Health Politics: Obama Challenges GOP; Insurers Backing Republicans; Democrat Manchin Opposes Law
In an interview with President Barack Obama, The National Journal asked about the GOP agenda, including repealing the health law. "What is clear to me is that in the abstract, everybody on the Republican side is for repeal," Obama said. "What's going to be tested after the election is these specific provisions and how do they feel about them? Because it turns out that those provisions are hugely popular and they're the right thing to do. More importantly, they're going to have to answer the fact that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, not according to me, implementing health care will save us a trillion dollars over the course of two decades. They will have to answer where we're going to make up that trillion dollars and how do they square that with their claim that they want to balance the budget" (Fournier and Brownstein, 10/24).
"Health insurers flirted with Democrats, supported them with money and got what they wanted: a federal mandate that most Americans carry health care coverage," but they are now "backing Republicans, hoping a GOP Congress will mean friendlier regulations," The Associated Press reports. But "they may get more than they're wishing for," because conservative candidates and Republican attorney generals are challenging the individual mandate.
"'If you ended up repealing that one provision, the whole thing blows up,' said Bill Hoagland, the top lobbyist for Cigna Corp. 'It doesn't work. The cost would explode.' Still, 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" (10/23).
The Washington Post, in a reported column: "If House Democrats sustain major losses on Nov. 2, the health care law passed earlier this year is likely to be a big reason. ... After the bill was signed, Democratic leaders stressed that some of the finer points of the bill -- coverage for pre-existing conditions, allowing young people to stay on their parents' insurance longer, and removing lifetime limits on coverage -- polled well. They made the case that these were proposals that their party could run and win on even if the broader bill was unpopular. But few vulnerable Democrats have followed that strategic course. ... Even as Republicans have attacked Democrats on the bill, Democrats haven't seen fit to fight back -- preferring to change the subject" (Blake, 10/25).
Los Angeles Times: "Democratic Rep. Allen Boyd of Florida is the target of attack ads paid for by the Center for Individual Freedom, founded in 1998 to counter restrictions on smoking." Boyd voted for the new health law and "and like other Democratic incumbents now faces a barrage of attacks by little-known conservative groups funded by anonymous donors.
Now headquartered in the top floor of a townhouse in Alexandria, Va., the [Center for Individual Freedom] recently launched more than $2 million worth of ads in the districts of nine vulnerable Democrats, including Boyd, with more possible in coming days. The group is no longer associated with tobacco or smoking." Americans for Prosperity, "a group started in part by oil and coal billionaire David Koch," is also "investing heavily in the race
Such outside groups have spent more than $1 million airing attack ads against Boyd. Groups supporting the congressman have spent a combined $380,000" (Geiger and Hamburger, 10/24).
Meanwhile, "Joe Manchin, West Virginia's Democratic governor who is now in a tight race for the Senate, once said he supported health care legislation. But he now wants everyone especially Mountain State voters - to know he would have voted against it," The Wall Street Journal reports. "Mr. Manchin said that his earlier position was based on incomplete information. 'I think many people didn't know about the bill - end up, what, 2,000 pages or more?' Mr. Manchin said in an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. The governor has said that he liked the framework of the law and its goal of lowering health care costs and preventing insurers from denying coverage - but not the whole thing" (Favole, 10/24).
Congressional Quarterly: "A fight over the health care law's constitutionality could have been avoided if members of Congress had chosen to specifically levy a tax on those who refuse to buy health insurance, Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli said Thursday. Instead, the law says that a 'penalty' will be charged. ... It was 'an attempt to sidestep accountability for creating a new tax,' he said. Cuccinelli said that a tax might have been constitutional if it had been levied broadly against all Americans, like an excise tax, and then the government spent the money on providing care to the 50 million uninsured. Lawyers for the Justice Department call the charge in the law a 'tax penalty' and argue that Congress had the power to approve it" (Norman, 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.