Politico – Pulse 3.19.2012
By Brett Norman
With contributions from Jason Millman and Matt DoBias
NOT THE HEALTH REFORM PARTY OBAMA HOPED FOR - Instead, it looks more like acrimony is the icing on the Affordable Care Act’s birthday cake. The second anniversary is Friday, and the Obama administration had thought the public would have rallied to health reform by now. But the dust never settled, many states dug in their heels, the legal challenge rocketed to the Supreme Court and the law remains as misunderstood as ever. Still, political tumult aside, implementation goes on and Republican efforts to tear down the law so far have hardly made a dent. A look at the rocky road traveled and the challenges ahead:http://politi.co/FPncIp.
WHAT (ELSE) TO WATCH ON HEALTH REFORM - Everybody knows that a lot is riding on the Supreme Court decision and the fall elections. But Pro’s David Nather flags five other key issues that could have a major impact on reform this year. The progress, or lack thereof, that states make on exchanges is HUGE, as is participation in accountable care organizations, a major test of the law’s efforts to slow health spending. More for Pros here:http://politico.pro/FR4Hmc.
Good Monday morning and welcome to PULSE, where the blizzard that never came this winter has finally arrived. Worry not – it’s still balmy outside – but the health reform spinning around the Supreme Court case and the ACA’s birthday has created near whiteout conditions in health policy land. It’s going to be a wild couple of weeks, but follow PULSE’s tracks – you’ll come through fine. And maybe, MAYBE, there will be a little time left over for that other March Madness.
Please send your Supreme Court brackets and other news tips to [email protected].
“So come and let it all out, let it bleed. Did you get what you want? Did PULSE get what you need?”
TODAY IN POLITICO PRO:
– EXCHANGE WEEK: ANOTHER SIGN FROM NEBRASKA - Though legislation isn’t really moving, we see further evidence of states – particularly Nebraska – moving toward setting up an exchange.http://politico.pro/yYl0PF
– CONTRACEPTION RULE NOTICE DRAWS MIXED REACTION - On Friday, HHS announced the options it was considering for how to go about exempting religious institutions from having to pay for contraception coverage. http://politico.pro/FUZENp
ONCE AGAIN, WITH FEELING: ACA …. YAY! Champions of the health law will stage hundreds of events in 32 states this week. Protect Your Care’s Eddie Vale previewed a pro-reform messaging strategy in an email to PULSE, saying more than 100 groups, including Families USA, Service Employees International Union, National Women’s Law Center and the Young Invincibles, would rally around a central theme: “Protect Our Care: Health Care Works.”
– ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER DEMOGRAPHIC - Vale said the groups will highlight benefits of the law for different groups each day of the week. Today: seniors. Tuesday: women. Wednesday: young adults and kids.Thursday: small businesses. Friday: people with pre-existing conditions. “The overall focus and message is going to be real people telling their personal stories of how the Affordable Care Act has helped them,” Vale said. You can follow the ACA cheering on the Twitters at #healthcareworks.
– HAPPENING TO (SENIORS) DAY: CMS Deputy Administrator Jon Blum will tout the benefits of the ACA for seniors and people with disabilities in a conference call with reporters at 12.30 p.m. Coordination or coincidence? You decide.
AMID ALL THE CHEERING, PROTESTS/IPAB REPEAL - Republicans plan to celebrate the ACA anniversary too …. with a series of floor speeches denouncing the law, and in the House, a vote to repeal the controversial Independent Payment Advisory Board. On Friday, leading conservative groups sent a letter to the House leadership contesting that strategy, though. The letter argues against piecemeal repeal, saying that it could send the wrong signal – that the ACA could be fixed if only the bad parts are cut out. More for Pros: http://politico.pro/yRJlh0.
– Sen. Mike Johanns is one of several Senate Republicans expected to do events surrounding the anniversary. He’s releasing today a health care website explaining the lawsuit and an update on the law two years after passage. He’ll also be holding a digital town hall this week. The site http://1.usa.gov/zOsP0b
AND SOME INCONVENIENT TRUTHS - Pro’s David Nather pulls out four facts of health reform that have become increasingly clear lately, counter to promises from the Obama administration and/or reform supporters. 1) People won’t necessarily get to keep the coverage they like. 2) Costs aren’t going down anytime soon. 3) Estimates that the law will pay for itself are just educated guesses. 4) The more the public knows, the more it will like about the health law. (People seem to know even less about the law than they did two years ago when it passed.) The POLITICO story, from Friday: http://politi.co/FOcgMZ .
NEW POLL: MORE VOTERS THINK HEALTH COSTS WILL RISE/QUALITY FALL UNDER REFORM - A poll conducted last week and released this morning by the center-right Young Guns Policy Center found that 58 percent of voters believed that their health care costs would go up, 60 percent thought the deficit would increase and 30 percent felt the quality of their care would go down, due to health reform. That compares with 7 percent who thought their costs and the deficit would decrease and 18 percent who thought their care would improve. The figures skew predictably among Republicans and Democrats, with independents reporting fairly close to the average. The overall support/oppose figures were 38 percent in favor, 45 percent against, more negative than the March monthly tracking poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which found 41 percent supported the law. The Young Guns’s survey of 1,000 voters: http://bit.ly/zH8aQj.
** A message from Express Scripts and Medco Health Solutions: Our 4,000 pharmacists focus on revolutionizing a patient’s pharmacy benefit, delivering personalized care through innovation – and our pharmacists are available 24 hours a day, every day. Better care. Lower cost. Find out how at www.betterrxcare.com **
ALSO: HERE COMES THE REPUBLICAN BUDGET - Despite getting hammered by Democrats over Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget last year, the GOP is gambling that going big and bold on their fiscal blueprint – think major changes to Medicare and Medicaid – will convince voters the GOP is the nation’s responsible party, composed of lawmakers attuned to the nation’s fiscal woes, POLITICO’s Jake Sherman reports. Budget Committee Chairman Ryan will roll out his plan in a speech Tuesday. It’s a perilous gambit in an election year – the blueprint last year gave Democrats an opening to paint Republicans as willing to end Medicare as voters know it and batter Medicaid – while cutting taxes for the wealthy. The POLITICO story: http://politi.co/FQK2xy
– BUDGET WEEK STARTS EARLY - Democrats have yet to see Ryan’s budget plan. But Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the committee’s ranking member, and other top Democrats have already begun to frame their message on how the budget is expected to treat Medicare. The proposal is likely to include a Medicare “premium support” model that was shaped, in part, by a Democrat. “If they go with a different version, a variation on the same theme, fundamentally that proposal transfers the costs and risks to seniors,” he said. “You can call it whatever you want, but that’s the bottom line.” Van Hollen said that the Budget Committee has tentatively scheduled a markup on the package for Wednesday.
MORE EVIDENCE OF ‘BIRTH CONTROL MOMS’? The sudden focus on contraception and abortion in the 2012 campaign has meant a surge in fundraising for abortion rights groups that support women as congressional candidates, POLITICO’s Robin Bravender reports. EMILY’s List – whose mission is to elect abortion rights-supporting Democratic women – has raised nearly twice as much for candidates at this point in the 2012 cycle as it did during the entire 2010 cycle, according to spokeswoman Jess McIntosh. And that’s with about eight months to go. “We are on track to have one of the best first quarters we’ve ever had for candidate fundraising,” said EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock. More in the POLITICO story: http://politi.co/zXxqQW. ICYMI, Pro’s Joanne Kenen asked last month whether 2012 would be the “Year of the Birth Control Moms”:http://politi.co/wUfTsU.
ROMNEY WINS PUERTO RICO - In the primary there Sunday, Romney collected more than 50 percent of the vote, meaning he gets all 20 delegates from the territory. The POLITICO story: http://politi.co/zoQN4p.
HAPPENING TODAY - The Institute for Healthcare Improvement hosts its annual conference at National Harbor, Maryland … Center for American Progress features policy and legal experts at a 9 a.m. press briefing on the ACA … and the Medicare Rights Center holds its ACA anniversary press call.
FIRST IN PULSE: NIH FUNDING DRIVES ECONOMIC GROWTH, NEW REPORT FINDS - Jobs, jobs, jobs. An NIH advocacy group, United for Medical Research, will release a report this morning that finds NIH funding supported more than 432,000 jobs in 2011, directly or indirectly, and generated more than $62.1 billion in economic activity. UMR is a coalition of research institutions, patient and health advocates and private industry seeking to increase NIH funding, which was $30.6 billion in 2011. The report, which also includes state-by-state data: http://bit.ly/FRqaKv.
MUST SEE - If you can only get to one Supreme Court preview this week, then make it the one hosted by POLITICO’s Josh Gerstein and Pro’s very own Jennifer Haberkorn. They’ll be joined by former Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal, Clinton administration Solicitor General Walter Dellinger, Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSblog, NPR’s SCOTUS reporter Nina Totenberg and University of Richmond School of Law professor Kevin Walsh. That’s taking place at 8 a.m. on Thursday. RSVP here: http://bit.ly/yOKRJY.
BORING PHYSICIAN GROUP DRAWS SERIOUS STAR POWER - The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which dedicates itself to promoting preventive medicine and other dull things has a roster of celebrity supporters that could fill up a good-sized red carpet. POLITICO’s Patrick Gavin reports the list includes Scarlett Johansson, Lea Michele, Natalie Portman, Gene Hackman, Alicia Silverstone, Tobey Maguire, Sean Penn, Sarah Silverman and many, many more. Patrick Sullivan, PCRM’s communications director, said “[W]e’re a celebrity-driven culture and people pay attention to folks whose names are in the news in a way that they may not pay attention to someone else.” A celebrity fix for Pros: http://politi.co/zFDqgS.
WHAT WE’RE READING
AARP will unveil today a national television ad campaign and town halls in all 50 states organized around the idea “Imagine a world without Medicare,” Marilyn Werber Sarafini reports for Kaiser Health News.http://bit.ly/wpYwmw
The Kansas City Star’s editorial board argues the Affordable Care Act is beginning to address the waste and inefficiency of a fee-for-service system, urging stakeholders to get over the individual mandate and let the law work.http://bit.ly/FQ50eL
Over the weekend, Washington and Lee University professor Tim Jost weighed in at Health Affairs on the Medicaid eligibility and contraception and student health plan rules HHS released Friday. Respectivelyhttp://bit.ly/FPqWee and http://bit.ly/znipNX
The New York Times’s Paul Krugman says that there is a real chance that lies about health reform will kill it before it really gets started. http://nyti.ms/FPkoJ8
Reuters estimates that the 136 amicus briefs filed in the ACA suit would stack about two feet high and cost between $3.4 million and $7.8 million to produce, among other curios. http://reut.rs/FPxxDK
Foes of health reform are descending on Washington, D.C., to protest less the law itself than what it has come to represent to many: Big government at its worst, reports The Associated Press via The Boston Globe.http://bo.st/FPN3Qb
Tax foe Grover Norquist writes in The Daily Caller about five taxes in “Obamacare” that most hurt seniors. http://thedc.com/wcN6az
The Washington Post editorial board comes to the rescue of IPAB, arguing the cost-cutting measure needs a chance to work. http://wapo.st/zwrtWI
** A message from Express Scripts and Medco Health Solutions: Retail pharmacies always have been and always will be essential partners in Express Scripts’ mission of making the use of prescription drugs safer and more affordable. We are proud of the relationships we have built over 25 years with more than 60,000 pharmacies large and small, rural and urban. These relationships have ensured safe, effective, and affordable service for patients. We look forward to fostering those relationships as we continue to work to improve America’s healthcare delivery system. **
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