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Today’s Headlines – February 9, 2012

Good morning! Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations mainly focus on the controversy over the administration’s new regulation on contraception coverage.

The New York Times: Birth Control Is Covered, And G.O.P. Vows A Fight
Congressional Republicans, seizing on the type of social issue that motivates and unifies their base, stepped forcefully Wednesday into the battle over an Obama administration rule requiring health insurance plans provided by Catholic universities and charities to offer free birth control to women, vowing to fight back with legislation to unravel the new policy (Steinhauer, 2/8).

The Wall Street Journal: GOP Legislators Take Aim At Contraceptive Rule
House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), a Catholic, said in a floor speech that the requirement from the Department of Health and Human Services, part of the health-care overhaul, would force Catholic employers such as hospitals, schools and charities to “provide services they believe are immoral.” “If the president does not reverse the department’s attack on religious freedom, then the Congress, acting on behalf of the American people and the Constitution we are sworn to uphold and defend, must,” he said (Radnofsky and Meckler, 2/9).

For more headlines …

Los Angeles Times: Birth-Control Fight Turns Into A Campaign And Fundraising Tool
Amid the rising clamor, administration officials are exploring the possibility of implementing the rule so that religiously affiliated employers could offer supplemental policies, known as riders, for contraception or direct workers to insurance companies that sell such riders. Even if Catholic voters and independents agree with the White House on substance, the administration doesn’t want to appear insensitive to the concerns of the Catholic Church. Women’s groups would be likely to vigorously oppose any alteration of the rule (Mascaro and Hennessey, 2/8).

Politico: White House Tries To Quell Birth Control Storm
President Barack Obama is groping for a solution to an increasingly ugly election-year controversy over birth control coverage. And Republicans are doing everything in their power to make it as difficult as possible for the White House. … Polls show the birth control rule is popular, even among Catholics — but the backlash within Washington has been fierce, and the actions of the president’s top advisers Tuesday showed just how worried they are about it (Budoff Brown and Feder, 2/8).

The Washington Post: Boehner Vows Action To Overturn Obama Administration Rule On Birth Control
White House officials, along with dozens of liberal religious leaders and several leading Democratic lawmakers, defended the policy Wednesday, describing it as a crucial protection for women who deserve birth-control coverage no matter where they work. The White House also publicized a support letter signed by 600 doctors and medical students. Nearly two dozen leaders of organizations including Catholics for Choice and the Central Conference of American Rabbis issued a statement saying the policy will “safeguard individual religious liberty” while helping “improve the health of women, their children, and families” (Wallsten and Aizenman, 2/8).

The Washington Post: Tim Kaine Splits With Obama On Birth Control Rule For Religious Groups
Former Virginia governor Timothy M. Kaine criticized the Obama administration’s new policy requiring some religious institutions to provide coverage for prescription contraceptives, a rare instance of disagreement between the Senate candidate and his close political ally. … “I think the White House made a good decision in including a mandate for contraception coverage in the Affordable Care Act insurance policy, but I think they made a bad decision in not allowing a broad enough religious-employer exemption,” Kaine said, according to a transcript of his remarks provided by his campaign (Pershing, 2/9).

USA Today: Obama Mandate On Birth Control Coverage Stirs Controversy
Republican leaders have been joined by a few Democrats — such as Sens. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania and Joe Manchin of West Virginia and House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson of Connecticut — in calling for changes in the policy (Wolf and Grossman, 2/8).

Politico: John Larson to White House: Contraception Rule Needs More Work
Rep. John Larson, the House’s fourth-ranking Democrat, is raising concerns with the Obama administration about its requirement that certain religious-affiliated institutions cover contraceptives in their insurance plans even if it violates their religious beliefs. Larson joins a small but growing chorus of Democrats who have raised concerns about the decision, which congressional Republicans and religious groups say is a war on religious freedom (Haberkorn and Bresnahan, 2/8).

NPR: ‘Congress Will Act’: Fight Over Birth Control Coverage Moves To The Hill
Republicans won’t pass their legislation to overturn the mandate without a fight. “There are religions that believe divorce is a sin,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. “Should these institutions be exempt from our labor laws and be allowed to discriminate based on marital status? Of course not, and this is no different.” In fact, pointed out Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., many women don’t even use prescription contraception in ways that violate the church’s teachings. “A full 14 percent of women who use birth control pills — that is 1.5 million women — use them to treat serious medical conditions, not to prevent pregnancies,” she said. And some Democrats are arguing that Republicans are using the issue as little more than a diversion (Rovner, 2/8).

The Wall Street Journal: In Small California Hospitals, The Marketing Of Back Surgery
Tri-City Regional Medical Center (is) a hospital that has developed a thriving business doing back surgery on workers’ compensation patients. It built up this business rapidly. For an operation known as spinal fusion, which joins two or more vertebrae, the small hospital billed workers’ compensation insurers $65 million in 2010, up from less than $3 million three years earlier, state hospital discharge data show (Carreyrou, McGinty and Millman, 2/9).

The Wall Street Journal: New Way To Pay Doctors
Efforts to change how Americans pay for health care are gathering momentum on a national scale as UnitedHealth Group Inc., the largest U.S. health insurer, becomes the latest carrier to say it is overhauling its fees for medical providers. … Under the new plan the carrier is rolling out, part of medical providers’ compensation could be tied to goals such as avoiding hospital readmissions and ensuring patients get recommended screenings (Wilde Mathews, 2/9).

The Washington Post: Komen’s Nancy Brinker Says She Made Mistakes In Planned Parenthood Case
In her first public statement since her organization reversed a decision to stop donating to Planned Parenthood, Nancy Brinker, the founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, said that “I made some mistakes” in the case, which swelled into a massive controversy. Brinker, in a letter to Washington Post columnist Sally Quinn, also noted that many commentators had blamed “culture wars” for the intensity of the criticism over the foundation’s cutoff of funding (2/9).