KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: June 17, 2011

Today's headlines include reports about how health entitlement programs are faring in the ongoing deficit-reduction negotiations.

Kaiser Health News: Rockefeller Says He will Fight 'To the End' Against Medicaid Cuts – The KHN Interview
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey talked to Sen. Jay Rockefeller about his efforts to protect the Medicaid program, including steps to raise defenses against efforts in the deficit reduction talks to reduce funding for the health care program that covers the poor and disabled (Carey, 6/16). Watch the video.

Los Angeles Times: Negotiators Plan For Marathon Talks On Deficit
Deficit-reduction negotiations will continue essentially around the clock next week as Vice President Joe Biden and congressional leaders seek to resolve the stand-off over raising the nation's $14.3-trillion debt limit and send jittery financial markets a message that Washington can tackle its fiscal problems. Biden said that negotiators are aiming for $4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade even as the differences remain on the core issues of taxes and Medicare health spending (Mascaro, 6/16).

The Washington Post: Biden On Debt-Reduction Talks: Negotiators 'Getting Down To The Real Hard Stuff'
Next week, Biden said, negotiators from the White House and Capitol Hill will begin working "around the clock" to bridge the yawning philosophical divide between the two parties, as Democrats press for fresh revenue and Republicans push for significant cuts to federal health programs as part of the debt-reduction package (Montgomery, 6/16).

The Wall Street Journal: Biden Talks Aimed At $4 Trillion In Cuts Over 10 Years
The focus of Thursday's meeting was spending programs that are renewed each year automatically without congressional action. The largest of these programs-Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid-weren't the focus of discussion. Instead Mr. Cantor said the talks Thursday involved "non-health care" programs. The biggest ticket items likely to be affected by a budget agreement are subsidies paid to farmers and the federal employee pension scheme (Boles and Peterson, 6/16).

The Wall Street Journal: Key Seniors Association Pivots On Benefit Cut
AARP, the powerful lobbying group for older Americans, is dropping its longstanding opposition to cutting Social Security benefits, a move that could rock Washington's debate over how to revamp the nation's entitlement programs (Meckler, 6/17).

Los Angeles Times: Three Days Later, Tim Pawlenty Punches Back At Romney (On Twitter)
One of the standout moments in Monday's GOP candidates' debate was when Tim Pawlenty backed down from his attack just one day earlier linking the healthcare plans of President Obama and Mitt Romney as "Obamneycare." For a candidate hoping to establish himself as the lead challenger to the GOP's nominal front-runner, Pawlenty's response was seen as a missed opportunity. …  On Thursday, Pawlenty seemed to admit as much, taking to the social media site Twitter to try and regain his footing. "On seizing debate opportunity re: healthcare: Me 0, Mitt 1. On doing healthcare reform the right way as governor: Me 1, Mitt 0," Pawlenty tweeted (Memoli, 6/16).

The Associated Press: Pawlenty: Romney A 'Co-Conspirator' In Obamacare
Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty on Thursday called rival Mitt Romney a "co-conspirator" in President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, his sharp language a contrast to his refusal to criticize the former Massachusetts governor when they appeared together in a televised debate (6/16).

Politico: Pawlenty Sticks With Health Law Repeal
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty wants to make health care more efficient, paying providers for better medical care rather than just more of it. But he still wants to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law - even though it sets up experiments that are supposed to do the same thing. It's a conflict Pawlenty had to explain away Wednesday in a speech at an America's Health Insurance Plans conference, as he faced questions about why he wants to get rid of a law with at least some of the same reform goals he talks about (Nocera, 6/16).

Los Angeles Times: Elder Care Goes High Tech
Dorothy Rutherford is anxiously typing at her home computer, filling in answers to an online spelling game. Gerontologists say aging in place vastly improves the quality of life for seniors and is a lot cheaper for society than group homes and institutions. The trick is to do so without jeopardizing the health and safety of older people, which is why Rutherford is playing the word jumble game (Hamilton, 6/17).

The New York Times: Workers Swarm Trenton On Benefit Changes
Thousands of angry government workers swarmed New Jersey's Capitol on Thursday and some were briefly arrested, one day after Gov. Chris Christie and legislative leaders agreed to sharply increase the contributions public employees must make into their health insurance and pensions plans (Perez-Pena, 6/16).

The Associated Press: Benefits Bill Advances In NJ Over Labor Objections
New Jersey legislation requiring a half-million public workers to shoulder a larger portion of their pension and health benefits costs and restricting collective bargaining over health care picked up steam this week, despite howls of protest from organized labor and backroom infighting that splintered the state's Democratic Party (Delli Santi, 6/16).

The Associated Press: Feds Support Planned Parenthood In Defunding Case
The U.S. Justice Department entered the court battle over a tough new Indiana abortion law that disqualifies Planned Parenthood of Indiana from the Medicaid program, siding with the organization in its request Thursday for a court order blocking the statute as unconstitutional (Kusmer, 6/16).

The New York Times: Concern For Vast Social Services Database On City's Neediest
Using data-sharing concepts developed by the Department of Homeland Security and other law enforcement agencies, the database links together vast amounts of information gathered by city agencies that previously maintained their files separately. Now, workers in an array of city departments will have access to information about nearly half of the city's residents, including welfare and food stamp payments, child care vouchers, and records of Medicaid enrollment and stays in public housing and shelters, among other kinds of social service records (Hartocollis, 6/16).

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