First Edition: October 8, 2012

Published on October 8, 2012 at 8:02 AM · No Comments

Today's headlines include reports and analysis from the campaign trail regarding both the presidential contest as well as House and Senate races.

Kaiser Health News: Critical Decisions Await Patient, Family Members When Medicare Deadline Looms
Kaiser Health News staff writer Sarah Varney, working in collaboration with NPR, reports: "When a spouse or parent signs up for Medicare, it is often perplexing – and unnerving – for the rest of the family who may have grown used to cushy employer-sponsored coverage. For example, young adults up to age 26, who were covered under their parent's insurance, are no longer covered when their parent moves to Medicare" (Varney, 10/8). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Study: Most Seniors' ER Visits Could Be Avoided
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Phil Galewitz reports: "Nearly 60 percent of Medicare beneficiary visits to emergency rooms and 25 percent of their hospital admissions were 'potentially preventable'–  had patients received better care at home or in outpatient settings -;  according to results of a study released Friday by a congressional advisory board" (Galewitz, 10/5). Check out what else is on the blog.

Kaiser Health News also tracked weekend health policy headlines, including reports about continued fact-checking regarding GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's health care claims made during the debate (10/7) as well as scene setters for this week's vice presidential face-off (10/7).

Los Angeles Times: Obama's Healthcare Law: Historic Reform And Signature Failure
As the president seeks reelection, the Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, stands as a historic achievement, ending a decades-long quest by Democrats -; and some Republicans -; to guarantee healthcare to all Americans. At the same time, Obama's inability to bring the parties together represents a signature failure. The president, who promised to break Washington's partisan stalemate, would sign the most consequential legislation in modern history passed by only one party (Levey, 10/6).

The New York Times: Romney Works To Build Momentum In Florida, A State Critical To Victory
With polls showing the race even tighter in Florida than in other battleground states, Mr. Romney tailored his message for maximum appeal, including by painting "Obamacare" as a threat to Florida seniors who rely on Medicare. The health care overhaul would mean "$44 billion of cuts right here in Florida" to Medicare, Mr. Romney said, offering an interpretation that Democrats strongly reject. He added that about "540,000 of our seniors that have Medicare Advantage would lose Medicare Advantage here in Florida" (Gabriel, 10/7).

Los Angeles Times: Obama Chides Romney On Taxes But Acknowledges He Debated Poorly
President Obama mocked Mitt Romney on Sunday night for shifting his positions in the first nationally televised debate and added that his foe was not offering "change," but a "relapse" to failed GOP policies. … In Florida, Romney sought to appeal to moderate voters by saying that he would do everything in his power "to make us more united as a people" and that, if elected president, he would seek out Democrats as legislative partners. Romney said he would try to find like-minded Democrats in Washington to work with him on issues like education, Medicare and taxes (Memoli and Mehta, 10/7).

Los Angeles Times: Romney, Focusing On Crucial Florida, Shows A More Personal Side
Both campaigns have been appealing to seniors, who are among the highest-propensity voters here. During a visit to Jacksonville during the summer, Obama argued that Romney's vow to repeal the Democrats' new healthcare law would cause 200,000 Floridians to pay more for prescription drugs, and he accused Romney of trying to turn Medicare into a voucher program. … Romney accuses Obama of distorting his plan, noting that it would affect only those under 55, and that future seniors could choose traditional Medicare, though he has not been specific about their level of benefits. The former Massachusetts governor has focused on a $716-billion cut from Medicare to help pay for the new healthcare law (Reston, 10/6).

The Associated Press: Senate Race Ads Focus On Medicare, Obamacare, Debt
For critical Senate races, Republicans are turning to the playbook that served them so well in the 2010 elections. They're saturating the airwaves with political ads detailing the perils of "Obamacare" and the nation's growing debt. Democrats have added Medicare to the equation, trying to make the case that revamping the government health care program for older people would virtually destroy it. ...  Each state has distinct differences that shape the messages of each race (Freking, 10/7).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Medicare Joins Obamacare And Debt Issues As Fodder For Senate Campaign Ads
For critical Senate races, Republicans are turning to the playbook that served them so well in the 2010 elections. They're saturating the airwaves with political ads detailing the perils of "Obamacare" and the nation's growing debt. Democrats have added Medicare to the equation, trying to make the case that revamping the government health care program for older people would virtually destroy it (10/7).

The New York Times: A Feisty Debate Between Candidates In Connecticut Senate Race
The mutual rebukes did not let up, even as the topics wound from tax policy to Medicare to the candidates' personal finances. Each accused the other of dishonesty and of misleading voters. Several times, Ms. McMahon addressed her opponent directly, saying, "Shame on you." Mr. Murphy, for his part, called on voters to ignore advertising from the McMahon campaign that he described as "personal attacks against me and my family and my wife" (Grynbaum, 10/7).

Los Angeles Times: San Diego's Bilbray-Peters Race Reflects New State Of Politics
Much like their parties' presidential candidates, Bilbray and Peters each positions himself as the true defender of Medicare and blasts the other as supporting effectively killing the federal healthcare program for seniors. Although he avoids the word "voucher," Bilbray says it is time to give younger Americans the chance to choose their own retirement medical plan, much like members of Congress. Medicare is headed for insolvency if the Democrats get their way, Bilbray says. The budget ideas of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), the GOP's vice presidential candidate, a plan that Bilbray endorses, would leave the elderly without decent healthcare by substituting vouchers, Peters told a backyard gathering in Coronado (Perry, 10/8).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Carmona Introduces Himself As Veteran, Cop And Doctor; GOP Introduces Him As Obama's Man
Time will tell which narrative proves most powerful with the state's conservative-leaning voters, but Carmona's eye-popping resume is giving Democrats hope that they can pull an upset in Arizona and deliver a devastating blow to the GOP's prospects for winning control of the Senate. Democrats now enjoy an effective 53-47 edge in the Senate. With fewer than a dozen truly competitive races out there, flipping retiring Republican Sen. Jon Kyl's Arizona seat would make it that much more difficult for the GOP to get to a majority (10/8).

Los Angeles Times: A Sampling Of California's New Health Insurance Laws
Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law last week a set of measures aimed at preparing California for coming changes in how consumers get healthcare insurance. Some of the laws: To head off deceptive marketing attempts, AB 1761 bans unauthorized individuals and businesses from claiming to represent the California Health Benefit Exchange, the new central marketplace for buying insurance that goes into effect in 2014. Beginning in 2014, under AB 792, Californians who lose their health insurance because of job loss, divorce or legal separation will receive information about reduced-cost plans available through the health exchange and no-cost coverage from Medi-Cal (Wilson, 10/7).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: DC To Merge Individual Insurance Market With Small Businesses Under New Health Care Law
Small businesses in Washington will be required to buy employee health insurance through a city-run exchange beginning in 2014. The District of Columbia is combining its health care exchange markets for individuals and small businesses that have fewer than 50 employees. The D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority voted unanimously Wednesday to combine the health exchanges, despite opposition from businesses. Some said the exchange will lead to higher costs (10/6).

The New York Times: Scant Oversight of Drug Maker in Fatal Meningitis Outbreak
The rising toll -; 7 dead, 57 ill and thousands potentially exposed -; has cast a harsh light on the loose regulations that legal experts say allowed a company to sell 17,676 vials of an unsafe drug to pain clinics in 23 states. ... some doctors and clinics have turned away from major drug manufacturers and have taken their business to so-called compounding pharmacies, like New England Compounding, which mix up batches of drugs on their own, often for much lower prices than major manufacturers charge -; and with little of the federal oversight of drug safety and quality that is routine for the big companies Grady, Pollack and Tavernise, 10/6).


http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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