KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Sen. McConnell Blasts Medicare Brochure Touting Health Overhaul

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, is blasting the Obama administration for using flyers to tout the new health law to seniors, The Hill reports. "McConnell took offense to the flyers for saying the new law will 'preserve and strengthen' Medicare. And he pointed out that the Department of Health and Human Services lambasted private Medicare Advantage plans when they used similar communications to their members to raise concerns with the health reform law before it was passed" (Pecquet, 5/25).

Roll Call: "The Kentucky Republican held up a copy of the four-page pamphlet from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services while delivering his morning floor remarks. He referred to the mailer as 'nothing short of government propaganda paid for by the taxpayer.' McConnell charged the administration with hypocrisy given that it previously ordered private insurance companies to refrain from sending policyholders information that prompted skepticism of the new health care law" (Drucker, 5/25).

The looming nature of the health reform law debate is also rippling through politics in other places. In Minnesota, lawmakers are sparring over the bill and other health issues, The (Rochester, Minn.) Post-Bulletin reports. "On Monday, DFL-endorsed candidate Margaret Anderson Kelliher traveled to Rochester to announce her support for opting-in to an early Medicaid expansion that would spare Mayo Clinic and Mayo Health System between $20 million and $25 million in anticipated cuts. By spending $188 million, the state could tap into $1.4 billion in federal money. ... Democrats aren't the only ones campaigning on the health-care issue. Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer said in a recent visit to Rochester that this fall's election will be a 'referendum on Obamacare.' He argued that enrolling in the expansion will hurt the state's economic recovery and hinder it from making future health care reforms" (Carlson, 5/25).

Fortune reports that the Tea Party has earned "if not mainstream status, at least a seat at the table of national discussion," with the election of Rand Paul in the Republican Senate primary in Kentucky last week, and that the anti-incumbent philosophy it represents may lead to far-reaching changes in Washington and affect health care business. "In equities, the sector that will likely benefit most from Republicans regaining both houses is health care. ... [H]ealth care has underperformed the broader market by almost a margin of 2:1 since the House passed the health care bill on March 21st. A shift in control of Congress back to the Republicans would likely lead to a rolling back of certain aspects of the bill, which would be positive for the industry and its ability to maintain pricing power (versus having pricing mandated by the government) and therefore protect profit margins." But Tea Party gains in Washington could lead to massive budget cuts in Washington "which could lead to a dramatic reduction in government spending on health care. This would be negative for health care sector performance, as the government remains the industry's largest client" (Jones, 5/25).

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