First Edition: March 9, 2011

In today's headlines, reports that the White House appealed a Florida ruling that overturned the entire health law and other updates regarding congressional budget negotiations.

Kaiser Health News: From California To The New York Island, A New Understanding Of Higher Medicare Spending
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jordan Rau reports: "Some regions of the country that have been lambasted for high levels of Medicare spending actually are below the national average once the severity of patient sickness and special local expenses are taken into account, according to data from a new government analysis" (Rau, 3/8).

Kaiser Health News Column: Wyden-Brown And The Health Law: A Match Made In Heaven Or Limbo?
In his latest Kaiser Health News column, John McDonough writes: "Every week events take place -- regulations are issued, grants are awarded and provisions, such as the 1099 reporting requirement that raised revenue to pay for the measure, face congressional challenges. Each development marks one more step in the continuing transformation of the health system -- changes now put in motion by the sweeping overhaul. In this vein, President Barack Obama's surprise signal last week to governors that he was willing to give states some extra flexibility in implementing the law is particularly noteworthy because it offers a useful window into the health law's evolving politics and the future bargaining that will likely take place" (McDonough, 3/8).

Politico: White House Appeals Florida Lawsuit
The Obama administration Tuesday appealed Judge Roger Vinson's ruling that the entire health reform law is unconstitutional. The quick action of the government prevents the judge’s order from taking effect and shutting down implementation of the law for now (Haberkorn, 3/8).

The New York Times: U.S. Appeals Florida Health Care Ruling
he Justice Department filed notice on Tuesday that it was appealing a decision by a federal judge in Florida who struck down the new health care law, saying it was unconstitutional for the federal government to require Americans to obtain health insurance (Pear, 3/9).

The Washington Post: Senate Still Wrangling Over Spending Bill
With a March 18 deadline looming, the White House and Senate Democrats have offered a plan to cut less than $5 billion from domestic agencies through the remainder of the fiscal year, a proposal that even some moderate Democrats have criticized as insufficient in light of record budget deficits (Kane and Sonmez, 3/9).

The Wall Street Journal: Democrats Raise Stakes On Budget
The change in Democratic strategy could mark a major shift in focus in the budget battles. Debate so far has focused on discretionary programs controlled by annual appropriations, a narrow sliver of federal spending. Most of the rest of the budget is mandatory spending for entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Social Security (Hook, 3/9).

Bloomberg News/The Washington Post: Government Shutdown Opposed By Americans In Poll Faulting Cuts
Americans are sending a message to congressional Republicans: Don't shut down the federal government or slash spending on popular programs. Almost 8 in 10 people say Republicans and Democrats should reach a compromise on a plan to reduce the federal budget deficit to keep the government running, a Bloomberg National Poll shows. At the same time, lopsided margins oppose cuts to Medicare, education, environmental protection, medical research and community-renewal programs (Hirschfeld Davis and Przybyla, 3/9).

The Washington Post: The Fact Checker: Michele Bachmann's 'Bombshell' On A 'Hidden' $105 Billion
You have to give Rep. Michele Bachmann credit. The Minnesota Republican certainly knows how to command attention -- and how to liven up a dreary discussion of the federal budget on the Sunday morning talk shows by holding up a sign that declares: "$105,464,000,000." Even in Washington, $105 billion is real money. But her assertion raises questions. Is it possible for a major piece of legislation, carefully analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office before final passage, to "secretly" contain so much spending? (Kessler, 3/9).

The Wall Street Journal: In Health Law, Rx For Trouble
Patients are demanding doctors' orders for over-the-counter products because of a provision in the health-care overhaul that slipped past nearly everyone's radar. It says people who want a tax break to buy such items with what's known as flexible-spending accounts need to get a prescription first (Adamy, 3/9).

Politico: Planned Parenthood Quandary
Republican leadership and commentators are cooling to social conservatives’ mounting cries to make defunding Planned Parenthood a nonnegotiable item in budget talks, challenging the provision as both bad politics and bad policy (Kliff, 3/9).

The Associated Press: State Budget Cuts Decimate Mental Health Services
State budget writers looking for cash to balance the books have stripped a cumulative $1.8 billion from mental health services over the last 2 1/2 years, putting the public at risk as the mentally ill crowd emergency rooms and prisons, according to the nation's largest mental health advocacy group (Wyatt, 3/9).

The Associated Press: Maine Gets Break In Federal Health Care Overhaul
The federal government Tuesday granted Maine a waiver of a key provision in President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, citing the likelihood that enforcement could destabilize the state's market for individual health insurance (Sharp, 3/8).

The Wall Street Journal: Ethics Questions
At the request of a national consumer group, a New York state ethics body is examining whether members of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Medicaid policy team ran afoul of conflicts-of-interest laws. The Center for Justice and Democracy on Tuesday submitted a formal ethics complaint to the Public Integrity Commission, which regulates ethics laws over New York state agency employees (Gershman, 3/9).

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