Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including reports about Marilyn Tavenner's nomination to run Medicare and the Catholic bishops' rejection of the Obama administration's contraception plan announced last week.
Kaiser Health News: San Diego Hospice Files For Bankruptcy
Writing for Kaiser Health News, Randy Dotinga reports: "Hobbled by a federal investigation into its practice of treating patients who had more than six months left to live, one of the biggest hospices in the country has filed for bankruptcy as it tries to continue operating. A local hospital chain is heeding San Diego Hospice's plea for help, however, and promising to provide services for as many patients as need it" (Dotinga, 2/7).
Kaiser Health News: Grassley Calls For Senate Consideration Of Tavenner's Nomination
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Mary Agnes Carey reports: "President Barack Obama Thursday once again nominated Marilyn Tavenner to head the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and a key GOP senator said the chamber should consider the nomination. 'The Senate should give Ms. Tavenner every opportunity to show she is a worthy choice to lead the agency responsible for Medicare, Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program, and a lot of the implementation of the Obama health care law,' said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa., who is a member of the Finance Committee and its former chairman and ranking member. Grassley said he hoped the panel would give Tavenner's nomination 'due consideration through regular order'" (Carey, 2/8).
The New York Times: Bishops Reject Birth Control Compromise
The nation's Roman Catholic bishops on Thursday rejected the latest White House proposal on health insurance coverage of contraceptives, saying it did not offer enough safeguards for religious hospitals, colleges and charities that objected to providing such coverage for their employees. The bishops said they would continue fighting the federal mandate in court (Pear, 2/7).
The Wall Street Journal: Latest Birth-Control Offer 'Falls Short'
The nation's Roman Catholic bishops on Thursday came out against the Obama administration's latest offer to resolve a yearlong standoff over mandatory insurance coverage of contraception. The bishops' fresh opposition paves the way for a protracted legal battle between religious groups and the federal government that could bring part of the health overhaul law back before the Supreme Court (Radnofsky and Braven, 2/7).
NPR: Catholic Bishops Reject Compromise On Contraceptives
It seems the third time wasn't the charm, after all. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has officially rejected the Obama Administration's latest attempt to ensure that women with health insurance get access to no-cost contraceptive coverage without violating the rights of religious employers. ... The proposal calls for insurance companies -; rather than religious hospitals, universities or charities -; to provide contraceptive and sterilization coverage. But that's not good enough, said a statement from Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the conference (Rovner, 2/7).
Politico: Bishops Reject Contraception Rule Change
Catholic bishops on Thursday rejected the White House's latest attempt at compromise on contraception, saying it did not adequately accommodate religious organizations that object to covering free contraception in employee health plans. "Throughout the past year, we have been assured by the administration that we will not have to refer, pay for, or negotiate for the mandated coverage," Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a statement. "We remain eager for the administration to fulfill that pledge" (Haberkorn and Smith, 2/7).
The Wall Street Journal: Mississippi Health-Exchange Application Rejected
Republican insurance officials in Mississippi who had hoped to run their own insurance exchange as part of the federal health-care law have had their application turned down by the Obama administration, which said the opposition of the state's GOP governor made it impossible for them to proceed (Radnofsky, 2/7).
The Associated Press: Feds Reject Mississippi Proposal To Create State-Run Health Insurance Exchange
Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney says federal officials have rejected the state's proposed health insurance exchange. Chaney made the announcement Thursday. An exchange is an online marketplace where people can buy health insurance (2/7).
Los Angeles Times: Medicaid Expansion Divides GOP Governors
Some of the nation's most prominent Republican governors have moved to embrace a key feature of President Obama's healthcare law, providing a significant boost to the administration and highlighting a fissure inside the GOP on an emerging campaign issue. At stake is the goal of expanding health insurance under the Medicaid program, one of two main ways the law is to provide coverage to those who lack it. Starting in 2014, the law broadens Medicaid to cover people who earn up to about $15,500 a year, but under last year's Supreme Court decision upholding the law's constitutionality, states have the option of rejecting the expansion and the federal money that comes with it (West, 2/7).
The Wall Street Journal: Senators Say No Subsidies For Unions
A group of 31 Republican senators asked the White House not to allow subsidies under the health-overhaul law for health-insurance plans jointly run by employers and unions. In a letter to President Barack Obama sent Thursday, the group, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, said any expansion of insurance subsidies to union workers' plans would violate the 2010 law. The letter was in response to a page one story in The Wall Street Journal last week that said top labor leaders planned to press the Obama administration to get access to the law's insurance exchanges and subsidies (Adamy, 2/7).
The Washington Post: Measure Would Strengthen Mental Health-Care System
A bipartisan group of senators, citing renewed urgency after the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, introduced legislation Thursday aimed at strengthening the nation's fragmented mental health-care system and improving access at the community level. The bill would put in place standards for about 2,000 "federally qualified" community behavioral health centers, requiring them to provide such services as substance abuse treatment and 24-hour crisis care. In return, facilities meeting criteria would be able to bill Medicaid for their services -; a change intended to open the door to treatment for many more people and one that is estimated to cost about $1 billion over the next decade (Dennis and Kane, 2/7).
The Wall Street Journal: Tavenner Nominated For Medicare, Medicaid Post
The Obama administration on Thursday made its second formal nomination of Marilyn Tavenner to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Ms. Tavenner was first nominated for the post in November 2011 and has been the acting administrator of the agency since then, overseeing the two major health-insurance programs operated by the federal government, as well as implementation of key parts of the health-care law. She is a former nurse and hospital chief executive (Radnofsky, 2/7).
Politico: Tavenner Renominated For CMS Administrator
The White House on Thursday renominated Marilyn Tavenner to be administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. But don't expect to see action on her nomination soon. The second nomination was expected, as Tavenner's 2011 nomination to the same job expired at the end of the previous Congress. But it's unclear whether Senate Democrats will move her confirmation given that it has become so difficult to get a Medicare chief confirmed in the past few years under both Republican and Democratic administrations (Haberkorn, 2/7).