KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: May 13, 2011

Today's headlines include details of Mitt Romney's major health care speech as well as the latest updates on the debt limit and budget talks and the outlook for Medicare's future. 

Kaiser Health News: Video: Romney Defends Mass. Health Plan: 'Right For The People Of My State'
Kaiser Health News provides video excerpts of a major speech given yesterday by Mitt Romney in which he defended the health reform law he signed while governor of Massachusetts. And, he used a PowerPoint presentation to lay out a very different vision for what he would do if he becomes president, which includes reliance on more market-based competition among insurers and health care providers (5/12). KHN also tracked yesterday's news reports before and after the speech. 

Kaiser Health News: Video: Navigating The Tricky World Of Maternity Coverage
Kaiser Health News columnist Michelle Andrews talks with Jackie Judd about how various types of insurance plans do – or don't – cover childbirth, and discusses how that might change under the health reform law (5/12).

The Associated Press: Social Security Changes Off Table, Problems Remain
Congress is putting off changes to Social Security, but the massive retirement and disability program still faces long-term financial problems from an aging population and an economy that has been slow to rebound. Those problems are getting new attention Friday as the trustees who oversee Social Security and Medicare release their annual reports on the programs' finances. Medicare is in worse shape than Social Security because it is also being hit by rising health care costs. But both programs will become insolvent in the coming decades, unless Congress acts, according to the trustees (Ohlemacher, 5/13).

The Washington Post: McConnell Demands Spending Cuts, Medicare Overhaul For Deal On Debt Limit
The top Senate Republican sought Thursday to clarify his party's stance on Medicare heading into high-stakes talks with the White House, telling President Obama he wants "significant" changes to the program in exchange for lifting the legal limit on government borrowing (Montgomery, 5/12).

The New York Times: McConnell Ties Debt Limit To Spending Reductions
The Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, said Thursday that the debt ceiling debate provides Congress with a rare opportunity to make sweeping changes to entitlement programs and spending, and that he would not vote to raise the level without significant budget cuts and revisions to Medicare and Medicaid (Steinhauer, 5/12).

Los Angeles Times: Obama Asks GOP Senators To Help Find Compromise On Spending And Debt
President Obama opened a private meeting with Senate Republicans on Thursday by asking them to search for compromise in the ongoing budget talks, but entrenched positions on both sides underscored the difficulty of resolving differences in time to avert a possible financial crisis. … But McConnell countered in Thursday's meeting by laying out the contours of a proposal to earn his vote, and presumably that of the other 46 Republican senators: immediate budget caps over the next two years that press down discretionary spending, followed by eligibility changes to the Medicare and Medicaid health programs over the next five to 10 years and beyond. And no new taxes (Mascaro and Parsons, 5/13).

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: House GOP Launches Its Own Medicare Attack Ad
On Wednesday, a group of House Republican freshmen held a press conference asking President Barack Obama to condemn Medicare-related political attacks by Democrats and liberal groups. Republican House members have been facing these attacks for supporting Rep. Paul Ryan's plans for turning Medicare into a premium subsidy system (Bendavid, 5/12).

The New York Times: Romney Defends Massachusetts Health Plan, But Concedes Flaws
Former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts came here on Thursday to address the biggest threat to his nascent presidential campaign, defending core elements of the health care law enacted in his home state five years ago even as he tried to reassure conservatives that he would work to roll back the similar national overhaul President Obama signed into law last year (Rutenberg, 5/12).

Los Angeles Times: Mitt Romney: No Apologies For Massachusetts Healthcare Plan
Mitt Romney derided President Obama's national healthcare law as a federal "power grab" Thursday while defending the "more modest" state plan it was modeled after, beginning an effort to deal with his biggest vulnerability ahead of the Republican primary campaign. In his first major speech since announcing the formation of a presidential exploratory committee, Romney said he would not apologize for the Massachusetts law he signed as governor in 2006, even though some have said that doing so would be politically advantageous (Memoli and West, 5/12).

The Washington Post: Mitt Romney Defends His Health-Care Record
His greatest achievement is also his biggest liability. It is the kind of paradox that would test the most agile of politicians, of whom Mitt Romney is not one. So on Thursday, the former management consultant who is also a putative front-runner for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination turned to an old and reliable ally: the PowerPoint presentation. He was attempting to lay to rest criticism of the landmark health-care law he put into place as governor of Massachusetts, and to make a convincing case for how he would do things differently if he were elected president (Tumulty, 5/12).

The Wall Street Journal: Romney Defends State's Health Plan
Some Republicans who have made the federal health law the rallying cry for a conservative resurgence are openly questioning how they could put forward a nominee who, as governor, championed and secured his own universal health plan, one that included a state mandate that individuals buy health insurance (Weisman, 5/13).

The Associated Press: Analysis: Romney Makes Tough Choice On Health Care
Republican Mitt Romney faces a deeply unpleasant choice in his all-but-announced bid for the White House. He signaled Thursday that he'd rather be charged with inspiring President Barack Obama's health care overhaul than with switching positions on a fourth big issue that's vital to conservative voters (Babington, 5/13).

NPR: In Mitt Romney's Defense Of Health Plan, Echoes Of Obama
Poor Mitt Romney. The former GOP governor of Massachusetts, now running for president, is trying desperately to simultaneously defend and disavow the landmark universal health law he signed in 2006 (Rovner, 5/12).

USA Today: Doctors, Groups Clash Over Asking Patients About Firearms
Three states are considering laws that would penalize doctors and other health care providers for asking patients or their parents whether they have a gun at home. The National Rifle Association and other pro-gun interest groups argue that doctors violate patients' Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms by inquiring about gun ownership. Doctors say they ask only because of safety concerns (Rubin, 5/13).

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