KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Candidates Debating Health Law As Election Nears

Health reform - and the new law - continues to divide Democrats and Republicans on the campaign trail.

Politico: "The Democratic Senate candidate from West Virginia, Gov. Joe Manchin, says he didn't understand key details of the health care reform legislation when he publicly endorsed it in March - an endorsement he has since withdrawn. 'Reaching as far as they did in the - in the weeds of the bill that we didn't know about, no one else knew about until it came out - knowing that, I would not have supported that or voted for that at that time,' Manchin said on 'Fox News Sunday.' ... 'The health care reform is far overreaching in areas that I don't agree with - the 1099 part of that, the mandates. Also, the firewall's not strong enough for abortions. I'm pro-life. And we're just a different type of Democrat here in West Virginia,' Manchin said. (The '1099' reference is to a revenue-raising provision that requires businesses to report more transactions to the IRS.)" (Gerstein, 10/24).

The Hill: Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) needled President Obama upon his planned campaign stop in the state on Saturday. Pawlenty, a potential Republican candidate to challenge Obama in 2012, leveled criticisms against the president ... Pawlenty touched on some Minnesota sayings in criticizing Obama, saying, for instance: 'Some Minnesotans don't like to offend people by coming right out and saying NO, so instead they say, 'Eh, not so much,' like if you asked Minnesotans, 'Do you like the federal take over of health care?' They might say, 'Eh, not so much'" (O'Brien, 10/23).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ron Johnson and U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold clashed again Friday on who had the best plan for controlling federal spending and reducing the nation's debt. ... On health care, Feingold said he was proud to vote for the bill and questioned Johnson's promise that, if elected, he would work to repeal the law. 'He says the top issues are jobs and cutting spending,' Feingold said. 'The last thing we should do is repeal the health care bill and start over.' But Johnson said that if the issue is cutting spending, the last thing Congress should have done is pass the bill in the first place. He said the law will add trillions to the debt load for the next couple of decades" (Walker, 10/22).

The Oregonian: "Democratic U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and Republican challenger Jim Huffman came out swinging in a feisty, fast-paced debate [Friday] ... Huffman immediately went on the attack with his opening statements, criticizing Wyden as a career politicians who has failed to address Oregon's high unemployment rate, revive the timber industry or pass his health care and tax reform bills. ... Wyden fired back, denouncing Huffman's support for the bailout of the finance industry, bonuses to Wall Street executives, privatization of Social Security and repeal of the new health care reform law" (Graves, 10/22).

The Associated Press: "The momentum of the midterm elections is with the GOP, but now is not the time for supporters to let up, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin told a jubilant crowd of Florida Republicans on Saturday. ... The former Alaska governor also was joined by Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio. Polls have shown Rubio with a large lead in a three-way Senate race with Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running as an independent ... Rubio said to cheers that he would work to repeal health care reform" (Schneider, 10/23).

Fresno Bee on a House race in central California: "Six months ago, Andy Vidak was a lonely campaigner. The Hanford cherry farmer seemed to be on a quixotic quest to oust three-term incumbent Democrat Jim Costa. With little name identification, he was driving the 20th Congressional District alone in his 2002 Ford F250, talking to any group that would have him. ... Suddenly, that's all changed." 

"Costa's votes in favor of Obama's health-care reform legislation and on the federal stimulus bill caused some of his supporters to defect to Vidak" (Ellis, 10/23).

Kansas City Star: "This year's race for Kansas Attorney General pits a veteran political insider against an incumbent who was a judge before entering politics. Democrat Steve Six was appointed Attorney General in 2008 by former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, after his predecessor Paul Morrison resigned. Now, Six is asking voters to give him a full term to continue his work. His Republican opponent is Derek Schmidt, the majority leader in the Kansas Senate.... One key distinction between the two: Schmidt argues that Kansas should join the states suing the federal government over the new health care reform law. Six opted not to sue, calling a potential challenge too expensive, politically motivated and unlikely to succeed" (Klepper, 10/22).

Meanwhile, in a separate story, The Associated Press reports that  health insurers "flirted with Democrats, supported them with money and got what they wanted: a federal mandate that most Americans carry health care coverage. Now they're backing Republicans, hoping a GOP Congress will mean friendlier regulations."

For example, "Cigna, which early last year had been funneling money to Democrats from its political action committee, has shifted from a 50-50 split between the parties to around 70-30 in favor of Republican candidates. ... [But] at the national level, insurers are treading gingerly around the issue of health care repeal, putting them at odds with the Republican base on a fundamental question. Starting in 2014 the law requires most people to have coverage through an employer or a government program or by buying it themselves. Those who refuse face a tax penalty from the IRS, unless they can show financial hardship" (Kuhnhenn and Alonso-Zaldivar, 10/22).


This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.