First Edition: March 20, 2012

Today's headlines include reports about the new GOP budget proposal, to be unveiled today by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Some States Limit How Uninsured Pay For High-Risk Insurance
In her latest Kaiser Health News consumer column, Michelle Andrews writes: "The 'uninsurables' -- people with serious medical conditions who can't buy health coverage on the private market -- are supposed to have a safety net to rely on in the new preexisting condition insurance plans (PCIPs). These comprehensive plans, created by the federal health care law, take all comers who have been uninsured for at least six months. The premiums can be expensive, however, running several hundred dollars a month" (Andrews, 3/19).

Kaiser Health News/NPR: A Tale Of Two Health Insurance Extremes
Reporting for Kaiser Health News and NPR, Nicole Cohen, Carrie Feibel and Martha Bebinger write: "The U.S. spent $2.6 trillion on health care in 2010 — more than the entire economy of France or Britain. But the amount spent and how it's used varies from state to state. And, at the opposite ends of the spectrum: Texas and Massachusetts. At 25 percent, Texas has the highest rate of uninsured people in the nation. Massachusetts, where a 2006 law made coverage mandatory, has the lowest rate — less than 2 percent of people are uninsured. Here's a look at two Americans who are living the reality of that difference" (Cohen, Feibel and Bebinger, 3/19).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Why Are Health Costs So High? The Robot Knows
KQED's Sarah Varney, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "Americans have always loved the next big thing: the newest iPhone, the freshest hi-def television, and the latest and greatest … medical technology. But that quick embrace of new innovations has come at a cost: It's driving up the prices hospitals charge insurance companies who in turn raise premiums for the rest of us" (Varney, 3/19).

The Washington Post: House Republicans To Propose Dramatic Changes To Tax Code
Democrats have been gearing up to tackle other aspects of Ryan's budget proposal — notably efforts to reshape Medicare and to slash federal agency spending beneath the $1.047 trillion level agreed to during the summer's hard-fought battle over raising the debt ceiling (Helderman and O'Keefe, 3/19).

The Wall Street Journal: GOP's Budget Targets Taxes
The proposal, to be offered by Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), who has become the Republicans' leading figure on budget issues, has little chance of becoming law soon. It is likely to be welcomed by House and Senate Republicans, and rejected by the Democratic-controlled Senate. … Democrats see the tax proposal as an attempt to deflect attention from the more controversial parts of Mr. Ryan's budget, such as a Medicare overhaul and a decision to set lower 2013 spending levels than those agreed to in the debt-limit deal in August (Bendavid, 3/19).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: House GOP To Unveil Election-Year Budget Blueprint Cutting Blueprint Cutting Beyond Obama Plan
Republicans are expected to again propose politically sensitive curbs on Medicare — though less dramatic than last year's plan — and they're already rewriting last year’s budget pact with Obama to cut domestic agency budgets (3/20).

Reuters/Chicago Tribune: Republican Budget Plan Seeks To Play Up Tax Reform
A much-anticipated budget plan due on Tuesday from Republicans in the House of Representatives includes sweeping tax reforms that cut rates and pare down individual income tax brackets from six to two - 10 percent and 25 percent. The plan, which aims to deflect potential fallout from controversial Medicare reforms ahead of November elections, also would nearly eliminate taxes on overseas profits and reduce the domestic corporate tax rate to 25 percent (3/19).

Read the opinion piece by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., in which he outlines his budget plan:

The Wall Street Journal: The GOP Budget And America's Future
Less than a year ago, the House of Representatives passed a budget that took on our generation's greatest domestic challenge: reforming and modernizing government to prevent an explosion of debt from crippling our nation and robbing our children of their future. … On the critical issues of health security and tax reform, our budget draws a clear distinction between serious reformers and those who stand in the way of the growing bipartisan consensus for principled solutions. Our budget's Medicare reforms make no changes for those in or near retirement. For those who will retire a decade from now, our plan provides guaranteed coverage options financed by a premium-support payment. And this year, our budget adds even more choices for seniors, including a traditional fee-for-service Medicare option (Rep. Paul Ryan, 3/20).

The New York Times: Publicity Push As Health Law's Court Date Nears
Republicans on Capitol Hill have put together a highly coordinated two-week renewed assault on the health care law, seizing on the legislation's second anniversary and the next week's oral arguments before the Supreme Court concerning its constitutionality (Steinhauer and Pear, 3/19).

The Associated Press/Chicago Tribune: Obama And Romney Both Achieve Nixonian Health Care Overhaul And Don't Want To talk About It
The most significant health care law since Medicare gets barely a shout-out from Obama. And when Romney must talk about the law he won in Massachusetts, it's because someone’s got him on the defensive in the Republican presidential primary campaign (Woodward, 3/19).

Politico: Health Care Reform: What To Watch For
The law turns two years old on Friday, and its third year will see other milestones that will determine how it works — if it survives. States have to do their part to implement it, and some will do little or nothing. Health care providers have to decide whether to participate in experiments on controlling costs and testing new ways of delivering care (Nather, 3/19).

NPR Shots Blog: How Do Racial Attitudes Affect Opinions About The Health Care Overhaul?
As the Supreme Court gets ready to hear a case involving the constitutionality of President Obama's health care overhaul, social scientists are asking a disturbing — and controversial — question: Do the intense feelings about the health care overhaul among ordinary Americans stem from their philosophical views about the appropriate role of government, or from their racial attitudes about the signature policy of the country's first black president? (Vedantam, 3/20).

NPR Shots Blog: Health Care In America: Follow The Money
Some know how much we pay for our own medical care, but many aren't aware of how immense an industry health care is in the U.S. Our trips to the doctor employ a lot of people, and our schools play an important role in preparing those people to take care of us (Jones, 3/19). This story is part of a series.

The Washington Post: Romney, Santorum Each Claim Conservative Mantle Before Illinois Primary
Santorum cast himself as the true conservative in the race for the Republican nomination. … As he has done throughout the campaign in Illinois, he attacked Romney for enacting a health-care law in Massachusetts that included a mandate that everyone purchase insurance or pay a penalty. Calling repeal of Obama's health-care law the No. 1 issue of the campaign, Santorum said: "Why would the Republican Party nominate someone on the most important issue of the day — freedom, Reagan's freedom — why would we take that off the table? That's why you have to help me here in Illinois" (Rucker and Balz, 3/19).

Chicago Tribune: Romney, Santorum Make Final Push For Illinois Republican Votes
Santorum used his father's story of working his way up the economic ladder in America through hard work to mount a criticism he commonly makes of President Barack Obama: that Obama's federal health care plan is emblematic of the president's  attempt to move the country away from personal liberty. "I always say America is a country that believes in limited government and the unlimited potential of every American," Santorum said (Byrne and Groeninger, 3/19).

The Wall Street Journal’s Health Blog: Cutting Costs With Better Care For Advanced Illness
A better approach to advanced illness, including fewer hospitalizations, could improve quality of life and satisfaction for the sickest patients — and save $25 billion in annual health-care costs, according to Gundersen Health System (Landro, 3/19).

Politico: Study: 8 States Get 'F' On Corruption
Eight state governments received a failing F grade when it comes to transparency, accountability and anti-corruption efforts, while not a single state earned an A, according to a comprehensive new study released Monday (Lee, 3/19).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Birth Control Bill Stalls In Arizona Senate But Supporters Plan Changes To Address Concerns
A bill that would let more Arizona employers drop coverage for birth control drugs stalled Monday in the state Senate because of increasing opposition from women who feared they would have to reveal private health information to employers (3/19).

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