First Edition: February 16, 2011

Today's headlines highlight news about about the budget back-and-forth between President Obama and congressional Republicans -- with an emphasis on Medicare and Medicaid as major drivers of long-term deficit growth.

Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill: President Obama's Speech Scrutinized
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey and Politico's David Nather talk with KFF's Jackie Judd about President Obama's 2012 budget request (2/15). Watch the video.

Kaiser Health News Column: Answering The Obama Budget Critics
In his latest Kaiser Health News column, Jonathan Cohn writes: "Conservatives and Republicans had a lot to say about the budget President Barack Obama released on Monday. None of it was good. The budget doesn't do enough to stabilize federal finances, they said. And it doesn't do enough to slow rising health care costs. … But for all of those critics out there, furious that Obama hasn't proposed a more fiscally responsible budget, I have a question: Do you have an alternative?" (2/15).

Kaiser Health News Column: A Slippery Slope To Defunding The Health Law
In his latest Kaiser Health News column, Timothy Jost writes that, as the House considers its repeal of the health law's unpopular 1099 reporting provision, the measure's premium tax credits are being eyed as a possible pay-for (2/15).

Kaiser Health News Video: Obama Signals Willingness To Work With GOP On Health Care Entitlement Spending
Kaiser Health News provides a partial transcript and video of President Obama comments on Tuesday in which he signaled his willingness to work with Republicans to help address the "huge problems" of high Medicare and Medicaid spending, but said that all sides are going to have to compromise on the matter (2/15).

The New York Times: Obama, Conceding Budget's Limitations, Seeks Consensus
President Obama conceded on Tuesday that his new budget does not do enough to resolve the nation's long-term fiscal problems, but he counseled patience, suggesting that he would eventually come together with Republicans on a broad deal. But, Mr. Obama said at a news conference, any such compromise to address Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the tax system is months away and will first require an effort to build bipartisan trust — even as Democrats and Republicans battle intensely over how much to cut from the current year’s domestic spending (Calmes, 2/15).

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Defends His Approach On Entitlements
The president called Medicare and Medicaid the biggest drivers of long-term deficit growth. And he said his bipartisan debt commission's plan "still provides a framework for discussion," even though his budget did not pick up most of its recommendations (Weisman and Meckler, 2/15).

The Washington Post: Republicans Blast Obama Budget But Signal Willingness To Work With Democrats
Some Republicans, particularly those in the House, want to force an immediate showdown with Democrats: GOP leaders have included sharp cuts to federal agencies in a must-pass spending measure that would keep the government open through September. Other Republicans, including many longtime senators, want to seize the moment to join Democrats in overhauling politically sensitive programs such as Social Security and Medicare, the biggest drivers of future spending (Montgomery and Murray, 2/16).

Los Angeles Times: Criticism Mounts As GOP Presses Ahead With Budget Cuts
Republicans compiled a thick set of proposed cuts last week, but it was rejected by the most conservative House members. Leaders amassed a new set of cuts that would reduce 2011 spending by about $61 billion. The cuts are concentrated in less than 15% of the federal budget, the portion that funds so-called nondefense, discretionary spending including education, health, environmental protection and child services (Mascaro, 2/16).

The Associated Press: Obama Starts Drive For Medical Malpractice Reforms
Putting his own stamp on a long-standing Republican priority, President Barack Obama is launching a drive to overhaul state medical malpractice laws and cut down on wasteful tests doctors perform because they fear lawsuits (Alonso-Zaldivar, 2/15).

Politico: IRS Seeks $119M To Enforce Health Care Reform Tax Changes
The IRS is asking for $119 million in additional funds to enforce the tax portions of the health care overhaul in fiscal 2012, including the 1099 provision that has been targeted for repeal by a bipartisan majority in Congress. The money would go towards hiring hundreds of new full-time employees and set up an account that would fund new technology and infrastructure (Nocera, 2/15).

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Charges 20 With Medicare Fraud
The federal government on Tuesday charged 20 people on counts of health-care fraud, kickbacks and money laundering involving $200 million in unnecessary or fictitious mental-health treatments that were billed to Medicare. The multiagency Medicare Fraud Strike Force has indicted more than 850 people for allegedly illegal Medicare billings since its inception in 2007, according to the Justice Department and Department of Health and Human Services (Fitzgerald, 2/15).

Politico: Mike Pence's War On Planned Parenthood
Abortion-rights advocates and abortion-rights opponents don’t see eye to eye on much, but they do agree on this: Nobody hates Planned Parenthood quite as much as Mike Pence. The Indiana Republican is on a one-man crusade to deny all federal funding to the group — not just the money it gets for reproductive health and family planning services, but every penny it gets for anything (Kliff, 2/16).

The New York Times: 49 Suggestions For Cutting Billions In State's Medicaid Costs
Personal shopping and cleaning services for the disabled would be eliminated, weak hospitals could be merged and brand-name drugs would be limited under a series of budget-cutting proposals announced on Tuesday by the New York State Health Department (Hartocollis, 2/15).

The New York Times: Connecticut Governor, Tackling Budget, Criticizes Christie's Approach
Mr. Malloy grew up with dyslexia and physical disabilities. He still cannot write or type. And as he closes a 20 percent budget deficit, he spends much of his energy finding ways to spare the most vulnerable. But what is most striking about Mr. Malloy, a Democrat, is that just six weeks after taking charge of such a mild-mannered state, he is publicly taking shots at his celebrated counterpart in New Jersey, attacking his politics and policies, his intellect, even his personality (Halbfinger, 2/15).

Politico: Utah: Free Market Model For Health Exchanges
Just after the health care law passed, conservatives quickly coalesced around the Utah Health Exchange as the best-case scenario for implementing the new law (Kliff, 2/16).

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