Healthcare Friday

IN THE NEWS:

— Speaking of Blanche Lincoln, the Arkansas senator this week became the first Democrat to endorse a GOP bill repealing a new tax filing requirement for the nation's businesses. 

The controversial mandate — contained in the new health reform bill — forces businesses, non-profits and government offices to file 1099 forms when goods purchased from any one business over the course of the year exceed $600. The previous filing requirement applied only to services topping that amount. 

Behind the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the business community is fighting tooth and nail to kill the mandate, which takes effect in 2012. On Thursday, Lincoln joined their push, signing onto legislation, sponsored by Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), that simply repeals the requirement. 

“No piece of legislation is ever perfect and it's important we take steps to make improvements where we can," Lincoln said in a statement. "While I believe that improved bookkeeping and reporting standards to the IRS have merit, I also want to ensure that policy changes do not create unnecessary burdens for the small businesses that serve as the backbone of Arkansas’s economy.”  

— Meanwhile, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) Thursday night introduced an alternative to the Johanns 1099 bill. Baucus' proposal would also repeal the new tax filing requirement for small businesses, but would offset the tab by eliminating a soon-to-launch tax cut on a few large oil companies. 

Baucus' office explains:  "It would repeal Section 199 of the tax code, which currently allows these corporations to deduct six percent of their income from oil and gas production from their tax liability, effective December 31, 2010. This repeal would only apply to the five largest corporations with more than $1 billion of before-tax income." 

By contrast, Johanns' bill is offset by eliminating billions in funding for preventive healthcare services.

— Some state governors might be fighting the new health reform law, but that has't stopped unelected state health officials from going all out to tap the new benefits.

— The Medicare Trustees report that health reform will extend the solvency of the basic program by 12 years. 

OVERHEARD:

— New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman rips into Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), whose plan to eliminate the nation's debt hinges on cutting Medicare benefits and taxes simultaneously. "All it would do is cut benefits for the middle class while slashing taxes on the rich," Krugman warns. 

AROUND THE TOWN:

— The American Enterprise Institute hosts a panel discussion to examine Thursday's trustees' report on the financial health of Medicare. 

— And the Center for Strategic and International Studies holds a debate on U.S. efforts to fight AIDS overseas — efforts deemed insufficient by health and human rights groups both at home and abroad.