First Edition: March 11, 2013

Published on March 11, 2013 at 8:18 AM · No Comments

Today's headlines include reports about the budget blueprints expected on Capitol Hill this week. 

Kaiser Health News: Q&A: I Have A Pre-Existing Condition, Where Can I Get Health Insurance? (Video)
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews answers a reader question about insurance options for people with pre-existing conditions (3/11).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: GOP Senators Seek To Cut Health Law Funding
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Mary Agnes Carey reports: "This week, the Senate is expected to consider – and amend -; House-passed legislation that would fund the government through the end of the fiscal year. The bill did not include $949 million in additional funding  that the Office of Management and Budget requested for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is overseeing much of the roll-out of the health law. … While the OMB request did not specify what the $949 million would fund, 'it was pretty well known' that the money was to be used to implement the health law's exchanges,  said Matt Dennis, a spokesman for Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee" (Carey, 3/11).

Kaiser Health News also tracked weekend news coverage previewing the particulars of the budget that will be unveiled this week by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis (3/10).

The Wall Street Journal: Opening Budget Bids Set Parties' Battle Lines
Congress opens a new chapter in the budget debate this week with the introduction of dueling blueprints from two lawmakers who illustrate their parties' vastly different approaches to the role of government. … The blueprints, from the parties' budget chiefs, cement how far apart Democrats and Republicans are on tax and spending policy. Mr. Ryan's budget will include no new tax increases or Pentagon cuts while advancing big changes to Medicare and Medicaid, all with the goal of erasing the annual federal deficit in 10 years. Ms. Murray's plan is expected to increase taxes on upper-income households and corporations and make modest spending cuts to domestic programs; it wouldn't balance the budget anytime soon (Hook and Peterson, 3/10).

The New York Times' Political Memo: In Search Of Debt Deal, Obama Walks A Narrow Path
President Obama will go to Capitol Hill this week to try to salvage a big deficit-reduction deal, battling not only Republican resistance but also complaints from Democrats that he mishandled his last attempt. … White House aides have not ruled out some money-saving structural reforms to Medicare that Republicans favor, notably an idea promoted by the House majority leader, Eric Cantor, to combine the program's doctor and hospital components with a single deductible for beneficiaries. Using savings from entitlement shifts like that to replace sequestration, as the automatic cuts are called, would meet Republicans' demands not to use tax increases for that purpose (Stevenson and Harwood, 3/10).

Politico: Democrats Not Sold On A Safety Net Bargain
The talk of any deal with congressional Republicans -; and for now, it's just that: talk -; has liberals worried the White House will give in to changes to safety net programs including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security (Nocera, 3/10).

The Washington Post: Research Ties Economic Inequality To Gap In Life Expectancy
The tightening economic connection to longevity has profound implications for the simmering debate about trimming the nation's entitlement programs. Citing rising life expectancy, influential voices including the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction commission, the Business Roundtable and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have argued that it makes sense to raise the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare. But raising the eligibility ages -; currently 65 for Medicare and moving toward 67 for full Social Security benefits -; would mean fewer benefits for lower-income workers, who typically die younger than those who make more (Fletcher, 3/10).

The Washington Post: Ryan Calls For Both Obamacare Repeal And Finding 'Common Ground' In Budget Fight
Past House Republican efforts to repeal the president's health-care law failed, and the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the law last year. Ryan's budget proposal, which includes controversial proposals for giving states more authority over Medicaid, is sure to encounter stiff resistance from Democrats in Congress who are committed to protecting Obamacare. That push back is likely to complicate Obama's efforts this week to advance a dialogue he reopened with Republicans last week on reaching a grand bargain on budget cuts and entitlement reform (Brown and Sullivan, 3/10).

Los Angeles Times: Republicans Resume Effort To Repeal 'Obamacare'
Republicans in Congress are renewing their political assault on the nation's new healthcare law, trying to repeal President Obama's signature domestic achievement as part of the next battle over the federal budget (Masacaro, 3/10).

Politico: States Wrestle With New Obamacare Exchanges
Wanted: States to work on Obamacare health insurance exchanges. OK to keep it sort of hush-hush. More than half the states have declared they want nothing to do with setting up or running those health insurance marketplaces opening in their states later this year. But a closer look shows that at least a few of these states, like Ohio and Virginia, may have a larger role than they're letting on (Millman, 3/10).

The Washington Post: Privatizing The Medicaid Expansion: 'Every State Will Be Eying This'
Arkansas has turned heads with its plan to expand Medicaid using the private insurance market. The idea -; which is still preliminary -; would be to use Medicaid dollars to buy private insurance coverage for the expansion population. For health policy experts, this has raised a huge number of questions: Will private plans guarantee the same benefits that Medicaid does? How will states pay for the private insurance, which generally costs more than the public program? And does HHS even have the legal authority to do this? (Kliff, 3/8).

The Washington Post: Arkansas Plan Shows That Health Care Law's Medicaid Expansion Leaves Flexibility For States
The Obama administration has taken a hard line with governors about an option to expand Medicaid under the new health law, telling them to take it or leave it -; but leave it and lose access to millions of federal dollars. It turns out there is some wiggle room after all (Somashkhar, 3/9).

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