KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

At Six Month Anniversary, Obama Touts Benefits Of Health Care Law

The Washington Post: "Six rocky months after winning passage of the landmark health-care law, President Obama celebrated the half-year mark by holding a sunny backyard get-together in the Virginia suburbs with a sampling of Americans from across the country who he said are already benefitting. … With polls showing the public ambivalent about the law, and Democrats in some districts taking a beating for supporting it, many prefer to keep the focus on jobs and other economic issues. The president, too, seemed keen to counter the belief of some that health care distracted him from what many voters view as the most pressing concern: turning around the economy. … But he argued that addressing the high cost and limited accessibility of health care was just as fundamental to the nation's fiscal health" (Aizenman and Kornblut, 9/23).

Los Angeles Times: "'Obviously, the economy has been uppermost on our minds,' Obama told a small gathering Wednesday at the home of a Virginia man who suffers from hemophilia and hit a lifetime limit in his private health insurance coverage. But the president said he felt he had to do more than end the economic contraction. 'Healthcare was one of those issues that we could no longer ignore. … We said we have to take this on,' he said, citing stories of people going bankrupt because of their medical bills. 'We are now actually able to provide some help to the American people'" (Levy, 9/22).

The Wall Street Journal: "Republicans have said they want to repeal the health-care law or chip away at certain provisions because they say it will only drive up costs to consumers. Mr. Obama warned Republicans against such a move, saying they will have to look voters in the eye who have benefited from the law. Citing statistics from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, he said the law will lower health-care costs and the federal budget deficit over the next 20 years" (Favole, 9/23).

The Christian Science Monitor: "Taken separately, all [the provisions that go into effect today] are popular. But opponents of so-called 'Obama-care' have pounded away at the individual mandate to carry coverage (the subject of the lawsuits) and various fears: that people will be forced to change doctors, that the cost of health-care premiums will skyrocket, and that the cost of reform will burden the federal government with higher deficits and debt. Obama maintains that none of those concerns will come to pass. … On Wednesday, the White House also unveiled a new website, which explains the new law and contains the stories of Americans from all 50 states who are benefiting from it" (Feldmann, 9/22). 

The New York Times: "As Wednesday's event made clear, little of what Mr. Obama does is truly unscripted. Thursday marks six months since the signing of his landmark health bill, and is the day many of its most popular provisions go into effect. Half the guests were neighbors of [Paul and Frances Brayshaw]; the other half - who, along with the president, did all the talking - were handpicked by the administration and came from around the country to share exactly the kind of stories the White House wants to tell, personal tales of how the bill had improved their lives. … The White House says that Wednesday's event was the exception, and that the other backyard visits will feature guests picked by the homeowner, along with some local elected officials. … One complaint that many Democrats ... have about Mr. Obama is that he often comes off looking professorial and distant" (Stolberg, 9/22).

NPR: "When the law was passed it was controversial, but the White House assumed once people got to know what was in the bill it would get more popular. But that turned out to be a big miscalculation. ... The argument against the bill -- that it's too expensive, too intrusive and it won't control costs -- is swaying voters. And especially in a bad economy, it fits perfectly into an anti-big-government narrative. One of the problems is that right now, insurers in a lot of states are raising premiums. And whether it's true or not, the insurance companies are blaming the price hikes on the new law" (Liasson, 9/22).

Politico: "Rarely have so many political strategists been so wrong about something so big. But when it comes to the health care bill, everyone from former President Bill Clinton on down whiffed on some of the more significant predictions. Democrats would run aggressively on the legislation? Nope. Voters would forget about the sausage-making aspects of the legislative process? Doesn't seem that way, as the process contributed to the sense that the bill was deeply flawed. And Clinton's own promise to jittery Democrats that their poll numbers would skyrocket after the bill finally passed also didn't pan out, as the party is fighting for its life in the midterms. At the six-month mark, the law remains a riddle for political analysts, lawmakers and the White House" (Budoff Brown, 9/22).

Atlanta Journal Constitution: "With elections less than six weeks away, top Democrats on Wednesday sought to show the country that their plan to overhaul health care is working, while Republicans, led in part by members of Georgia's congressional delegation, begged to differ. The House GOP Doctors Caucus, co-chaired by U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey of Marietta, slammed the health care legislation and vowed to seek its repeal if Republicans take over Congress after November. 'We're here today to say to the president that the American people do not want this bill -- they never wanted it,' Gingrey said at a news conference. 'It is time to ... repeal this bill and start over'" (Keefe, 9/22).

The Washington Times: "President Obama acknowledged Wednesday that Republicans' push to repeal the health care overhaul is good politics for the GOP, but said such a move would cause people to lose insurance they've gained under the law over the past six months. ... For now, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele said health care 'is undeniably radioactive' for Democrats and House Republicans are campaigning ahead of November's elections on promises to repeal the law or at least starve the administration of funds to continue implementing it. … A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll taken last week found 44 percent supported repealing the law and 43 percent opposed that course of action. Even some conservative-leaning congressional Democrats are campaigning against the health care law" (Dinan, 9/22).

Reuters: "'Sometimes I fault myself for not being able to make the case more clearly to the country,' Obama told the audience of about 30 people. ... Obama challenged Republicans to acknowledge the consequences for ordinary Americans of paring back the plan. 'I want them to look you in the eye and say, "Sorry, Gail, you can't buy health insurance;" or, "Sorry, little Wes, he's going to be excluded when it comes to an eye operation that he might have to get in the future,"' Obama said" (Zengerle, 9/22).

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