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Today's Opinions And Editorials

The Public Plan The New York Times [Obama] should not give up without first getting a strong alternative to achieve the same goals - and so far there is nothing very strong on the political horizon (8/18). Healthcare Reform Doesn't Hinge On Public Insurance Plan The Los Angeles Times [W]hen the Obama administration signaled this week that it was backing away from a public plan, it wasn't putting the kibosh on meaningful change (David Lazarus, 8/19). The Death Book For Veterans Wall Street Journal If President Obama wants to better understand why America's discomfort with end-of-life discussions threatens to derail his health-care reform, he might begin with his own Department of Veterans Affairs (Jim Towey, 8/18).

Battle Over Proposal To Disclose Drug Price Deals

"Some Democratic lawmakers looking for ways to overhaul the nation's health-care system are targeting the companies that handle drug benefits for more than 210 million Americans, setting off a lobbying battle over how much pricing information the companies should disclose, " The Wall Street Journal reports. The version of health legislation passed last month by the House Energy and Commerce Committee "includes provisions that could overhaul how pharmacy-benefit managers -- middlemen hired by insurers to administer prescription-drug benefits -- operate. It would require them to inform the government or federally approved health plans about differences between the average cost of drugs to the PBM and what the PBM charges insurers.

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COBRA Rolls Double As Subsidy Makes Coverage More Affordable To Laid-Off Workers

"A federal subsidy designed to make health insurance more affordable for laid-off workers has led to a doubling in the number of people who have opted to continue their former employer's coverage, " USA Today reports. The subsidy, created by the federal stimulus package, covers 65 percent of COBRA premiums for workers who were laid off between Sept. 1, 2008 and the end of this year. A new analysis by the consulting firm Hewitt Associates found that enrollment in the program has doubled from 19 percent of eligible workers in the months leading to the February passage of the stimulus legislation to 38 percent between March and June. USA Today adds: "Some employers have raised concerns that higher COBRA enrollments will increase their health care costs.

Looking To September, Lawmakers Focus On Health Reform Messages, Measures

House Republicans are preparing for September and planning to depict Democratic attempts to reform the health care system as "potentially ruinous to small businesses, " CQ Politics reports. Republican Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia "told reporters the GOP would continue to offer alternatives on health care and the economic recovery. 'If we're going to oppose what [Speaker Nancy] Pelosi and the administration are doing, we're going to proffer coherent counterproposals that we believe make more sense, ' Cantor said." On the issue of health care reforms, the GOP continues to oppose "liberal Democrats' push for a government-run health plan to compete with private insurers, and argues that House Democratic leaders' call for a surtax on individuals with adjusted gross incomes of more than $250, 000 would hurt small-business owners.

Confusion Reigns About Public Option, Health Cooperatives

Reports that President Obama could accept a reform plan without a government-run public option have triggered a barrage of comments from administration officials and congressional leaders insisting that the public option remains on the table, as well as discussion of how health insurance cooperatives would work. Here's a selection of the news coverage: CQ Politics : On Sunday, Kathleen Sebelius, the health secretary, said the public option was "not essential, " emphasizing President Obama's comment at a Saturday town hall that the public option is "just one sliver" of reform. But, "White House officials said Monday the remarksā were being taken out of context and misunderstood.

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Co-op Proposal Continues To Draw White House Defensiveness, Liberals' Ire

The Hill reports on Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' backpedaling on comments she made Sunday that a public option "isn't essential" to a reform package: "'Here's the bottom line. Absolutely nothing has changed. We continue to support the public option that will help lower costs, give American consumers more choice and keep private insurers honest, ' Sebelius said. 'The public option is a very good way to do this, ' she added" (Youngman, 8/18). White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the administration continues its support for the public option, Roll Call reports: "Obama's position is 'unchanged, ' said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, who reiterated a previously stated position that the public insurance option is a preferred strategy but not a necessary precondition for Obama to accept a bill" (Koffler, 8/18).

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