KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Races Take On Health Care Tone As Candidates Talk Overhaul

The health overhaul is making itself felt in political races around the country.

The Associated Press/Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World report on the health overhaul's role in a race for the 2nd Congressional District seat in Kansas. Democrat Cheryl Hudspeth is running against incumbent Republican Lynn Jenkins and Libertarian Robert Garrard there. "Jenkins has been critical of the 2010 health care reform bill championed by Obama and the Democrats. She, like a majority of conservatives in Congress, want to see the act de-funded, repealed and replaced with alternatives. Among the biggest complaints is that the act is too onerous for small businesses and will stymie growth as the nation's economic recovery limps along. … Hudspeth isn't a cheerleader for the health care act either, but says it needs time to be implemented and the bugs worked out, much as it took a decade or more to refine Social Security and Medicare" (Milburn, 10/20).

ABC News: "These days, you don't hear many embattled Democrats praising the President, the health care bill, or the Congressional leadership. But that's exactly what Governor Ted Strickland, D-OH, did" when he was interviewed. Strickland is in a tough reelection battle against former Republican Rep. John Kasich, "who leads Strickland 51-41 percent according to a recent Quinnipiac poll." Said Strickland: "We have received, in Ohio, about $3 billion in Medicaid resources as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Those services had been denied people who were desperately in need of Medicaid services were it not for what they did passing to healthcare reform. I think this president and the Democrats in Congress have accomplished more in the last year and a half, than many presidents accomplish through four years or even eight years of the presidency" (Karl, 10/20).

The Boston Globe: In the Massachusetts race for governor, "Republican Charles D. Baker attacked Governor Deval Patrick for cutting prescription drug assistance and driving up property taxes by slashing local aid yesterday as the candidates for governor debated in front of hundreds of senior citizens. Patrick, who blamed the recession for forcing cuts, charged that Baker was not being honest with voters about the effect his tax-cutting proposals could have on programs that serve the elderly. ... State Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill, an independent candidate ... pledged not to take away licenses from older drivers, amid a recent statewide debate over new screening procedures, and asserted that the new national health care law would lead to 'rationing' and a loss of patient choice about procedures" (Bierman and Levenson, 10/21).

In the race for Senate in Wisconsin, The Associated Press/Chicago Tribune report that "[f]ive employees at the company run by U.S. Senate hopeful Ron Johnson are on a government-funded health plan for low-income people, according to information obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press. Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold said the news is more evidence that his Republican opponent supports government aid when it helps his company, but not when it benefits others. Johnson's campaign countered that Feingold is slinging mud to deflect attention away from his record" (Ramde, 10/20).

Even the insurance commissioner race in Georgia isn't without health care controversy, Insurance Journal reports. "The candidates were asked what they think the role of state government should be in making health insurance available and affordable. [Libertarian Shane] Bruce used the question to criticize all government intrusion into the industry. 'By intervening in our state's health insurance markets, our state and federal governments have limited competition, increased prices and reduced choice." ... For [Democrat Mary] Squires, the state has a role to play in regulating health insurance products. 'The Insurance Commissioner must make sure that consumers are protected, that rates are properly regulated, and that a fair and efficient competitive environment is established and maintained,' she stated. [Republican state Sen. Ralph] Hudgens, who sponsored legislation block the federal government from forcing Georgia citizens into buying health insurance, is less concerned about the role of state government than he is about the role of the federal government. He supports letting insurers market health products across state lines" (10/20).

Kansas Health Institute News Service further examines GOP gubernatorial candidate Sam Brownback's health care claims in its latest in a series of stories. "Brownback's claim: '182,000 Kansans in the individual health insurance market will see premium rate increases of up to 49 percent based upon a BlueCross/BlueShield study and other analysis.' Insurance company officials, regulators and policy analysts agree that the health reform law will contribute to higher premiums for individual policyholders, but not to the extent claimed by the Brownback campaign" (Shields, 10/20).

(Ill.) Daily Herald: In a race for the state house in Illinois, candidates are sparring over Medicaid. "Republican incumbent Michael Connelly of Lisle, an attorney, said achieving a balanced budget will require a multiyear restructuring of Medicaid and pensions for state employees, freezing spending and conducting a forensic audit on expenditures." He wants an audit to make Medicaid in Illinois operate more efficiently. "Democratic challenger Barbara Green, a retired teacher from Lisle, agrees an audit is needed to identify wasteful spending. But she said she can't predict which programs need cutting. … Green added that she is upset by recent cuts to education and human services due to the state budget shortfall. She said she opposes a reduction in Medicaid funding" (Mistretta, 10/20).

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