KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Health Care Politics: Possible Senate Medicaid Vote This Week; Parties Dispute Tax Reporting Requirement

News outlets covered various aspects of health care and politics.

Congress Daily: The Senate is expected to try once again this week to pass enhanced Medicaid funding, but Democratic leaders acknowledge it will be a tough fight. "First up is a $16 billion injection of Medicaid assistance that states have been clamoring for, attached to an FAA reauthorization set for a cloture vote [Monday night]. The amendment is similar to the scaled-back Medicaid funding included in the tax extenders package that died in the Senate in June. It provides states with an increase of 3.2 percent above traditional federal Medicaid funding for the first quarter of 2011 and a 1.2 percent increase in the second quarter. Passing the provision with the FAA legislation will not be easy, as senators in both parties are holding fast that increased Medicaid funding should be paid for" (Friedman, 8/1).

The Associated Press: "Tucked into the new health care law is a requirement that could become a paperwork nightmare for nearly 40 million businesses. They must file tax forms for every vendor that sells them more than $600 in goods. The goal is to prevent vendors from underreporting their income to the Internal Revenue Service. The government must think vendors are omitting a lot because the filing requirement is estimated to bring in $19 billion over the next decade. ... Republicans want to repeal the filing requirement and pay for it by changing other parts of the new health care law. ... Democrats want to repeal the filing requirement and pay for it by raising taxes on international corporations and limiting taxpayers' ability to use special trusts to avoid gifts taxes" (Ohlemacher, 7/31).

CQ: "A broad bipartisan group of House members agrees that a small-business tax compliance law enacted earlier this year should be - but so far it has been easier said than done. Democrats pulled a tax bill off the floor July 29 to sidestep a Republican procedural move that targeted the law. A new bill was quickly sent to the floor, but it was rejected July 30 by a 241-154 vote" (Rubin, 7/30).

The Wall Street Journal: "Democratic leaders set a high procedural hurdle on the vote for repeal, bringing it to a vote under special House rules that require a two-thirds majority for passage. Republican aides said this was mainly a way for Democrats to avoid a politically damaging vote on the GOP motion. Still, the switch appears to be the first instance of Democrats broadly calling for repeal of a part of the health-care law. Republicans are campaigning on promises to repeal various aspects of the overhaul."

""It's awfully good to hear the other side admit that they messed up in the health care bill,' said Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R., Fla.) during House floor debate. House Democratic aides who spoke on condition of anonymity downplayed the significance of the reversal, saying the IRS reporting requirement was not integral to the functioning of the health-care overhaul" (Vaughan, 7/30).

Roll Call reports that in the GOP Saturday radio address, Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., criticized the reporting requirement, maintaining "that Obama's health care law and his desire to regulate greenhouse gas emissions are stifling the small-business industry and costing jobs throughout the country. ... Johanns took particular aim at the health care law's requirement that all individuals obtain insurance coverage and the new costs associated with Medicare. Both, the Nebraskan said, 'don't encourage small businesses to hire employees'" (Brady, 7/31).

The Los Angeles Times has a transcript of Johanns remarks, as well as one from today's weekly address by President Obama.

The New York Times focused on an upcoming vote: "For all its symbolic import, the first plebiscite on the Obama health care law, to be held Tuesday in Missouri, seems likely to be a low-turnout affair among an electorate dominated by Republican primary voters and conservative activists. Missouri is the first of at least three states with ballot measures this year aimed at nullifying the federal health care law by invalidating its keystone provision, the requirement that most people obtain insurance or pay a tax penalty. ... Supporters of Proposition C are hoping for a substantial victory that will convey a message of discontent with expansive federal government and rally other states and candidates to press the issue through the fall campaign."

"No grass-roots organization has formed to oppose the measure, and the unions and consumer groups that lobbied for the federal health care law have steered clear. ... The nullification laws are expected to have little immediate practical impact, because the insurance requirement does not take effect until 2014. And by then, the federal courts are likely to have had much to say about whether the new health care law is constitutional" (Sack, 7/31).

Politico: "In the wake of two polls showing seniors skeptical of health reform, the Obama administration has made a $700,000 national cable ad buy, featuring Andy Griffith talking about the Medicare benefits within the law, aimed at selling a key voting block on new provisions. 'With the new health care law, more good things are coming - free checkups, lower prescription costs and better ways to protect us and Medicare from fraud,' Griffith says in the 30-second spot ... Republicans were quick to pounce on the new spot, calling it a 'slick taxpayer-funded ad' that did not mention health reform's reductions in spending on Medicare Advantage plans" (Kliff, 7/30).

The Hill: "The ad arrives as polls indicate that seniors are much more skeptical of the Democrats' health reforms than younger Americans. Indeed, 37 percent of seniors said they feel 'angry' that the law was passed, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey released this week. Only 26 percent of younger Americans said they feel the same way" (Lillis, 7/30).

CongressDaily: "In a webcast, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Administrator Donald Berwick announced a redoubling of the agency's education efforts on impacts of the law. 'The new law gives us tremendous tools to help make Medicare sustainable, and also make care better,' Berwick said. 'We can reduce the costs of the program even while we're making care far better.' ... CMS said the ad is part of the agency's efforts to inform beneficiaries about changes and improvements to the program. But the TV spot is likely to draw ire from Republicans, who attacked CMS brochures in May that detailed changes to the program under the law as propaganda" (McCarthy, 7/30).

Related from KHN:

Blog Watch: Happy Birthday, Medicare  (Steadman, 7/30)

Support For Health Law Remains Steady While Opposition Drops (Verdon, 7/29)

Dr. Donald Berwick - A Resource Guide


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