KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: May 5, 2011

Today's headlines include a range of health policy developments -- budget news, a House vote on the abortion issue and the latest regarding the health law.

Kaiser Health News: Community Health Centers To 'Turn The Promise Of Coverage' Into Better Care – The KHN Interview
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jessica Marcy recently spoke with Dan Hawkins, the association's senior vice president, about the future and finances of community health centers and their evolving budgets (Marcy, 5/4).

Kaiser Health News: Democrats, Advocacy Groups Campaign Against Medicaid Block Grants
Kaiser Health News staff writer Shefali Kulkarni reports: "In the continuing Democratic assault on the House GOP's 2012 budget bill, a group of senators today warned of dire consequences on the plan to transform Medicaid into a block grant program" (Kulkarni, 5/4).

Kaiser Health News (video): Q & A: My uninsured daughter Needs More Inexpensive Care, Where Can She Go?
In this Kaiser Health News video, Michelle Andrews answers a question from a mother whose daughter is uninsured and needs some inexpensive care. Andrews says going to a community health center may be a good option for her (5/4).

NPR: Plan Would Trade Medicaid Funds For Flexibility
Most of the debate about the budget plan passed by House Republicans last month centers on the dramatic changes it would make to the Medicare health program for seniors. But the proposal calls for potentially even bigger changes to the Medicaid program for the poor (Rovner, 5/5).

The Washington Post: Budget Talks: Republicans Offer To Seek Common Ground With Democrats
Senior Republicans conceded Wednesday that a deal is unlikely on a contentious plan to overhaul Medicare and offered to open budget talks with the White House by focusing on areas where both parties can agree, such as cutting farm subsidies (Montgomery, 5/4).

The Wall Street Journal: GOP, White House Talk Deal On Debt
The deal would defer contentious decisions about Medicare, Medicaid and taxes until after the 2012 elections. If such an agreement were reached, it would allow both sides to assure financial markets and the public of their commitment to reducing the deficit and then use next year's campaign to lay out their competing visions for the future of major government programs (Wessel and Paletta, 5/5).

The New York Times: Political Memo: A Brief Victory Lap Before Budget Fight Strains 'Unity' Call
Because Republicans' and Democrats' differences on spending and taxes are so basic as to define their respective parties, they have "very different strategies for the economy and investment by the federal government and how one controls the cost of health care," Mr. Podesta added. "I don't think that any of that changes because Osama bin Laden has been killed" (Calmes, 5/4).

The Associated Press: Biden, Congressional Group Begin Budget Talks
Neither side seems to have any preconceptions that the talks would lead to a far-reaching restructuring of major benefit programs like Medicare or Medicaid or to an overhaul that makes the tax system simpler but yields more revenue (Taylor, 5/5).

USA Today: Deficit Reduction Talks Face Roadblocks
A new round of negotiations headed by Vice President Biden will begin at Blair House, across from the White House, even as Democrats and Republicans in the Senate struggle to nail down a plan that could have bipartisan appeal. Those ongoing talks have the best chance of attracting the broad support that President Obama and House Republicans lack for their separate approaches. But the "Gang of Six" senators have not been able to agree on tax increases sought by Democrats or entitlement cuts favored by Republicans (Wolf, 5/5).

The New York Times: Debt Ceiling Has Some Give, Until Roof Falls In
The Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, warned Congress in April that once those resources were exhausted, the government would have to default. "A broad range of government payments would have to be stopped, limited or delayed, including military salaries and retirement benefits, Social Security and Medicare payments, interest on the debt, unemployment benefits and tax refunds," he wrote. A range of experts, including the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke; former Treasury officials from both political parties; and economists from across the ideological spectrum, warn that missing payments would be catastrophic (Applebaum, 5/4).

The Wall Street Journal Washington Wire: Voters Dislike GOP Plan To Change Medicare, Medicaid
Republicans have some selling to do. Changes to Medicare and Medicaid remain wildly unpopular and more than two-thirds of registered voters want to repeal Bush-era tax cuts for households that make more than $250,000 a year, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll (O'Connor, 5/4).

Politico: Paul Ryan: 2012 Politics Will Stop Big Budget Deal
Ryan, who wrote the Republican deficit reduction package that dramatically cuts spending and overhauls Medicare, blamed the partisan atmosphere and dimming prospects for a major deal on the White House (Cummings, 5/4).

Politico: Eric Cantor: I'm Still With Paul Ryan On Medicare
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) is denying a published account claiming Republicans are preparing to ditch Rep. Paul Ryan's ambitious plan to revamp Medicare in pursuit of a debt ceiling compromise with Democrats - but both sides have begun seeking common ground on oil subsidies, sources say (Webber, 5/4).

The Associated Press: States Ask US Court To Overturn Health Overhaul
More than two dozen states challenging the health care overhaul urged a U.S. appeals court on Wednesday to strike down the Obama administration's landmark law, arguing it far exceeds the federal government's powers. The motion, filed on behalf of 26 states, urges the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta to uphold a Florida federal judge's ruling that the overhaul's core requirement is unconstitutional (Bluestein, 5/5).

The Washington Post: 2 Chambers: House Approves Ban On Tax Funding For Abortions
The measure, H.R. 3, passed on a 251-to-175 party line vote, with 16 Democrats joining all Republicans present to vote "aye." The bill would eliminate tax breaks for insurance providers that cover abortion services and would codify a federal provision prohibiting taxpayer funding for abortions in all federal programs (Sonmez, 5/4).

Los Angeles Times: House Passes Restrictive Antiabortion Package
The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a sweeping antiabortion package to further distance federal funds from the procedure by solidifying existing measures and imposing new ones. The measures stand little chance of approval by the Senate, but again demonstrated the key role social issues still play in unifying the Republican Party (Hennessey, 5/4).

The Wall Street Journal: House Bill Blocks Government Funds For Abortion
The House passed a bill Wednesday designed to block any government connection to abortion, underscoring Republican attempts to balance the party's focus on jobs and the deficit with signals that its leaders care about social issues. The vote was 251 to 175, with 16 Democrats joining all Republicans in voting yes. Senate leaders say they have no plans to take up the legislation (Bendavid, 5/4).

The Associated Press: House OKs Limits On Tax Breaks For Abortions
The House voted Wednesday to limit tax breaks for insurance policies that cover abortions. The bill, which passed 251-175, was the latest Republican effort to chip away at President Barack Obama's health care overhaul and follow through on the GOP's campaign promise to keep taxpayers from underwriting abortions (Kellman, 5/5).

Los Angeles Times: Proposals Would Cut Benefits For California Employees 25% to 40%
In a new financial analysis estimating the cutbacks, the nonprofit California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility warned that rising costs of public employee pensions and retiree healthcare could overwhelm the ability of taxpayers to fund many basic health, welfare and public safety services (Lifsher, 5/5).

The Washington Post: A Primer On Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security
Medicare is a health insurance program managed by the U.S. government for people 65 or older and for younger people with certain disabilities. More than 47 million people are covered by Medicare. Medicaid is a joint federal-state health program for certain categories of people with lower incomes such as children, pregnant women and those with disabilities (Luckie, 5/4).

Chicago Tribune: Big Savings Coming From Emerging Generic Drugs, Patent Expirations
Americans will see cheaper copies of some of the biggest drug names starting this fall. Out-of-pocket costs of the generic form of Lipitor, a widely used and advertised cholesterol drug that loses its patent protection in November, will be reduced to as little as $4 for a month's supply. Even for a person with health insurance, Lipitor can cost $25 to $40 - or more - each month. In the next two years, six of the nation's 10 best-selling drugs are expected to be available in generic form (Japsen, 5/4).

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