KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: August 22, 2012

Today's headlines swirl around the politics of abortion and Medicare. 

The New York Times: Patients Would Pay More If Romney Restores Medicare Savings, Analysts Say
Mitt Romney's promise to restore $716 billion that he says President Obama "robbed" from Medicare has some health care experts puzzled, and not just because his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan, included the same savings in his House budgets. ... While Republicans have raised legitimate questions about the long-term feasibility of the reimbursement cuts, analysts say, to restore them in the short term would immediately add hundreds of dollars a year to out-of-pocket Medicare expenses for beneficiaries. That would violate Mr. Romney's vow that neither current beneficiaries nor Americans within 10 years of eligibility would be affected by his proposal to shift Medicare to a voucherlike system in which recipients are given a lump sum to buy coverage from competing insurers (Calmes, 8/21).

The New York Times’ The Caucus: Ryan Takes To Pennsylvania To Push Medicare Message
Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin customized from his menu of attacks on President Obama to fit a full day of campaigning in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, putting state-specific numbers on his assertion that current Medicare beneficiaries will suffer benefit cuts under the 2010 health care law. "In Pennsylvania, 38 percent of Pennsylvania seniors choose to get their Medicare from a plan called Medicare Advantage," Mr. Ryan said here. "Forty-seven percent of them are going to lose it under Obamacare, according to Medicare, by 2017" (Gabriel, 8/21).

The Wall Street Journal: In Tight Race, Romney Faces Hurdles
At a time when the campaign has pivoted toward Medicare and proposals to alter the government health-care program for seniors, voters were divided over how far any overhaul should go. A majority said the system needed just minor changes or none at all, while 42% said the system needed a major or complete overhaul. But the poll found tepid support for ideas floated by Mr. Romney and his running mate to offer future seniors a guaranteed government payment that they could use to purchase private health insurance or to stay in Medicare (King and Yadron, 8/21).

The Washington Post: Seniors<3 Paul Ryan
Grandma isn't scared of Paul Ryan. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows 41 percent of Americans view the new GOP vice presidential nominee favorably, while 37 percent rate him unfavorably — slightly improved from last week's polling (Blake, 8/22).

USA Today: GOP Trying To Keep Focus On Economy Rather Than Abortion
Trying to keep the presidential contest focused on the economy rather than divisive social issues, Republican candidate Mitt Romney joined a growing GOP chorus urging a Missouri Senate candidate to quit the race after inflammatory comments about abortion and rape (Davis, 8/21).

NPR: GOP Platform Anti-Abortion Language Includes No Exceptions For Rape, Incest
With little discussion, the committee on Tuesday adopted the same anti-abortion language it included in GOP platforms in 2004 and 2008. It seeks passage of a constitutional amendment that would extend legal rights to the unborn, essentially banning abortion (Allen, 8/21).

The Washington Post: GOP Party Platform Sticks With Antiabortion Stance, Does Not Address Rape Exception
That language would appear to be incompatible with exceptions when pregnancies result from rape or incest. But the draft does not specifically address the issue of exceptions, and party leaders here said that the issue is too complex to be addressed in what is intended to be a broad statement of party principle, and that it should be left up to states in a federal system (Helderman, 8/21).

Politico: GOP Rejects Rape Exception In Platform
Even as Mitt Romney sought to quash the furor surrounding Todd Akin's "legitimate" rape comments, the Republican platform committee here approved an abortion plank that includes no exemptions for rape, incest or even to save the life of the mother. The platform committee instead approved draft language Tuesday, calling for a "Human Life Amendment" that gives legal protection to the unborn. Democrats quickly labeled the GOP language the "Akin Plank," referring to the Missouri Senate candidate's statements that victims of "legitimate rape" rarely get pregnant (Hohmann, 8/21).

The Washington Post: Akin Comments Expose GOP Rift Over Abortion
Rep. Todd Akin's controversial comments on abortion and rape — and the Missouri Republican's vow Tuesday to continue his U.S. Senate campaign — have given Democrats an opening on an issue on which they enjoy broad public support. In the past two days, party leaders in Washington and their supporters across the country have highlighted Akin's comments to try to raise money, as part of campaign pitches and to revive the "war on women" theme that emerged this year after some Republicans came out against health-care coverage for contraception (O'Keefe and Helderman, 8/21).

Politico: GOP To Akin: You’re Blowing Our Chance To Repeal 'Obamacare'
National Republicans on Tuesday gave Rep. Todd Akin another reason to back out of the Missouri Senate race: If he stays in, they say, the repeal of the health care reform law is at risk. "By staying in this race, Congressman Akin is putting at great risk many of the issues that he and others in the Republican Party are fighting for, including the repeal of Obamacare," Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in a statement (Haberkorn, 8/21).

Politico: GOP: Add Health Taxes To Fiscal Cliff Debate
Just what Congress needs during its year-end tax fight: another tussle over President Barack Obama's health care law. When lawmakers return to Washington after the November elections, some House and Senate Republicans want the party to fight to repeal billions of dollars worth of new taxes that will take effect next year to help pay for the 2010 health care overhaul (Sloan, 8/21).

Los Angeles Times: Texas Can Cut Planned Parenthood Clinic Funding, Judges Rule
Texas can cut off funds for Planned Parenthood clinics before a trial concerning the legality of its ban on funding organizations tied to abortion providers, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans lifted a federal judge's temporary injunction that had protected the funding pending an October trial (Hennessy-Fiske, 8/21).

The Associated Press/New York Times: Women's Clinics In Texas Lose Aid
A federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that Texas can end financing for Planned Parenthood clinics that provide health services to low-income women before there is a trial over a new law that bars state money from going to organizations tied to abortion providers (8/21).

The Washington Post: Republican Platform 'Salutes' Va. Abortion Law
The Republican platform that Gov. Robert F. McDonnell is helping to hammer out in Tampa contains a "salute" to states that have, like his own, passed "informed consent" laws meant to dissuade women from having abortions. Virginia's informed consent law, requiring that women seeking an abortion first undergo an ultrasound, brought unflattering national attention to Richmond this year and forced McDonnell into an awkward balancing act. Some observers think it may have cost the governor the chance to be Mitt Romney's running mate (Vozzella, 8/21).

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