KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Health Reform Continues To Dominate Campaigns

After voting "no" on the health reform bill earlier this year, Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., has gotten significantly less support from colleagues than he did in previous re-election bids, The Hill reports. "Only five lawmakers ... have given money from their personal campaign funds to Barrow in the 2010 cycle. Five other elected Dems gave money to Barrow through their leadership political action committees." In 2006, 53 Democratic lawmakers contributed to his campaign. "Two years ago, Barrow faced a difficult primary in 2008 against an African-American candidate. Then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) endorsed Barrow and the incumbent cruised to victory in a district that has about 40 percent black residents. Barrow is facing the same primary opponent this year and Obama has not come out in support of Barrow" (Hooper and Stiffman, 5/13).

The Wall Street Journal reports that health care is playing a "prominent role" in the Massachusetts governors' race: "Four years after Massachusetts passed a health-care overhaul similar to the recently enacted national plan, small businesses are seeing their premiums rise 22% this year. People in the state have some of the highest premiums in the nation. (Gov. Deval) Patrick, a Democrat, is being challenged by Charlie Baker, a Republican and former health-insurance executive, and Tim Cahill, an independent sharply critical of the state and federal health-care overhauls. But the political lessons of Massachusetts's experience aren't clear-cut. Polls show a majority in the state still support the 2006 overhaul, which has brought health coverage to more than 97% of the population, suggesting that once a system of near-universal health coverage takes root, it is hard to dislodge. Mr. Patrick reinvigorated his campaign by calling for even tighter government control of the health-care system" (Bendavid, 6/14).

McClatchy/The Miami Herald: "The confirmation hearings for Dr. Donald Berwick, the White House's choice to run Medicare, could turn into a proxy war over a debate that, while settled, left many Americans angry and confused. ... 
Berwick, a Harvard professor of pediatrics, has been an outspoken critic of some aspects of the U.S. health care system. Allies call him a visionary for the work done by his Cambridge, Mass., policy organization, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, to find ways to lower costs through better patient care and safety. One of his particular causes has been reducing medical errors. ... Berwick's critics, meanwhile ... complain that he's lavished praise on Britain's government-run National Health Service, which makes them nervous. It's also fuel for continuing the Republicans' claim that the health care law amounts to socialism. 

"Rumors floated in recent days that Berwick might withdraw his name. The White House has denied it. However, the health care overhaul is still something of an open wound, and the political fallout is hard to gauge" (Goldstein, 6/13).

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