First Edition: March 8, 2011

In today's headlines, news about ongoing budget discussions and how issues like Medicare spending and the health law fit into them as well as reports about the growing interest in replacing the current chief of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  

Kaiser Health News: Younger, Disabled Medicare Beneficiaries Have Trouble Getting Supplementary Insurance
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, in collaboration with The Washington Post, Susan Jaffe writes: "One night three years ago, Joe Hobson finished reading a book, went to sleep and woke up blind. The problem, a rare hereditary disease, forced him to give up his 20-year communications job, along with its generous health insurance. Now 63, the Arlington man is covered by Medicare, the federal program for elderly and disabled Americans" (Jaffe, 6/7).

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Some Medical Practices Move To Monthly Membership Fees For Patients
In her latest consumer column, Michelle Andrews writes: "Just about everyone agrees that the way we pay for primary care needs fixing. Under the current insurance model, doctors get paid for procedures and tests rather than for time spent with patients, which makes doctors and patients alike unhappy and increases costs. Now some medical practices are sidelining health insurers entirely, instead charging patients a moderate membership fee each month. The approach gets a nod in the health overhaul law. But not everyone agrees it's the right way to go" (Andrews, 7/8).

Health On The Hill Transcript: What's The Impact Of The Judge's Order For Fed Appeal In Health Law Challenge
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey talks with KFF's Jackie Judd about last week's order by a federal judge in which he stayed his earlier decision striking down the health law, but also ordered the Obama administration to file an appeal. Also, the Senate considers how it will fund the federal government (3/7). Watch the video. In related coverage, KHN is following the lawsuits surrounding the health law: Scoreboard: Tracking Health Law Court Challenges (Vaida, updated March 7).

The Wall Street Journal: Policy Disputes Spill Over Into Spending Fight
In Congress's fight over federal spending, money is just half the battle. Republicans and Democrats, more than $50 billion apart on how much to cut spending this year, are also at odds over health care and regulatory policies anathema to tea party activists (Bendavid and Hook, 3/8).

Los Angeles Times: Senate Faces Ticking Clock In Budget Standoff
Facing another fast-approaching deadline to avert a government shutdown, the Senate is set to vote as early as Tuesday on competing budget proposals — both expected to fail — as public and private talks to resolve the stalemate grind on. Each week deepens the complexity surrounding the standoff and complicates the negotiations as Congress approaches other debates over the nation's debt capacity, entitlement spending and tax policy (Mascaro, 3/7).

The New York Times: A Rare Bipartisan Call To Share Budget Pain
Such efforts face a hard slog not only on Capitol Hill, but also among the public. Polls consistently show that Americans want the White House and Congress to rein in the mounting long-term federal debt. Yet by large majorities they oppose many specific proposals to reduce the future costs of Medicare and Medicaid and to ensure Social Security’s long-term solvency (Calmes, 3/7).

The Washington Post: 'Gang Of 6' Senators Launch Public Campaign To Support Deficit Reduction
While Washington bickers noisily over cutting a small slice of the federal budget, Sens. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, and Saxby Chambliss, a Georgia Republican, launched a campaign Monday to convince the public that merely cutting spending will do little to tame the $14 trillion national debt. The nation will be "up the creek" economically, Warner told a crowd of more than 200 lobbyists and business leaders in Richmond, unless Congress and the White House come together in support of highly unpopular measures such as raising taxes and overhauling Social Security and Medicare (Montgomery, 3/8).

Politico: Medicare Criticism May Haunt GOP
The Republican Party and its allies funneled millions into TV ads last year accusing Democrats from Pennsylvania to Missouri of "gutting Medicare" and "hurting seniors" — charges that compelled older voters to swing en masse toward the GOP. But now, as Republicans move to tackle the country's gaping debt, they are weighing changes to Medicare — from higher premiums to spending caps — that open them to the same attacks they leveled only months ago against Democrats over the health care law (Budoff Brown, 3/8).

The New York Times: Rising Calls To Replace Top Man At Medicare
Members of Congress, including Democrats, have urged the Obama administration to search for another Medicare chief after concluding that the Senate is unlikely to confirm President Obama’s temporary appointee, Dr. Donald M. Berwick (Pear, 3/7).

Politico: Cardin Out To Rescue Health Reform
Sen. Ben Cardin has a tough job: He must defend the still-unpopular health reform law and 23 Democratic Senate seats in the 2012 election cycle. The Maryland Democrat says the heart of the defense is to win back small-business owners and seniors, while at the same time embracing widely popular efforts to modify the law, such as the repeal of the 1099 tax-reporting provision (Coughlin, 3/8).

Politico: Martha Coakley Backs President Obama's Law With Mitt Romney's
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is coming to the defense of the Democrats' health care reform overhaul — and she's using Mitt Romney's health care law as ammunition (Haberkorn, 3/7).

NPR: To Cap Medicaid, Florida Looks To Managed Care
In Tallahassee, Florida's Legislature has one overriding goal this session: to close a $4.5 billion budget shortfall. And one of the key programs it is targeting for cuts is Medicaid (Allen, 3/8).

The Washington Post: D.C. Backsliding In Efforts To Fight AIDS, Study Finds
For the first time in several years, the District is falling behind in its efforts to combat AIDS, according to a report to be released Tuesday (Sun, 3/8).

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