KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: April 11, 2011

In today's headlines, as details emerge regarding the last-minute budget deal for current-year spending, President Barak Obama is poised to lay out a new long-term budget vision which will include everything from Medicare and Medicaid to tax hikes for the wealthy. 

Kaiser Health News: Medicaid To Offer Rewards For Healthy Behavior
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Aimee Miles writes: "A federal grant program authorized in the health overhaul law is offering states $100 million to reward Medicaid recipients who make an effort to quit smoking or keep their weight, blood pressure or cholesterol levels in check. The grant program is meant to encourage states, many of which are under pressure to cut Medicaid costs, to experiment with an uncertain approach to wellness: offering incentives for healthy behavior" (Miles, 4/11).

The Washington Post: Obama's New Approach To Deficit Reduction To Include Spending On Entitlements
President Obama this week will lay out a new approach to reducing the nation's soaring debt, proposing reductions in spending on entitlements such as Medicare and Medicaid and renewing his call for tax increases on the rich (Goldfarb, 4/10).

The Associated Press: White House: Obama To Lay Out Spending Plan
President Barack Obama and Congress are shifting from short-term budget concerns to debates over the nation's long-term economic future, and everything - from Medicare and Medicaid cuts to tax hikes for the wealthy - is on the table (Kellman, 4/11).

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Puts Taxes On Table
In a speech Wednesday, Mr. Obama will propose cuts to entitlement programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, and changes to Social Security, a discussion he has largely left to Democrats and Republicans in Congress. He also will call for tax increases for people making over $250,000 a year, a proposal contained in his 2012 budget, and changing parts of the tax code he thinks benefit the wealthy (Lee and Paletta, 4/11).

The New York Times: Obama To Call For Broad Plan To Reduce Debt
The Republican plan includes a shrinking of Medicare and Medicaid and trillions of dollars in tax cuts, while sparing defense spending. Mr. Obama, by contrast, envisions a more comprehensive plan that would include tax increases for the richest taxpayers, cuts to military spending, savings in Medicare and Medicaid, and unspecified changes to Social Security (Calmes, 4/10).

Los Angeles Times: Budget Rivals Look To Future Of Medicare, Medicaid
As Capitol Hill negotiators fleshed out details of last week's epic budget deal, Democrats and Republicans prepared for the next set of confrontations over federal spending, including the future of Medicare and Medicaid (Mascaro, 4/11).

NPR: Congress Readies For More Budget Battles
As both sides sort out who won and who lost in the deal to keep the government running, the next phase of budget wrangling ensues. The current year budget deal struck Friday night still needs full congressional approval this week. President Obama will deliver a speech on Wednesday on the budget and the long-range deficits. And sometime during the week, the House is expected to approve a new budget plan for next year that includes big changes in Medicare and Medicaid. And none of that is to mention the looming battle about raising the federal debt ceiling (Gonyea, 4/11).

USA Today: Future Battles Loom After Budget Deal
Potential Republican presidential contenders this weekend took a wide range of positions on the deal that prevented the near-shutdown of the federal government Friday, but nearly all warned of bigger budget battles in the near future (Kucinich, 4/10).

The New York Times: With A Spending Deal In Hand, Lawmakers Now Turn To The Details
The agreement would cut $13 billion from programs at the Departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services and would extract $1 billion more in an across-the-board cut from domestic agencies. There will also be reductions to housing assistance programs and some health care programs, along with $8 billion in cuts to the State Department and foreign aid, said Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director (Pear, 4/10).

The Wall Street Journal: Budget Deal Targets Pieces Of Health-Care Law
The agreement would eliminate a provision of the health-care law enabling low-income workers to opt out of employer-offered health insurance and shop for more affordable coverage on insurance exchanges to be created in 2014, according to congressional aides and business groups (Boles, 4/10).

The Wall Street Journal: Talks Focus On Program Cuts
Republicans and Democrats continued to haggle over how to spread nearly $39 billion in cuts across a multitude of government programs behind the deal that averted a government shutdown last week. White House officials and Democrats said that they had mitigated proposed cuts to key education and health programs, including the Head Start preschool program, Pell Grants for low-income college students and federal scientific research (Hook, 4/11).

The New York Times: Abortion Limit Is Renewed, As Is Washington Anger
In a national budget that is measured in trillions of dollars, that might not seem like much. But for this city, which raises $5 billion in tax revenue each year but does not have the final say over how to spend it, the compromise - which restores a ban on the use of local taxpayer money for abortions - served as a bitter reminder of its powerlessness (Tavernise, 4/10).

The Washington Post: Individual Stories Are Weapon Of Choice In Fight Over Health-Care Law
With Republicans determined to disrupt implementation of the new health-care law and promote their own fixes to Medicaid and Medicare, and Democrats hopeful of swaying a stubbornly divided public to embrace the law as it takes effect between now and 2014, no one expects the fight to let up anytime soon. And for Democrats and supporters of the law, the weapon of choice is the compelling individual story, a tool honed by former President Ronald Reagan that has been archived and analyzed, computerized and systematized to new levels for this battle (Aizenman, 4/9).

Chicago Tribune: Hospital Patient Safety Under A Spotlight
Over strong objections from the hospital industry, the government has published data about things that can go wrong in hospitals - falls, objects left behind during surgeries, bloodstream or urinary infections associated with catheters, incompatible blood infusions, serious bed sores and more (Graham, 4/10).

Los Angeles Times: Planned Parenthood In Demand Even Amid Uncertain Future
Roughly one-third of Planned Parenthood's $1.1-billion national budget comes from the federal government, with the balance provided by charitable contributions, bequests and fees for clinic services. Losing $360 million each year would likely have meant a reduction of clinic hours and cuts in some programs, said spokesman Tait Sye. But, he said, the biggest impact would have been felt by clients with Medicaid, because Planned Parenthood would no longer be able to accept that form of payment (Roan, 4/10).

The Wall Street Journal: Medicaid Debate Pulls Cuomo, Christie Apart
The national debate over Medicaid has exposed the first major policy rift between the Democrat of New York and the Republican of New Jersey, both rising stars in their respective parties. They broke in opposite directions when responding to a proposal by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, who wants to change the way the federal government reimburses states for Medicaid, the public health-insurance program for low-income and disabled people (Gershman, 4/11).

Kaiser Health News also tracked the weekend's news developments, including reports about the congressional budget agreement and Sunday's talk show buzz

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