KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

GOP Continues Health Reform Opposition, Quotes Concerned Democrats

"Congressional Republicans fired back Wednesday at the White House public relations campaign for health-care reform, highlighting concerns voiced by two Democratic governors about a possible expansion of Medicaid," The Washington Post reports. The cost of Medicaid is "already driving states to the fiscal brink."

Gov. Ted Strickland, D-Ohio, who has been supportive of health overhaul efforts, warned against the additional Medicaid costs, and Gov. John Lynch, D-N.H., is concerned enough about the costs that "that he declined last week to sign a letter from 22 Democratic governors urging Congress to finish reform this year." Quotes from the two Democratic governors "were circulated by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's office, on the heels of a Washington Post report Wednesday about the White House's effort to line up pro-reform comments from GOP heavyweights" (Murray, 10/8).

Meanwhile, USA Today reports that support for reform among certain Republicans (including former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson) is creating divisions in the party: "Their names carry weight. They include former Senate majority leaders Bob Dole and Bill Frist, a heart surgeon; Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, a health policy expert; New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, now an independent; and Mark McClellan, former administrator of Medicare and Medicaid from 2004-06. As former Republican congressman Mickey Edwards, currently a lecturer on public affairs at Princeton, puts it: 'The grown-ups are beginning to speak up.' Their columns, interviews and statements have created a policy-vs.-politics rift inside the GOP. For months, complaints about President Obama's proposed health care changes helped drive down his poll ratings. GOP leaders outside Congress, however, say that may not be in the country's best interest" (Wolf, 10/8).

Related KHN coverage: Bill Frist: Congress Will Approve A $1 Trillion Health Bill (Pianin, 10/1)

The Christian Science Monitor: "From a partisan perspective, it may also be that some Republicans are calculating that if reform passes, the implementation could be messy – to the Democrats' political detriment. In his Time interview, Frist predicted that reform would pass and that the first years of implementation are likely to be rough. 'The Republicans will go wild,' he said, suggesting his party could gain politically in 2010" (Feldman, 10/7).

The Associated Press: At a health care summit in Kansas City, former Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole called health care reform "one of the most important measures members of Congress will vote on in their lifetime." Dole "said afterward that some Republicans have asked him to stay mum including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell" (10/7).

The Hill: "Several House Republicans questioned the motivation behind the Democrats' new effort to include the GOP in discussions on healthcare reform." House Republicans are participating in meetings with top-level Democrats, including Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. But after a meeting, "two frustrated GOP lawmakers said that [Sebelius] took questions but gave 'non-answer answers" (Hooper, 10/7). 

The Associated Press, in a separate story: "President Barack Obama's grass-roots supporters have been largely drowned out in the raucous debate over his health care plan." But, "[w]hile opponents of the health care revamp have largely controlled the image war with rowdy town halls and a huge march on Washington last month, Obama supporters have been mobilizing across the country as well, tapping into the unprecedented network his presidential campaign built last year." Organizing for America "recently completed a 19-stop cross country bus tour, and leaders say they have held over 18,000 health care events in all 50 states and 435 congressional districts" (Fouhy, 10/7).

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