KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: February 28, 2011

Today's headlines include news about the budge struggles the nation's governors continue to face -- with Medicaid spending a central issue. 

Kaiser Health News: A New Nurse In The House: The KHN Interview With Rep. Renee Ellmers
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jessica Marcy reports: "Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., says she never dreamed of running for Congress until her frustration with the Democratic health overhaul pushed her into politics almost two years ago" (Marcy, 2/28). Watch the interview.

Kaiser Health News: Governors' Wish List For Medicaid
Kaiser Health News staff writers Jessica Marcy and Aimee Miles surveyed some governors to ask, "If you were given flexibility from Washington to redesign your state's Medicaid program, what would you do?" (Marcy and Miles, 2/25).

Kaiser Health News Column: Govs Vs. Feds: Who Will Play The 'Power Card' In The Medicaid Struggle
In her latest Kaiser Health News column, Grace-Marie Turner writes: "Medicaid is the rope in the current tug of war between the states and the federal government over health reform. So far, the feds think they are winning. But don't discount the strength and endurance of the states -- and especially the governors" (2/28).

Kaiser Health News tracked health policy developments in the weekend headlines, including reports about the possible temporary budget compromise and the governors' winter meeting.

The Washington Post: Governors Differ On Extent Of Flexibility For Medicaid
Democratic and Republican governors, burdened by crushing budget pressures from Medicaid, said Sunday that federal officials should allow them more freedom to change eligibility rules and other aspects of the public health insurance program for the poor. But they displayed sharp ideological differences over how far such flexibility should go (Goldstein and Balz, 2/27).

The Wall Street Journal: Governors Scramble To Rein In Medicaid
More than half the states want permission to remove hundreds of thousands of people from the Medicaid insurance program, a move that would represent a rare cut to a national social program (Murray, Adamy and King, 2/28).

Politico: GOP Governors Want Medicaid Block Grants
Republican governors are pushing Medicaid block grants as the best path to more flexibility (Kliff, 2/27).

The Hill: Republican Governors To Government: Give Us Medicaid Grants
Republican governors, asking for greater flexibility to design Medicaid programs as their states face massive budget gaps, are pushing for the federal government to provide Medicaid block grants (Millman, 2/27).

The Washington Post: Obama Has Few Options To Aid Strapped States
Even those who say Obama needs to secure significant new federal spending to help states avoid cutting health care and education programs and laying off workers acknowledge the limits (Goldfarb, 2/27).

Los Angeles Times: Obama, Governors To Meet As States Face Cutoff Of Funds
Governors of both parties have proposed cuts in healthcare, one of the largest single expenses for states, as they struggle to balance their budgets. Many, including some Democrats, want the Obama administration to loosen a requirement in the new healthcare law that prevents them from dropping large numbers of low-income people from Medicaid. About 53 million poor children and adults are covered by the program, which is funded jointly by the state and federal governments (West, 2/28).

The Wall Street Journal: Deal On Spending Cuts Would Defer Tougher Decisions
Republicans and Democrats appear increasingly likely to reach a deal that would avoid a government shutdown Friday, but in doing so they are deferring and possibly deepening the challenge of reaching a longer-term spending agreement (Bendavid, 2/28).

Politico: Budget-Cutters Wary Of Entitlements
It's become a familiar refrain among Republicans in Washington, echoed on talk radio and in some right-wing blogs - that the people are ahead of the politicians on entitlement reform, ready to face the tough realities about Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare (Cogan, 2/28).

The Wall Street Journal: Defining 'Essential' Care
The next big issue for the federal health law as it moves toward implementation is how regulators will define so-called essential benefits-the basic medical services that health plans must cover under the law (Johnson, 2/28).

Politico: Obama's 'Risky Move' In Florida
U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson has already dealt the Obama administration a staggering blow on health reform, and this week the administration may get another one from the fiery Florida judge (Nather, 2/27).

USA Today: U.S. Health Care Law Not Immune To Nullification
In their battle against the federal health care legislation, Republican lawmakers in at least 11 states are turning to a centuries-old and rarely used tactic in an effort to wrest power from the federal government (Adams, 2/28).

The Hill: Judges' Agreement On Healthcare Penalties Not Being A Tax Is Key
Federal judges who have ruled on the constitutionality of healthcare reform have split along but party lines, but they all agree on one thing: The law's fine for failing to obtain health coverage is a penalty, not a tax (Millman, 2/27).

The New York Times: Cuomo's Budget Strategy, Getting Adversaries To Suggest Cuts, Is Paying Off
Cuomo warned of the need to close half-empty prisons, but his budget never spells out which ones to shut down. He called for billions in cuts to Medicaid, but he appointed a committee to make them. He ordered spending at state agencies cut 10 percent, without saying how. But last week, Mr. Cuomo's Medicaid committee voted to recommend more than $2 billion in spending cuts. Without any overt animosity, the biggest hole in the governor's budget had been plugged. And the snickering stopped (Kaplan, 2/27).

The Washington Post: Va. Lawmakers End Annual Session With Increased Spending On Schools, Health Care
The Virginia General Assembly adjourned its annual legislative session Sunday evening after adopting revisions to the state's two-year budget that provides the first spending increases for schools and health care since the economic downturn began (Helderman and Kunkle, 2/27).

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