KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

In Fight For Control Of The House And The Senate, Status Quo Appears To Be Winning

News reports suggest that Republicans are likely to hold onto the majority in the House, despite Democrats' hopes around the impact of the Medicare issue, and that Democrats are likely to retain the Senate majority.

The Associated Press: GOP Likely To Hold House After $1B Campaign
In districts from one ocean to the other, Democrats have accused Republicans of trying to gut Medicare, the popular health insurance program for the elderly, and slice domestic programs like education while seeking tax cuts for the rich. They've also accused them of attacking women's rights with measures to curb abortion and cut funds for Planned Parenthood. ... The GOP has lambasted Democrats for supporting President Barack Obama's health care overhaul and other big spending programs like Obama's economic stimulus package. Democrats also are accused of cutting Medicare themselves and boosting taxes on the middle class (Fram, 11/3).

Los Angeles Times: Democrats' Hope Of Retaking House Fades In Polarized Campaign
Democratic hopes for a takeover have faded as races tightened in the final weeks. Underlying this election is a polarized political climate, as well as newly drawn congressional boundaries. The redrawn districts shored up Republican-held seats and largely ceded cities to Democrats, which has put the party on track to have the most diverse caucus ever, the first without a white-male majority (Mascaro, 11/4).

The Hill: Medicare Fades As 'Majority-Maker' Issue For House Dems
Attacking Paul Ryan's Medicare plan — once seen as the most potent weapon in House Democrats' campaign arsenal — is turning out to be a dud. Democratic leaders have hit Medicare harder than any other issue for more than a year, even calling Ryan's plan a "majority-maker." But with Election Day just around the corner, Democrats are looking at pickups in the single digits — far short of the 25 seats they would need to retake the House. Medicare simply hasn’t become the powerful tool that Democrats — and even many Republicans — expected (Baker, 11/3).

Politico: Dems' Drive To Retake House Falters
Nancy Pelosi has spent much of the past two years proclaiming that Democrats had a great shot at reclaiming the House and returning the speaker’s gavel to her hands. But her drive to regain the majority for Democrats is on the verge of a complete collapse. Democrats are expected to pick up five seats at best — a fraction of the 25 they need. On the eve of the election, some party officials are privately worried that Democrats might even lose ground and drop one or two seats to the Republican majority (Isenstadt, 11/4).

The CT Mirror: Differences Are In The Details For Hines, Obsitnik In Final Debate
In their last debate before next Tuesday's elections, 4th District Democratic Congressman Jim Himes and his Republican challenger, Steve Obsitnik, repeated the same messages they have throughout the campaign, and -- as in past debates -- struggled to define their differences. "I agree with Mr. Obsitnik on this point," was a phrase uttered a few times by Himes during the debate Friday, while Obsitnik, too, was caught more than once saying a version of "Congressman Himes said it right." The debate, sponsored by AARP, focused on Medicare and Social Security. The health care program for seniors has become a central part of the 2012 campaign across the country due to Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's controversial plan to turn it into a voucher program. But Obsitnik and Himes largely agreed Friday on how to ensure the long-term security of both Social Security and Medicare (Satija, 11/2).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Control Of Senate Could Come Down To Maine's King, An Independent Who Won't Declare Preference
Add this to your set of Election Day unknowns: Control of the United States Senate could conceivably come down to an independent candidate from Maine who has resolutely refused to say which party he'd side with if voters send him to Washington. While it's commonly accepted that Angus King, a former Democrat who supports President Barack Obama, would align with Democrats, he has refused to say. That's generated suspense and, in theory, could translate to power for King if the Senate ends up close to a 50/50 split. If one party wins a decisive majority, King could find himself with less leverage than he hoped (11/5).

Politico: Senate Appears Destined To Remain In Democratic Hands
Coming out of the final weekend of the campaign, the GOP is still widely expected to fall short Tuesday night. The three- or four-seat gain it needs to make Harry Reid minority leader no longer looks to be in the cards (Catanese, 11/4).

Politico: Claire McCaskill On Brink Of Unlikely Comeback
This wasn’t how Claire McCaskill planned to spend the final weekend of a long and grueling Senate campaign: Laying to rest her 84-year-old mother, Betty Anne, who had blazed a path for her in politics and been by her side since her first run for the statehouse three decades ago. It was the latest show of resilience by a Democratic senator who three months ago had the look of a surefire loser — before she helped engineer a self-destructing Republican opponent and allowed for the most improbable comeback of the Senate election cycle (Wong, 11/4).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Thompson Reverses Course On Raising Age For Medicare Benefits
U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Thompson is reversing course on whether he would raise the age at which future retirees receive Medicare benefits, saying he does not favor the idea just weeks after his campaign spokeswoman said that he did. Thompson spokeswoman Lisa Boothe issued a written statement last month that said Thompson was open to raising the age at which people receive Medicare and offering fewer benefits to those who have more money to help shore up the program. But in an interview with the Journal Sentinel on Thursday, Thompson said that was not his position and pointed to a different plan on Medicare he recently put forward (Marley and Stein, 11/2).

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