First Edition: March 30, 2012

Today's health policy headlines include reports that the House yesterday approved the $3.5 trillion budget plan proposed by Paul Ryan -- which includes deep cuts in entitlements and will likely trigger the election-year fiscal debate.  

Kaiser Health News: Insurers Push Back On Consumer Rebate Letter
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jay Hancock reports: "Thanks to hefty profits and a requirement in the health law that takes effect this year, insurers will send subscribers hundreds of millions of dollars in rebate checks this August. But the industry and the Obama administration are at odds over proposed language in the letter that goes with the checks as well as who gets notification. The administration may require insurers to send notices about rebate rules even to customers who aren't getting a rebate" (Hancock, 3/29).

Kaiser Health News: Webcast Replay: Deconstructing The Supreme Court's Historic Health Law Arguments
This Kaiser Health News webcast examines this week's Supreme Court action. After six hours of historic arguments on the health law, the court now begins its deliberations. What were the key moments in the debate, and how might they affect the outcome? Our panel includes KHN Senior Correspondent Mary Agnes Carey, who is joined by Stuart Taylor, attorney, author and KHN legal analyst; Tom Goldstein, Goldstein & Russell, P.C., and publisher of SCOTUSblog; and Julie Rovner, health policy correspondent, NPR (3/28). Watch the discussion or read the transcript (3/28).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Social Media Rundown – Three Days At The Supreme Court
Now on Kaiser Health News blog, Shefali S. Kulkarni tracks the week in tweets: "This week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the 2010 health law, in what court watchers are calling the biggest case at the high court in decades. Here's a rundown from the social media-sphere of what happened in those three days" (Kulkarni, 3/29). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Washington Post: The Supreme Court Will Decide On The Health-Care Law Soon. It Will Tell You Later.
If the usual process occurs, the justices of the Supreme Court will gather around a large rectangular table Friday morning and, one by one, cast their votes on the constitutionality of President Obama’s health-care law. They will let the rest of us know the outcome in due time (Barnes, 3/29).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Supreme Court Justices Vote Friday On Outcome Of Health Care Case; Opinion Unlikely Until June
While the rest of us have to wait until June, the justices of the Supreme Court will know the likely outcome of the historic health care case by the time they go home this weekend. After months of anticipation, thousands of pages of briefs and more than six hours of arguments, the justices will vote on the fate of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul in under an hour Friday morning. They will meet in a wood-paneled conference room on the court's main floor. No one else will be present (3/30).

USA Today: Supreme Court Likely To Vote On Health Care Law Friday
That initial decision may be altered as drafts of majority and dissenting opinions are written, circulated and rewritten, often many times. It might even be reversed during the lengthy writing process if one or more justices switch sides (Wolf, 3/29). 

Politico: After The Hearings, Affordable Care Act Enters Limbo
This week at the Supreme Court showed that President Barack Obama's health care law could face a real threat of being overturned — but so far, the states don't show any signs that they're going to change their implementation plans (Millman, 3/29). 

The New York Times: In Health Case, Appeals To A Justice's Idea Of Liberty
The way to frame a Supreme Court argument meant to persuade Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is to talk about liberty. It is his touchstone and guiding principle, and his conception of liberty is likely to determine the future of President Obama's health care law (Liptak, 3/20).

The Wall Street Journal: Health-Law Case Puts Roberts In Crucible
If there was any doubt beforehand, three momentous days of argument this week established that the health-care ruling is sure to be a defining moment for the Supreme Court—and a crucible for Chief Justice John Roberts (Bravin, 3/29). 

The Associated Press/Chicago Tribune: Supreme Court Has A Wide Range Of Options In Ruling On Obama’s Health Care Overhaul Law
The arguments are done and the case has been submitted, as Chief Justice John Roberts says at the end of every Supreme Court argument. Now the justices will wrestle with what to do with President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. They have a range of options, from upholding the law to striking it down in its entirety. The court also could avoid deciding the law's constitutionality at all, although that prospect seems remote after this week's arguments (Sherman and Alonsa-Zaldivar, 3/30).

Los Angeles Times: Obama Targets Groups That Would Be Hurt By Overturned The Health Law
Even before the Supreme Court heard arguments about the constitutionality of the federal healthcare law, President Obama's campaign had begun targeting key voter groups that might be most affected by a loss (Memoli and West, 3/28).

The Washington Post: On Health Care, Are Republicans Ready For Victory?
Three days of oral arguments at the Supreme Court have given Republicans reason for optimism that President Obama's health-care law could be heading for a legal defeat in a few months. But would such a victory for the GOP this summer mean political success for the party in November and beyond? (Balz, 3/29).

Reuters/Chicago Tribune: Analysis: Obama Could See Silver Lining If Healthcare Law Rejected
The conventional wisdom is that it would be a political disaster for Democratic President Barack Obama, and a boon for Republicans, if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down all or most of Obama's healthcare overhaul (Zengerle, 3/29).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: In Attacking Obama Health Care Law, GOP Website Ad Plays With Audio From Supreme Court Hearing
A website ad from the Republican National Committee edits audio from this week's Supreme Court hearing on the health care law to exaggerate Solicitor General Donald Verrilli's struggle to find the words to defend President Barack Obama's initiative. The ad shows a photograph of the Supreme Court Building as it plays audio from Tuesday's arguments on the constitutionality of the mandate that all Americans have health care insurance. As Verrilli speaks, the ad flashes the words: "ObamaCare. It's a tough sell" (3/29).

The New York Times: Here To There, It All Hinges On One Person
No, the spokeswoman said, Pedro Espada Jr. is not currently serving as president of the Soundview Health Care Network. … That is because he has daily appointments in a federal court in Brooklyn to listen to a parade of witnesses testify that he looted the clinics run by Soundview. … Whatever version of reality the jury settles on, the Espada trial … has common strands with the case argued this week in the United States Supreme Court over the constitutionality of the national health care reform act that became law in March 2010. Much depends on a single person (Dwyer, 3/29).

The Washington Post: House Approves $3.5 Trillion Budget Plan Proposed By Paul Ryan
The Ryan plan, which proposes cutting tax rates and a dramatic revamping of Medicare to curb costs for future retirees, faces all but certain rejection in the Senate but will frame the parties' election-year debate on fiscal issues. The plan cuts $5.3 trillion over the next decade — entirely through deep cuts in entitlements and agency spending (Helderman and Kane, 3/29).

The New York Times: House Passes GOP Budget Plan, Mostly Along Party Lines
A fierce two-day debate over a Republican budget plan portrayed as either a path to prosperity or a road to ruin ended Thursday with House passage of a blueprint that would transform Medicare, cut domestic spending to levels not seen since World War II and order up a drastic overhaul of the tax code (Weisman, 3/29).

The Wall Street Journal: House Approves Ryan's Budget Plan
The 2013 budget by Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, stakes out a clear Republican position by proposing to cut spending, reduce taxes, and overhaul Medicare and Medicaid (Bendavid and Paletta, 3/29). 

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Us Vs. Them: Congress Heads Home To Cast Competing Budget Plans As Visions For Better America
With the presidency and the majorities of Congress at stake, House Republicans are showing off their $3.5 trillion plan, which passed Thursday on a near-party-line 228-191 vote, to slash the deficit and the size of government by far more than Democrats want. Democrats, meanwhile, insist on imposing higher taxes on the rich and preserving Medicare, transportation, research and other programs they say are jeopardized by the Republicans (3/30).

NPR: Like The US, Europe Wrestles With Health Care
The U.S. has been absorbed by the Supreme Court case this week on the future of health care. But Americans are not alone. Several European nations, where universal health care has been the norm for decades, have been waging their own intense debates as they also deal with aging populations and rising costs (Flintoff, 3/29).

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