KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Budget Agreement Preserves Funding For Planned Parenthood, Title X And The Health Law

The Hill: Last-Minute Budget Deal Staves Off Government Shutdown
President Obama and Democratic and Republican congressional leaders reached a last-minute deal Friday to avoid a government shutdown. The agreement, which came after days of partisan sparring and rhetorical drama, would fund the government through the end of September and cut $78.5 billion compared to Obama's proposed but never enacted fiscal 2011 budget. ... Most significantly, Democrats won the disagreement over funding that included Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion services. A senior Democratic leadership aide said (House Speaker John) Boehner described the abortion-related policy riders as must-have priorities, but Obama and Democrats stood firm, arguing they would negatively affect women's access to cancer screenings and other health services. In return, Republicans won a promise from Senate Democrats to schedule next week's votes on two bills - one defunding Title X and Planned Parenthood and another to defund the 2010 healthcare reform law (Hooper, Bolton and Cusack, 4/9).

The Wall Street Journal: Last-Minute Deal Averts Shutdown
Republicans had wanted to cut off funding for the new, Democratic-backed health-care law, and they wanted to turn federal aid to family planning programs into block grants to the states. The final deal includes neither provision, but it requires the Senate to take up-or-down votes on both of them (Bendavid and Hook, 4/9).

NPR: Deal Averting Shutdown Proves Compromise Is Alive, If Not Well
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats agreed to allow votes on defunding the Affordable Care Act and Planned Parenthood and agreed that there would be no additional funding of Internal Revenue Service agents to enforce the new health care law's individual mandate provisions. The defunding votes aren't expected to pass in the Senate but, again, it was a a not inconsiderable concession by Democrats to promise the floor votes at all. The health care law vote, for instance, will likely cause heartburn for some Democrats facing tough re-election fights, like Sen. Clair McCaskill of Missouri and Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska (James, 4/9).

Politico: Government Shutdown Avoided, White House And Republicans Reach Deal
In the healthcare arena, the package assumes $3.5 billion in savings from the CHIP program extending Medicaid coverage to the children of working class families. And another $2.2 billion would come from trimming back the $6 billion in loan and grant funds promised under healthcare reform last year to implement new co-op health plans-a favorite initiative of Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) (Rogers, 4/9).

Politico: Deal Curbs D.C. Abortions, Includes Other Social Issues
In fact, the deal is filled with several non-budget policy "riders" that bring some of the House Republicans' favored causes into the budget agreement. Here is a list provided by the House Republicans:

- Guarantees Senate debate and vote on repeal of Obama's health reform law. The House passed such a bill in January.

- Requires numerous studies of health reform that Republicans say "will force the Obama administration to reveal the true impact of the law's mandates," including studies on the law's affect on premiums, the number and cost of contractors hired to implement the law and "a full audit of the waivers that the Obama administration has given to firms and organizations – including unions -- that can't meet the new annual coverage limits" (Budoff Brown, 4/9).

The Washington Post: Budget Deal Includes D.C. Abortion Rider, Money For School Vouchers
The spending deal agreed to Friday night to avert a government shutdown includes a provision banning the District from spending its own funds to provide abortions to low-income women as well as funding to continue a controversial school voucher program. The inclusion of the abortion policy "rider" represents a victory for Republicans, who previously imposed such a ban when they controlled Congress and who included the provision in the version of the continuing resolution passed by the House in February. And it marks a sharp defeat for D.C. leaders, who fought to keep the ban out of a deal. The fate of one other D.C.-related provision -- a House-passed ban on the city using its own money for needle-exchange programs -- remained unresolved Friday night. Some policy riders in the final spending deal still must be negotiated between House and Senate Appropriations Committee members, including that one, which is strongly opposed by District leaders but supported by congressional Republicans (Pershing, 4/9).

The New York Times: Late Clash On Abortion Shows Conservatives' Sway
The emergence of abortion as the last and most contentious of the issues that held up the budget deal reached Friday night highlighted the enduring influence of social conservatives within the Republican Party even at a time when the Tea Party movement's focus on fiscal austerity is getting most of the attention. The main abortion-related provisions sought by Republicans were stripped out, apparently in return for deeper cuts in federal spending. But the intense push by abortion opponents, including Representatives Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey, Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania and Mike Pence of Indiana, sent a signal that Republicans intend to keep social issues on the front burner as Congress moves on to a further series of battles (Steinhauer, 4/9).

In addition, The New York Times looked at how some states are dealing with the abortion issue as they work to set up new health exchanges under the federal health law.

New York Times: Abortion Opponents Use Health Law To Put Restrictions In Private Insurance
As more states begin setting up health care exchanges for individuals to buy insurance under the new health care law, abortion opponents are using the opportunity to try to restrict abortion coverage in private insurance plans. Most Americans with employer-based health insurance currently have coverage for abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an organization that researches reproductive health and rights - a fact that few people seemed to know until the health care debate last year. It even eluded employers. In a 2010 survey of employers, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 71 percent of employers who were interviewed did not know whether the main health insurance plan they offered covered elective abortions. Now the coverage is getting increased scrutiny as states start to build their own systems under the new law, and a growing number of states are passing bans (Tavernise, 4/8).

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