First Edition: March 11, 2011

In today's headlines, news about short- and long-term budget challenges and what could become of funding for health programs.  

Kaiser Health News: Michelle Andrews Answers Your Health Insurance Questions
In a series of videos, Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews takes your questions about health insurance and records her answers (3/10).

The Associated Press: Ryan Says GOP Ready To Take On Health Programs
Republicans in charge of the House are facing two unappealing options on the budget. One is to lead with their chins and offer politically toxic cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and, perhaps, Social Security. Or, they could play it safe -- but then endorse trillion-dollar deficits that would enrage their tea party backers (Taylor, 3/11).

Politico: Budget Talks, New Continuing Resolution In Play
Adopting the same format as Boehner's first short-term funding resolution, the new extension would impose additional spending cuts of $2 billion a week through April 8 for a total savings of about $6 billion. But it’s also expected to be free of the controversial legislative riders opposed by the White House (Rogers, 3/11).

The Wall Street Journal: Three-Week Bill On Spending Seen
House Republicans plan to unveil another short-term measure Friday to keep the government operating while they negotiate over this year's federal budget with Democrats and the White House. … The new, short-term measure through April 8 would likely make additional cuts in spending from last year's levels at a rate of $2 billion a week. Republicans are divided, however, on whether the legislation should include policy riders, such as measures that restrict funding for the new health-care law or other Obama administration initiatives. Many conservatives feel strongly about including such limits, but GOP leaders are warning that such additions could generate too much controversy and threaten a government shutdown (Hook, 3/11).

Politico: Health Care's 'Unicorn Gets Real'
ACOs are the subject of great debate, and many in the health policy world are eagerly following Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Don Berwick's every move, waiting for the moment he’ll announce the rules defining what an ACO actually is. …  Berwick said in a speech Tuesday that the pending rules on ACOs will be out very soon, and he said that all the agencies — HHS, CMS, the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission — are working hard to coordinate (Nocera, 3/11).

The Hill: Growing Number Of Waivers A Rallying Cry For Healthcare Repeal
The 1,000-plus waivers granted by the Obama administration to a portion of the healthcare reform law have become a political liability for the White House. Republicans are accusing the administration of rewarding Democratic allies in the labor movement with the waivers, which exempt recipients from the reform law’s annual coverage limits (Millman, 3/11).

The Washington Post: New Fronts Open In Abortion Wars
A year after its passage, the health-care overhaul is opening fresh battlefields in an old and bitter debate. Almost immediately after the law came into effect, five states passed bills that will prohibit private health insurance plans sold on its new state-based insurance marketplaces from covering abortion, except in dire circumstances such as to save the mother's life (Aizenman, 3/11).

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