Today's Papers

Secret Clarence?

The New York Times and Washington Post lead with the Senate’s rejection yesterday of a Republican-sponsored proposal to exempt employers from all health-care lawsuits brought by covered employees. This is also the top story in the Wall Street Journal’s front-page worldwide news box. The papers view the vote as signaling movement toward an eventual bill that will grant significant rights to those with health insurance. USA Today doesn’t front the vote but does have a health-care lead: Audiotapes (made covertly by government investigators and to be played today at a Senate hearing) reveal consultants teaching doctors income-boosting techniques for circumventing government health insurance regulations.

Both the NYT and WP leads report that President Bush, who last week threatened to veto patients’ rights legislation, has more recently been encouraging Senate moderates to work out the lawsuit liability issue. In addition, the Times and Post have unnamed government officials saying that Bush will relax his opposition to employee suits against HMOs to the point where he will endorse a new Republican-sponsored bill in the House that would permit such suits in state courts in the special circumstance where an HMO denies care after an outside board has ruled that it is in fact necessary. The WSJ says that the Bush administration is prepared to raise its now-$500,000 cap on non-economic damages to at least $750,000.

The NYT provides some important context when it observes that although the Senate has moved closer to ensuring such benefits for those who already have health insurance as emergency care, access to specialists, clinical trials of new drugs, and independent reviews of care denials, this is “a far cry from Democratic efforts in 1993-94 to guarantee health insurance for all Americans.”

The USAT lead says the tapes capture three doctor-coaching seminars held in the Washington, D.C., area. The paper says transcripts of the sessions show advice on how to: bill insurers for care either never provided or administered at lower cost by assistants; cut caseloads of poor and elderly patients carrying lower-paying federal insurance by limiting their appointment times; and how to ignore rules requiring doctors to report federal insurance overpayments.

The WP fronts-with-a-picture and the NYT reefers-with-a-picture yesterday’s White House meeting between President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Both stories focus on a key difference between the two that surfaced during the photo-op portion of their Oval Office meeting: Bush sees enough “progress” in the Palestinians’ reduced level of violence to warrant further Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy, while Sharon is insisting on 10 days of “zero violence” as the precondition for that next step. The NYT has the following quote from Sharon about the current level of violence, which the WP does not: “One must understand that if last week we had five dead, it’s like the United States, Mr. President, having 250 killed, or maybe even 300 people, killed by terror.” But the NYT doesn’t evaluate the accuracy of the comment. It should have noted that Sharon’s math is basically right: The U.S. population is just under 50 times Israel’s.

The WP fronts revelations from a Chinese doctor seeking political asylum in the U.S. that he took part in harvesting corneas and skin from more than 100 executed prisoners, including one who had not yet died. The doctor, who also says he saw other doctors do the same, alleges that his hospital sold the organs for enormous profits. The paper says the physician will testify today before a House committee.

The WP fronts the main recommendations about college sports made by a 28-member commission, whose members include many current and retired college presidents: Teams that fail to graduate 50 percent of their players should be banned from conference championship competition and post-season play, uniforms should be cleared of commercial logos, seasons should be shortened, and athletes should be treated like all other students when considered for admission and academic support. The commission decried college sport’s current “disgraceful environment.”

The WP and NYT both go inside with coverage of recovered conservative journalist David Brock, based on an excerpt of his new book that’s appearing in Talk magazine. The main new revelations from Brock: 1) He wrote in his Anita Hill book that there was no evidence that Justice Clarence Thomas had rented pornographic videos even though “When I wrote those words I knew they were false”– he had, Brock now says, been told by a male friend of Thomas’ that Thomas rented such videos. 2) This Thomas friend also conveyed to Brock damaging information–at Thomas’ direction, Brock now says, about a woman, also a Thomas friend, who had told other reporters that Thomas had an obsessive interest in pornography–information Brock used to intimidate her into recanting that view of Thomas for Brock’s Hill book. The male Thomas friend has denied Brock’s account. The female Thomas friend says, according to the Times, that Brock got the damaging information about her either “from Clarence” or “from Anita,” but that “Anita’s my friend.” A Supreme Court spokeswoman says Thomas has no comment.

If you think only tabloids run those “celebrity verité” photos of (once) famous people looking like the After shots at a Chinese execution organ donation, check out the USAT front photo of Sally Struthers at the Carroll O’Connor funeral.

“Wait a second–you just put WHO in the gas chamber?” The WP runs a correction indicating that its confusion in a previous story of two convicted murderers in a Maryland prison, which included misattributed quotes and a wrong photo, was based on information supplied by prison officials.