KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Health Law, Abortion Among Hot Topics In S.C. Republican Debate

The GOP presidential hopefuls clashed on a range of issues related to the health law, its individual mandate and efforts to repeal it. Candidates' positions on abortion were also flashpoints.

Los Angeles Times: Santorum Goes After Romney, Gingrich On Health Care
Rick Santorum, in third or fourth place in South Carolina's Republican presidential primary race, managed to bruise the two leading candidates in Thursday night's debate – in a matter of minutes – by casting them both as advocates of big-government health care (Geiger, 1/19).

The Washington Post: At South Carolina GOP Debate, Four Survivors Spar; Gingrich Adds Host To The Fray
In an electric debate here Thursday night, the four remaining Republican presidential candidates clashed sharply over who has the temperament, character and know-how to lead the party into a general election as they clamored to take advantage of the race's changing dynamic. … Santorum homed in on health care, arguing that Romney had signed a Massachusetts law too similar to Obama's federal overhaul. He singled out Gingrich, too, for wanting to require individuals to purchase health insurance — a key part of the Democratic plan — until only a few years ago (Rucker and Helderman, 1/19).

The Wall Street Journal: Fewer Debaters, Plenty Of Heat
During the debate, Mr. Santorum sought to distinguish himself from Messrs. Romney and Gingrich, both of whom have favored varying forms of mandates requiring people to own health insurance, a position now anathema among conservatives. … At one point, Mr. Santorum questioned the other candidates' opposition to abortion rights, accusing all three of shrinking from fights to deny abortion services. As his rivals defended their records, a Santorum aide distributed copies of a 2002 questionnaire in which Mr. Romney said he supported the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion and agreed that Medicaid should provide abortion services (O'Connor and King, 1/20).

Reuters: Romney Hobbles Through Debate Ahead Of South Carolina Primary
Mitt Romney is still the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, but if he wins the South Carolina primary on Saturday, he might be limping across the finish line. ... At one point in the debate, Romney, seemingly flustered by an attack from rival Rick Santorum, used the term "Romneycare," a derogatory name Republicans have given to health care changes Romney put in place when he was governor of Massachusetts. Romney took fire from rivals Gingrich and Santorum on his conservative credentials and his record on healthcare (Youngman, 1/20).

The Hill: Santorum Slams Romney, Gingrich For 'Playing Footsies With The Left' On Health Care
Neither Mitt Romney nor Newt Gingrich has the credibility to challenge President Obama on health care, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum charged during Thursday night's debate. Santorum launched an all-out attack on Romney and Gingrich — who are neck-and-neck in the South Carolina primary — on the issue of health care. He accused both men of "playing footsies with the left" by supporting a requirement that almost everyone purchase insurance (Baker, 1/19).

Politico: Newt-Santorum Tag-Team On Abortion
Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum teamed up to deliver a sharp attack on Mitt Romney's record on abortion, forcing the former Massachusetts governor to defend his involvement in the law known as "Romneycare." "Romneycare does pay for tax-paid abortions. Romneycare has, written into it, Planned Parenthood [and] does not have any right-to-life group written into it,” Gingrich said, alleging that Romney appointed "pro-abortion" judges. Romney responded with a kind of low-key indignation, beginning by saying: "I'm not questioned on character and integrity very often" (Burns, 1/19).

Politico Pro: Romney: We'll Get Dems To Support Repeal
Mitt Romney suggested Thursday night that he'd be able to convince Congress to repeal the health care reform law even if Republicans don't win control of the Senate, and insisted that his replace plan would provide a market-oriented way of helping people with medical problems get health coverage. Romney's comments — part of a lengthy exchange on health care at Thursday's GOP presidential candidate debate — suggested that Republicans will try hard to win centrist Democrats to the repeal cause even if they don't win enough seats to eliminate the law on their own (Nather, 1/19).

Politico: Romney Vs. CBO: Does ACA Repeal Save Money?
Mitt Romney says repealing the health care reform law will save money. But will it? The former Massachusetts governor has repeatedly cited repeal as one of his top priorities, calling it bad policy and too expensive. "Eliminating Obamacare alone will save $95 billion annually by 2016," he wrote in a campaign plan to turn around the federal government this week. He's made similar statements in debates. … Romney's right, but only because he cherry-picked the figure. The Congressional Budget Office has said repealing the law would not save money. It said in February 2011 that full repeal, on the whole, would add $210 billion to the federal budget deficit over 10 years (Haberkorn, 1/19).

National Journal: Santorum, Back To Basics, Attacks 'Romneycare'
Do you remember when the issue of health care reform — specifically, how Mitt Romney's program in Massachusetts provided the blueprint for President Obama's federal law — was supposed to define the Republican primary contest? Rick Santorum does. The former Pennsylvania senator, who has spent recent debates attacking multiple rivals on a variety of subjects, finally got back to basics during Thursday's GOP debate in South Carolina. Amid a discussion on how to repeal and replace Obama's federal health care program, Santorum attempted to nail Romney on the issue once predicted to be his Achilles heal in the Republican nominating race: "Romneycare" (Alberta, 1/19).

The Associated Press: Santorum: 2 Rivals Not Electable Over Health Care
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum says Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich aren't electable because they've both supported policies too similar President Barack Obama's health care plan. In Thursday night's GOP debate, Santorum says the health care plan Romney helped implement when he was governor of Massachusetts was an "abject disaster" (1/19).

The Texas Tribune: Paul, Three Remaining Rivals Square Off in Debate
Paul raised some eyebrows when he said the likelihood of repealing federal health care is "not good." He said that before the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, the medical system "worked rather well and no one was suffering." The retired obstetrician, who refused to accept federal subsidies throughout his career, accused former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum of expanding government involvement when he supported the prescription drug program called Medicare Part D (Tan, 1/20). 

CNN: Truth Squad: Does Distrust In Feds Equal Health Care Repeal?
Newt Gingrich said the country's distrust of Washington and fear of centralized medicine would create pressure to repeal the health care act during Thursday's Republican presidential debate in South Carolina. The statement: "The American people are frightened of bureaucratic, centralized medicine. They deeply distrust Washington. The pressure will be to repeal it." — Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, on the Obama administration's signature health-care law. The facts: Americans generally "distrust Washington," according to a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll conducted in September. Only 2 percent of Americans said they could "just about always" trust the federal government, while 77 percent said they could only trust it some of the time (1/20).

In other campaign news —

The Associated Press/Washington Post: U.S. Sen. Brown Kicks Off Re-Election Bid With Rally In Mass., Touts 'Independent Voice'
U.S. Sen. Scott Brown officially kicked off his re-election campaign Thursday, casting his chief Democratic opponent Elizabeth Warren as an ideologue and pledging to be an independent voice in a deeply partisan Congress. Brown, speaking to a crowd of cheering supporters at Mechanics Hall in the Worcester, said he would continue to oppose the health care law signed by President Barack Obama and would fight against wasteful government spending (1/19).

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