KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: May 5, 2012

Today's headlines include a variety of stories about health policy developments in the states.

Kaiser Health News: FAQ: Obama V. Ryan On Controlling Federal Medicare Spending
Kaiser Health News staff writer Marilyn Werber Serafini reports: "It may come as a surprise that President Barack Obama and Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who chairs the House Budget Committee, are pushing the same target rate for curbing annual federal spending on Medicare. Each would set it at half a percentage point higher than the growth rate of the economy – the gross domestic product" (Werber Serafini, 5/3). Read the story.

The Washington Post: Poll: Obama Leads Romney As Campaigns Converge On Virginia
The Democratic president has a key advantage in his bid for re¬election: The coalition of Virginians that helped propel him to victory in 2008 — young voters, suburban Washingtonians, women and African Americans — is largely intact. Yet the survey shows that voters in the state are split on Obama’s signature health-care reform law and that they remain deeply pessimistic about the way things are going in the country, creating a potential opening for Romney (Pershing and Cohen, 5/3).

The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog: Judge Wilkinson Hints That Overturning Obamacare Would Be A Mistake
And last month, receiving the Federalist Society's Lifetime Service Award at Georgetown University, Judge Wilkinson hinted that the high court he nearly joined should think twice before striking down the symbol of everything contemporary conservatives revile—the health care overhaul President Barack Obama signed into law over near-unanimous Republican opposition (Bravin, 5/3).

The New York Times: The Caucus: For Republicans, Clear Approach To Medicare Has Many Sides
Among the Republican fiscal hawks, the 2012 election is supposed to be a stark choice between a Republican Party willing to make the tough spending decisions necessary to get the deficit under control and a profligate Democratic Party still relying on "Mediscare" tactics to avoid responsibility. Republican campaigns do not appear to be ready to embrace this message (Weisman, 5/3).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Spin Meter: Congress'Budget Dilemma: Everyone Wants To Cut Spending, But Not In My Backyard
Presidents and lawmakers of every stripe have talked for years of needing to rein in Social Security and Medicare. They often campaign in ways to make sure it doesn't happen (5/4).

Politico: Feingold: Pelosi Wobbly On Social Security
Former Sen. Russ Feingold is going after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for what he calls "a disturbing potential willingness to adopt a plan that could slash" Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits. In an email to supporters of his group, Progressives United, Feingold … said Pelosi is the latest in a growing trend of Democrats who are wavering on defending Medicare. He even hints at a comparison of Pelosi with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (Haberkorn, 5/3).

The New York Times: The Caucus: 'Julia' Becomes Vehicle For Obama's Messaging
Nearly 20 years ago, a multimillion-dollar ad campaign created a fictional couple — "Harry and Louise" — to dramatize the dangers of President Bill Clinton's health care reforms. Now, President Obama is trying to use the same Madison Avenue-style technique to demonstrate how his policies would be better for women than would Mitt Romney's (Shear, 5/3).

Politico: Conservatives Mock Obama's 'Julia'
For example, the slideshow suggests that at age 18, Julia would qualify for a college tax credit, one that would be allowed to expire under a Mitt Romney presidency. At age 65, Julia could enroll in Medicare - something that Romney "could end as we know it" (Mak, 5/3).

Los Angeles Times: Health Net Shares Tumble 25% As It Posts Loss, Lowers Forecast
The company surprised analysts and investors by disclosing an additional $67 million in medical claims that hadn't been reported in the fourth quarter because of errors in processing claims. Health Net said outside vendors that handle those claims for the company experienced problems with a new industrywide billing format (Terhune, 5/4).

The Wall Street Journal: Cigna Profit Declines 10%, Full-Year View Raised
Earnings were slightly below the level analysts expected in the quarter, despite a boost from claims reserves that weren't needed in prior periods, although Cigna said it topped its own forecast. The Bloomfield, Conn., company raised its full-year earnings guidance while also increasing expectations for membership growth this year (Kamp, 5/3).

The Washington Post: D.C. Council Member Catania Comes Up With $20M For Health Coverage For Illegal Immigrants
D.C. Council member David A. Catania has found an additional $20 million in the budget to continue offering free health insurance to 19,000 undocumented immigrants, reversing a proposal by Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) that could have restricted them from receiving emergency care. Catania (I-At Large) … has made full funding of the Alliance Insurance program a chief priority as the council prepares for final budget deliberations (Craig, 5/3).

The Wall Street Journal’s Health Blog: Oregon Gets Extra Funds To Test New Medicaid Method
Controlling costs is a major priority for virtually everyone involved in funding health care, including federal and state governments, employers and insurers. … One state, Oregon, reckons it can cut health costs by two percentage points within two years — and improve health outcomes — through a new way of delivering care under Medicaid, the state/federal program for the poor (Radnofsky, 5/3).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Federal Government to Put Up $1.9B To Help With Startup Cost Of Health Overhaul In Oregon
The Obama administration is buying into an ambitious health care initiative in Oregon, announcing Thursday it has tentatively agreed to chip in $1.9 billion over five years to help get the program off the ground. Oregon hopes to prove that states can save billions on Medicaid without sacrificing the quality of health care. Gov. John Kitzhaber’s plan would invest in preventive care to keep patients healthy so they don’t need expensive hospitalizations (5/3).

The New York Times: Settlement Money Patched Nassau County Budget Gaps
The hundreds of millions of dollars in tobacco bonds issued by Nassau County, N.Y., illustrate both the perils in forecasting tobacco cash flows over decades and a reluctance to use the money for its original intent (Williams Walsh, 5/3).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Anti-Abortion Group Says It Obtained Kansas Clinic's April Patient Records For 86 Women, Girls
An anti-abortion group says it has the patient records of dozens of women and girls who sought treatment at a Kansas City, Kan., abortion clinic last month — a claim the clinic's attorney says is meant to scare off potential patients and would suggest a crime was committed. … [A] confidential informant delivered boxes to the group about two weeks ago that contained the records of 86 female patients who sought treatment at Central Family Medicine, also known as Aid for Women (5/3). 

Check out all of Kaiser Health News' e-mail options including First Edition and Breaking News alerts on our Subscriptions page.

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.