First Edition: March 17, 2010

Today's news continues to focus on Democratic leaders' efforts to finalize their health reform package and gather the votes necessary to gain House passage.

Piecemeal COBRA Health Insurance Subsidy Extensions Puzzle Laid-Off Workers
In this updated story, Kaiser Health News staff writer Jenny Gold tries to breakdown the recent confusion surrounding COBRA. "Every day, dozens of confused, laid-off workers call the privately-run COBRA Help Center in Long Island, N.Y., which administers COBRA group health insurance plans. They’re struggling to understand whether they’re eligible for federal subsidies. It’s not surprising, says George Fox, a field underwriter for the company Planning Financial Futures Inc., that runs the center on behalf of employers and consumers" (Kaiser Health News).

Drug Prices Rise For Seniors Who Reach Part D Coverage Gap
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jessica Marcy writes about the findings of a new analysis: "Seniors who hit the coverage gap in their Medicare prescription drug plans and must use their own money to buy drugs are facing price increases that are far outpacing inflation, a new study finds" (Kaiser Health News).

As Medicare Pay Shrinks, Some California Doctors Hike Patient Fees
Kaiser Health News staff writer Christopher Weaver writes: "One California cardiology group has confronted steep Medicare cuts with a tactic that may irk patients who already face soaring health costs in that state: Beginning April 1, Pacific Heart Institute, in Santa Monica, will charge some patients annual fees ranging from $500 to $7,500, in addition to the regular fees paid by patients and insurers" (Kaiser Health News).

Democrats Race To Finish Final Health-Care Package
House Democrats ran into problems Tuesday locking down details of their health-care bill, prolonging the tense wait for a final plan partly because of a struggle over provisions that would overhaul the federal student-loan program (The Wall Street Journal).

House Democrats' Tactic For Health-Care Bill Is Debated
An obscure parliamentary maneuver favored by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) suddenly ignited Tuesday as the latest tinder in the year-long partisan strife over reshaping the nation's health-care system, triggering debate over the strategy's legitimacy and political wisdom (The Washington Post).

Democrats Consider New Moves For Health Bill
As lawmakers clashed fiercely over major health care legislation on the House floor, Democrats struggled Tuesday to defend procedural shortcuts they might use to win approval for their proposals in the next few days (The New York Times).

Democrats Weigh Obscure Tactic To Pass Health Care
On Capitol Hill, the war of words over health care continues to escalate, as the House heads for a final vote. Only now some of the words are getting a little obscure. Instead of arguing over health insurance or costs, lawmakers are now squabbling over concepts like "deeming" and "self-executing rules" (NPR).

Democrats May Use Shortcut To Pass Healthcare Overhaul
In the face of Republican attacks Tuesday, leading Democrats defended a controversial endgame maneuver that would allow them to pass the Senate version of a healthcare overhaul without taking a direct vote on the legislation's most divisive provisions (Los Angeles Times).

Democrats Defend 'Deeming,' GOP Attacks As The Clock Ticks Down
House Democratic leaders on Tuesday defended their possible use of a controversial maneuver to pass healthcare reform (The Hill).

'Deem And Pass': Democrats' New Tactic For Healthcare Reform Bill
The battle for healthcare reform is shifting from open-field policy fights to the obscure trenches of procedural warfare, as House Democrats look to pass the Senate bill without a direct vote (The Christian Science Monitor).

House Democrats Scramble To Ensure Adequate Deficit Reduction In Health Bill
Congressional Democrats rushing to push President Obama's health-care initiative to final passage this week hit a new snag Tuesday, as the final piece of the package was held up by concerns that it would do too little to reduce the nation's budget deficit (The Washington Post).

House Democrats Under Pressure To Deliver
As health care lobbying heats up, some members are getting calls from President Barack Obama, like the three Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) got in the past two weeks (Politico).

Obama, Aides Don't Take 'No' For An Answer
President Obama was calling from Air Force One while flying back from Cleveland, but second-term Rep. Jason Altmire was in his car and couldn't be reached (USA Today).

Proponents Seek To Resurrect Public Option
The government-run health insurance plan known as the "public option" has lived and died several times during the health care overhaul saga — and it may be back again (NPR).

All Sides Playing Hardball On Health Care Bill
With time and tempers short, everyone's playing hardball in the drive to pass - or stop - President Barack Obama's massive health care legislation by the weekend. Business groups are spending $1 million a day to depict the bill as a job killer in television ads in the home districts of 26 wavering House Democrats (The Associated Press).

GOP Frames Nancy Pelosi As Health Care Villain
Health care reform might be President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy, but not if you ask Republicans running for the House this year. According to them, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is the driving force behind the enterprise, assisted by an army of subservient lieutenants (Politico).

Overhaul Splits Party Faithful
The pending health-care overhaul remains unpopular with a broad swath of the public, but core Democrats the party needs to show up and vote in November are strong backers, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds (The Wall Street Journal).

Wary Democrats Eye Poll Numbers As Health Vote Looms
Party leaders are assuring wavering Democrats that passage of a sweeping health-care plan will help them in the midterm elections, despite Republican warnings that supporting the bill is political suicide (The Wall Street Journal).

Wavering Democrats Blitzed By Last-Minute Ads
To get an idea of where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is trying to mine the last votes for health care reform, check the airwaves in the districts of about a dozen House members who are suffering a carpet bombing attack of last-minute ads (Politico).

Obama's Health-Care Reform Speech In Ohio Convinces A Few Skeptics
Retirees who voted Republican in the last presidential election, Carol and Paul Gerhardstein were unhappy about Democratic plans to overhaul the nation's health-care system. But they showed up at a rally this week to hear President Obama defend his proposals, and a funny thing happened (The Washington Post).

Parliamentarian Is Rock Star In Health Care Debate
When Congress battles over thorny bills, parliamentarian Alan Frumin has been known to sleep in his office — on call 24/7 as the Senate's Solomon, divining the answers (The Associated Press).

Big Insurance Rate Increase For Pennsylvania Poor
Facing a sharp rise in costs, Pennsylvania has almost doubled the monthly bill for a state health insurance program for poor people who do not qualify for Medicaid and are on a waiting list for a less costly option (The New York Times).

Cahill Attacks Health Care Law
State Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill, an independent candidate for governor making a play for fiscally conservative voters, said yesterday that the state’s universal health care law is bankrupting Massachusetts and will do the same nationally if Congress passes a similar plan (The Boston Globe).

Medicaid And Social Security Changes Urged To Help Gay Seniors
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender senior citizens face myriad social and financial problems, and lawmakers could help them by altering Social Security and Medicaid rules, according to a national report being released Wednesday (Los Angeles Times). 

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