President Obama has dinner tonight with House Democrats.
HHS press release: “Today, as part of the Obama administration’s work to make our health care system more affordable and accountable, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced a three-part initiative that for the first time gives consumers information on what hospitals charge. New data released today show significant variation across the country and within communities in what hospitals charge for common inpatient services. Also today, HHS made approximately $87 million available to states to create health care pricing data centers to help consumers and to continue enhancing their health insurance rate review programs. Moreover, in an example of how these data might be used, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is planning a data visualization challenge which will further the dissemination of these data to larger audiences.”
The White House proposed a cigarette tax increase to fund a $78 billion pre-K education program. And yet, as Politico notes, that plan looks more like an idea and is unserious as the White House and the president have done little to push for it: “The president hasn’t mentioned it. The White House didn’t coordinate with outside anti-smoking groups, and none of them spent any time pushing for it. Tobacco companies never worried about putting together a lobbying strategy to kill it. Obama’s political arm hasn’t sent an email calling on Congress to consider it. Not even Obama’s surgeon general, who calls curbing smoking “the single most important issue for all the surgeons general of the past five decades,” put out a press release applauding the idea. That’s the attitude within the West Wing, too — rather than a marquee idea, aides say the 94-cents-per-pack cigarette tax was in fact not a priority, and there are no plans to build a public case for it.”