Some insurers are charging more for expensive prescriptions; fighting against coal.

Some insurers are charging more for expensive prescriptions; fighting against coal.

Some insurers are charging more for expensive prescriptions; fighting against coal.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
April 14 2008 6:14 AM

Your Money or Your Life

The New York Timesleads with a look at how some health-insurance companies are asking clients to pay more for expensive medications. Instead of charging a fixed fee for prescription drugs, more insurers are starting to charge a percentage of their value to offset the cost of these high-priced medicines. USA Todayleads with word that more states are taking DNA samples from suspects arrested on felony charges. DNA sampling used to be restricted to convicted felons, but now 12 states permit some kind of sampling from suspects, and 21 more are considering it. The paper points out that most laws call for the samples to be destroyed if charges against the suspect are dropped. Still, civil liberties advocates criticize these laws, which are seemingly becoming more popular every day, because they characterize the system as nothing more than "a clumsy forensic dragnet," says USAT.

The Los Angeles Timesleads with a look at the way environmental groups consistently fight against the construction of any new coal-fired power plant. In order to send a message about global warming, lawyers use all kinds of legal tactics at their disposal to stop the construction of these plants. The Wall Street Journal leads its worldwide newsbox with the weekend meetings of finance ministers, where the rising price of food was the No. 1 issue. The Washington Postleads with a look at how the Supreme Court will consider this week whether a person who rapes a child should be eligible for the death penalty.

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The system of charging a percentage of the cost of medicine started out with Medicare and now it's creeping into other plans that people either purchase individually or receive through an employer. Although the companies are required to inform customers before they change the pricing system for drugs, many say the change caught them by surprise. Now some have to fork over thousands of dollars a month for essential medicines that they used to receive for a nominal fee. Some experts say this new system is changing the traditional idea that insurance is supposed to spread the cost so that sick people aren't stuck with huge bills. "Those beneficiaries who bear the burden of illness are also bearing the burden of cost," a health expert said.

Environmentalists are fighting against new coal plants in an effort to try to get Washington to act on the issue of global warming and set federal limits for carbon dioxide emissions. Utility companies complain that the environmental groups pursue a one-size-fits-all strategy and take advantage of weaknesses in the judicial system to push their case. The litigation costs the companies a significant bit of money and usually ends up at least delaying the project. So these companies are now fighting back with a PR campaign, and the LAT points out that the clash over coal "rivals the environmental and legal fights over nuclear power decades ago."

The president of the World Bank warned that more than 30 countries are at risk of descending into chaos due to rising food prices. This weekend, many of the world's financial leaders took particular aim at the U.S. policies toward corn-based ethanol and biofuels in general, saying it was inhumane to divert food toward energy when there is such a great shortage of food around the world. The NYT emphasizes that the finance ministers seemed to agree that the rising food prices pose a greater threat to the world economy than the continuing credit crisis. Still, the WSJ notes that despite all these expressions of concern, the meeting "produced few concrete results," as there seems to be little agreement over what should be done to stop this inflation.

More than 30 years ago, the Supreme Court determined that rape involving adults could not result in the death penalty because the punishment is too excessive for someone who doesn't take a life. But now Louisiana prosecutors will argue that child rapists are so heinous that they deserve the ultimate punishment. Other states are joining Louisiana in arguing that they should be allowed to reflect the moral principles of their citizens who see child rapists as deserving of death. But experts warn that expanding the death penalty could result in fewer cases being reported and might even encourage the rapist to kill the victim.

The LAT fronts, and everyone mentions, news that the Iraqi government fired 1,300 soldiers and policemen who refused to fight during the recent offensive against Shiite militias. The NYT gets word that the fired included 500 soldiers and 421 policemen in Basra. The LAT notes that the large number of desertions is seen as another example of how the recent crackdown was poorly planned and involved deploying security forces who didn't have the appropriate training and weren't ready for the frontlines.

The LAT fronts last night's forum on faith, where the Democratic presidential contenders continued fighting over a recent comment made by Sen. Barack Obama in which he said that small-town voters are "bitter" and so they "cling to guns or religion." The NYT does a little analysis of the candidates' body language and says they exchanged "frosty glances" when "their paths briefly crossed on stage." The issue quickly came up again last night as Sen. Hillary Clinton called Obama's comments "elitist, out of touch and, frankly, patronizing." Clinton said Obama would once again make people think that Democrats feel superior and don't understand the plight of regular Americans. Obama tried to clarify the statements and called his wording "clumsy." In a separate campaign event, Obama said he expected these kind of tactics from Sen. John McCain but not Clinton. "She knows better. Shame on her," he said.

Meanwhile, the Post fronts a look at how two prominent anti-abortion Democrats have endorsed Obama, a candidate who has been a big supporter of abortion rights. Sen. Robert Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania and former Rep. Timothy Roemer of Indiana are campaigning for Obama and saying that he could help create some common ground in this incredibly divisive issue. The endorsements could help Obama in Pennsylvania and Indiana, although some anti-abortion groups are making sure to send out information to supporters that spells out Obama's abortion views. "For people who are not really digging into the background, support from someone like Roemer could have quite an impact," the head of Indiana Right to Life said.

The Post notes that during this week's visit by Pope Benedict XVI, the White House will hold a dinner in his honor. Only problem is that the pope won't actually be there. "I'm sorry, the pope doesn't attend a dinner in his honor?" a reporter asked. "How does that work?" The White House spokesman helpfully explained, "He doesn't come into the building."

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.