KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Democrats Mostly Silent On Health Law In Their Ads As Election Approaches

Democrats are mostly remaining silent on the new health law as they release advertisements in bids to retain their seats in Congress, NPR reports. "Ads touting the new law are mostly being run by opponents of the measure as they try to feed on its more unpopular aspects, particularly the requirement that nearly all Americans have insurance starting in 2014. … [But,] at least some Democrats are taking up the cause. Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold, for example, who is locked in a closer-than-expected race for re-election against Republican Ron Johnson, has been running an ad featuring his support for provisions of the health law that guarantee children coverage even if they have pre-existing health problems. Meanwhile, his opponent says the law 'would put insurance companies back in control, letting them raise premiums or increase our costs whenever they want.'" Democrats are still talking health reform with constituents, however, in their campaign appearances (Rovner, 10/14).

ABC News reports that even a "vote against health care reform seems unlikely to protect conservative Democrats from what is expected to be a difficult November. Thirty-four Democrats voted against the bill and more than half of those – 23 – are now in races ABC considers to be competitive. Twelve of the 'no' votes are in races considered toss-ups and one representative, Chet Edwards (D-TX), is in a race that leans toward his Republican opponent, Bill Flores" (Goldstein, 10/13).

The Wall Street Journal has an advertisement from "Freshman Rep. Scott Murphy, locked in a tight re-election contest in upstate New York" that "may be the election season's most aggressive embrace of the health care law passed by Congress this year. The advertisement doesn't so much extol the health care law's virtues as it attacks his opponent, Chris Gibson, for wanting its repeal" (Weisman, 10/13).

Kaiser Health News has a conversation with Bill McInturff, a GOP pollster, who says Republicans should reconsider their "repeal and replace" strategy for the health law. "McInturff has been urging Republicans to use a more moderate message: 'Keep what's good in the law and replace what's not.' He says new polling that he will release Friday shows that this approach works." McInturff said, "If you're for repeal and replace, it means you have to say that every single element of health care is something you disagree with, or at least allows your opponent to characterize your position that way. That seems to me to not make much sense. Number two, people are very conscious that we fought for a year about this. And so telling people that we're going to start totally from scratch and do it again, there's a certain kind of weariness about the process." Republicans are instead using the health law battle as a proxy for arguing the role of government, he said (Werber Serafini, 10/14).

In the Florida gubernatorial race, Democrat Alex Sink is airing a new ad "that whacks Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott for alleged fraud at Columbia/HCA, his former health care company, as well as at Solantic, his current health care business," PolitiFact Florida/St. Petersburg Times/The Miami Herald reports. "Scott still has plenty of explaining to do about allegations of fraud both while running Columbia/HCA and at his new health care company, Solantic. Sink and Democrats try to play up the unanswered questions in a rare, two-minute ad set to air today. While many of the facts of the ad are correct, Sink and Democrats also use some clever editing and misleading visuals to sensationalize some of the accusations against Scott" (Sharockman, 10/13).

Nurses and doctors are split on whom to support in the race, HealthNews Florida reports. "To the Florida Medical Association, the overriding factor in the election of the next governor is protection against medical-malpractice lawsuits. Tort reform trumps every other issue, and FMA believes Republican Rick Scott can deliver it. The Florida Nurses Association, which endorsed Democrat Alex Sink, doesn't have just one big issue. Like other health associations, FNA has turf issues. It also has numerous members who are state employees that it wants to protect from Scott's vow to cut the state workforce" (Saunders and Gentry, 10/13).

Finally, in California, the next insurance commissioner will gain more power from the health law, the Los Angeles Times reports. "Two state assemblymen not much known beyond their districts are vying for a statewide office that has ample authority over automobile, home and life insurance coverage and is getting more power from the landmark federal healthcare law. The winning candidate for insurance commissioner - either Democrat Dave Jones of Sacramento or Republican Mike Villines of Clovis - will have a chance to help set up state programs as part of President Obama's national healthcare overhaul" (Lifsher, 10/13).

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