Today’s Headlines – July 28, 2011

Good Morning! Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including reports about the ever-growing U.S. health care tab and about the petition filed by a conservative legal center to bring their health law challenge to the Supreme Court.

The Washington Post: Boehner, Other GOP Leaders Ramp Up Pressure On Republicans To Pass Debt Plan
House GOP leaders mounted a furious bid Wednesday to win support for legislation designed to ease the nation’s debt crisis, delivering a tongue-lashing to their most conservative lawmakers and casting Thursday’s roll call as nothing less than a vote of confidence in their stewardship of the chamber. … Across the Capitol, Reid continued to oppose Boehner’s two-step approach to lifting the debt ceiling, which would entail expanding the government’s borrowing authority for a few months and then holding another vote early next year on a further increase (Kane and Montgomery, 7/27).

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The Washington Post: Obama, White House Seek To Reassure Base On Debt Ceiling Talks
The White House is waging an aggressive behind-the-scenes campaign to reassure core Democratic activists, following weeks of criticism from liberals who fear that President Obama has given too much ground in his debt-ceiling talks with Republicans. Senior aides are holding conference calls to take questions from leaders of black and Hispanic organizations, local elected officials, and other political allies nationwide. Obama spoke by phone this week to a group of college student body presidents to seek their help in lobbying for a compromise. And top economic advisers have huddled in the West Wing in recent days with pastors and advocates for seniors, children and the poor — including one session with Easter Seals and families it serves to discuss the importance of Medicaid to disabled children (Wallsten, 7/27).

USA Today: States Nervously Watch Debt-Ceiling Impasse
The U.S. government’s stalemate over raising the debt limit is taking a growing toll on states as Tuesday’s deadline draws near, with some canceling bond sales and identifying roadwork and other expenditures that could be delayed. … Even more worrisome is that states receive about 35% of their revenue from the federal government, including funds to build roads and schools and to help pay Medicaid and unemployment insurance (Davidson, 7/27).

Politico: Republicans’ Medicare Plan Backed By Ad Campaign
The conservative American Action Network is launching a large-scale mail and newspaper ad campaign, targeting a long list of House districts to shore up Republicans on the issue of Medicare. The campaign, which includes both mail pieces and newspaper ads, charges Democrats with attempting to “balance the budget on the backs of seniors” with a proposal to amend Medicare Part D (Burns, 7/27).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Gov’t Report: US Health Care Tab To Hit $4.6 Trillion In 2020, Averaging $13,710 Per Person
The nation’s health care tab is on track to hit $4.6 trillion in 2020, accounting for about $1 of every $5 in the economy, government number crunchers estimate in a report out Thursday. How much is that? Including government and private money, health care spending in 2020 will average $13,710 for every man, woman and child, says Medicare’s Office of the Actuary (7/28).

The Wall Street Journal: Uncle Sam To Pay More Of The Tab For Health
Almost half the nation’s health-care spending will come from government coffers by 2020, up four percentage points from 2010, according to new federal spending figures to be released Thursday. The data, published by the trade journal Health Affairs, shows how President Barack Obama’s 2010 health-overhaul law will reshape who foots the bill for the nation’s medical expenses by the end of the decade (Adamy, 7/28).

The New York Times: Justices Are Asked To Hear Challenge To Health Care Law
The Supreme Court was asked on Wednesday to hear a challenge to the health care overhaul law, raising the possibility that the justices could rule on the matter by next summer, just months before the presidential election. Similar requests are likely to follow, and it is not clear which if any of them the court will agree to hear (Liptak, 7/27).

The Associated Press: Health Care Lawsuit Reaches Supreme Court
A conservative law firm asked the Supreme Court Wednesday to strike down the health care overhaul, challenging the first federal appeals court ruling that upheld President Barack Obama’s signature domestic initiative. The appeal filed by the Thomas More Law Center of Ann Arbor, Mich., said Congress overstepped its authority in requiring Americans to purchase health insurance or pay financial penalties (7/27).

The New York Times: Cost Of Treating Veterans Will Rise Long Past Wars
By one measure, the cost of health care and disability compensation for veterans from those conflicts and all previous American wars ranks among the largest for the federal government — less than the military, Social Security and health care programs including Medicare, but nearly the same as paying interest on the national debt, the Treasury Department says (Dao, 7/27).

Los Angeles Times: WellPoint Posts 3% Profit Decline
Health insurance giant WellPoint Inc. said its profit fell 3% in the second quarter partly because of higher-than-expected medical costs for seniors, particularly in Northern California. The nation’s second-largest insurer by membership said it earned $701.6 million in the three months that ended June 30, down from $722.4 million a year earlier (Helfand, 7/28).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Health Care Use Trend That Has Helped Insurers May Also Temper Hikes For Customers
Consumers may catch a little break when their health insurance policies renew. Lower-than-expected use of health care has helped push insurer earnings higher and that may temper how much they increase premiums. Analysts and industry observers say people tend to hold off on elective surgeries or skip doctor visits after a deep recession, and that makes utilization grow more slowly. Insurers consider this trend when they determine what they will need to collect in premiums to cover future claims, and employers likely will use it as a bargaining chip when they negotiate prices of the plans that cover their workers (7/27).

The Washington Post: Judge Upholds Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funds
A U.S. judge Wednesday upheld the government rules that allow federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research that might lead to cures for deadly diseases affecting millions of Americans. In a victory for the Obama administration, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that the National Institutes of Health guidelines on such research do not violate a 1996 federal law, and he dismissed a legal challenge to the funding(Vicini, 7/28).

Los Angeles Times: Government Funding Reaffirmed For Stem Cell Research
The federal government can continue to fund embryonic stem cell research, a U.S. district judge ruled Wednesday (Brown, 7/28).

The Wall Street Journal: Judge Backs Obama Order On Stem Cells
The plaintiffs, scientists James Sherley and Theresa Deisher, contended that Mr. Obama’s loosening of embryonic stem-cell funding rules had unfairly diverted money away from adult stem-cell research, their specialty. They also argued the NIH was increasing demand for newly derived embryonic cells and the destruction of embryos. Judge Lamberth said the NIH reasonably concluded that the law didn’t prohibit research projects, such as embryonic stem-cell research, that don’t directly involve embryos (Randall and Anderson, 7/28).