Morning CheckUp: August 8, 2011

S&P downgrades credit rating, partly blames health costs: In explaining its decision, the rating agency argued that the Budget Control Act Amendment of 2011 did not do enough to slow down government spending and specifically condemned Republicans for turn the debt ceiling into a political football and refusing to consider increasing taxes or allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire. [National Journal]

Health care sector growing strong: “The U.S. economy added more jobs than expected last month. And the health-care industry showed particular strength, with 31,300 new jobs — higher than the average monthly increase seen in 2007, before the recession hit.” [WSJ]

But that may not be a good thing: A lot of the factors creating jobs in the health industry are “also part of what makes it so difficult for the United States to get its health spending under control. We spend a lot more on health care than most other developed countries, and our expenses are growing at a rapid clip.” [Sarah Kliff]

Paul Ryan doesn’t expect too much from super committee: “I’m not putting my stock in this committee,” the Wisconsin lawmaker said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.” “I think people are overemphasizing what this committee is going to achieve. … I don’t think a grand bargain is going to come out of this because [Democrats] aren’t willing to put health care reform on the table.” [CQ]

Debt could hinder medical research: “Prospective government spending cuts may slow Alzheimer’s disease research, stunt the careers of young scientists, and prevent the United States from working with other nations on alternate energy, scientists and lobbyists say.” [Bloomberg News]

Why abortion was excluded from debt ceiling debate: “Part of the reason for the silence: there was no legislative vehicle for attaching policy riders to the debt-limit package. The debt debate was the biggest spending fight of the past several years, but the battle was focused mainly on the top-line spending numbers for each year, not the line-by-line items in the federal budget. Hence lawmakers were not able to include abortion restrictions or other riders that they could attach if they were considering an appropriations bill.” [Felicia Sonmez]

Religious groups seek stronger conscience protections: The Catholic Health Association says a proposed conscience exemption to the administration’s ruling that new insurance plans must provide contraception coverage without copays is “so narrowly written it would apply only to houses of worship. Some other religious-based organizations agree.” [AP]

Reviewing insurance premium increases falls to the states: “And a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute found that although states with veto authority are “better positioned” to negotiate reductions, some states don’t exercise it. Conversely, states without such authority sometimes “get carriers to agree to reductions in rates through informal negotiations.” [Kaiser Health News]

Pawlenty’s health care accomplishments focused on free market: “Once he found that solution, he was like most Republicans. Arm everyone with a high deductible option and give them skin in the game and you have the answer.” [Kaiser Health News]

Still he adopted some ACA-like reforms: including consumer health incentives favoring low-cost insurance and new quality measures for doctors and hospitals. [Star Tribune]

The traveling abortion doctor: “LeRoy Carhart travels from his home in Nebraska almost every week to perform abortions at a clinic in Germantown, Md. He rarely stays at the same hotel twice. He rolls dice to pick the route to take to work, because “the biggest part of security is not being predictable,’’ he said. [Washington Post]

Rick Perry’s unproven stem cell surgery: “Texas Gov. Rick Perry received an injection of his own stem cells during spinal fusion surgery last month and wants his state to be a leader in the use of adult stem cells in medical treatment. But using a concentrated mixture of adult stem cells to fuse bone hasn’t been tested in any major U.S. trials.” [MedPage Today]

He’s also promoting the procedure: “And in the weeks since Perry’s stem cell infusion, the Texas Medical Board has held a stakeholder meeting — largely at the governor’s and Jones’ direction — to discuss how to regulate the procedure in Texas…Two before last week’s Medical Board meeting, Perry sent a letter to the board chair espousing the economic and life-altering potential of adult stem cells and asking members to recognize “the sound science and good work that is already being done” as they consider new regulations.” [NYT]