KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Jobless Benefits For Health Law Suspension? Dems Say No.

Republicans are pushing proposals involving suspending parts of the health law in return for extending unemployment aid. Lawmakers also are making progress on a $1 trillion spending bill, again with health law negotiations at the center.

Los Angeles Times: Jobless Benefits Bill Takes Small Steps In An Uphill Climb
The Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, offered an amendment Tuesday that would have extended unemployment insurance in return for a one-year suspension of the health care law's requirement that all individuals carry health insurance. It was rejected by Democrats (Mascaro and Parsons, 1/7).

Fox News: GOP Senator: Give Companies That Hire Long-Term Jobless A Break From ObamaCare
A Republican senator is pushing a curious alternative to extending aid for the long-term unemployed -- entice companies to hire them by letting those businesses off the hook on Obamacare.  Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., is one of several Republicans offering up amendments to a Senate bill that would extend long-term jobless benefits for three months, at a cost of more than $6 billion. The bill narrowly advanced Tuesday, teeing up a debate over possible changes. The central plank of Thune's amendment would create an incentive program for businesses to hire those who have been unemployed 27 weeks or more (1/7).

Los Angeles Times: Analysis: Senate Action A Preview Of 2014 Election Fight: Who’s On Your Side? 
The frantic image-making by Democrats and Republicans as the 2014 elections loom rippled through the Senate debate Tuesday over whether to extend jobless benefits that expired late last year. For Democrats, who unanimously supported a procedural vote on the benefit extension, the issue offered an opportunity to come to the defense of a middle class still. … For Republicans, only six of whom crossed party lines to further the benefit extension, the day brought a renewed effort to tie jobless relief to Obamacare. … The merging of the two issues came in a proposal by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to pay for the extension with a one-year delay of Obamacare's requirement that all Americans carry health insurance. Though that was defeated, along with an attempt by Republicans to block the benefits extension from being considered, final approval of the legislation is iffy in the Senate and, at this point, exceedingly iffy in the Republican-controlled House (Decker, 1/7).

The Hill: Negotiators Make Progress On $1T Spending Bill
Prospects for completing a giant spending bill and avoiding another government shutdown appeared to improve Tuesday, as a top negotiator said a repeat of October’s Obamacare-driven shutdown could be avoided. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who chairs a subcommittee overseeing health, labor and education spending, told reporters that the $1 trillion omnibus is nearing completion, and both sides should be able to agree on an Obamacare compromise (Wasson, 1/7).

And one prominent lawmaker pushes Medicare reforms --

CQ HealthBeat: Wyden Pushes Bipartisan Medicare Overhaul Focused On Chronic Disease, Transparency
Ron Wyden, heir apparent to the Senate Finance Committee chairmanship, plans to push for bipartisan bills that he says will transform Medicare by focusing on chronic disease and increasing price transparency (Ethridge, 1/7).

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