Kaiser Health News Original Stories

4. Think Health Prices Are High Near You? Maybe Yes — And No

The Health Care Cost Institute’s analysis of billing claims from three of the biggest commercial insurers finds that health services can be expensive in some areas while bargains in others. The findings complicate an assumption about health care markets. (Jordan Rau, 9/30)

Capitol Hill Watch

8. White House, GOP Leaders Discuss Ways Forward On Long-Term Budget

The preliminary talks are geared to setting up a longer discussion on how to reach agreement for a two-year deal on federal spending. Meanwhile, as a stopgap funding measure seems assured, news outlets examine Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's relations with Republican conservatives, including Sen. Ted Cruz, and the conservatives' efforts to find a like-minded candidate to run for House speaker.

The Wall Street Journal: Republicans, White House In Fresh Budget Talks
The preliminary talks are geared at finding a way around discretionary spending caps outlined in a 2011 budget law that many lawmakers see as draconian. ... The House and Senate are expected Wednesday to pass a stopgap spending measure to keep the government running through Dec. 11. ...The chances of a two-year deal are uncertain and could depend on whether House conservatives balk at negotiating an agreement with Democrats. Conservative suspicion that establishment GOP leaders are too willing to give in to Democrats has already delayed passage of an interim spending bill. Social conservatives don’t have the votes to stop the short-term bill, which is a plain-vanilla measure that extends government funding at current levels and doesn’t include language to end funding for Planned Parenthood. (Hughes and son, 9/29)

Politico: White House, GOP Weighing Big Budget Talks
A major budget deal could be elusive, however. Democrats and many Republicans are eager for a broader agreement that would lift federal spending for domestic programs — the top demand of congressional Democrats — while hawkish GOP lawmakers want more money for defense programs. But many conservatives want to keep strict spending caps in place, praising them as a measure of fiscal discipline. In exchange for increasing some key spending levels, McConnell will insist on offsetting those costs and will take a hard line against any tax hikes. (Kim, 9/29)

Politico: How McConnell Outfoxed Ted Cruz
McConnell may not like to talk about [Texas Sen. Ted] Cruz, but he and his leadership lieutenants have quietly and methodically worked to isolate the conservative senator and minimize his effect on the critical fall spending debate. The end result, in spite of Cruz’s invective toward Republican leaders, is music to McConnell’s ears: no government shutdown. ... By moving to quarantine Cruz from the rest of the conference over the past three months, the majority leader demonstrated that he’s learned the lessons of the Cruz-backed government shutdown in 2013 and the Texas senator’s rogue strategy last winter that helped Democrats confirm a raft of judges in the lame duck session. (Everett, 9/29)

Los Angeles Times: McConnell's Old-School Style Could Make Him GOP Conservatives' Next Target
But with the abrupt resignation of House Speaker John A. Boehner, McConnell's pragmatic goals are suddenly looking like political liabilities. ... The GOP leader's old-school strategy of getting the Senate back to "regular order" with committee hearings and amendment votes is too timid for conservatives who just kicked his top colleague out the door and prefer bold, unconventional methods. ... In many ways, McConnell, like Boehner, rose to the job just as the political ground shifted beneath him. ... And despite the pressure, Boehner and McConnell are expected this week to shepherd a temporary spending bill through Congress, bypassing conservatives who want a veto showdown with Obama over Planned Parenthood funding. That will assure the government stays open past Wednesday's fiscal year deadline. (Mascaro, 9/29)

The Washington Post: House GOP Hard-Liners Agitate To Have One Of Their Own In A Leadership Role
A generation of House Republicans who have spent the past five years trying to shake up Washington spent Tuesday trying to shake up their party’s leadership contests that have moved coolly toward reinforcing the status quo. They had little success. A campaign to draft one prominent, relatively young conservative, Rep. Trey Gowdy (S.C.), into the race for majority leader was extinguished before day’s end, leaving restless conservatives to continue their search for a standard-bearer. (DeBonis and Costa, 9/29)

9. Republicans Advance Bill To Repeal Obamacare Under Expedited Procedure

By using the budgetary tool of reconciliation to target the health law's taxes and insurance mandate, Congress seeks to fast track the legislation to President Barack Obama's desk -- for an expected veto.

Politico: GOP Full Throttle On Obamacare Repeal
Congressional Republicans have agreed on a plan to use a fast-track budget procedure to send an Obamacare repeal to the president’s desk, a largely symbolic move – given an expected veto – but one conservatives have been pushing for since the GOP took control of Congress. House Republican leaders are planning to put the bill – which is being crafted in three committees this week – up for a vote as early as next month, according to House aides. After it is approved, Senate leaders are expected to put the legislation on the floor in the upper chamber. (Haberkorn and Kim, 9/29)

10. Planned Parenthood Leader, GOP Lawmakers Square Off At Committee Hearing

During the hearing held by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, GOP panel members grilled Cecile Richards, the organization's president, on a series of recently released, covert videos and the organization's use of federal funds.

The Wall Street Journal: Planned Parenthood Head Testifies On Capitol Hill
Ms. Richards defended Planned Parenthood’s practices and management throughout her testimony, largely avoiding missteps that could be quoted later by opponents. In her first appearance on Capitol Hill since the release of the videos, she described allegations that clinics profited from the use of fetal tissue as “outrageous” and untrue, and said they were part of a broader campaign aimed at rolling back abortion rights. (Armour and Radnofsky, 9/29)