First Edition: Early Morning Health News Policy News, Oct. 25, 2012
Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations:
Kaiser Health News: Seven Factors Driving Up Your Health Care Costs
There is no one villain in the battle against rising health care costs. Currently, the United States spends more on health care services than any other country, exceeding $2.6 trillion, or about 18 percent of gross domestic product. Most years, medical spending rises faster than inflation and the economy as a whole. Many factors -- and nearly everyone -- contributes to those increases (Appleby, 10/24).
Kaiser Health News: Fixing Health Care Isn't About Party, 'It's About Building A Sustainable System' - The KHN Interview
According to a recent survey from the New England Journal of Medicine, one out of every five voters sees the 2010 health law as a top priority, but many are also still perplexed by it. That confusion has led about 15,000 physicians and medical students from around the country, working through the grassroots advocacy group Doctors for America, to take on the challenge of explaining the measure to patients and providers. ... Dr. Vivek Murthy, an attending physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and the co-founder of Doctors for America, views this kind of physician involvement as critical to addressing the ills of nation's health care system (Kulkarni, 10/24).
The Washington Post: Obama Says He’ll Renew Pursuit Of ‘Grand Bargain,’ Offering Specifics On Agenda
President Obama, criticized as failing to offer a vision for a potential second term, has begun sketching out his agenda with greater specificity in recent days, including a pledge to solve the nation’s intractable budget problems within “the first six months.” In an interview made public Wednesday, Obama said he would pursue a “grand bargain” with Republicans to tame the national debt and would quickly follow that with a push to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws (Montgomery and Wallsten, 10/24).
Politico: W.H. Obama Would Begin Sequester Talks Right After Election
President Barack Obama wants to get into negotiations to resolve sequestration and the fiscal cliff “right after the election,” a senior White House adviser told reporters on Wednesday, following up on the president’s assertion that Washington could reach a “grand bargain” in “six months.” ... Obama made clear in the interview that after more than a year of partisan gridlock over the automatic defense budget cuts and the other top agenda items for a returning Congress, he believes an accord is possible. “I am absolutely confident that we can get what is the equivalent of the grand bargain that essentially I’ve been offering to the Republicans for a very long time, which is $2.50 worth of cuts for every dollar in spending, and work to reduce the costs of our health care programs,” the president said (Mak, 10/24).
The Wall Street Journal: CEOs Call For Deficit Attention
Chief executives of more than 80 big-name U.S. corporations, from Aetna Inc. to Weyerhaeuser Co., are banding together to pressure Congress to reduce the federal deficit with tax-revenue increases as well as spending cuts. The CEOs, in a statement to be released on Thursday, say any fiscal plan "that can succeed both financially and politically" has to limit the growth of health-care spending, make Social Security solvent and "include comprehensive and pro-growth tax reform, which broadens the base, lowers rates, raises revenues and reduces the deficit" (Wessel, 10/25).
The Wall Street Journal: Obama Predicts ‘Grand Bargain’ On Deficit
President Barack Obama, faced with skepticism that a second term will languish in partisan gridlock, predicted that he and Congress will be able to agree on something akin to the “grand bargain” to reduce the deficit, a comprehensive immigration overhaul and corporate tax reform. He made the comments in an interview with the editor and publisher of the Des Moines Register that was intended to be off the record and not for publication. After the newspaper publicized the White House’s terms, and the president came under fire, the Obama camp abruptly switched course and the newspaper published the full transcript early Wednesday (Meckler, 10/24).
The Washington Post: Mourdock Rape Comment Adds To Election-Year Furor Over Social Issues
A GOP Indiana Senate candidate’s assertion that pregnancy resulting from rape is “something God intended to happen” ignited a controversy that spilled into the presidential race on Wednesday as Democrats renewed the charge that Republicans are waging a “war on women.” Absent his assertion of divine intent, the comments by Richard Mourdock explaining his opposition to abortion even in cases of rape and incest were not that different from those made by others who believe in an absolute ban. What kindled his words into a controversy was the political context of an election year in which gender-related issues have assumed a prominent place — even as most voters say their prime concern is the economy (Tumulty, 10/24).
The Wall Street Journal: Indiana GOP Candidate Sparks New Fight Over Abortion
Indiana's Republican Senate candidate set off a fresh fight on the campaign trail over rape and abortion as both parties vie for women's votes in the final stretch before the election. ... The remark prompted some Republicans, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney, to distance themselves from the debate statement. Democratic candidates in Ohio, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Nevada and Arizona seized on the comments to portray the broader Republican Party as out of touch with women. President Barack Obama's campaign noted Mr. Romney taped an advertisement endorsing Mr. Mourdock that has been airing recently in Indiana (Radnofsky, 10/24).
Los Angeles Times: Democrats Seize On Candidate's Pregnancy, Rape Comments
The sudden flare-up not only pushed abortion back into the center of the white-hot presidential race, but also gave Democrats renewed hope of retaining control of the Senate. Recent polls have found Mourdock and his Democratic opponent, Rep. Joe Donnelly, locked in a tight battle for the seat long held by GOP stalwart Richard G. Lugar (Geiger, 10/25).
Chicago Tribune: Obama Objects To Mourdock's Rape Comment, Skewers Trump
President Obama told Jay Leno Wednesday night that Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock's comments about pregnancy and rape illustrate why men alone should not be making decisions about women's issues. "Rape is rape. It is a crime," Obama told the "Tonight Show" host in an interview set to air this evening, according to an account from a pool reporter traveling with the president. "These various distinctions about rape don't make too much sense to me" (Memoli, 10/24).
Politico: Exclusive: Richard Mourdock Braces For Fallout
Asked if he’s worried, the tea party-backed Republican responded: “You use the word ‘worry.’ I’m a candidate, candidates always worry about everything. I’ve been on this trail now for 613 days — there hasn’t been a day I haven’t worried about something, so we just keep pushing forward.” He went on to say the stakes are simply too high for Republicans to bail on him. Democrat Joe Donnelly has waged an unexpectedly strong campaign and put in play a seat that most prognosticators believed was Mourdock’s to lose (Raju, 10/24).
The Wall Street Journal: Number Of Competitive Senate Races Rises
The battle for control of the Senate has become even more volatile in the closing days of the campaign, with an increasing number of races across the nation becoming evenly matched. ... The closeness of so many contests--about10 are now tossups--means it is increasingly hard to predict who wil control the Senate (Bendavid, 10/24).
The Washington Post: GOP Hopes Rise As Senate Races Tighten
In the battle for control of the U.S. Senate, there are now at least eight critical contests in which polling shows essentially a dead heat, encouraging Republicans hopes that they may yet snag the chamber, which very recently seemed beyond their reach (Helderman and Horowitz, 10/24).
Politico: Ways And Means Threatens Subpoena Over 'Obamacare' PR
Another House committee chairman is threatening to subpoena HHS — this time over the agency’s efforts to promote “Obamacare.” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), along with oversight subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany (R-La.), leveled the threat Wednesday after what Camp said were 20 weeks of fruitless requests about HHS’s marketing activities (Cheney, 10/24).
Politico: Debate Brings Attention To States' Medicaid Plans
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has pushed for Medicaid block grants that would significantly cut program spending and provide states with the ultimate flexibility to design the health care program without Washington meddling. But the two examples of state Medicaid programs he cited as success stories during Monday’s debate don’t quite fit the mold of traditional block grants — at least not the kind that Republicans have been clamoring for.
The New York Times: New Laws Add A Divisive Component To Breast Screening
In a move that has irked medical groups and delighted patient advocates, states have begun passing laws requiring clinics that perform mammograms to tell patients whether they have something that many women have never even heard of: dense breast tissue. Women who have dense tissue must, under those laws, also be told that it can hide tumors on a mammogram, that it may increase the risk of breast cancer and that they should ask their doctors if they need additional screening tests, like ultrasound or M.R.I. scans (Grady, 10/24).
The Wall Street Journal: Tainted Drug Passed Lab Test
The Massachusetts specialty pharmacy linked to a deadly meningitis outbreak had its products tested at an independent lab, which in May stated that samples from a batch of steroids—later implicated in the meningitis—were "sterile," according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. But experts said the sample size that apparently was tested was too small to be meaningful and didn't comply with industry guidelines (Martin, Maremont and Rockoff, 10/24).
The New York Times: New Spotlight On Founders Of Drug Firm In Outbreak
Starting with a recycling company created by one brother in 1990, the (Conigliaro) family branched into pharmaceuticals, riding changes in the health care landscape to become a major supplier of tailor-made drugs to hospitals, clinics and doctor's offices across the nation. But those family enterprises are now under intense scrutiny by federal and state authorities and personal-injury lawyers. A pharmaceutical compounding company that is part of the family portfolio -- the New England Compounding Center -- was the source of a fungus that led to a meningitis outbreak that as of Wednesday had killed 24 and sickened 317 (Tavernise, Pollack and Goodnough, 10/24).
The Wall Street Journal: Stanford Physician On A Mission
Stanford University is located in the heart of high-tech Silicon Valley. Abraham Verghese, a best-selling author and Stanford physician and professor, is on a mission to improve low-tech bedside medicine. In 2008, a year after being recruited to Stanford, Dr. Verghese launched an effort to teach the basics of the physical exam. Called the Stanford Medicine 25, the initiative is focused on re-emphasizing the importance of the patient-doctor relationship (King, 10/24).
USA Today: School Meals Combat Obesity
Nutritional improvements made in the foods served at schools could help reverse the nation's childhood obesity epidemic -- and the first evidence is in places that have implemented changes early (Hellmich, 10/25).