First Edition: March 18, 2011

Today's headlines include news about events planned to mark the health law's first anniversary as well as other developments related to the measure's implementatioin and the budget issues Congress continues to wrestle.  

Kaiser Health News: 'Playing The Granny Card's Gotta End' – Douglas Holtz-Eakin On Medicare And Politics
Kaiser Health News staff writers Mary Agnes Carey and Marilyn Werber Serafini report: "To Douglas Holtz-Eakin, one thing is clear: Widening deficits mean that sooner or later both parties will have to take on the politically sacrosanct Medicare program for the elderly and disabled" (Carey and Serafini, 3/18).

Kaiser Health News Column: Health Reform's Next Act: A Focus On Achieving Health Equity
In this Kaiser Health News column, Brian Smedley writes: "When President Barack Obama met with the nation's governors last month and offered to allow states to establish their own plans to reform health care in place of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, he insisted that states meet or exceed the same goals established in the health overhaul to expand insurance coverage, improve the quality of care and contain rapidly escalating healthcare costs. The president might also insist that states show progress toward eliminating health inequities -- differences in the opportunity to have good health that exist between rich and poor Americans, and whites relative to most non-whites" (3/18).

Politico: Kathleen Sebelius's Health Care Pledge: More 'Flexibility'
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is trying hard not to sound like the all-powerful federal bureaucrat in charge of everyone's health care (Nather, 3/17).

The Wall Street Journal: White House Seeks To Boost Public Support For Health Bill
The Obama administration next week will embark on a fresh pitch for the health-care overhaul, seeking to boost public support for the law on its one-year anniversary. But lawmakers and some policy experts say the next phase of the overhaul will be more difficult to sell. Between now and the 2012 presidential election, few consumer-oriented changes kick in (Adamy, 3/17).

Politico: Who's Missing Nancy Pelosi's ACA Party?
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s not hiding under her desk— she held another press conference Thursday morning to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the health care law next week. The only thing missing was the rest of the heavy hitters (Nather, 3/17).

The Associated Press:  Senate Sends 3-Week Funding Bill Cutting $6B To Obama
Congress approved an additional $6 billion in spending cuts Thursday, passing legislation to keep the government running through April 8 and allow time for talks on a larger package of reductions demanded by Republicans. … Any attempt to cut significantly into the red ink would have to expand beyond the domestic programs covered by the bill that passed Thursday, and include benefit programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security (3/17).

The Hill: Reid: Rider On Planned Parenthood Won’t Be Included In Budget Deal
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Thursday drew a firm line with Republicans, declaring that a controversial Planned Parenthood measure will not be included in any deal on the budget (Bolton, 3/17).

The Wall Street Journal: Calpers Probe Touches Medco
A broad corruption probe involving the California Public Employees' Retirement System has touched the pension fund's pharmacy-benefits manager—Medco Health Solutions Inc.—which Calpers this week dropped from contention for a new contract amid investigations into possible impropriety (Wisenberg Brin, 3/18).

The Hill: DeMint Won't Back Romney Without Repudiation Of Mass. Health Law
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) "would never consider" endorsing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for president again in 2012 unless Romney repudiates the health reforms he sought as governor, a source close to DeMint said Thursday (O'Brien, 3/17).

The Associated Press: Insurance 'Concern' For Locked-Out NFL Players
Less than a week into the NFL lockout, there are players worried about affording health insurance premiums. Normally, teams pay for that. As long as the league’s first work stoppage since 1987 is in place, though, each player is responsible for arranging and paying for his own coverage. Under the federal COBRA law that allows employees to continue coverage at their own expense, the average monthly fee for a family policy is $2,400, the NFL Players' Association says (3/18).

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