First Edition: September 9, 2009

Today's headlines make clear that a lot is riding on President Obama's health care speech to Congress tonight.

Democrats Target Federal Subsidies For Medicare's Private Plans
Besides giant retirement communities and early bird specials, seniors here have embraced something else: privately run Medicare health plans that are an alternative to the traditional government-run program (Kaiser Health News).

More Than Healthcare Rides On Obama's Speech
Amid a summer of setbacks, President Obama's speech tonight before a joint session of Congress is a crucial moment that could determine whether he will be able to reestablish his presidency as what John F. Kennedy called the "vital center of action" in the government (Los Angeles Times).

Dee Dee Myers: Obama Must Define Victory
President Obama needs to give clearer direction to Congress on legislation to overhaul health care when he addresses a joint session Wednesday night, says Dee Dee Myers, the White House press secretary under President Clinton (NPR).

The Rocky Road For Obama's Health Care Plan
In retrospect, it was just one of several risks, missed opportunities and dubious decisions that have forced Obama to schedule a high-stakes address to Congress on Wednesday night in hopes of salvaging his top domestic priority. A team of Associated Press reporters, interviewing dozens of key players, identified several crucial moments and decisions that brought the health care saga to this point (The Associated Press).

Obama To Endorse Public Plan In Speech
President Barack Obama, in a high-stakes speech Wednesday to Congress and the nation, will press for a government-run insurance option in a proposed overhaul of the U.S. health-care system that has divided lawmakers and voters for months (The Wall Street Journal).

Obama Tries To Build Momentum For Health Overhaul
Reaching for a game-changer, President Barack Obama is beset by conflicting goals in a prime-time address Wednesday expected to detail just how he wants to expand health care coverage and lower medical costs while signaling to a deeply divided Congress that he's ready to deal (The Associated Press).

Obama Faces A Generation Gap On Healthcare Reform
Part of the task facing President Obama in his push for healthcare reform is to bridge a generational divide (The Christian Science Monitor).

Democrats Promise To Send Health Plan To Obama
Democratic Congressional leaders assured President Obama on Tuesday that they would deliver a health care overhaul to his desk this year as the author of a new compromise Senate plan said he was ready to push ahead with his legislation (The New York Times).

Overhaul's Contours Are Starting To Take Shape
This summer's heated national debate on the health-care overhaul has centered on a wide range of proposals in Congress -- only some of which will end up in the final bill (The Wall Street Journal).

Baucus Presents Healthcare Overhaul Plan
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) on Tuesday unveiled his long-awaited compromise blueprint for healthcare reform, proposing new taxes on high-end insurance plans and offering nonprofit insurance cooperatives as an alternative to a controversial government-run option (Los Angeles Times).

Max Baucus To Gang Of Six: 'Time Is Running Out'
As Congress waits on the president’s health care speech Wednesday, Barack Obama is in the unusual position of waiting on six senators most of the public couldn't pick out in a crowd (Politico).

Despite Fears, Health Care Overhaul Is Moving Ahead
The conventional wisdom, here and around the country, is that the centerpiece of President Obama’s domestic agenda — remaking the health care system to cut costs and cover the uninsured — is on life support and that only a political miracle could revive it (The New York Times).

Pelosi's Trump Card: The Public Option
Nancy Pelosi finally has a trump card. Tired of watching helplessly as House bills are carved up to win support from conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans in the Senate, the speaker has a message for President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: Take the public option out of health care reform, and you may not have a bill at all (Politico).

Tide Turns Against Public Option On Eve Of President Obama's Address
Political momentum appeared to swing sharply against the public health insurance option prized by liberals Tuesday, on the eve of President Barack Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress (The Hill).

In Illinois, A Similar Fight Tested A Future President
From a back-row seat in the Illinois Senate chamber, Barack Obama listened silently as political adversaries mocked his health-care reform bill: Socialized medicine. Hillarycare redux. Too expensive. Back-door route to a single-payer system (The Washington Post).

Gingrich's Advice To Obama: Split Health Bill
When President Obama goes before Congress on prime-time television Wednesday, he will attempt to regain control over the health care debate. When President Clinton attempted to overhaul the nation's health care system 16 years ago, he had to deal with Republican Newt Gingrich (NPR).

Summer Of Work Exposes Medical Students To System's Ills
This summer, medical students from the University of Washington took a long look under the hood of the health care system they are about to inherit, and many returned to campus last week with their eyes wide open and their idealism tempered (The New York Times).

Bristling At Health Plan To Cover Early Retirees
Within the battle over President Obama’s health care overhaul, critics of organized labor have latched onto a little-noticed provision in the legislation already circulating in Congress. The provision would cost $10 billion in federal money to subsidize employer-sponsored health plans covering early retirees, as a bridge to Medicare (The New York Times).

Chronic Conditions Crank Up Health Costs
Nearly half of Americans have a chronic condition, and 75% of the $2.6 trillion spent annually on health care goes to treat patients with long-term health problems, says Kenneth Thorpe, a professor at Atlanta's Emory University and head of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease. In the Medicare program, which pays for Harris' care because of his kidney failure, 95% of spending is linked to a chronic disease (USA Today).

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