KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Overhaul Provisions On Abortion, IRS Reporting Requirements Stirring Up Capitol Hill

Provisions in the new health law are causing controversy on Capitol Hill and throughout the country.

The Hill reports that Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, introduced legislation Thursday "designed to eliminate a controversial provision of the Democrats' new healthcare reform law that allows subsidized plans to offer abortion coverage if patients pay separately, and with their own money, for that portion of the coverage. Critics of that arrangement argue that, because money is fungible, segregating taxpayer dollars from patient dollars is impossible, leaving no way to prevent federal subsidies for elective abortions." The bill has attracted support from 25 Senate Republicans (Lillis, 8/5).

In the meantime, Missouri Democratic Senate nominee Robin Carnahan may face an even greater election challenge after 71 percent of primary voters in that state cast votes opposing a key part of the new law, Politico reports. "Republicans argue the result from the country's first proxy vote on the health care law is an ominous sign that bodes ill for Carnahan's chances of capturing outgoing Republican Sen. Kit Bond's seat this fall. As they see it, the lopsided vote crystallizes the challenge she faces in explaining her support for the legislation as she attempts to narrow her deficit in the polls with Rep. Roy Blunt, the Republican nominee. ... Democrats argue that placing the referendum on an August ballot stacked with more competitive Republican contests intentionally skewed the outcome" (Catanese, 8/6).

In a separate story, The Hill reports that one Republican measure to scale back the federal health law has its first Democratic supporter, Sen. Blanche Lincoln, of Arkansas, who has endorsed a measured aimed at making businesses file IRS forms when they buy goods from other companies that exceed $600 in a year. "'No piece of legislation is ever perfect and it's important we take steps to make improvements where we can,' Lincoln said in a statement announcing her endorsement." Lincoln further said she has heard from many small businesses that the provision would be a burden on them." The extra revenues from the provision are slated to help pay for health reform (Lillis, 8/5).

Kaiser Health News reports that health reform cuts - and benefits - to Medicare Advantage vary from state to state. "To help finance health reform, Congress cut $136 billion over 10 years from the program, in which private insurers provide Medicare health plans for seniors. The private plans, which are paid a flat fee from the government for each enrollee were a likely target: They cost the government much more per beneficiary, on average, than does traditional Medicare, according to Medicare's advisory commission." Some Medicare experts say the new funding formula for Advantage plans will vary considerably by region. Plans in higher-cost markets where the federal government spends the most on traditional Medicare and "get the lowest rate of federal funding, might continue to operate as they do today" (Gulliver, 8/6).

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