"Lawmakers in at least two states, California and Missouri, have introduced legislation for the current session to create government-backed coverage for state residents, " The Wall Street Journal reports. "In others, including Virginia and New Jersey, legislators are hoping to tweak existing state programs to include more people. In 11 states, lawmakers have proposed bills for this year aimed at improving access to health care, said the National Conference of State Legislatures." Democrat Peggy Welch, head of the health committee for the group, "said states had hit the 'pause button' on many health issues, but they may soon be 'back for the states to wrestle with.
Mr. Obama's New Budget The New York Times Medicare and Medicaid alone will cost $788 billion; that should be another reminder of why the country needs health care reform (2/1). A Bipartisan Prescription For National Health Care Reform Atlanta Journal-Constitution [W]e need a rational, bipartisan approach to health reform that is truly person-centered. It's time to come together to craft a plan that puts patients first rather than political and special interests (Newt Gingrich and Andrew Von Eschenbach, 2/1). An Obama-Sized Government National Review [The president's health] plan would create another runaway entitlement program and partly 'pay for it' with Medicare cuts that will never stand the test of time.
Business Week/Bloomberg: "Failure to pass the health-care overhaul may accelerate a push by Community Health Systems Inc., Health Management Associates Inc. and LifePoint Hospitals Inc. to acquire facilities weakened by the recession. The nation's largest publicly traded hospital chains are stalking medical centers that have been hurt by the cost of charity care and unpaid bills in a recession, and are no longer confident stalled health legislation will add 30 million newly insured customers, said Sheryl Skolnick, an analyst at CRT Capital Group LLC in Stamford, Connecticut. A third of 5, 010 community hospitals had operating losses in 2008, according to the American Hospital Association" (Olmos, 2/2).
Democrats' health overhaul efforts are stalled in Congress, but President Obama's 2011 budget offers a "modest" back-up plan, the Associated Press reports. "The budget released Monday contains lots of respectable ideas to squeeze savings, expand coverage and improve quality, but no ambitious change that launches the nation on a path to health care for all." Those efforts include increased resources for health care fraud prevention, more help for state Medicaid programs, funding for community health centers, and pilot projects to improve care in the Medicare program. Including automatic spending on the Medicare, Medicaid and other mandatory programs, the budget totals more than $900 billion for health care (Alonso-Zaldivar, 2/1).
President Obama's State of the Union speech has so far failed to unite Democrats on a health reform strategy as they "stared down a political nightmare, " The Associated Press reports. "The grim reality opened a divide between the rank and file and congressional leaders, who insisted health care would get done, even though last week's special election in Massachusetts denied Democrats the 60-vote majority they need to deliver in the Senate. Many Democrats saw a problem with no clear solution" (Werner, 1/29). Politico "Democrats in Congress said all the right things Thursday to show they were dutifully heeding the president's call to keep plugging away on a health reform bill.
Journalism researchers criticized media coverage of the health care bills saying it may have added to consumers' confusion, Health News Florida reports. "Very little broadcast time or print space has been devoted to explaining, point-by-point, the major parts of the legislation, say three top researchers in the field from University of Florida, Florida State University and University of South Florida. ... With a few exceptions -including the New York Times and National Public Radio - 'the news media haven't done a great job of covering the health care reform debates, ' said Kim Walsh-Childers, UF journalism professor. (Disclosure: She is a member of Health News Florida's board of directors.