KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: September 24, 2012

Today's headlines include reports about the latest health politics and policy news.

Kaiser Health News: Obama, Ryan Offer Dueling Visions Of Medicare To AARP Members
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz reports: "GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan was booed and heckled on Friday when he told an AARP convention in New Orleans that he would repeal President Barack Obama's health law. In contrast, Obama's remarks about Medicare --delivered by live satellite an hour earlier -- were warmly received" (Galewitz, 9/21). Read the story or watch a related video.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: NYC Study: Harlem Has Most ER ‘Super Users;’ Upper East side, Fewest
Now on Kaiser Health News’ blog, WNYC’s Fred Mogul, working in partnership with KHN and NPR, reports: “About 20 percent of New York City residents visit hospital emergency rooms annually — and in some neighborhoods, the rate is twice that, according to a new report” (Mogul, 9/24). Check out what else is on the blog.

Kaiser Health News: The Next Frontier For Elite Med Schools: Primary Care
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jenny Gold, working in collaboration with NPR, reports: "Johns Hopkins, Yale, Harvard, Columbia and Cornell. What do these medical schools have in common? Beyond their first-rate reputations, they're also on the short list of top U.S. med schools that don't have departments of family medicine" (Gold, 9/23). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News also tracked weekend health policy headlines, including reports about what President Barack Obama and GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan had to say at the AARP meeting; what candidates were saying about Medicare and health reform on the campaign trail; and developments in California related to access to birth control and abortion.

The New York Times: Obama And Romney Offer A Possible Preview Of Their First Debate
Mr. Romney said he would consider means-testing for Social Security benefits for future retirees, and he put some distance between his plans for reshaping Medicare as a voluntary voucher program and the proposal by his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan, to reduce payments to the health care program by some $700 billion. … Mr. Obama took a fairly combative tone in his interview, defending the administration's actions on financial bailouts, health care legislation and efforts to help homeowners and job seekers (Broder, 9/23).

Politico: 'Obamacare' Foes Fear GOP Losses
If Mitt Romney doesn't win the White House in November, and the Republicans don't win the Senate, the GOP might not get another chance to repeal "Obamacare." That's the reality of the 2012 election, and even the staunchest opponents of the Democrats' health care reform law acknowledge it. By the time the 2014 election comes up, all of the law's major changes will be in place. So if the Republicans don't win control of the White House and Congress to repeal it before then, the goal of wiping away the law will probably be out of their reach (Haberkorn, 9/22).

The New York Times: In Ryan Country, Obama Keep Up Attack Over '47 Percent' Remarks
In Wisconsin, after signs of tightening in the polls following Mr. Ryan's selection, Mr. Obama seems to have regained his footing. … "We've always thought Wisconsin would be harder for us this year than it was four years ago," the campaign press secretary, Jen Psaki, said to reporters on Air Force One. "It's only natural that when Paul Ryan, a native son, was announced, that the Romney team tried to create some buzz around their potential in Wisconsin." Ms. Psaki argued that the more voters in Wisconsin heard about Mr. Romney's proposals on issues like tax policy and Medicare, the less they would support him (Landler, 9/22).

The New York Times: Conservatives Want To 'Let Ryan Be Ryan' On Campaign Trail
Mr. Ryan still has high-profile moments of combativeness and takes on fights that Mr. Romney does not. On Friday, he appeared at the annual AARP convention and drew boos as he called for repeal of Mr. Obama's health care law and laid out the approach that he and Mr. Romney would take to address Medicare's financial troubles, which would encourage more private-sector competition in the government-run program (Gabriel and Weisman, 9/23).

The Washington Post: Among Some Paul Ryan Backers, Disappointment At Romney Campaign Trajectory
Conservatives had hoped that Mitt Romney's choice of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.) as his running mate would make Romney act more like Ryan — bold, specific, confident. Instead, in the six weeks since Ryan became the GOP vice presidential nominee — and particularly in the three weeks since the Republican National Convention in Tampa — there has been mounting concern among Republicans that the pick has made Ryan look more like Romney — vague, cautious and limited to pre-set talking points (Sonmez and Fahrenthold, 9/24).

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Romney Reports $15,211 In Health Premiums In 2011
Mitt Romney reported paying $15,211 for health insurance premiums in 2011, as disclosed in his tax returns, and has his insurance through a Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts plan, a campaign aide confirmed late Friday (Radnofsky, 9/21).

Politico: Poll: Obama Wins On Medicare Trust
More swing-state voters trust President Barack Obama more to handle Medicare than Mitt Romney, according to a poll Monday. Fifty percent of registered voters in 12 swing states trust Obama to handle Medicare, compared to 44 percent who Romney more, according to a Gallup poll. Nationally, Obama has 51 percent to 43 percent edge (Robillard, 9/24).

Politico: GOP: 'Bonuses' To Medicare Advantage Mask Cuts
The Medicare politics playing out in the presidential campaign trail are roiling Capitol Hill, too. Republicans are accusing the Obama administration of covering up cuts to the popular Medicare Advantage program. They say an $8 billion demonstration project, which the Government Accountability Office has asked HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to shut down, is hiding the impact of the cuts (Norman, 9/24).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Obama On Medicare: No Voucher, But Higher Costs For Baby Boomers And The Comfortably Retired
He’ll never turn Medicare into a voucher, but if you are lucky enough to be financially comfortable in retirement, odds are you'll pay higher premiums under President Barack Obama's plan. It's not just the 1 percent who'll feel the pinch. And take note, baby boomers: The Medicare you get won't be quite as generous as what your parents' generation enjoys. A higher deductible here, a new co-payment there, and the tweaks add up (9/24).

The Associated Press: Romney Medicare Plan: Key Details Still In Flux
With important details still hazy, The Associated Press asked the Romney campaign five questions about how his Medicare plan would affect consumers on critical matters of costs and benefits. ... Broadly speaking, Romney calls for shifting people now age 54 and younger into a different sort of Medicare. Once eligible, these people would get a fixed payment from the government, adjusted for inflation, to pay for either private insurance or a government plan modeled on Medicare. Current beneficiaries and those nearing retirement could stay in the traditional program (Alonso-Zaldivar, 9/23).

Los Angeles Times: Congressional Race Is A Test For Longtime Member Of The House
In Congress, where he is the senior Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Waxman has shepherded landmark legislation, often enlisting Republican help, on clean air, tobacco regulation and generic drugs. He secured money to fight AIDS and battled government fraud. He was a key player in the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, derided by Republicans as "Obamacare" (Merl, 9/23).

USA Today: Akin Still Confident He Can Win Missouri Senate Seat
In an interview with USA TODAY, the Republican lawmaker -- abandoned by his party and GOP outside groups when he made controversial comments last month about the abortion rights of raped women -- is unbowed and confident that he is on track to defeat incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. Republican Party leaders had hoped Akin would exit the race by a Tuesday deadline to get his name off the ballot in order to nominate another Republican, but the six-term House member has never entertained the notion and has lashed out at "party bosses" who tried to influence the race (Page, 9/23).

USA Today: Health Care Law's Impact On Businesses Varies
Companies specializing in driving down spending on health care, whether through electronic records, preventive care or consolidating services, are turning out to be the biggest winners from the 2010 health care law (Kennedy, 9/23).

The New York Times: Liking It Or Not, States Prepare For Health Law
Like many Republican governors, Jan Brewer of Arizona is a stinging critic of President Obama's health care law. When the Supreme Court upheld it in June, she called the ruling "an overreaching and unaffordable assault on states' rights and individual liberty" (Goodnough, 9/23).

The New York Times: New System For Patients To Report Medical Mistakes
The Obama administration wants consumers to report medical mistakes and unsafe practices by doctors, hospitals, pharmacists and others who provide treatment (Pear, 9/22).

Los Angeles Times: Treatment For Addicts Is Starting To Change
A call for change is afoot in the difficult and often heartbreaking world of addiction treatment. For decades, 12-step programs and a medication-free approach have dominated the recovery industry. But now doctors and scientists and the leader of the National Institute on Drug Abuse are pushing for broad recognition of addiction as a disease and more medical approaches to therapy (Roan, 9/22).

Los Angeles Times: Cedars-Sinai And UCLA Cut From Los Angeles Health Plan
Two of the most prestigious names in Southern California healthcare — Cedars-Sinai and UCLA — are getting shut out of a major insurance plan for being too expensive. In a bold cost-cutting move, Anthem Blue Cross has eliminated doctors affiliated with the hospitals from a health plan offered to about 60,000 employees and dependents at the cash-strapped city of Los Angeles (Terhune, 9/21).

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