KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Races Tighten Over Health Overhaul Issues As Clock Ticks Down To Midterm Elections

Races around the nation are being scrutinized for what the outcomes might mean for the health overhaul after next week's midterm elections.

Politico: "Six months ago, the midterm elections were expected to hinge on the recently-passed health care reform legislation, which had awoken a contingent of anti-big government conservatives. Since then, the economy and job creation has taken its place as the prime issue in races across the country. Health took a backseat, but it never went away." Politico is watching races in Wisconsin and North Dakota as key ones for what happens to the nation's overhaul after elections next Tuesday. "If Republicans win a commanding majority of the House on Tuesday, as expected, Democrats are likely to publicly question whether passing the health reform legislation was worth it. Health reform has played a more prominent role in some races more than others. The results here could send signals for how lawmakers and 2012 candidates implement and talk about the health care law" (Haberkorn, 10/29).

The Hill's Healthwatch Blog: Outside groups are getting in on influencing elections and, as a result, the future of the health overhaul. "A conservative group critical of the Democrats' healthcare reform law has collected 1 million signatures calling for its repeal, the group announced Thursday. Revere America, a Washington-based conservative group named after the Revolution-era hero, has posted its petition online, calling for 'the repeal and replacement of this law with responsible reforms.'" The group is headed by former New York Gov. George Pataki, a Republican (Lillis, 10/28).

Los Angeles Times: In the meantime, GOP Senate candidate Carly Fiorina is having her proposals to repeal the law blasted by "left-leaning" experts who "signed a one-page statement defending the new law and criticizing" proposals Fiorina has made. "Fiorina said last week that she would support giving all Americans tax incentives to shop for their own insurance in place of the current system in which most Americans get their health benefits through work. She has said this system would allow employees to 'own' their health benefits." Among the signers of a letter critical of Fiorina are David Cutler, who advised Obama in 2008, and Jonathan Gruber, who worked with the administration on the health law (Levey, 10/28).

The Hill's Healthwatch Blog, in a separate story: Democrats themselves are saying they "bent too far" to pass the health law. "Agreements cut with individual lawmakers and various health industry groups represented a compromise of principles that ultimately made voters suspicious of the bill, [Rep. Joe Sestak] said Wednesday, without offering specifics. And launching the trouble, he said, was the party shift of Sen. Arlen Specter (D), who was defeated by Sestak in the Democratic primary earlier this year" (Lillis, 10/28).

The Atlantic: "A new Harvard poll of registered voters documents just how highly partisan the debate over health care reform has become among those who expect to vote in the midterm congressional elections next week. Eight out of 10 of those who intend to vote Republican oppose the health care bill passed earlier this year, and seven out of 10 of them want it repealed or substantially dismantled. And yes, the flip side is also true - more than seven out of 10 voters likely to vote Democratic favor the reforms powered through by the Democrat-controlled Congress and signed into law by President Obama on March 23." The poll was conducted by Bob Blendon at Harvard and appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine (Russell, 10/28).

Fox News: Still Democrats are having their message diluted as Obama campaigns with his base. "The choice of non-political events the president has selected this campaign season doesn't appear to be doing hopeful Democrats any favors. And with the House expected to lose anywhere from 45-60 Democratic seats to Republicans and the Senate likely to turn a handful or more seats to the GOP, according to the latest polling prognosticators, the president already is setting the bar low for the next two years" (10/28).

The Charleston (W. Va.) Gazette: However, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W. Va., is confident that his constituents will benefit from the health law. Others in the state aren't so convinced. "Rockefeller declined to comment on remarks Gov. Joe Manchin has made about health care reform as Manchin campaigns for U.S. Senate, but said he believes the governor will win the election next week. Manchin, who once supported the health-care package, now says he wouldn't have voted for the legislation. In a recent TV ad, Manchin also pledged to 'repeal the bad parts of Obamacare' if elected" (Knezevich, 10/28).

The Kansas City Star: Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., is meanwhile telling voters in his bid for governor of Kansas, that the health law will cost $2.6 trillion, "a price that wildly inflates the official estimate." Brownback says the government is spending in the law $8,470 for every Kansan, but that ignores the projection from the Congressional Budget Office that the law will pay for itself "in the long run. ... The CBO concluded that, while the law will cost $940 billion over the next 10 years, it will reduce the deficit by $140 billion over the same period. That is because without the new law, costs for Medicaid and Medicare would grow much faster" (Klepper, 10/28).

Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner: "Gov. Sean Parnell responded Thursday to criticism that he's dragged his feet instead of implementing federal health care reform at the state level, saying he 'won't buy' into the reform until legal challenges shake out. Challenger and former state Rep. Ethan Berkowtiz said the state should pursue more options available through the reform plan while continuing to sue, with other states, over its individual mandate" (Eshleman, 10/29).

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