KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: October 22, 2012

Today's headlines include the latest news about how health policies are playing on the campaign trail as candidates move into the home stretch.

Kaiser Health News: Voters' Voices: Three Reagan Democrats Talk Medicare
Kaiser Health News staff writer Sarah Varney reports: "Of those voting this year, count in the so-called Reagan Democrats -- that group of once loyal left-leaners who crossed party lines in 1980 and helped the former California governor relocate to the White House" (Varney, 10/21). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News also tracked weekend health policy headlines, including reports about how comments about abortion by Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., set off a dispute with medical experts (10/20), and coverage of startling results from a study about weight loss and heart risks for diabetics (10/20).

Los Angeles Times: Obama, Romney Launch Closing Barrage Of TV Ads
Apart from the clash on the economy, the most striking aspect of the campaign's peak advertising is the prominence of women. New Obama ads feature women saying Romney would jeopardize access to birth control and abortion. At the same time, American Crossroads, a "super PAC" backing Romney, is running an ad showing a woman at a kitchen table criticizing Obama on spending, debt and jobs. … In Florida, Obama was making a play for the elderly last week with an ad aired during "Good Day Orlando." It attacks Romney on Social Security and Medicare and shows Obama sitting at a cafe table with worried-looking seniors. "We're not going to turn Medicare into a voucher," Obama says. "This is all part of keeping a commitment, a pledge, to your generation, but also to future generations" (Finnegan and Landsberg, 10/21).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Romney Seeking To Narrow Obama Advantage With Women Voters In Campaign's Final Weeks
Women have emerged as the pivotal voting bloc in the aftermath of the second presidential debate, where Obama and Romney sparred over contraceptives and pay inequality and Romney spoke about reviewing "binders full of women" as governor when he sought to diversify his Massachusetts administration. Some national polls suggest Obama's longstanding edge with female voters is narrowing, prompting both sides to make an all-out blitz for women (10/22).

The Associated Press: Both Parties See Gains Coming From Medicare Debate
A little more than two weeks before Election Day, Republicans and Democrats alike say Medicare is working to their political advantage in campaigns for the White House and Congress. They can't both be right, and no matter which side is, this is one campaign clash with consequences extending well beyond Nov. 6 (Espo, 10/20).

The Washington Post: Planned Parenthood's Funding Is Targeted In Partisan Debates
Officials in nearly a dozen Republican-led states, including Arizona, Kansas and Indiana, have cut at least some funding for the group since 2011, when Democrats rejected a high-profile effort by congressional Republicans to block federal grants for the group. In several cases officials targeted federal money that they are responsible for disbursing (Somashekhar, 10/20).

The Washington Post: Large Employers Look To On-Site Health Clinics To Reduce Costs And Absenteeism
On-site health care clinics are increasingly being set up at large companies that are looking for new ways to reduce health care costs and boost employees' productivity. These facilities are being established by firms across all sectors to offer everything from urgent and primary care to biometric screenings to chronic disease management (Halzack, 10/21).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Presidential Race Buffets Fight For Senate Control, Provides Fodder For Down-Ballot Races
The party that runs the Senate next year may be decided by how well President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney do in toss-up states like Nevada, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin, where ballots feature parallel Senate races about as tight as the presidential contest (10/22).

The Wall Street Journal: More Health-Law Changes Coming In 2013
Next year will see some of the many significant changes brought on by the Affordable Care Act, including easy-to-read plan summaries and caps on flexible spending accounts. The ability of health insurers to place limits on annual spending is also on its way out, while earlier reforms such as adding adult children to their parents' plans offer new options to consumers. Most of the really big changes—including health-insurance exchanges and tax credits to help people buy coverage—aren't coming into play until 2014. Still, the provisions going into effect in 2013, along with those that have already been introduced, can affect any changes you might want to make to your health coverage (Johnson, 10/21).

The Associated Press: Questions For Medicare In Meningitis Outbreak
Medicare is coming under scrutiny in the meningitis outbreak that has rekindled doubts about the safety of the nation's drug supply. The giant health insurance program for seniors long ago flagged compounded drugs produced for the mass market without oversight from the Food and Drug Administration as safety risks. In 2007, Medicare revoked coverage of compounded inhaler drugs for lung disease. But Medicare doesn't seem to have consistently used its own legal power to deny payment, and critics say that has enabled the compounding business to flourish (Alonso-Zaldivar, 10/20).

NPR: CDC: Meningitis Mold In Tainted Drug Can Incubate For Months
As the caseload of fungal meningitis linked to a tainted steroid drug climbs, experts are learning more about this human-made epidemic. The signs indicate that cases could still be emerging until Thanksgiving or beyond. ... The illness is caused by a fungus called Exserohilum rostratum, a black mold that usually attacks plants. It's so rare as a cause of human illness that nobody knows its incubation period. So it's hard to predict when the outbreak will be over (Knox, 10/20).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Abortion May Be Legal, But Very Difficult In Many States, In Past 2 Years, 41 Set New Limits
It's legal to get an abortion in America, but in many places it is hard and getting harder. Just this year, 17 states set new limits on abortion; 24 did last year, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion rights nonprofit whose numbers are widely respected. In several states with the most restrictive laws, the number of abortions has fallen slightly, pleasing abortion opponents who say the laws are working (10/20).

Reuters: Judge Blocks Arizona Law That Bars Funding To Planned Parenthood
A federal judge blocked Arizona on Friday from applying a new law that bars Planned Parenthood clinics from receiving money through the state to provide medical care because the women's health organization also performs abortions. District Court Judge Neil Wake issued a temporary injunction after Planned Parenthood sued over the law, which would have cut off Medicaid funding for family planning and health services delivered by organizations offering abortions. Medicaid is a joint federal-state program that provides health care coverage for low-income people (Gaynor, 10/20).

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