains controlled by Democrats. … But again, House Republicans can’t act alone. And even delaying or defunding it won’t be easy (Rovner, 1/4).

Los Angeles Times: Republicans Ready To Flex New Muscle In Congress
Stepping into the spotlight of a new Congress this week, freshly empowered Republicans are vowing to undo much of the work of the last Congress and launch investigations into a raft of Obama administration programs. But their heavily partisan strategy runs the risk of alienating voters who are more concerned about jobs. At a moment when Republicans finally have the attention of economically beleaguered Americans, they will spend the time on an effort to repeal the healthcare overhaul, challenges to federal regulations and a reading of the Constitution on the House floor (Mascaro and Hennessey, 1/3).

Los Angeles Times: California Health Insurers Are Ordered To Spend At Least 80% Of Revenue On Medical Claims
California’s new insurance commissioner sought Monday to force health insurers to spend more of their revenue on medical care. In his first official act, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones ordered emergency regulations requiring insurance companies to devote at least 80% of their income to policyholders’ claims in the state’s individual insurance market (Helfand, 1/4).

Los Angeles Times: California Is Cutting Preventable Hospitalizations
California is doing a better job at cutting the number of unnecessary hospitalizations, but members of some minority groups, particularly African Americans, are still being hospitalized too often, according to recently released state reports that cite lack of access to regular healthcare as a prime source of the problem (Hennessy-Fiske, 1/4).

The Wall Street Journal: Cuomo Targeting Medicaid Spending
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is aiming to reduce the state’s Medicaid spending by billions of dollars, exceeding the size of cuts to the program proposed in past years, according to individuals with knowledge of his budget (Gershman,  1/4).

The Wall Street Journal: FDA Prepares To Enact New Food-Safety Law
The Food and Drug Administration is preparing to enact provisions of the new food-safety bill that was passed by Congress in the waning days of 2010 and is expected to be signed into law Tuesday (Tomson, 1/4).

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