KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: May 12, 2011

Today's headlines include reports about the upcoming speech by GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, during which he is expected to confront what many say is his main vulnerability: his home state's health reform.

Kaiser Health News:  A Success Story: Expanding Health Care Options For Detroit's Poor – The KHN Interview
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jenny Gold spoke with Dr. Herbert Smitherman, assistant dean of community and urban health at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit. One of the key features of the new health law is expanding health coverage to 33 million Americans who currently have no insurance, and helping the uninsured and underserved find health care has been one of his long-time goals (Gold, 5/12).

Kaiser Health News: The Health Law, Planned Parenthood … And Slavery
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz reports on a debate that occurred Wednesday during a Capitol Hill hearing: "'Do you feel like a slave?' That's certainly a question Dana Kraus, a Vermont family doctor, probably didn't expect at a Senate subcommittee hearing today on the issue of how to reduce the unnecessary use of hospital emergency rooms. But that's what Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., asked her as the hearing turned into a philosophical debate between the socialist Sanders and conservative Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., over whether health care was a 'right' for all Americans" (Galewitz, 5/11).

Kaiser Health News Guest Opinion: Dispatch From Los Angeles: Cockroaches, Podiatrists And Fears About Medicaid's Future
In his latest Kaiser Health News column, Jonathan Cohn writes: "I'll never forget the first time I visited the St. John's Well Child and Family Center about seven years ago, because it's the first time I heard about a grisly intruder pediatricians sometimes find in young children's ears: Cockroaches" (5/11).

The Washington Post: Fla. Pilot Program To Cut Medicaid Costs Raises New Questions
To visit the low-rise medical offices dotting the sun-bleached highways of Broward County is to meet doctors and patients who complain of being guinea pigs in a social experiment gone wrong. They are part of a five-year pilot program designed to test whether Florida can reduce spending on Medicaid, the public insurance program for the poor and disabled, by largely turning the program over to for-profit HMOs. Success would mean getting a handle on one of the fastest-growing and most vexing expenditures confronting states. But it's unclear whether the pilot, which is also underway in four other counties, has achieved that (Aizenman, 5/11).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Boehner Talks Tough On Spending Cuts, Seeking Leverage In Showdown Over Raising Debt Ceiling
But allies say Boehner had multiple motivations for insisting on trillions of dollars in spending cuts, and no tax increases, as the price for rounding up enough votes to allow more borrowing and prevent the country from defaulting on its debt. For one thing, public opposition has forced Republicans to de-emphasize their proposals to convert Medicare to a less costly voucher program. A more adamant stand on spending cuts could help compensate for that setback, according to members of both parties (5/11).

Politico: Republicans Set Stage For Major Cuts In 2012
Picking up where April's budget agreement left off, House Republicans outlined plans Wednesday to cut another $45.7 billion from domestic spending and foreign aid next year, an 11 percent reduction designed to roll back appropriations to the levels set prior to the Democratic victories in the 2006 elections. Labor, health and education programs, the heart of President Barack Obama's domestic agenda, would be hardest hit - an $18.2 billion cut from 2011 levels and more than $41 billion or 23 percent from his 2012 request (Rogers, 5/11).

The New York Times: Critical Letter By Catholics Cites Boehner On Policies
The letter writers criticize Mr. Boehner's support for a budget that cut financing for Medicare, Medicaid and the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program, while granting tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations. They call such policies "anti-life," a particularly biting reference because the phrase is usually applied to politicians and others who support the right to abortion (Goodstein, 5/11).

The Washington Post: Catholic Faculty Question Boehner's Record On Poor Before Commencement Address
The letter does not protest Boehner's visit or ask the school to rescind its invitation, but urges him to "reawaken your familiarity" with church teaching on the subject of poverty. It focuses on the 2012 budget Boehner is shepherding, criticizing it for cuts that would hurt the poor and are "particularly cruel to pregnant women and children" (Boorstein, 5/11).

Los Angeles Times: Massachusetts Health Reform A Double-Edged Sword For Romney
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was all smiles in 2006 as he marched into historic Faneuil Hall behind a fife and drum corps and ascended a giant stage festooned with a banner that proclaimed "Making History in Healthcare." Five years later, that achievement is still being celebrated here by doctors, hospitals, business leaders and community advocates who credit the law with ensuring that fewer than 2% of the state's residents are uninsured, compared with more than 15% nationally. Yet the Massachusetts milestone has emerged as perhaps Romney's biggest obstacle to securing the Republican nomination for president in 2012 (Levey, 5/11).

The Associated Press: Romney Tackling Health Care Vulnerability
Mitt Romney waited until weeks before GOP primary voting began in 2008 to address a big vulnerability in his quest for the presidency - his Mormon faith. Advisers now say that was too late to answer voter skepticism. This time, Romney is tackling an enormous weakness head-on at the outset of his campaign for president: a health care overhaul that he signed into law as Massachusetts governor and that became a model for President Barack Obama's national measure (Elliott, 5/12).

The Wall Street Journal: Romney Aims To Inoculate Himself On Health Care
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Thursday will address his most glaring political liability-his work as governor to establish universal health-care coverage in Massachusetts-in a speech aides say will attempt to shift attention to how he would replace President Barack Obama's health-care law (Weisman and O'Connor, 5/12).

USA Today: Romney Wants To Talk About Health Plans
No, not the health care overhaul he signed as governor of Massachusetts a decade ago. That law now looms as one of the biggest hurdles in his quest for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 because President Obama and others cite it as a model for the federal plan enacted last year - a measure the GOP now vilifies (Page, 5/11).

Politico: What Mitt Romney's Health-Care Speech Needs To Say
Finally, Mitt Romney will confront his ghosts. Romney hasn't formally announced he's running for president yet he'll deliver a health care speech Thursday that could determine the fate of his expected campaign for the Republican nomination (Hunt, 5/12).

Politico: For GOP Freshman, The Shoe's On The Other Foot With Medicare
Politicians usually don't begin press conferences with an admission of guilt. But that's exactly what happened Wednesday, when freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) called on the president to condemn the scare tactics Democrats have used against Republicans on Medicare - the same type of attacks Republicans used against Democrats throughout the 2010 campaign that helped put many of the GOP freshmen in office (Cogan, 5/11).

The Wall Street Journal: Reforms Prod Insurers To Diversify
Major U.S. health insurers, including Aetna Inc., Humana Inc. and WellPoint Inc., are retooling to become more than just health plans, in the wake of the federal health-care overhaul that is changing the rules for the industry's core business (Johnson, 5/12).

The Associated Press: Census Shows Age Gap Widening Among US Regions
Driven by immigrants and young people moving to the South and West and older Americans who stay put elsewhere, the age gap between regions in the U.S. has grown to its widest level in decades, sharpening the divides on hot-button issues such as immigration and changes to Medicare (Yen, 5/12).

Check out all of Kaiser Health News' e-mail options including First Edition and Breaking News alerts on our Subscriptions page.

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.