KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Candidates Focus On Health Care Politics

As candidates ramped up campaigning over Labor Day weekend, news outlets examined the role of the new health law in the 2010 elections.

Politico reports that the Health Information Center, a Democrat-led group, is launching a $2 million national ad campaign touting "the new law's early-to-implement insurance reforms and throwing a pro-reform voice onto airwaves currently dominated by anti-reform messages." The center was founded by "top Democratic strategists earlier this summer" as "an effort to show off the law's benefits while also batting down what the group considers false claims and misinformation. For health reform supporters, the new group and its pro-reform pitch could not come at a better time. Public support for the health reform law has dropped sharply since the law passed in March" (Kliff, 9/7).

In South Dakota, health care "remains a contentious issue in the widely-watched race" for the state's lone House seat, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader/Gannett reports. "Republican challenger Kristi Noem is calling for repeal of the landmark law ... whose cost and scope is unpopular in many areas of the country wary of expanding federal authority. Democratic incumbent Stephanie Herseth Sandlin was one of only 34 Democrats to vote against it, but she said the law has many worthy provisions, notably barring insurers from denying coverage based on a patient's pre-existing medical condition. Her solution is keeping the law and making adjustments over time" (King, 9/7).

The law is also a key issue in the race for governor of Rhode Island, The Providence Journal reports. "The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act gives states considerable leeway in deciding how to implement its provisions, intended to make sure people have health insurance. A governor's attitude toward the law will be critical in shaping a state's health-care system as the overhaul rolls out. … Independent Lincoln D. Chafee, Democrat Frank T. Caprio and Moderate Party candidate Kenneth J. Block all accept the law - with varying degrees of enthusiasm - and all pledge to carry it out fully." But Republican candidates John F. Robitaille and Victor G. Moffitt "both say they believe the law is unconstitutional" (Freyer, 9/7)

Politico: "A handful of House Democrats are making health care reform an election year issue - by running against it. At least five of the 34 House Democrats who voted against their party's health care reform bill are highlighting their 'no' votes in ads back home. ... it appears that no Democratic incumbent - in the House or in the Senate - has run a pro-reform TV ad since April, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) ran one. Most of the Democrats running ads highlighting their opposition to the law are in conservative-leaning districts and considered the most endangered. They're using their vote against the overhaul as proof of their willingness to buck party leadership and their commitment to watching the nation's debt" (Haberkorn, 9/5).

Politics Daily: "Arkansas Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln doesn't have to close a small gap in her race against Republican Rep. John Boozman. She has a cavern to conquer. Some polls show the incumbent senator down by 40 points heading into the fall midterm election. ... Last week, Lincoln was the first to hit the airwaves with two commercials. Boozman has yet to air an ad." In one ad, Lincoln says: "Unlike John, I'm against privatizing Social Security and Medicare."

"Boozman has said that he is not for privatizing Social Security or Medicare. Boozman did support a plan by former President George W. Bush that would have allowed people to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes in private accounts. He has voted for bills that included cuts to Medicare. He adamantly denies wanting to cut benefits for seniors. ... Lincoln's other ad, 'Better for Arkansas' directly addresses her controversial health care vote, saying that she works to find balance in the Senate" (Parker, 9/3).

(Allentown, Penn.) Morning Call: "Friends of U.S. Senate candidates Joe Sestak and Pat Toomey recently bought air time in Pennsylvania aiming to scare the state's elderly voters. Sestak, a Democrat, voted with President Barack Obama to cut Medicare benefits for seniors, one TV spot says. Toomey, a Republican, wants to take away people's Social Security and put it in the stock market, another says. ... Pennsylvania has more senior citizens than the national average, according to the latest U.S. Census estimate. ... While it's advantageous for both camps to court the over-65 population, the ads that ran on the candidates' behalf make misleading claims" (Itkowitz, 9/3).

Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski, D-Penn., visited two senior centers in his district this week, according to the Standard Speaker. One of the visits "prompted his Republican opponent, Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta, to accuse him of lying about the future of Medicare. Kanjorski told his Plains audience the new health care reform law does not cut Medicare benefits 'in any way.' Barletta's campaign pointed out that Rep. Tim Holden, D-17, St. Clair, said he voted against the bill because it 'makes significant cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.'"

"'There are two options here -- either Kanjorski is lying or Kanjorski is calling Rep. Holden a liar,' Barletta spokesman Shawn Kelly said. In response, Kanjorski's campaign pointed to an AARP fact sheet that says the 'new law extends the financial soundness of the program by 12 years, to 2029' and 'no one will lose Medicare coverage'" (Krawczeniuk, 9/4).

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