First Edition: January 7, 2010

Today's health policy news coverage focuses on the continuing efforts to blend together the House- and Senate-passed health reform bills and the key issues in play.

Pelosi: Healthcare Vote 'Possible' In January
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) set no deadline for a House healthcare vote following a White House meeting Wednesday with President Barack Obama (The Hill).

Health-Care Reform Bill's Proposed Tax On High-Cost Plans Raises Questions
With Congress on the verge of imposing a new tax on high-cost health insurance plans, skeptics continue to raise questions about who would be hit hardest and whether health-care spending would be limited as much as proponents say (The Washington Post).

Obama Urges Excise Tax On High-Cost Insurance
President Obama told House Democratic leaders at a meeting on Wednesday that they should include a tax on high-priced insurance policies favored by the Senate in the final version of far-reaching health care legislation, aides said (The New York Times).

Obama Favors 'Cadillac Tax' For Healthcare
President Obama told top Democratic House members on Wednesday that he favored a tax on insurance companies offering more expensive healthcare plans as a means of extending insurance to millions of people who are not covered, according to a person familiar with the meeting (Los Angeles Times).

More Health Aid Gets Backing
The White House supports an effort to tweak the health bill so it makes insurance more affordable for the lowest earners. But the change would drive up the cost of the overhaul, an area where lawmakers have little room to maneuver (The Wall Street Journal).

How Interest Groups Behind Health-Care Legislation Are Financed Is Often Unclear
Many of the Washington interest groups that are seeking to shape final health-care legislation in the coming weeks operate with opaque financing, often receiving hidden support from insurers, drugmakers or unions (The Washington Post).

The Lessons Of Medicare Part D
Four years ago, the U.S. government offered subsidized prescription-drug insurance to 43 million elderly and disabled, the biggest expansion of government-backed health care in decades. Today, the program is working better than many expected. Now academics are drawing lessons that are acutely relevant to heath-care legislation pending in Congress (The Wall Street Journal).

Married Couples Pay More Than Unmarried Under Health Bill
Some married couples would pay thousands of dollars more for the same health insurance coverage as unmarried people living together, under the health insurance overhaul plan pending in Congress (The Wall Street Journal).

AP: State AGs Make Appeal Over Health Care Deal
Two top state prosecutors are asking attorneys general across the country to let Washington know if they oppose the health care reform bill they say includes a political deal for Nebraska (The Associated Press/The Washington Post).

Dodd And Dorgan Aside, Senate Election Focus Should Be On Massachusetts
Although Democrats are favored to hold the seat of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., Republicans here and in Massachusetts have increasingly touted the Jan. 19 special election as an opportunity for an upset. If that happens, it could have an immediate impact on the Democrats' struggle to get health care reform legislation passed. A GOP gain in Massachusetts would sink the Democrats in the Senate below the filibuster-resistant 60-40 majority they now hold, with the help of two independents, and leave any compromise between House and Senate versions of the health care bill vulnerable to being blocked by Senate Republicans (USA Today).

Health Bill At Issue In Mass. Special
With the Massachusetts Senate special election less than two weeks away, Scott Brown is framing himself as the GOP’s last hope to stop Democratic health care legislation, an approach that could provide both parties with an early glimpse at the political resonance of the issue (Politico).

KHN Column By James Capretta: An Entitlement Certain To Grow In Spite Of 'Firewalls'
One of the main arguments President Barack Obama and other Democrats have made on behalf of the health care bills that have passed the House and the Senate is that they would reduce the federal budget deficit in the coming decade and in the years following as well. Their claim is backed up by the official cost estimates provided by the Congressional Budget Office that show modest improvements in the budget outlook through 2019 if the bills become law. But there are important reasons to be very skeptical that a final health care bill will improve the nation’s budget outlook, both in the short and the long term (Kaiser Health News).

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