In Florida, GOP Presidential Hopefuls Wrestle With Health Policy Issues
The candidates appear to be proceeding with caution regarding politically risky plans to overhaul Medicare while painting opponents in a harsh light.
Reuters: In Retiree-Heavy Florida, Health Reform Not A Popular Topic
There's one small-government idea that Republican presidential candidates are reluctant to discuss in this retiree-heavy state: their plans to rein in health care costs for the elderly. Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, front-runners for the Republican nomination to face Democratic President Barack Obama on November 6, both support reforms to the Medicare government health insurance program for the elderly that could help set federal spending on a sustainable course. But the idea risks alienating the elderly voters who dominate the party's nominating process and are happy with the current program (Sullivan, 1/27).
The Boston Globe: Fla. Seniors Hear Little From Candidates On Entitlements
At the Senior Friendship Center, a bustling hub tucked amid palm fronds and azaleas where elders gather to socialize, exercise, and seek medical care, political banter is interwoven with gentle ribbing and flagrant flirting. When talk turned to Medicare and Social Security in the days leading up to tomorrow’s Florida Republican primary, this critical voting bloc voiced disappointment that the issues disproportionately affecting seniors have been notably absent from debates and candidates’ stump speeches here. Most older voters say they don't know what distinguishes the GOP contenders from each other when it comes to the future of the two programs (Jan, 1/30).
Kaiser Health News: Capsules: South Fla. Jewish Republicans See Little To Like In Health Law
In interviews with nearly a dozen Republican seniors attending the rally in this heavy Jewish retirement area known for golf courses, kosher delis and 'early bird' specials, most like Cestari said health care is a key issue, but they acknowledged they knew little about how the law affects them — or about Republicans' plans to curb Medicare spending (Galewitz, 1/29).
Boston Globe: Gingrich Appeals For Support As Vote Nears
Newt Gingrich attempted to draw a starker ideological divide between himself and Mitt Romney today, as time dwindled for the former House speaker to retake the momentum before Tuesday's crucial Republican presidential primary in Florida. ... "We need somebody who can draw a sharp distinction" against President Obama, Gingrich said, suggesting the former Bay State governor would have difficulty differentiating his policies from those of the president, especially on health care (Calvan, 1/29).
Boston Globe: Romney Leads In Fla., But Obstacles Loom Large
At the same time, analysts said, the Gingrich campaign has positioned itself slightly to the left of Romney on issues that are important to key groups of Floridians, including Medicare and immigration. ... For example, Gingrich courted senior citizens in the debate last Monday when he boasted about his role pushing for passage of a Medicare program that helped senior citizens buy prescription drugs, known as Part D (Kranish, 1/29).
The Hill: GOP Opponents' Attacks On Romney Health Care Fail To Land A Blow
The most forceful attack on Mitt Romney's healthcare record may have come too late to make a difference in the Republican presidential race. Although Romney has faced questions and skepticism about healthcare throughout the campaign, none of his rivals mounted the kind of aggressive, sustained indictment that former Sen. Rick Santorum (Penn.) launched into during Thursday night's debate. "It was as deep as any of the criticism Gov. Romney has faced from any of the other candidates since the day he got into the race," said Republican strategist Kevin Madden, who is a Romney supporter (Baker, 1/27).
The Washington Post's The Fact Checker: Mitt Romney And Charges Of Medicare Fraud
Winning Our Future, a Super PAC supporting Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, has released another attack on rival Mitt Romney's business practices. A one-minute "trailer" and a 30-second TV ad that amplify the themes of corporate malfeasance accompany the nearly eight-minute video, "Blood Money." (The title refers to the fact that a company once partly owned by Bain Capital, Romney's firm, was found guilty of charging Medicare for unnecessary blood tests) (Kessler, 1/30).
The Hill: Gingrich, Democrats Criticize Romney Links To Medicare Fraud
Democrats, unions and Newt Gingrich's supporters have ramped up efforts over the past week to tie Mitt Romney to Medicare fraud allegations against a company Bain Capital controlled two decades ago. The effort aims to harm Romney on two levels ahead of Tuesday's crucial Florida primary. It links him to the massive fraud that's slowly bankrupting a Medicare program millions of Florida seniors rely on, while tying him to Florida GOP Gov. Rick Scott, whose popularity has sunk in polls (Pecquet, 1/27).
CNN: Romney Faces Medicare Attacks In Florida
The morning after a heated CNN/Florida Republican Party debate in Jacksonville, a pro-Gingrich super PAC hit the airwaves with a television ad essentially accusing Romney of committing Medicare fraud. One of Gingrich's top Florida backers, former state Attorney General Bill McCollum, also raised questions about Romney's past service on the board of Damon Corp., a Massachusetts medical testing company that pleaded guilty in 1996 to billing Medicare fraudulently and paid a $119 million fine. Romney was never implicated in any wrongdoing, but the issue is "fair game" and "raises a serious question about (Romney's) corporate judgment," McCollum said (Silverleib, 1/27).
Also, reports from the Obama camp -
Boston Globe: Patrick Key To President Obama's Campaign
As Romney’s successor, [Gov. Deval] Patrick has special status as a surrogate campaigner for Obama: He worked in the aftermath of Romney's policies, for the good or the bad. Patrick can speak firsthand about the similarities of "Romneycare" and "Obamacare," because he was left to implement the state law. Governors also have special clout on the trail because they are executives, charged with making decisions and being directly accountable for the results (Johnson, 1/29).
And, reporting on how Medicare is playing in a specific congressional election -
Bloomberg: Oregon Race Previews Medicare As Sleeper Issue In Campaign
The two political parties are test-marketing their strategies for the presidential campaign and congressional races in a special election in Oregon. Republican candidate Rob Cornilles in ads is accusing Democrat Suzanne Bonamici of seeking to cut Medicare benefits for seniors because she supports President Barack Obama's 2010 health law. The Democratic campaign arm has linked Cornilles with a plan by House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, to create Medicare vouchers that passed the U.S. House last April (Przbyla, 1/30).
Finally, the Massachusetts health law gets more scrutiny -
Politico Pro: Making 'Romneycare' Fit In 'Obamacare'
It's something supporters of President Barack Obama's health reform law will say again and again: The health care overhaul put into place in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney is the big (but smaller) sister of the federal law. His rivals for the Republican presidential nomination like to say it, too. But that doesn't mean Romney's law gets to stay just like it was, just because it got there first. It still has to conform to the federal law, and that won't exactly be an easy lift (Nocera, 1/30).
Politico Pro: Terminology Muddies Health Care Attack
Did Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum misspeak when he said the number of "free riders" in Massachusetts has increased "fivefold" under former Gov. Mitt Romney's overhaul of the commonwealth's health care system? Hard to tell. Like a lot of campaign talk, it comes down to semantics. The term "free rider" usually describes individuals who are uninsured and who get their health care free. That can shift costs to everyone else — taxpayers as well as insured people whose premiums go up. In health reform legislation, in both the national and Massachusetts laws, "free riders" has a different meaning. There, the term describes people who decide to "go bare." Instead of purchasing insurance, they opt to pay a fine — usually a percentage of the cost of coverage for a low-tiered package. Either way, Santorum's comment, directed to Romney during Thursday night's debate in Florida, deserves a closer look (DoBias, 1/27).