First Edition: October 19, 2009

Much attention is focused on the White House as Democratic leaders continue to weigh the future of the public option in health overhaul legislation:

Lawmakers To Fight For Rural Hospitals Despite Budget Concerns On Reform
Five Rivers Medical Center in Pocahontas, Ark., needs help to get a highly coveted "critical access" hospital designation - and the extra Medicare funding that comes with it. Sen. Mark Pryor, an Arkansas Democrat, intends to provide it. Pryor is among several senators - including Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D. - who want to help rural hospitals in their states get the funding boost that comes with the "critical access" designation. The catch: The same senators are among those pushing hardest to hold the line on the cost of health care reform (Kaiser Health News and Politico).

Health Care Overhaul Rests On Senator Harry Reid
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hails from the hard-rock-mining town of Searchlight, Nev. He once made a name for himself there as an amateur boxer. But in what may be his biggest fight yet, Reid is playing referee. He is leading the effort to combine two sharply different health care bills (NPR).

Health Care Poses Stiff Tests For Top Democrats
As she pulls together a health care bill, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been exceedingly direct, lawmakers say, asking them explicitly what it will take to win their vote (The New York Times).

Letter From Washington: Running The Health Care Gantlet
Over the next couple of months, a sausage factory will seem tidier than the U.S. Congress. The disposition of the huge health care overhaul will be a messy dance of legislation (The New York Times).

Obama To Wait And See On Healthcare Bill
The White House will not commit to healthcare legislation that would cap insurance premiums or tax benefits, taking a wait-and-see approach as congressional negotiators seek a deal, advisors said Sunday (Los Angeles Times).

White House Aids Reaffirm Public Option Is Not Mandatory
The television airwaves were filled Sunday with rat-a-tat over reforming the nation's health-care system, as top administration officials hit the talk show circuit and interest groups waged a record advertising blitz (The Washington Post).

Adviser: Obama Waits On Finished Health Care Bill
The White House is waiting for Congress to settle on a final health care bill, even though President Barack Obama has a clear preference in favor of at least one specific — the much-debated public option, advisers said (The Associated Press).

How Insurers' Antitrust Exemption Affects Consumers
Readers ask about buying insurance across state lines, increasing competition and allowing national plans (Los Angeles Times).

Health Insurers' Support Of Bill Seen Wavering
Seven months ago, insurance companies vowed to be allies in President Obama's effort to revamp health care, with one industry leader later telling Congress that "health insurance reform needs to be done this year." But as an $829 billion, 10-year health care bill approved by the Senate Finance Committee moves toward debate by the full Senate this month, the insurance industry and the Obama administration are increasingly at odds over key provisions in the bill (USA Today).

In Health Debate, Those Numbers Are Just Numbers
Phil Ellis may be the most powerful guy you've never heard of in the health-care debate. A senior analyst with the Congressional Budget Office, Ellis is the man who has to decide what it would cost to rebuild the health insurance system. He has essentially condemned two legislative proposals by slapping them with trillion-dollar price tags. A third plan rocketed to prominence after he said it would cost much less (The Washington Post).

Health Care Bill Makes Sen. Roland Burris Relevant
For Democrats determined to get a health care bill, Sen. Roland Burris is like the house guest who couldn't be refused, won't soon be leaving and poses a plausible threat of ruining holiday dinner. Suddenly, he can no longer be ignored (The Associated Press).

CEOs Tally Health-Bill Score
The drug industry stands to gain in a health-care overhaul by getting tens of millions of newly insured customers, while insurance companies -- especially those that cater to the individual market -- look like they are in for a tougher time (The Wall Street Journal).

Will Healthcare Reform Mean Cuts In Medicare For Seniors
Next to 'death panels,' the second-most toxic issue for seniors in the current healthcare debate are concerns that Congress will pay to expand the ranks of the insured by cutting Medicare (The Christian Science Monitor).

Kaiser Health News' provides highlights from the headlines on Saturday and Sunday, regarding the public insurance option, the doctor pay fix and Sarah Palin's Facebook-page analysis of the Baucus bill.

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