KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: May 24, 2011

Today's headlines include reports about the Senate's upcoming vote on the House-passed GOP budget, the run-up to today's special congressional election in New York and details on the Medicare positions being taken by Republican presidential hopefuls.

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Many On-The-Job Clinics Offer Primary Care
In her latest Kaiser Health News consumer column, Michelle Andrews writes: "Day in and day out, workers troop into the office, spending the better part of their waking hours there. What better place to have medical staff on hand, not only to treat sore throats and cut fingers but also to help employees stay healthy by offering on-site preventive tests and screenings, and health coaching to encourage healthful habits?" (Andrews, 5/24).

Kaiser Health News: GOP Pushes To Let States Reduce Medicaid Rolls
Kaiser Health News staff writers Mary Agnes Carey and Phil Galewitz report: "With their proposal to turn Medicaid into block grants all but dead, Republicans now are pushing legislation to let states tighten eligibility rules for the health program for the poor and disabled" (Carey and Galewitz, 5/23).

Kaiser Health News (Video): Democrats Push Senate Budget Vote On GOP Medicare Plan
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey talks with Jackie Judd about Democratic efforts to get Senate Republicans on the record regarding an increasingly unpopular GOP budget that includes big changes to Medicare. A vote is scheduled this week. The move is seen by some as a strictly political step that won't bring lawmakers closer to agreement on a budget. A transcript is also available (5/23).

The New York Times: Pawlenty Declares Candidacy And Takes On Politically Popular Programs
Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota formally opened his bid for the Republican presidential nomination on Monday and presented himself as a candidate willing to confront tough political choices, pledging to reinvent or dismantle programs like ethanol subsidies, Medicare and Social Security to address the nation's fiscal burdens (Zeleny, 5/23).

The Washington Post: Tim Pawlenty Announces Presidential Bid, Offers Himself As Alternative To Romney
 In formally announcing his campaign here, Pawlenty sought to command the space that Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels would have occupied had he decided to run. The former Minnesota governor cast himself as a serious candidate for serious times and presented a bold agenda to substantially scale back the role of government. Pawlenty said he would downsize or eliminate popular programs, including gradually raising the retirement age for Social Security, overhauling Medicare and phasing out ethanol subsidies - not normally a popular position in this farm-heavy state (Rucker, 5/23).

The Wall Street Journal: Pawlenty Goes On Offense
He cast himself as a truth-teller, willing to level with the American people about the sacrifices that would be needed to tame the $1.5 trillion budget deficit and get the economy rolling. So far, Mr. Pawlenty has not laid out detailed policy on some of the issues to emerge in the current budget debate. He has yet to take a firm position on the House Republican plan to replace traditional Medicare with government-subsidized private insurance for people currently younger than 55 (Weisman, 5/24).

Los Angeles Times: Scott Brown Won't Back GOP Medicare Overhaul
Republican Sen. Scott Brown has come out against Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan and its proposed overhaul of Medicare, a move that further exposes the deep divisions within the GOP over the proposal. In an Op-Ed article in Politico, Brown, from Massachusetts, said he couldn't support Ryan's plan because it would force seniors to pick up too much of the burden for rising healthcare costs (Hennessey, 5/23).

The Wall Street Journal: Second GOP Senator Opposes Medicare Plan
Sen. Scott Brown (R., Mass.), who is running for re-election next year in a heavily Democratic state, on Monday became the second Republican to announce opposition to the Medicare plan, joining Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. Mr. Brown's opposition comes a week after he was quoted in a local newspaper saying he would vote for the Ryan plan, but a spokesman said he was misinterpreted (Hook, 5/24).

The Washington Post: Gingrich: I'm Not A 'Washington Figure'
Gingrich spoke on the heels of a 17-city kickoff tour of Iowa that was overshadowed by his controversial remarks one week ago about the Republican plan to overhaul Medicare. On Monday, Gingrich continued his effort to explain the remarks, insisting that voters outside of Washington understood what he was trying to say. … Gingrich acknowledged that he bore some responsibility for the controversy that erupted when he called the Medicare proposal, championed by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), an example of "right-wing social engineering" (Gardner, 5/23).

Politico: GOP Braces For Medicare Blowback
This week, an off-year special election in Buffalo and a purely symbolic vote in the Senate might tell Republicans all they need to know about the mercurial politics of Medicare reform (Haberkorn and Bresnahan, 5/24).

The Associated Press: Medicare Top Issue In NY House Special Election
The 26th Congressional District, which covers a swath of rural and suburban towns between Buffalo and Rochester, is among the most conservative in the state and one of only four that favored Republican John McCain over President Barack Obama in 2008. But Corwin, a state assemblywoman and a multimillionaire, has seen her lead evaporate in recent weeks after expressing support for a plan crafted by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to strip billions from Medicare and recast it as a voucher program. Corwin said she supported the Ryan plan as a way to ensure the solvency of Medicare for future generations (Thompson and Fouhy, 5/23).

Los Angeles Times: New York Special Election Goes Down To The Wire
Party leaders in Washington are offering up their final spin before voters in New York's 26th congressional district head to the polls Tuesday. Depending on who's doing the talking, the special election in western New York is either evidence of voters rejecting Rep. Paul Ryan's controversial Medicare overhaul or a fluky three-way race of little national significance (Hennessey and Mascaro, 5/23).

Politico: Schumer: Medicare Vote a 'Defining Issue'
Sen. Chuck Schumer says the House budget vote this week is a lose-lose situation for Senate Republicans, promising the Democrats will make the vote a key issue in 2012. Schumer said Medicare will be a "defining issue" in 2012, pointing to the success Democrat Kathy Hochul has had in the traditionally Republican 26th House District of New York. She's up 4 points ahead of Tuesday's special election (Haberkorn, 5/23).

The Associated Press: Feds Review Ind. Law Targeting Planned Parenthood
Federal officials said Monday they're taking a hard look at a new Indiana law that withholds some public funding for Planned Parenthood of Indiana, a development that could cost the state some of its Medicaid funding. The U.S. Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services issued a statement saying it was reviewing Indiana's law and situations in other states threatening to withhold funds from abortion providers (Kusmer, 5/23).

USA Today: Abortion Rates Decline Overall, Increasing In Poor
Abortion rates fell among most groups of women between 2000 and 2008, except for those classified as poor, finds an analysis conducted by the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute and published online today in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology (Jayson, 5/23).

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