KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: March 31, 2011

In today's news, reports on continuing congressional efforts to reach a deal on the current-year budget and on a move by Medicare to cover Provenge, a prostate cancer drug.  

Kaiser Health News: Cuccinelli Says Va. Suit Has 60% Chance Of Prevailing: The KHN Interview
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Bara Vaida writes: "Virginia's Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has defined himself as one of the country's leading conservatives with his lawsuit against the health care overhaul law. Filed within minutes after the law passed in March 2010, the suit could set limits on Congress' power" (Vaida, 3/30).

Kaiser Health News Video: Sebelius Challenged, Encouraged At Senate Committee
Kaiser Health News provides video excerpts of a Senate Appropriations Health subcommittee hearing Wednesday where HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was the lone witness. Committee chairman Tom Harkin was adamant that the health law would not lose funding while ranking Republican Sen. Richard Shelby called the law too expensive (3/30).

The Washington Post: Republicans And Democrats Begin Negotiating Possible Budget Agreement
Spending cuts are not the only issue up for negotiation. As part of their initial budget package, Republicans included unrelated amendments - called "riders" - that would impose restrictions on federal agencies. Democrats have objected to many of them, including one that would prohibit federal funding to Planned Parenthood and another that would weaken the Environmental Protection Agency's power to regulate carbon emissions (Kane, 3/30).

Los Angeles Times: Congressional Budget Deal Is Near, Biden Says
Nonetheless, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said that no agreement had been reached. Republicans have been fighting not only for a higher level of cuts but for inclusion of their policy priorities, such as defunding Planned Parenthood and President Obama's healthcare overhaul (Mascaro and Memoli, 3/31).

The Wall Street Journal: Lawmakers Near Deal On Spending
Congressional leaders and the White House neared a deal Wednesday to avert a government shutdown, an agreement Democrats said would split the difference between the two parties over how deeply to cut federal spending. … Republicans, however, said that the final number was not set. In addition, they cautioned that no deal would be final until the two parties had agreed on a set of policy proposals, demanded by conservatives, that would strip funding from the Democratic-backed health care law, alter environmental regulations and change other administration priorities (Hook and Lee, 3/31).

Politico: Tea Party Finds Success Blocking Reform
Despite their best efforts, tea party activists could not stop Congress from passing health reform last year. Now, they're finding surprising success doing the next best thing: blocking the law's implementation (Kliff, 3/30).

The Washington Post: In Campaign Against Health-Care Law, Republicans Take On AARP
House Republicans, who are continuing their efforts to chip away at President Obama's health-care law, have now set their sights on a powerful group that strongly supported the legislation: the AARP seniors lobby (Eggen, 3/30).

The Associated Press: House GOP Wants To Use Tax Code To Curb Abortions
The House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to vote on a bill Thursday that would prevent taxpayers from deducting the cost of an abortion from their taxable income. It would also prevent small businesses and taxpayers from using tax credits in the new health care law to provide or pay for insurance policies that cover the procedure (3/31).

The Washington Post: Planned Parenthood Challenged On Purported Mammogram Claim
A conservative activist group seeking to discredit the Planned Parenthood Federation of America released audio tapes Wednesday that it said contradicts claims the organization made that it provides mammograms (Stein, 3/30).

Politico: Family Planner Lauds White House
After taking flak from Planned Parenthood during the health care debate last year, President Barack Obama has returned to its good graces, garnering praise from a group whose federal funding is at stake in the heated budget debate with Republicans on Capitol Hill (Lee, 3/31).

The Wall Street Journal: Medicare Proposes Coverage Of Prostate-Cancer Drug
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has proposed covering Dendreon Corp.'s prostate cancer drug Provenge, meaning that the federal government will likely continue paying for the treatment (Gryta and Mundy, 3/30).

The Washington Post: Medicare Moves To Pay For Prostate Cancer Drug Provenge
The federal health insurance program for the elderly moved Wednesday to pay for an expensive vaccine recently approved to treat men with advanced prostate cancer (Stein, 3/30).

The New York Times: Officers' Death Shows Struggle to Define Link Between 9/11 Dust And Disease
The city's official position has been that cancer has not yet been proved to be linked to the toxic dust and debris that rose from the collapsing towers. That position is also echoed in federal legislation: the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which is meant to treat those injured and made ill by the attacks. The law, which was passed at the end of last year, does require that scientific and medical evidence be periodically reviewed to determine whether any cancer should be added to the list of health conditions related to 9/11 (Hartocollis, 3/30).

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