First Edition: April 13, 2011

Today's headlines include previews of what will likely be included in President Obama's deficit-reduction proposal, which he is scheduled to outline at a speech this afternoon.

Kaiser Health News: Mentally Ill Languish In Hospital Emergency Rooms
Kaiser Health News reporter Jenny Gold, working in collaboration with NPR, reports: "Mentally ill patients often languish in hospital emergency rooms for several days, sometimes longer, before they can be moved to a psychiatric unit or hospital. At most, they get drugs but little counseling, and the environment is often harsh" (Gold, 4/13).

Kaiser Health News: Ryan Plan For Medicare Is 'Pure Budget Solution, Not A Health Policy Solution' – The KHN Interview
Kaiser Health News' Marilyn Werber Serafini talks with Alec Vachon about his doubts regarding "the workability of a GOP proposal – called premium support – to transform Medicare into a system of limited government help. Vachon, a health care consultant who worked for top Republicans on Capitol Hill for more than a decade, says the idea, put forth last week by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, would be a problem if federal contributions were insufficient to help seniors buy an insurance policy" (Serafini, 4/12).

Kaiser Health News: Federal Medicaid Teams Deployed To Help States' Cut Costs Get Mixed Reviews
Kaiser Health News staff writer Christopher Weaver reports: "Earlier this year, governors -- both Republicans and Democrats -- asked the federal Department of Health and Human Services for greater freedom in bending Medicaid rules to make it easier to narrow gaping state budget deficits" (Weaver, 4/13).

Kaiser Health News: Letter To The Editor: Setting The Record Straight On RAND's Findings
In a letter to Kaiser Health News, RAND Health Vice President and Director Arthur Kellermann, M.D., disputes the way his organization's research was depicted in a recent column by John Goodman about Medicaid. Kellerman notes the study in question was designed to examine health care quality, not to determine the value of different types of insurance (4/12).

USA Today: Obama's Debt Plan Has Four Elements
President Obama will focus on four items in today's speech on reducing the federal debt, the White House says in a statement: Lower domestic spending, less defense spending, excess spending in Medicare and Medicaid, and elimination of tax breaks that favor the wealthy (Jackson, 4/13).

The Associated Press: Obama Pivots, Eyes Medicare Changes, Tax Increases
President Barack Obama, two years into a presidency that increased spending to prime a weak economy, is turning his attention to the nation's crushing debt and trying to counter a Republican anti-deficit plan with a framework of his own that tackles politically sensitive health care programs while also increasing taxes. The president on Wednesday was to deliver a speech outlining his proposal to reduce spending in Medicare and Medicaid, raise taxes on the wealthy and cut defense costs. In a pre-emptive response Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called any proposed tax increase "a nonstarter" (Kuhnhenn, 4/13).

The New York Times: Re-Engineering Of Medicare To Raise Tough Questions
President Obama has deep disagreements with House Republicans about how to address Medicare's long-term problems. But in deciding to wade into the fight over entitlements, which he may address in a speech Wednesday afternoon, the president is signaling that he too believes Medicare must change to avert a potentially crippling fiscal crunch (Pear, 4/12).

The Wall Street Journal: Deficit Speech Will Be Lightning Rod
Mr. Obama is expected to praise the work of a deficit-reduction commission he created last year, which proposed a series of tax, spending and entitlement-program changes that would reduce the deficit by roughly $4 trillion over 10 years. He is also expected to pledge support for a bipartisan group of six senators working on legislation that would implement the panel's recommendations (Lee and Paletta, 4/13).

The Washington Post:  Obama Risks Losing Liberals With Talk Of Cutting Budget
President Obama faces a growing rebellion on the left as he courts independent voters and Republicans with his vision for reducing the nation's debt by cutting government spending and restraining the costs of federal health insurance programs (Goldfarb and Wallsten, 4/12).

The Associated Press: House GOP Budget Retains Democratic Medicare Cuts
In a postelection reversal, House Republicans are supporting nearly $450 billion in Medicare cuts that they criticized vigorously last fall when Democrats and President Barack Obama passed them as part of their controversial health care law (Espo, 4/13).

The Wall Street Journal Washington Wire: Ryan Budget Leaves Parts Of Health Law Intact
Still, it's worth noting that the plan doesn't actually repeal the entire health-care law. The blueprint released Tuesday would overturn major parts, like the requirement that most Americans carry insurance or pay a fee, and it would cancel $777 billion slated to go toward subsidies to help people buy insurance. But it would retain some sharp bites to the health-care industry (Adamy, 4/12).

Los Angeles Times: House GOP Faces Risky Vote On Medicare, Medicaid
House Republicans will make a defining choice this week on a sweeping plan to overhaul Medicare and Medicaid, and many are not eager for a vote that could put their jobs at risk. Democrats, however, are eager to see the House take up the Republican 2012 budget plan. They say it represents an on-the-record endorsement by Republicans of a plan to upend a social program cherished by a growing number of aging Americans (Oliphant and Hennessey, 4/12).

Los Angeles Times: New Cuts Detailed In Federal Budget Compromise
The previously undisclosed reductions stunned advocates for community health centers, foreign aid and climate change research. Among the cuts is a $500-million reduction in funding for the federal health and nutrition program for women, infants and children, known as WIC (Mascaro, 4/12).

Politico: Billion Dollar Bumble On HIV Funds
Congressional staffers working quickly to summarize the 400-plus page budget deal accidentally cut $1 billion in AIDS and STD prevention funding from a document posted on the House Appropriations Committee website Tuesday morning. The committee quietly updated the table later in the day. "That line was an error," the committee's spokeswoman told POLITICO (Feder and Nocera, 4/12).

The New York Times: Lobbyists Win Key Concessions In Budget Deal
With $38 billion in cuts on the line in a $3.5 trillion budget, the clash over federal spending played out in numbers so big that most standard calculators had trouble tracking all the zeros. But in the end, a handful of relatively small-bore line items affecting particular industries attracted some of the most aggressive lobbying behind the scenes, as business interests, health care providers and others fought to hold on to, or kill, proposals that affected their bottom line (Lichtblau, 4/12).

Los Angeles Times: White House Targets Medical Errors
The Obama administration announced a broad new initiative Tuesday to reduce medical errors, partnering with private insurers, business leaders, hospitals and patient advocates to tackle a problem that kills thousands of Americans every year ( Levey, 4/13).

NPR: Planned Parenthood Makes Abortion Foes See Red
A lot of people were surprised when House Republicans' desire to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood very nearly caused the shutdown of the federal government last week (Rovner, 4/13).

The Washington Post: Barbour Addresses Congressional Health Care Caucus
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) visited Capitol Hill on Tuesday to address a group of House Republicans interested in health-care policy. The Washington visit by Barbour, the former chairman of the Republican Governors Association, happened to coincide with the five-year anniversary of the Massachusetts health-care reform law — a measure signed into law by another potential White House contender in 2012, then-Gov. Mitt Romney (Sonmez, 4/12).

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