KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Florida Could Be Bellwether State For Obamacare Election Strategies

Both parties are trying out messages in Tuesday's special election for a House seat. And Charlie Crist, former governor who is running again, is also in the news. 

The New York Times: Florida Election A Crash Course For Midterm Races
Both parties and their surrogates have swooped into this laid-back House district [in Pinellas County, Fla.), which was overseen by Representative C. W. Bill Young, a Republican, for four decades until his death last year, ... Outside groups have dumped millions of dollars into mostly acrimonious messages meant to fire up voters and test the potency of the Affordable Care Act as an election issue. ... Even if the bragging rights outweigh the tangible impacts of one congressional race, the two sides see the contest as a potential harbinger, particularly on the health care law (Alvarez, 3/8).

Reuters: Republicans Press Medicare Attack In Congressional Elections
The strategy faces an early test in Tuesday's special U.S. House election in Florida, where analysts say Republican David Jolly and his allies are using Medicare in an 11th-hour effort to create an Obamacare liability for Democrat Alex Sink among older residents who make up 45 percent of the local population. ... The Republican strategy is to tie Obamacare to controversial proposals for two popular Medicare programs: Medicare Advantage, which allows seniors to obtain healthcare benefits through private insurance plans, and Medicare Part D, which covers prescription drugs (Morgan, 3/9).

The Associated Press: Dems, GOP Test Fall Strategy In Florida House Race 
Having focused much of his campaign on the botched launch of the health care law, Jolly has lately found himself on the defensive about entitlement programs. ... Sink, formerly the state's chief financial officer, tries to blunt the criticism in her own ads. One spot says repealing the health care law would "force seniors to pay thousands more for prescription drugs." "We can't go back to letting insurance companies do whatever they want," Sink says in the ad (Mishak, 3/9). 

Los Angeles Times: In Florida, A Local Race With National Scripts
The two parties' congressional campaign committees, along with allied "super PACs," have already spent at least $8.6 million, ... For Republicans, the strategy aims at motivating core conservative voters — a sharp reversal from last year's vow to try to broaden the party's appeal. They've kept a singular focus on President Obama's healthcare law, which Jolly has attacked in nearly all of his ads and public appearances. Democrats, who need to make up for the typically low turnout of young and minority voters in midterm elections, hope to attract independents and Republican moderates by playing on the perceived hyperpartisanship of the House GOP (Lauter, 3/8).

Meanwhile --

The Hill: Crist: ObamaCare Has Been 'Great'
Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (D) said Sunday that President Obama’s controversial healthcare law has been “great” for residents of his state. Crist has sharply criticized the healthcare law in the past. But the former Republican governor and 2008 GOP vice-presidential short-lister is running for his old post this year as a Democrat this year. Crist said during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he would have no problem running on the healthcare bill, which is known colloquially as ObamaCare, as he seeks to regain his former office (Laing, 3/9).

Politico: Crist: Dems Need To 'Strengthen Up' On Obamacare
Effusive in his praise of President Barack Obama, former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist says Democrats need to "strengthen up" when it comes to Obamacare. ... “This president is leading and leading well. ... What [Democrats] need to do is support him - support him and support him strongly," Crist added. "He deserves it. And that will bring them home and unify them, and I think that will make November very good for Democrats" (McCalmont, 3/9).

Wall Street Journal: Crist To Democrats: Support Obama, Obamacare
Mr. Crist advised Democrats to embrace, rather than shun, Obamacare, even though its rocky start last year alienated some voters. “People getting healthcare is like a civil right,” Mr. Crist said. “People need to have shelter, they need food, they need water, they need healthcare. They deserve it. We’re the richest country in the world, and we ought to provide it and God bless [Mr. Obama] for doing it" (Phillips, 3/9).

CNN: Charlie Crist's Political Comeback
The former Republican politician, who governed Florida from 2007 to 2011, is running for his old job again, but this time as a Democrat. ... the race between Crist and current governor Rick Scott has become one of the most high-profile in the country. Given his political provenance, Crist has predictably come under scrutiny for “flip flopping” as he has assumed different positions on a myriad of issues - from the Cuban embargo to gay marriage to abortion to healthcare ... Obamacare, now supported by Crist and opposed by Scott, has been a particularly hot topic (Koepp, 3/8).

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