Political Diagnosis: Obama to Lift Stem Cell Research Restrictions; Republicans Attack Health Programs; Fox News on the Provider Conscience Rule - Say What?; Health Care Reform Hits the Road ...

By Christine Cupaiuolo — March 7, 2009

Stem Cell Funding: “President Obama’s decision to lift restrictions on federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research, scheduled to be announced Monday, is expected to provide a major boost to one of the most promising but controversial fields of biomedical research in generations,” reports the Washington Post in what will be a page-one story on Saturday.

Congress Hits Spending Roadblock: Congress on Friday passed a stop-gap bill to keep the government running for another five days. The legislation was needed because Republicans on Thursday unexpectedly forced a postponement on a vote on the government’s so-called omnibus bill.

Jodi Jacobson covers the Republican attacks on sexual and reproductive health programs contained in the spending bill — such as the Affordable Birth Control Act, a correction to earlier legislation that is not an earmark (learn more), and U.S. funding for the United Nations Population Fund.

“[F]or the far right, apparently no ideological position is too shallow and no misrepresentation too outrageous to prevent them from wreaking havoc on this country or to mitigate against their purely political shenanigans,” writes Jacobson.

Fortunately, Republican Sen. Roger Wicker’s amendment to limit UNFPA funding failed.

Fox News Misrepresents Provider Conscience Rule: This one is a doozy. From Media Matters:

In separate reports, Fox News’ Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly misrepresented the reported plans of the Obama administration to rescind a December 2008 Bush administration regulation to falsely assert that the Obama administration’s decision could result in doctors’ being prosecuted or discriminated against for refusing to perform abortions. In fact, federal law — which the Obama administration cannot “repeal[]” — prohibits public officials from requiring recipients of public funds to perform abortions or sterilizations in violation of their religious or moral beliefs.

Read more at Media Matters, along with our coverage of how some media outlets last week mis-characterized the Bush administration policy.

Plus: This is essential: Rachel explains how to comment on the rule to rescind the Bush rule. The  30-day public comment period starts on Tuesday.

Health Care Summit: Health care reform was the topic of the week as more than 150 lawmakers, insurers, doctors and advocates converged on Washington. You can watch the forum on C-SPAN’s website and read the White House’s live blog.

“While the participants were extremely diverse, there was real, across-the-board consensus that the course we’re on right now is neither sustainable nor responsible, and that it’s not working for businesses, state governments, the federal government, individuals or families,” Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, said in statement.

Over at Womenstake, the blog of the National Women’s Law Center, NWLC president Marcia Greenberger wrote: “What was striking was that a positive tone existed, not only in front of the cameras but in private conversations throughout the day. Wanting to read it tonight, one Republican member of the House asked me for my own copy of the Center’s report on the outrageous practice of many insurance companies to charge women more than men when they buy insurance directly — even with maternity coverage excluded!”

The New York Times notes that a “wide variety” of the speakers “expressed support for an individual obligation.”

Speakers who endorsed such a requirement included Representative John D. Dingell, Democrat of Michigan; Representative Jo Ann Emerson, Republican of Missouri; Kendall J. Powell, the chief executive of General Mills and a member of the Business Roundtable, which represents large companies; Representative Allyson Y. Schwartz, Democrat of Pennsylvania; and Scott P. Serota, the president of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

Ms. Emerson said it was essential to “get the entire population in an insurance pool and spread the risk.”

Likewise, Mr. Serota said, “an enforceable mandate is the cornerstone to getting everybody covered.” Health insurance will not work if people can buy it when they are sick and drop it when they are healthy, he said.

Richard J. Umbdenstock, the president of the American Hospital Association, said the word “mandate” seemed to alarm some people, so he suggested using a term like “responsibility.”

Insurance should be viewed as “a responsibility on every individual, every institution and every enterprise in our society,” Mr. Umbdenstock said.

Plus: Today’s “Morning Edition” on NPR looked at how Obama plans to pay for expanding health care coverage.

Health Forums Hit the Road: The White House will hold regional forums on health care in key states, but Obama probably won’t attend.

“The White House, in a statement, indicated that people from around the country — experts, health care professionals and providers as well as everyday citizens — would be invited to attend the sessions in these states: California, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina and Vermont. The forums are to be held later this month and next, although no specific dates were announced,” writes Kate Phillips.

More Health Care Reform Suggestions: Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana said this week he will introduce comprehensive health-care legislation in June, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Baucus is looking to introduce a bipartisan bill with Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R.-Iowa), and he hopes to get the support of 70 senators.

“We need to come up with a uniquely American solution, which is a combination of public and private,” Baucus said. “I think we’d be spending capital inefficiently to pursue single-payer. I think there should be choice, flexibility, in our reform package. This is not a single-pay country.”

Watch the full video of Baucus’ remarks at Kaiser Family Foundation.

And Another Thing: This isn’t directly health-related, but the fact that Obama suspended a Bush administration rule on endangered species is cool.

Action Items

Help Save Affordable Birth Control

Last week regulations to restore affordable birth control were included in the 2009 Appropriations bill. This week, Sen. DeMint tried to strip affordable birth control from the bill, characterizing the Affordable Birth Control Provision as “an earmark for Planned Parenthood,” even though it is of no-cost to the government.Call your senators and encourage them keep in the Affordable Birth Control Provision. (Planned Parenthood)

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