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Today’s Headlines – April 13, 2012

Happy Friday! Here are your morning headlines …

Reuters/Chicago Tribune: Sebelius Seeks Civil Rights Support For U.S. Healthcare Law A top U.S. administration official asked civil rights activists on Thursday to help defend President Barack Obama’s embattled healthcare law, saying the reform package faces an “enemy” determined to set American health policy back half a century. The remarks in a charged election year come two months before the Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling that could make or break the law (Morgan, 4/12).

Politico: Kathleen Sebelius: We Don’t Have A Health Care Backup Plan HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Thursday that it would “probably” be a good idea for the department to have a backup plan in case the Supreme Court strikes down the health reform law, but the department isn’t working on one (Feder, 4/12).

For more headlines …

The Washington Post: As Supreme Court Weighs Health Care Reform, Contractors Await Their Fate Government contractors like PCG are involved in every aspect of setting up the new health insurance exchanges — the “marketplaces” for health plans that the Affordable Care Act established. But depending on the outcome of March’s Supreme Court case, which will be revealed in June, the exchanges — along with the rest of the law— may be scrapped, leaving some health insurance contractors uncertain about the end result of their labor (Khazan, 4/12).

Chicago Tribune: Many Seniors Unaware Of Benefits Now At Risk As the Supreme Court decides the fate of the Affordable Care Act, seniors may want to grab the law’s perks while they can. Opinion is mixed on whether other provisions in the law will stand if the mandate on individuals to purchase insurance is struck down. Prescription drug cost relief and free wellness exams are two key provisions under way, and they affect millions of seniors, said Howard Bedlin, vice president of public policy and advocacy for the National Council on Aging (Kidd Stewart, 4/13).

Los Angeles Times: Medicare To Settle Hospital Reimbursement Dispute Medicare agreed to settle a dispute with about 2,200 hospitals nationwide over a decade-long error in reimbursement rates, offering what could amount to a $3-billion infusion to hospitals already bracing for funding cuts under the federal healthcare law. More than 200 California hospitals are included in three similar agreements reached April 5, and they stand to share a total of more than $310 million (Terhune, 4/12).

The New York Times: States Seek Curb On Patient Bills For Costly Drugs Spurred by patients and patient advocates like Ms. Kuhn, lawmakers in at least 20 states, from Maine to Hawaii, have introduced bills that would limit out-of-pocket payments by consumers for expensive drugs used to treat diseases like cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and inherited disorders (Pollack, 4/12).

The New York Times: Catholic Bishops Urge Campaign For Religious Freedom In the document, the bishops seek to explain that their alarm is not only about the mandate in the health reform act that requires even Catholic colleges and hospitals to have insurance plans that cover birth control. They cite seven examples of what they say are violations of religious freedom, including immigration laws in several states that they say make it illegal to minister to illegal immigrants. They also assert that the government has violated the religious freedom of Catholics by cutting off contracts to Catholic agencies (Goodstein, 4/12).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: The Race: War Fever Over Religion, Women And The High Court Enlivens US Presidential Race Everywhere you turn in politics a war is raging — at least of words. Republicans say President Barack Obama is pursuing wars on religion and the Supreme Court. Democrats counter that Republicans are waging a war on women. And now Republicans are accusing Democrats of mounting an offensive against women (4/12).

Los Angeles Times: Larger Women’s Issues Loom Over Romney Campaign While the campaigns tangled this week over ancillary issues like whether Romney was using a fair statistic to describe job losses among women during Obama’s presidency, or the stances of several of his female surrogates on controversial issues like transvaginal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions, the more crucial question is what the toll has been of his sometimes harsh rhetoric on issues of concern to moderate women, like budget priorities, immigration and the nation’s social safety net (Reston, 4/12).

The Washington Post: Komen Grants Flowing To Planned Parenthood Grants from the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure are flowing to Planned Parenthood, as the women’s health organizations seek to rebuild their relationship after the controversy in February over the breast cancer charity’s unsuccessful attempt to defund Planned Parenthood (Sun and Kliff, 4/12).

The New York Times: Cuomo Acts To Advance Health Law In New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, stepping into the national debate over President Obama’s health care law, used his executive power on Thursday to carry out one of its critical features in New York after the state’s Republican lawmakers blocked legislation to do so (Kaplan, 4/12).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: Cuomo Orders NY Health Insurance Exchange Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order Thursday to establish a statewide health insurance exchange intended to reduce coverage costs for individuals, small businesses and local governments. The New York Health Benefit Exchange, a federally authorized and financed marketplace for buyers, is also aimed at including more than a million New Yorkers now without coverage (4/12).

The Washington Post: States’ Tax Revenue Rose 8.9 Percent In Last Fiscal Year Although their tax revenue has improved substantially since the worst of the recession, states continue to face severe fiscal challenges as they are called on to spend more because of the economic stress caused largely by continued high unemployment. Many states face increasing caseloads for Medicaid, the combined federal-state health program for the poor and disabled. Some have unemployment insurance funds that are deep in the red (Fletcher, 4/12).

The Wall Street Journal: Texas Eyes Change In Stem-Cell Rules A Texas agency will vote Friday on whether to enact new rules that would make it easier for doctors to offer experimental treatments using adult stem cells without federal approval. The Texas Medical Board, which licenses and disciplines doctors in the state, recently drafted stem-cell rules at the behest of Dr. Stanley Jones of Houston, who in July injected Gov. Rick Perry with the governor’s own stem cells to try to aid his recovery from a back injury (Koppel, 4/12).