KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Views On Medicare: Rep. Kathy Hochul’s Campaign; Ryan’s Vision; Wyden’s Role

Opinion writers focus on the presidential campaign's Medicare debate.

Los Angeles Times: It's Medicare Vs. The Economy
Kathy Hochul is a young, first-term Democratic congresswoman fighting for her political life in a solidly Republican district outside Buffalo, N.Y. Unlike most of that liberal state, this is Romney country; a poll last week showed the GOP candidate ahead of President Obama in her district by a whopping 12 points. So how does Hochul hope to persuade Republican-leaning voters to cross partisan lines to send a Democrat back to Washington? One word: Medicare (Doyle McManus, 8/26).

The Washington Post: The Real Medicare Villain
The real Medicare villain is not Barack Obama, and it's not even "evil" Paul Ryan. The real villain is America's medical-industrial complex -- and once you grasp this, everything changes (Matt Miller, 8/24).

The New York Times: Romney's First 100 Days
On health care, the initial focus may not be Medicare, despite the campaign attention it has received. ... A Romney administration may instead focus on two less politically perilous areas: Mr. Obama's health law and Medicaid, which covers many poor people and much long-term care for the elderly. Although Republicans could not repeal all of Mr. Obama's health law with reconciliation, they could undo most of the insurance expansion, because it relies on government subsidies for the uninsured. Congress could also shrink Medicaid, which covers about one in six Americans. ... Mr. Ryan's budget envisions 75 percent less Medicaid spending than now projected (David Leonhardt, 8/25).

The New York Times: Paul Ryan's Social Extremism
Mitt Romney, who will be officially nominated this week as the Republican nominee for president, appears to trim his social convictions to the party's prevailing winds. There is no doubt, however, about where the party's vice-presidential candidate stands. A long history of social extremism makes Paul Ryan an emblem of the Republican tack to the far right (8/26). 

The New York Times: The Last Bipartisan
If the name rings a bell, it's probably because Senator Wyden -- without really deserving it -- has become a bumper sticker in the Republican presidential campaign. Wyden, an Obama Democrat, co-authored a Medicare reform proposal with Paul Ryan last year, a precursor to the Ryan budget plan that Democrats have pilloried as a heartless effort to throw grandma and grandpa off the train. When Romney and Ryan refer to their Medicare thinking as "bipartisan," as they do ceaselessly, they mean Ron Wyden. In truth, Wyden never subscribed to the most draconian aspects of the Ryan blueprint, but the fact that the Romney-Ryan ticket uses his name as cover has not endeared Wyden to his own party (Bill Keller, 8/26).

The Washington Post: The Republican Party's Challenge
Mr. Romney's choice of Mr. Ryan, and the consequent focus on entitlement reform, offer the GOP a chance to present itself as the party of fiscally responsible grown-ups. Mr. Ryan's carefully designed "premium support" model for Medicare reform is worthy of debate, and given the inevitable Mediscare campaign Mr. Romney deserves credit for advancing it. But peddling the illusion of pain-free tax cuts is irresponsible. So is the notion that the safety net the GOP ticket professes to want to maintain, the aging society's health care the candidates vow to protect and the defense budget they insist must increase can all be paid for on a shrunken revenue base (8/26).

The Wall Street Journal: Cheesecake Factory Medicine
The liberal assault on Paul Ryan's Medicare reform has often been ugly, but that's not to say it hasn't been instructive. While ripping Mr. Ryan, ObamaCare's intellectual architects have been laying out in more detail their own vision for the future of American health care. It's a vision that all Americans should know about before they go to the polls in November (8/26). 

Rock Hill Herald/McClatchy Newspapers: Paul Ryan's Medicare Plans
Democrats immediately took aim at Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. As author of the so-called Ryan Plan, the 42-year-old chairman of the House Budget Committee has been a favorite target of Democrats, who accuse him of wanting to balance the budget on the backs of senior citizens. Given that a recent AARP shows that 90 percent of baby boomer voters between ages 50 and 64 say that Social Security and Medicare should be strengthened, going on the offensive against Ryan is a no-brainer for the Obama campaign (Terry Plumb, 8/25).

Philadelphia Inquirer: Look At All Ideas On Fixing Medicare
Mitt Romney's choice of Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate put Medicare front and center in the presidential debate. Ryan's Medicare plan, largely endorsed by Romney, differs markedly from the program's treatment under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Despite what the candidates say, neither plan solves Medicare's problems. Yet since no clear solution has emerged, both contain ideas worth trying (Mark Zandi, 8/26).

Bloomberg: Romney And Obama Are Both Medicare Double-Counters
One of the Obama administration's talking points in favor of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has been that the law extends the solvency of the Medicare trust fund. By slowing the growth of Medicare spending, the law postpones the date when the Medicare Trust Fund will be exhausted to 2024 from 2016. ... Conservatives have typically responded that this claim involves double counting. ... [B]ut as a matter of measuring fiscal sustainability, the conservative critics are right: You can't spend money and say it's being set aside to cover debts due in the future. … Romney's claim that he will shore up the trust fund is especially puzzling, because under his plan the fund would be exhausted before any of his savings take effect. Unlike Obama's double count, Romney's count is consistent neither with sound fiscal practices nor with the law (Josh Barro, 8/24).

San Francisco Chronicle: Voters Need To Know Medicare Stakes
And it's Medicaid, not Medicare, that would be in for the fastest, greatest cuts under the plan put forward by Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan (and embraced, with a few caveats, by likely presidential candidate Mitt Romney). ... In other words, the Romney-Ryan plan is designed to avoid alienating middle-class seniors, who vote and tend to be very protective of Medicare, by postponing cuts until their heirs must bear the burden…. the people who will really suffer under the Romney-Ryan plan are the poor, who would immediately see drastic cuts to their medical coverage (8/25).

Kansas City Star: Peering Through The Rhetorical Fog On Medicare
For almost 50 years, the concept of Medicare has been fairly simple. Americans pay for it out of their paychecks. Beginning at age 65 -- or earlier, in the case of a permanent disability -- they are eligible for a range of medical services. One way or another, the program is going to get more complex. It has become too large and too expensive to exist solely as a fee-for-service model in which patients receive services, and the federal government reimburses health providers for procedures and hospital stays (8/25).  

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