KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Parsing Health And Medicare Plans Amid Campaign Promises

News outlets analyze the presidential candidates' proposals for tackling Medicare and Medicaid costs, as well as how these differing ideas are playing among voters.  

CNN Money: Election 2012: Tackling Medicare Costs
Because of demographic changes and rising health care costs, the program's spending is projected to balloon from 3.7% of the economy today to 6.7% in 25 years, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, making it the biggest driver of America's long-term budget gap. ... As House budget chairman, Ryan made his name with sweeping proposals to change Medicare, and Romney says his approach will be similar. Obama's health reform law lays out a very different blueprint for restraining costs. Analysts at the Urban Institute calculate that lifetime Medicare benefits will be worth over $500,000 for a mid-career couple today (Regnier, 10/2).

The Hill: Democrats Feel Campaign Focus On Medicare Is Paying Election Dividends
The Democrats' shifting strategy to make Medicare a central focus of the 2012 campaign appears to be paying dividends, as polls show voters — particularly in key swing states — are wary of Republican plans for the popular seniors' healthcare program. Democratic leaders had spent most of the 112th Congress focused on jobs and the economy — even downplaying Medicare's significance after the issue propelled a Democrat to a surprise House victory in a New York special election last year (Lillis, 10/2).

NPR: Democrats And Republicans Differ On Medicaid Fix
Medicaid is already the nation's largest health insurance program in terms of number of people covered: It serves nearly 1 in 5 Americans. ... Medicaid is likely to undergo a major change regardless of whether President Obama is re-elected or replaced by Republican Mitt Romney. Democrats support a much bigger program. Republicans have plans to scale it back (Rovner, 10/2).

The State (South Carolina): Election Could Impact South Carolina's $6-billion Medicaid Program
In South Carolina, the program is immense – both in dollars and impact. ... The program covers 1.1 million people, nearly a quarter of the state's population. About 58 percent of those covered are children. ... Medicaid contracts with 78 percent of the state's nursing homes and pays for 70 percent of the people in those homes. ... President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney both want to spend less on the program – but in different ways (Beam, 10/2).

The Associated Press: Governor Candidates Clash Over Health Care
New Hampshire's candidates for governor continue to spar over how to fund health care reform and the best approach to job growth in a state where employment opportunities have become stagnant. Republican Ovide Lamontagne and Democrat Maggie Hassan met Tuesday for their fourth debate at the Capitol Center for the Arts, in a 90-minute gathering sponsored by the New Hampshire Center for Nonprofits (Tuohy, 10/3).

Also in the news, the Commonwealth Fund issued a report critical of Romney's health positions - 

The Hill: Study: Obama Health Law Would 'Outperform' Romney Proposals
Mitt Romney's healthcare proposals would dramatically increase the uninsured population compared to the Affordable Care Act, according to a new study. The Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit research foundation that supports President Obama's signature reform law, evaluated the candidates' healthcare policies and found Obama's proposals "outperform" Romney's when it comes to expanding coverage and lowering costs (Viebeck, 10/2).

Medpage Today: Foundation Slams Romney Health Proposals
But the Romney campaign is discrediting the report, saying many of the assumptions used by Commonwealth are flawed. ... The report makes a set of assumptions on two key Romney proposals -- transforming Medicaid into a block grant program and providing tax advantages to people buying insurance on their own -- because details haven't been fleshed out. Because of his turning Medicaid into a block grant system, Romney's plan would actually increase the number of uninsured by 12 million by 2022, the Commonwealth Fund study found (Pittman, 10/2).

And a small business group decries what it views as the health law's very heavy tax burden -

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Small Businesses To Be Hit By Health Tax, Group Says
Small businesses will bear the brunt of a tax on insurance companies aimed at helping to pay for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, members of a national business group said Tuesday at two informal meetings in the Richmond area. The Health Insurance Tax, scheduled to go into effect in 2014, looks like it will penalize health insurance companies, said Nicole Riley, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business. "But frankly, it will just be a pass through" to employers and then consumers, Riley said (Blackwell and Martz, 10/3).

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