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Ford Transfers Health Care Liabilities To Union Trust

Dow Jones Newswires/The Wall Street Journal : "Ford Motor Co. said Monday it completed the transfer of its union retiree health-care liabilities to the United Auto Workers Retiree Medical Benefits Trust as part of a court-approved settlement agreement." The transfer "removed a substantial health care liability from the Detroit auto maker's balance sheet and significantly reduced its health care expenses." Ford also prepaid $500 million of the debt it owes to the trust (Bennett and Shwiff, 1/4). Bloomberg/Detroit Free Press : "The amount was in addition to scheduled Dec. 31 payments of $2.01 billion on notes that went to the fund, the automaker said Monday.

Blogs Comment On Health Reform, Abortion-Rights Fundraising, Age Of Consent, Other Topics

The following summarizes selected women's health-related blog entries. ~ " Manager's Amendment Restricts Abortion Coverage; The Final Bill Should Not, " Micole Allekotte, National Women's Law Center's "Womenstake": The manager's amendment to the Senate health reform bill "is far worse regarding insurance coverage of abortion" than the bill's previous language, "which explicitly prevented federal funding from going towards abortion coverage, " Allekotte, a health fellow at the National Women's Law Center, writes. The amendment "requires purchasers of plans which cover abortions to write two checks, one for their general premium, and a separate one for abortion coverage, " she writes, adding that the amendment also "eliminates the requirement that one plan in each [health insurance] exchange would cover abortion while continuing to mandate that at least one of the multi-state plans will not cover abortion.

Democrats Start Final Talks On Health Reform Legislation

Democratic leaders in Congress on Tuesday began the final round of talks on merging two versions of health care reform legislation, pledging to work through the bills' major differences by the end of the month, the Washington Post reports. However, the narrow margin of support for the legislation leaves negotiators from the House and Senate with "little room to maneuver" on issues like abortion coverage or the creation of a public plan option, the Post reports (Murray, Washington Post, 1/6). The meetings come after Democratic leadership in Congress and President Obama decided to skip a formal conference to merge the House's health reform bill ( HR 3962 ) with the Senate's version ( HR 3590 ) because of concerns that Senate Republicans would use filibusters and other tactics to stall negotiations, CQ Today reports.

The President Pushes Dems To Finalize Health Reform Quickly

President Barack Obama told Democratic leaders Tuesday to finalize the health reform bill as soon as possible. He also encouraged them to bypass the usual conference committee in favor of acting quickly on the bill, The Associated Press reports. "Obama delivered the message at an Oval Office meeting Tuesday evening with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his No. 2, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., joined in by phone." Obama will meet again with congressional leaders Wednesday. Democrats hope to have a bill to Obama before the State of the Union address (Werner, 1/6). Roll Call : "President Barack Obama on Tuesday vowed to boost the White House's involvement in health care reform negotiations as the House and Senate seek to craft a final bill that can pass Congress this winter reports that Obama is also pledging to be more involved in the effort to pass health reform.

Today's Opinions And Editorials

Once Obama's Target, Lobbyist Tauzin Now His Pet The Washington Examiner The White House's open door for [Billy Tauzin, the top lobbyist for the prescription drug industry], whom candidate Obama attacked as the embodiment of the revolving door and the corrupt collusion between politicians and industry, further dismantles the myth of Obama as the scourge of special interests (Timothy P. Carney, 1/6). The Tom DeLay Democrats The Wall Street Journal Against the odds Democrats are making the former GOP Majority Leader look better by comparison as they bypass the ordinary institutions of deliberative democracy in the final sprint to pass ObamaCare (1/6). The Myth Of 'Cadillac Care' Fortune Can you tell a Chevy Malibu from a Cadillac Escalade?

Lobbyists Continue Efforts To Influence Health Overhaul

Here's a look at some last-minute lobbying campaigns and what impact they may have had. The Washington Post : "Language in both the House and Senate bills would reward hospitals for efficiency in their Medicare spending, a dramatic change in the formula for parceling out the public dollars, which can account for as much as half of a hospital's budget. That could prove to be a windfall for some hospitals but a significant loss of funding for others, mostly those in big cities and the South." The language is "a major lobbying victory for a coalition of hospitals based in the upper Midwest, led by the Mayo Clinic" (MacGillis, 1/6). Los Angeles Times : A mainstay Republican-leaning lobbying group, the National Restaurant Association, worked last year to build stronger connections with Democrats working on the health care debate.

Pelosi Feeling The Pressure Of Health Bill Negotiations

The Hill reports on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's "difficult task of selling a healthcare bill heavily influenced by Senate centrists to her liberal members" and notes that she "will have the support of Obama and Senate liberals, many of whom have already started emphasizing the positive elements of the bill that passed their chamber on Christmas Eve. But the heavy lifting will fall squarely on her shoulders, as she has long been a respected liberal member who pushed for key provisions that are unlikely to be in the final product." "On Tuesday Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders expressed confidence that the two chambers would reach a compromise. ... House leadership aides said Pelosi wants agreement among her leadership team, Senate leaders and the White House on the logistics prior to Thursday's caucus meeting, but that she intends to use Thursday as a way for rank-and-file Democrats to weigh in on the potential policy changes" (Allen and Young, 1/5).

Democratic Leaders Plot Course To Finish Health Reform Legislation

The Wall Street Journal : "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, responding to Republican criticism of closed-door meetings on health-care legislation, said Tuesday that she would strive for transparency as Democrats kicked off their final push for a bill. The head of cable network C-SPAN, which shows government proceedings, wrote a letter to Ms. Pelosi and other congressional leaders saying they should allow cameras at the discussions. That echoed a point Republicans have often made during the health-care debate, charging that Democrats were making too many decisions in private discussions." But Democrats "deflected the request" and said the process has been transparent with more than 100 public hearings.

Antiabortion-Rights Groups Criticize Senate Health Reform Bill In Washington Times Opinion Piece

Abortion-rights groups are using "desperate measures to make sure that the government funds abortion through health care, " according to a Washington Times opinion piece by 40 Days for Life National Director David Bereit, Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser, Students for Life Executive Director Kristan Hawkins and Americans United for Life President and CEO Charmaine Yoest. The four antiabortion-rights advocates denounce abortion-rights supporters for criticizing Democrats who voted for Rep. Bart Stupak's (D-Mich.) amendment to the House health reform bill ( HR 3962 ) and for attacking the Roman Catholic Church, which they say is "standing up for its deeply held conviction.

IRS Faces Tough New Duties Under Health Overhaul

Kaiser Health News staff writers Phil Galewitz and Christopher Weaver, working in partnership with USA Today, explore the impact that the health care bills passed by the Senate and House will have on the IRS. The agency will be responsible for checking whether individuals get required insurance, distributing billions of dollars in subsidies and collecting new taxes and penalties. (1/4) Read entire story. This information was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with kind permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives and sign up for email delivery at kaiserhealthnews.org.

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