First Edition: October 29, 2012

Today's headlines include reports about how the presidential election's outcome could impact the insurance industry as well as the fate of people who are sick or uninsured.

Kaiser Health News: How The Individual Mandate Penalty Will Be Calculated (Video)
In this Kaiser Health News video, Insuring Your Health columnist Michelle Andrews answers a reader question about the requirement to carry health insurance in 2014 and the options for subsidized coverage (10/28). Watch the video.

Kaiser Health News also tracked weekend health policy headlines, including details from a Food and Drug Administration report showing what the New England Compounding Center knew about its contamination problems (10/27) and the Obama administration efforts to ready two national health insurance plans, as called for by the 2010 health law (10/28).

The Washington Post: WaPo-ABC Track: 49 Romney, 48 Obama, Three Days Running
For the third consecutive day of the Washington Post-ABC News national tracking poll, a single -; statistically insignificant -; percentage point separates the two presidential contenders: 49 percent of likely voters back Republican Mitt Romney, and 48 percent support President Obama. The parity in the contest shows up elsewhere as well: the two candidates are just two points apart when it comes to dealing with taxes, and they are three points apart on health care policy. The poll's margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for the sample of 1,278 likely voters (Cohen, 10/29).

Los Angeles Times: As Romney Edges Toward Moderation, Ryan Takes A Lower Profile
Ryan hasn't necessarily persuaded Romney advisors that he should be front and center, said Goldstein, the professor. "It seems to me that there have been a number of instances where his campaign has drawn some big negative attention," he said. There's Ryan's budget plan, which would have changed the way Medicare was administered, questions about the accuracy of many statements in his convention speech, his misstatement of his time in a marathon and his co-sponsorship of a "personhood" bill with Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri (Semuels, 10/28).

Los Angeles Times: Election May Determine Fate Of Sick, Uninsured Americans
(Jode) Towe is one of nearly 50 million people in the United States who don't have health coverage. Close to 30 million have been uninsured for at least a year, according to the Commonwealth Fund, a New York healthcare foundation. Many of the uninsured are young, healthy or don't want insurance. About one-fifth aren't citizens. Millions, however, are like Towe: sick and unable to afford the medical care they need. The fate of these Americans -; at the heart of the nation's tortured, decades-long debates over healthcare -; is now bound up with the outcome of the presidential election (Levey, 10/28).

The Associated Press: Insurers Nervous Over Prospect Of Romney Victory
You'd think health insurance CEOs would be chilling the bubbly with Republican Mitt Romney's improved election prospects, but instead they're in a quandary. Although the industry hates parts of President Barack Obama's health care law, major outfits such as UnitedHealth Group and BlueCross Blue Shield also stand to rake in billions of dollars from new customers who'll get health insurance under the law. The companies already have invested tens of millions to carry it out. Were Romney elected, insurers would be in for months of uncertainty as his administration gets used to Washington and tries to make good on his promise repeal Obama's law (Alonso-Zaldivar, 10/28).

The New York Times: Des Moines Register Endorses Romney
Mitt Romney won the endorsement of The Des Moines Register on Saturday evening, becoming the first Republican presidential candidate to capture the newspaper's recommendation to Iowa voters since Richard Nixon in 1972 (Zeleny, 10/27).

NPR: Iraq Vet Takes On Tea-Party Incumbent In Fiery Illinois House Race
The Tea Party favorite's bombastic rants frequently get him into trouble, even with members of his own party, and Walsh is facing a tough Democratic opponent in Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth, who lost both of her legs in combat. When the two political opponents get together, it doesn't take long for the fireworks to begin. They've battled over spending cuts, taxes, Medicare, social security, and in a recent debate on public television, Walsh's opposition to abortion, without exception (Schaper, 10/28).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: Spending By Outside Groups Rocks Many House Races
Rep. Dan Lungren knows what it's like to have a big bull's eye plastered on his back. The Democratic Party and labor and environmental groups have spent $4.7 million on TV commercials and other efforts to unseat the nine-term Republican congressman from California. That makes him one of the biggest targets of outside groups, which are throwing unprecedented sums of money into House races this year. "I don't recognize the person they're portraying," Lungren said about the ads that paint him as an ally of Wall Street and enemy of Medicare and abortion rights. He added, "Yeah, these ads have a considerable impact" (10/27).

The New York Times: Missouri Senate Poll Shows McCaskill's Lead Narrowing
The Missouri Senate race has narrowed to a dead heat, according to a new poll released on Saturday, a drastic turnaround since Representative Todd Akin, the Republican challenging incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill, upended the race with controversial comments about rape two months ago. ... The economy, jobs, healthcare and Medicare were the most important issues for 63 percent of voters who had made up their minds, according to the poll. Mr. Akin's rape remarks were either somewhat important or very important to 53 percent of decided voters, the poll said (Eligon, 10/27).

The New York Times: U.S. Set To Sponsor Health Insurance
The Obama administration will soon take on a new role as the sponsor of at least two nationwide health insurance plans to be operated under contract with the federal government and offered to consumers in every state. These multistate plans were included in President Obama's health care law as a substitute for a pure government-run health insurance program -; the public option sought by many liberal Democrats and reviled by Republicans. Supporters of the national plans say they will increase competition in state health insurance markets, many of which are dominated by a handful of companies (Pear, 10/27).

The New York Times: What Medicare Will Cover Even If You're Not Likely To Get Better
But after the settlement of a landmark class-action lawsuit this week, Medicare will soon begin paying more often for physical, occupational and other therapies for large numbers of people with certain disabilities and chronic conditions like Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease. The two questions patient advocates were left with this week were just how many people may benefit from the clarification of the regulations and how quickly (Lieber, 10/26).

NPR: Pricey New Prostate Cancer Therapy Raises Questions About Safety, Cost
Because proton therapy can be targeted much more precisely, it should minimize any damage to sensitive nerves and tissue around the prostate. The hope is that it translates into far fewer side effects, such as impotence and incontinence. But proton therapy has become the center of an intense debate. Critics say it's an example of a big problem with the U.S. health system: Doctors start using expensive new treatments before anyone knows whether they work, whether they're safe, and whether they're worth the extra money (Stein, 10/29).

Los Angeles Times: Planned Parenthood Battles Texas In Court Over Funding
Planned Parenthood and Texas officials are headed back to court in early November, the latest round of legal wrangling in a fight over funding. On Friday, a Texas district court judge in Austin issued a temporary restraining order barring Texas officials from eliminating Planned Parenthood from the Women's Health Program if they continue to accept federal funds (Hennessey-Fiske, 10/26).

Los Angeles Times: Crucial Test For An Outpost Of Healthcare In South L.A.
Nonprofit community clinics like this one in South Los Angeles are part of medical safety net created a generation ago to help fill the unmet needs of poor, uninsured and chronically ill patients in struggling rural and urban communities. With the major elements of President Obama's healthcare reform set to begin in 2014, they are being tested like never before. There are 1,250 federally funded clinics nationwide that provide healthcare and social assistance, surviving on a mix of grants, fundraising and reimbursements from government insurance plans (Gorman, 10/28).

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from 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.



The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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