Healthcare News December 5, 2012

  • OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Medicare on the table

    Medicare and Social Security benefits are “clearly on the table” in negotiations to avoid the looming “fiscal cliff,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday. Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said entitlement cuts would be part of the negotiations, even if he doesn’t end up supporting them.

    Many Democrats have taken a hard line against proposals that would affect Medicare benefits — such as raising the eligibility age, or asking seniors to pay more out of pocket for their coverage. But Hoyer said those policies would have to be up for discussion, given their presence in earlier debt talks between President Obama and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

    “They clearly are on the table,” Hoyer said of the Medicare changes during his weekly press briefing in the Capitol. “They were on the table in the Boehner-Obama talks. They’ve been on the table for some period of time. That does not mean that I’d be prepared to adopt them now, but they’re clearly, I think, on the table.”

    The Hill has the story.

    All alone: Boehner’s outline for a fiscal cliff deal didn’t get much traction Tuesday. Obama said Boehner’s plan — which calls for $600 billion in healthcare savings — is “still out of balance” because it does not raise tax rates on the wealthy. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also declined to endorse Boehner’s outline, which has drawn criticism from conservatives because it opens the door to revenues. 

    “I have no particular observation other than that I commend the House Republican leadership for trying to move the process along and getting to a point where I hope we can have a real discussion,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday.

  • Study: Synthetic marijuana puts thousands in the ER

    Synthetic marijuana put more than 10,000 people in the emergency room in 2010, according to a new federal study.

    The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) raised concerns about the health effects of the increasingly popular drug, also known as “K2” or “Spice.”

    Synthetic marijuana can cause vomiting, seizures, hallucinations and paranoid behavior on a level that lands people in the hospital, officials warned. 

  • Restaurant chain says criticizing ‘ObamaCare’ may hurt its earnings

    The firm owning Olive Garden and Red Lobster lowered its earnings estimates, citing negative publicity after criticizing the law.

  • Safety-net hospitals: Don’t cut Medicaid

    A coalition of public hospitals has launched a new campaign against cuts to Medicaid that could come as part of a deficit-reduction deal.

    At, the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems (NAPH) argues the low-income health insurance program is essential for a healthy economy.

    “Medicaid ensures access to quality healthcare for more than 60 million people … all at a lower per-beneficiary cots than private insurance and Medicare,” NAPH writes. 

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