KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: April 12, 2011

Today's headlines include details of what made up the short-term budget deal's $38 billion in cuts and how President Obama's longer term budget vision may take shape.

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Health Overhaul Could Double Community Health Centers' Caseload
In her latest Kaiser Health News consumer column, Michelle Andrews writes: "Community health centers serve 20 million people every year, and that number is expected to double by 2015, thanks to an $11 billion infusion from the health-care overhaul and $2 billion in federal stimulus funds" (Andrews, 4/12).

Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill: Spending Cuts Agreed To As Entitlement Reform Looms
KHN's Mary Agnes Carey talks with Jackie Judd about developments on the Hill. This week: The fiscal 2011 spending deal reached late last week would remove some minor provisions of the health care law and require that the Senate vote on two measures the House already has approved – denying federal funding for both the health care law and Planned Parenthood (4/11). Watch the video or read the transcript.

Kaiser Health News Column: The End Of Pennsylvania's AdultBasic – Not A Sound Investment In The State's Future
In a Kaiser Health News column, Charles LaVallee writes  that Pennsylvania has long been a laboratory for innovation in providing health coverage to the uninsured. But this legacy came crashing down earlier this year when 42,000 adultBasic enrollees lost their health insurance. The program's termination was explained as a "fiscal reality," but this fiscal decision is not a sound investment in the state's future (4/11).

The New York Times: GOP Plan For Medicare Could Shape 2012 Races
Just four months into their new majority, House Republicans face a potentially defining Medicare vote this week that is sure to become a centerpiece of Democratic efforts to recapture the House in 2012 and spill into the presidential and Senate campaigns as well (Hulse and Zeleny, 4/11).

The New York Times: Democrats Allow Trims To Favored Programs
President Obama successfully resisted Republican efforts to take all federal money from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. But the spending bill cuts money for the program that finances many family-planning services provided by Planned Parenthood and other organizations, Title X of the Public Health Service Act. The appropriation would be reduced to $300 million, from $317 million, Congressional aides said. … The spending bill would save more than $3 billion by not paying out money set aside for bonuses to states that have increased the enrollment of uninsured children in Medicaid (Steinhauer and Pear, 4/11).

The Washington Post: $38 Billion In Cuts In Budget Deal Will Cover Various Domestic Areas
District officials are livid about some policy provisions attached to the bill, particularly one that would ban federal and local funding for abortion. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and several members of the D.C. Council led a protest rally Monday on Capitol Hill and were arrested. …  And although Democrats protected funding for some cherished programs, such as Head Start and the implementation of Obama's health-care law, they were not able to reduce military spending. … Another cut, $3.5 billion for the Children's Health Insurance Program, would affect only rewards for states that make an extra effort to enroll children. But officials with knowledge of the budget deal said that most states were unlikely to qualify for the bonuses and that sufficient money would be available for those that did (Rucker, 4/11).

The Wall Street Journal: Spending Deal Faces Rough Ride In House
The 2011 spending deal sealed to much fanfare by party leaders faces a rough ride in Congress this week. That is especially true in the House, where many conservatives are disappointed that the agreement does not cut more than $38.5 billion this year, and that it doesn't do more to restrict abortion or defund President Barack Obama's health law (Bendavid and O'Connor, 4/12).

The Associated Press: Obama Sizes Up Options For Health Care Costs
President Barack Obama's plans to curb health care costs that drive the deficit would mean less taxpayer money for providers and more costs for beneficiaries as he draws from bipartisan ideas already on the table (Alonso-Zaldivar, 4/11).

Los Angeles Times: Obama To Draw Sharp Contrast With GOP Over Deficit
President Obama will call for shrinking the nation's long-term deficits by raising taxes on wealthier Americans and requiring them to pay more into Social Security, drawing a barbed contrast with a Republican plan to save money by deeply slashing Medicare, Medicaid and other domestic spending (Nicholas, Parsons and Oliphant, 4/12).

The Washington Post: Obama Turns To His Bipartisan Deficit Commission's Blueprint For Reducing Debt
President Obama plans this week to respond to a Republican blueprint for tackling the soaring national debt by promoting a bipartisan approach pioneered by an independent presidential commission rather than introducing his own detailed plan (Montgomery and Goldfarb, 4/11).

The New York Times: Senators Surprised By Obama's Entry Into Fiscal Debate
The Republican, Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, and his Democratic negotiating partner, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, said they were surprised when Mr. Obama's senior White House strategist, David Plouffe, said on Sunday talk shows that Mr. Obama would ask Congress to join him in writing a long-range plan of domestic and military spending cuts and higher taxes for the wealthy. … Administration officials had believed the senators would announce agreement this week; that was a consideration in scheduling Mr. Obama's speech. The officials said a deal would suggest momentum for the broader bipartisan negotiations that Mr. Obama seeks - and contrast with what is expected to be divisive debate this week in the House over a Republican budget that would cut domestic spending deeply, including for Medicaid and Medicare, but largely spare the military and cut tax revenues (Calmes, 4/11).

Los Angeles Times: Governors Cut Taxes – And Medical Aid to The Poor
In their drive to cut medical assistance to the poor while pushing tax breaks benefiting the affluent, congressional Republicans are following the lead of a group of governors who have championed this approach to balance state budgets ( Levey, 4/12).

Politico: Exchanges Giving States Migraines
The online exchanges that are being created by the health reform law are often described as a new "Travelocity for health insurance." Consumers will go to a website, input information about their income and needs and pick the coverage that fits best. But the people who are charged with setting up the exchanges say it's not going to be as easy as buying a plane ticket (Feder, 4/12).

The New York Times: Democrat In Missouri To Oppose Health Care Law
Missouri's Democratic attorney general broke with his party on Monday and urged a federal judge to invalidate the central provision of the new health care law (Sulzberger and Sack, 4/11).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: Missouri Steps Up Fight Against Health Law
Breaking months of silence, Missouri's Democratic attorney general asserted Monday that Congress overstepped its constitutional powers when it mandated that most Americans have health insurance or pay a penalty (4/11).

The Washington Post: House Sets More Health-Care Repeal Votes
The battles over the fiscal 2011 and 2012 budgets are the center of attention this week on the Hill, but the House is also poised to consider a measure that would repeal another portion of the national health-care law (Sonmez, 4/11).

The Washington Post: Romney Takes First Formal Step Toward Running For President In 2012
Romney advisers said the timing of his move was dictated by Obama's announcement, and by the imperative to show his strength as a fundraiser in the second quarter. But it also came at an awkward moment: Tuesday marks the fifth anniversary of the landmark Massachusetts health-care law that was Romney's signature achievement as governor (Tumulty, 4/11).

The Wall Street Journal: Tenet Suit Against Community Health Draws Bears
Options traders seem to fear the worst for Community Health Systems and Tenet Healthcare. There was a surge of interest in bearish puts to sell both hospital companies' stock after Tenet on Monday accused Community Health of overbilling Medicare, a new defense in Tenet's effort to fend off a hostile takeover by its rival hospital operator. Analysts said the lawsuit was likely to trigger more scrutiny of billing practices across the industry (Conway, 4/11).

The Associated Press: Tenet, Community Health Fight Gets Nasty
Tenet Healthcare Corp. has accused rival hospital operator Community Health Systems Inc. of systematically bilking Medicare, and the burgeoning legal fight sent shares of the entire sector sliding Monday (Murphy, 4/11).

The New York Times: Hospital Care At Life's End: A Disparity
At the end of life, people with chronic diseases like cancer get more aggressive medical care in the New York area than anyplace else in the country, continuing a trend going back decades, according to a report released on Monday by researchers at Dartmouth College (Hartocollis, 4/11).

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