Massachusetts aims for universal health care.

Massachusetts aims for universal health care.

Massachusetts aims for universal health care.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
April 5 2006 3:22 AM

Mass. Coverage

The New York Timesand Washington Postlead with Massachusetts trying to become essentially the first state to have universal health care coverage. Its legislature passed a bill, set to be signed by the governor, requiring all residents to have health care under threat of fine. Those who can't afford it will get (still unclear levels of) subsidies. The Los Angeles Times'top non-local story goes to insurance companies pulling in record profits last year, despite Katrina. The reasons: Coverage over the last decade or so has been shrinking and premiums climbing. U.S. insurers were also largely insulated from Katrina since many of them had repackaged and resold their insurance contracts to companies abroad. USA Todayleads with data showing 40 percent of all existing houses bought last year were as second homes, most as investments.

"This is probably about as close as you can get to universal," one analyst told the NYT about Massachusetts' move. "It's definitely going to be inspiring to other states about how there was this compromise. They found a way to get to a major expansion of coverage that people could agree on. For a conservative Republican, this is individual responsibility. For a Democrat, this is government helping those that need help."

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The NYT and Post both laud the legislation, but the Journal is skeptical that the bill is going to get it done. The paper notes one analyst's warning that Massachusetts is underfunding the whole effort. "It seems the bill would force individuals to buy very flimsy or expensive policies beyond their financial reach," he said, adding that one recent study estimated a $700 million annual subsidy would be needed to cover the uninsured, four times what the current bill offers.

The WP fronts a small problem facing the administration's efforts to promote democracy in Iraq: The administration has cut funding for promoting democracy in Iraq. For instance, a USAID program that helped create an independent news agency—the first one of the Arab world—is fresh out of dough. "The commitment to what the president of the United States will say every single day of the week is his number one priority in Iraq, when it's translated into action, looks very tiny," said one specialist who has seen his program money dry up.

The NYT goes Page One with an in-house analysis of IRS data concluding that Bush's tax cuts for dividends "have significantly lowered the tax burden on the richest Americans." But of course super-wealthy Americans get super-savings from the investment tax cut: They're the ones who invest the most. The piece also offers hard numbers again and again—for example, those who make more than $10 million in a year saw an average tax savings of $500,000. What the story rarely does is give readers a more balanced picture, namely what proportion of income the super-rich are paying in taxes and how that compares with the not-so-rich. In fairness, the story does achieve one of its goals: deflating the rhetoric from the GOP that the dividend tax cut helps most average Joes; it doesn't.

The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, notes new Treasury numbers concluding that the richest 1 percent of Americans "held 33.4 percent of the nation's net worth in 2004, up from 32.7 percent in 2001, but still lower than a peak of 34.6 percent in 1995."

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USAT has a front-page piece on a little-remembered government effort in the 1930s that intimidated and often forced hundreds of thousands of people of Mexican descent, many of them U.S. citizens, into going back to Mexico. "The slogan has gone out over the city and is being adhered to—'Employ no Mexican while a white man is unemployed,' " wrote one L.A. official at the time." Said one academic, "It was a racial removal program."

Everybody notes a congressional watchdog report concluding that the government's international AIDS-prevention programs are being mucked up by spending requirements to promote abstinence and fidelity. According to the report, specialists in 17 of the 20 countries studied said the requirements "would prevent them from allocating prevention resources in accordance with local HIV/AIDS prevention needs."

A piece inside the Post wonders whether giving Zacarias Moussaoui the death penalty would be bad for national security. "There's absolutely no doubt that executing him would turn him into a martyr," said one analyst. "Moussaoui could achieve a fame and notoriety in death that eluded him in life."

The LAT looks at testimony in the Moussaoui case by apparent 9/11 plotter KhaledShaikh Mohammed that shows just how much Mohammed resented his boss. Apparently, Osama Bin Laden had a big mouth—he kept bragging about the attacks to come—and repeatedly pushed Mohammed to include unreliable cronies in the Sept. 11 plans. "They couldn't stand each other," said one former intel official. "They both had huge egos."

[Signature by doctor not included] ... From the NYT:

A sports article on the Spotlight page on Sunday about N.B.A. players' lengthy recoveries from microfracture knee surgery misstated the name of an alternate procedure known by the acronym OATS. It is osteochondral autograft transfer system, not osteocondral autographed transfer system.