Morning Examiner: Big brother comes to the doctor’s office 

Almost half of Americans already access health care through a government run program. That number will only increase as Obamacare kicks in. Did our nation’s doctors not think that the federal government was going to start watching them more closely? Today, The New York Times reports that the Obama HHS will soon be launching a “mystery shopper” program to determine how many doctors offices are not accepting Medicare and Medicaid patients.

Over half of the 30 million Americans who gain health insurance through Obamacare will do so under Medicaid, a government run program. But thanks to reimbursement rates far below what private insurers pay, Medicaid patients currently have trouble finding primary doctors who will see them. Medicare pays doctors slightly more than Medicaid, but there have also been reports that seniors are also having trouble finding care. Not only will this study further anger the medical community, but the results could be very damaging for Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement.

Around the Bigs
The New York Times, U.S. Plans Stealth Survey on Access to Doctors: The Department of Health and Human Services will spend almost $350,000 on a “mystery shopper” survey of doctor’s to gauge how difficult it is for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries to obtain primary care. Federal contractors will call 4,185 doctors in nine states (Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia) twice. First, posing as either a Medicare or Medicaid patient and then again later posing as a patient with private insurance. Dr. Raymond Scalettar told the NYT: “I don’t like the idea of the government snooping. It’s a pernicious practice — Big Brother tactics, which should be opposed.” The calls are to begin in a few months, with preliminary results from the survey expected next spring.

The Washington Examiner, Budget, debt talks move to Oval Office: Now that Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., have dropped out of debt limit talks with Vice President Joe Biden, President Obama will begin direct involvement in the negotiations today. Obama is scheduled to meet separately with both Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. The White House still has not yet invited Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to talks, but an invitation is expected soon.

The Washington Post, GOP compromise on debt: Cut military spending?: Some Republicans are offering up defense cuts as an area of debt limit compromise in place of tax cuts. Freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., tells The Post that while defense spending is “a pillar of Republican strength. It’s a pillar of national strength. Look, I know there are sacred cows, but we cannot afford them anymore.”

The Washington Post, Obama’s focus on visiting clean-tech companies raises questions: Industry leaders, both inside and outside the clean energy technology field, are questioning Obama’s heavy involvement in the industry. According to The Post, more than half of Obama’s out-of-town private-business visits have been to clean tech plants. Criticism from competing fields like oil an natural gas have been expected, but there is also plenty of criticism from within the clean tech community as well. “They are giving some companies massive advantages over others,” Trojan Battery vice president Bryan Godber told The Post. “We could have achieved so much with just one-tenth of that money,” Advanced Membrane Systems CEO Abbas Samii said of another firms $49 million stimulus grant. “Now, not only are we struggling, our competitors got all the money,” he finished.

The Wall Street Journal, Debt Hamstrings Recovery: Household and government debt continues to slow economic recovery as cash strapped consumers refuse to spend. Carmen Reinhart, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, tells The Journal: “If your household is already feeling the weight of an underwater mortgage…you’re going to feel differently about adding more debt to absorb the cost of gas.”

The Wall Street Journal, White House Floats Proposal Requiring Auto Makers to Double Fuel Efficiency: The the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency are considering plans to roughly double the average fuel economy of their car and light truck fleets. An industry spokeswoman tells The Journal the new standards could raise prices by $6,000. The Obama administration places the number somewhere between $770 and $3,500.

The New York Times, Behind Veneer, Doubt on Future of Natural Gas: opponents of shale natural gas drilling have leaked “scores” of internal Energy Information Administration emails to The Times casting doubts on the EIA’s shale production estimates. According to the Times, some EIA officials believe that natural gas production estimates might overstate the amount of gas that companies can affordably get out of the ground. The EIA, however, stands by its reports.

The Hill, Private sector claims health reform success in setting low premiums:In another blow to Obamacare’s Accountable Care Organization regulations, a private sector partnership between insurers, hospitals and physicians says they have been able to reduce insurance premiums without government help. Wade Rose, vice president of external and government relations for the Catholic Healthcare West (CHW) says the Obamacare ACO regs “set the bar too high and creates incentives too low. So you really have to question whether it’s worth it, especially in relationship to what we’re already accomplishing.”

The New York Times, The Right’s Blogger Provocateur: The NYT profiles Big Government, Big Journalism and Big Hollywood founder Andrew Breitbart on the front page of the business section: “Part performance artist, part polemicist, Mr. Breitbart, 42, has used his network of Web sites and their legions of followers to bring conservative media red meat.”

Campaign 2012
Bachmann:
Now that she is statistically tied with former-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., in Iowa, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., is beginning to receive some harsher media spotlights. Yesterday, on Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace pressed her on the apparent contradiction between her acceptance of New York’s same-sex marriage law under the 10th amendment, and her support for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Bachmann handled that question fine and was equally unfazed when Wallace asked her: “Are you a flake?” Not long after the interview, however, it was Wallace who made news by posting a video on the Fox News site apologizing for the question.

The Los Angeles Times hits Bachmann today under the header, Bachmann’s had her share of government aid, reporting that “a counseling clinic run by her husband has received nearly $30,000 from the state of Minnesota in the last five years, money that in part came from the federal government. A family farm in Wisconsin, in which the congresswoman is a partner, received nearly $260,000 in federal farm subsidies.”

Huntsman: On CNN, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said he had ruled out supporting former-Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman because of his refusal to support a federal balanced budget amendment: “I won’t support any candidate who does not support balancing the budget. So for me, he’s out.”

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Conn Carroll

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