First Edition: March 14, 2011

In today's headlines, news about the major issues that continue to rise to the surface in the health overhaul debate.

Kaiser Health News: Haley Barbour Draws Fire For Medicaid Changes In Mississippi
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Appleby writes: "Barbour, who's considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination, is unapologetic. In his seven years as governor he has irritated advocates for the poor with cost-cutting changes and a controversial requirement that most recipients appear in person every year to re-establish eligibility. Now he wants virtual carte blanche authority to reshape the federal-state Medicaid program, which is why he was in Washington, urging Congress and the Obama administration to give states greater flexibility" (Appleby, 3/13).

Politico: Health Care Fight: Round 2
When President Barack Obama signed health reform into law a year ago, Democrats hoped the public would learn to love it. It hasn't. … In fact, the one notable change in recent months isn’t a good sign for Obama — 57 percent of independent voters had an unfavorable view of the law in January, up from 41 percent in December, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (Nather and Feder, 3/14).

Politico: Can There Be Life After Mandate?
A year after the health care overhaul’s historic passage amid a volatile political debate, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is still under siege — perhaps even more today than it was then (Haberkorn, 3/14).

Politico: Waivers At Center Of Health Debate
Exceptions may become the rule as the Affordable Care Act heads into its second year. Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services have approved no fewer than 1,040 requests for so-called mini-med waivers, which would allow companies to cap their annual payouts at a lower level than dictated by the law (Kliff, 3/14).

NPR: GOP Wants States To Lead On Health Coverage
If Republicans are successful in repealing last year's health law, they want to replace it with legislation that would give states far more discretion about how to cover people, according to a top Senate Republican (Rovner, 3/11).

Bloomberg/The New York Times: Letter From Washington: When It Comes to The Deficit, Resolve Is Weak
A Bloomberg National Poll published last week, in line with other surveys, is instructive. Americans consider the widening deficit and debt a big deal; they also reject most of the measures necessary to deal with the threat by warning against touching entitlements like Medicare and Social Security or popular discretionary spending programs. The public believes significant deficit reduction is possible without raising revenue, while also wanting to raise taxes on wealthier Americans (Hunt, 3/13).

The Wall Street Journal: Serious Debate On The Budget Deficit Has Started
Away from the shrill noise of Congress's battle over spending this year, Washington has quietly begun the most serious debate on long-term deficit-reduction in decades—the "adult conversation" that political leaders have said will be needed to address this fiscal year's forecast of a $1.65 trillion deficit and the nation's long-term fiscal woes. Even as the parties have deadlocked over discretionary spending cuts involving less than 2% of the $3.7 trillion budget, the political climate is growing more hospitable to the kind of grand bargain needed to rein in the rest of the budget—potentially encompassing the tax code, the defense budget and entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Social Security (Hook and Bendavid, 3/14).

The Associated Press: Dems Hope To Taint Romney With Health Law Praise
President Barack Obama and other top Democrats have been quick to lavish praise on former Massachusetts Republican Gov. Mitt Romney for signing the sweeping health care law in 2006 that laid the groundwork for Obama's national health care overhaul (LeBlanc, 3/13).

Los Angeles Times: Blue Shield's Cumulative Rate Hikes Could Reach 86.5%
Higher insurance premiums sought by Blue Shield of California in recent months would drive total increases as high as 86.5% for thousands of individual policyholders, new documents show (Helfand, 3/12).

Los Angeles Times: Surgeon General Discusses Health And Community
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina M. Benjamin wants to make America healthier, one community at a time. Born and raised in Daphne, Ala., she started practicing medicine in the rural shrimp-farming town of Bayou La Batre on Alabama's Gulf Coast in 1987 and founded a family-practice clinic there in 1990. Benjamin provided care to all comers, including patients without health insurance (Brown, 3/13).

The Wall Street Journal: Cuomo Budget Plan Under Siege By Democrats
Assembly Democrats are attempting to block major pieces of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget plan, advancing measures over the weekend that would preserve higher tax rates for millionaires and knock out the administration's proposal to impose a cap on medical malpractice awards (Gershman, 3/14).

Kaiser Health News tracked the weekend’s health policy developments, including Tim Pawlenty’s comments on government-run health care, details on the GOP’s new short-term budget fix and  reports that a Florida appeals court has agreed to expedite Florida’s suit against the health law

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