KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

House Win Would Give GOP The Ways, Means To Roll Back Health Law

Kaiser Health News: A GOP takeover of the House would give Republicans the ability to attack the new law in new ways. "If Rep. Joe Barton becomes chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee next year, the Texas Republican vows to make life miserable for Democratic defenders of the health care overhaul law. He will drag Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Medicare chief Donald Berwick to Capitol Hill for regular grilling. Democrats, he says, have essentially shielded the two key figures from answering tough questions about the new law." Republicans are also threatening to withhold funding for the law and to "relentlessly pursue hearings and oversight investigations" to challenge the Obama administration on the law (Serafini, 10/31).

On NBC's "Meet The Press," Republican Governors Association Chairman Haley Barbour said that if Republicans take power, they will change enough of the health law so it will no longer be recognizable. The Mississippi governor said: "If they don't fully repeal and replace it, they will make such big changes in it over the next few years that you won't recognize it," according to Politico (Barr, 10/31).

Tribune Washington Bureau/Great Falls (Mont.) Tribune: All the political movement has some Democrats defending the law, including Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. "In an interview Thursday, Baucus, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, said he's 'disappointed' that critics are using the law to bludgeon Democrats, given what he says are the law's many good points. … The problem, he said, is a partisan divide between the two parties that may be as wide as it's ever been, coupled with economically uncertain times that have put Americans on edge" (King, 11/1).

And elections beyond Capitol Hill will have a significant impact on how health reform is implemented.

The Associated Press: "Republicans are anticipating major gains in governorships across the nation's industrial heartland and in several vital presidential swing states." Thirty-seven seats are on the line Tuesday. They include tight races in California, Florida, Ohio, Connecticut, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont. "Governors will not only be behind-the-scenes players in 2012 presidential races, but they have a critical say in implementing the new health care law, and will actively participate next year in redrawing congressional and legislative districts based on the 2010 census" (Raum, 11/1).

Kaiser Health News, in a separate story: Three states are set to vote Tuesday on the federal law's health insurance mandate. "Voters in Arizona, Colorado and Oklahoma will have the chance Tuesday to repudiate the new health care law's keystone provision, one that requires almost everyone to have health insurance or face a tax penalty beginning in 2014. … They echo a measure that Missouri voters approved by more than 70 percent in August. Legislatures in several other states, including Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana and Virginia, have also passed state laws with similar language" (Miles, 10/30).

NPR and KQED: "As key provisions of the new federal health law begin to take effect, the insurance commissioner will become the king of a much bigger kingdom. Voters in four states, including Georgia and California, will directly elect an insurance chief on Tuesday. And in nearly three dozen other states, whoever is elected governor will name the commissioner. … They're also helping to write the regulations for their own expanded powers. Congress left it up to an obscure group - the National Association of Insurance Commissioners - to essentially decide critical details, such as what health plans can claim as actual medical care vs. administration and profit. … All of which means state insurance chiefs could very well play a key role in whether the federal health overhaul flies or flops" (Varney, 11/1).

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