KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: LA Times Endorses Obama; Romney, Ryan ‘Obfuscating Their Plans For Medicare, Medicaid;’ Obama’s Health Law Polarizes The Country

The New York Times: Twisting the Facts About Health Care
The outcome of the presidential election will determine which of two opposing paths the nation will follow on health care for all Americans. If voters re-elect President Obama, he will protect the health care reforms ... The competing visions are often difficult to evaluate because the Republican candidates — Mr. Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan — have become so artful about obfuscating their plans for Medicare, Medicaid and what they will do to reform the whole system. Almost nothing the Republican candidates say on these or other health care issues can be taken at face value (10/20).

Los Angeles Times: Obama For President
Today, Obama is a very different candidate. He has confronted two inherited wars and the deepest recession since the Great Depression. … He secured passage of a historic healthcare reform law — the most important social legislation since Medicare. … It's hard to analyze the effect of Romney's plans because he's left so many blanks to be filled in after the election. For example, he wants to replace the healthcare and financial regulatory reforms enacted in 2010, but he won't say with what exactly. He's also advocated … overturning Roe v. Wade and leaving women's reproductive rights at the mercy of state legislators (10/21).

The Washington Post: Obamacare's Rhetoric Vs. Reality 
Many of us who oppose Obamacare don’t do so because we enjoy seeing people suffer. We believe that, in an ideal world, everyone would have insurance. But we also think that Obamacare has huge drawbacks that outweigh its plausible benefits. It creates powerful pressures against companies hiring full-time workers ... There will be more bewildering regulations, more regulatory uncertainties, more unintended side effects and more disappointments. A costly and opaque system will become more so (Robert J. Samuelson, 10/21).

Wall Street Journal: Polarizer-in-Chief 
The Democrats' campaign talking point here is that Republicans plotted from the start to undermine Mr. Obama's presidency. But this was a president who came into office with a 68% approval rating—the highest since John F. Kennedy. ... The tone for a super-charged partisan presidency was established right out of the gate when Mr. Obama rammed through Congress both his $830 billion fiscal stimulus bill and ObamaCare. Both passed without a single Republican vote. Mr. Obama's justification for these polarizing laws when meeting with Republicans was: "I won" (Stephen Moore, 10/19).

Kansas City Star: Should Medicare Be Run Like The Airline Industry?
Republicans have talked this year about offering a private insurance alternative to Medicare as a way to reduce costs while maintaining quality. ... In 1978, Congress passed a bill deregulating the commercial airline industry. ... By one measure, getting rid of the CAB has been an unqualified success.  ... it’s unquestionably cheaper to fly, but it’s also much more difficult. Put another way: Should Medicare be run with the efficiency and charm of the airline industry? Those pondering that question may wish to book a flight first (Dave Helling, 10/22).

Los Angeles Times: Mental Health Care At Stake In 2012 Vote
One in five Americans over age 18 suffers from a diagnosable mental illness in any given year. ... So why have we heard virtually nothing about mental health care from either candidate during this campaign? ... I can understand why Mitt Romney might not want to bring up the subject of mental illness. His running mate, Paul D. Ryan, voted against the Mental Health Parity bill, which requires insurance companies that include mental health coverage to treat mental illness in the same way they do any other illness. ... President Obama's silence is more puzzling. He has done more to advance the treatment of and research into mental illness than any other president in history (Juliann Garey, 10/21).

The New York Times: A World Of Harm For Women
[If Romney and Ryan] were to win next month's election, the harm to women's reproductive rights would extend far beyond the borders of the United States. In this country, they would support the recriminalization of abortion with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and they would limit access to contraception and other services. But they have also promised to promote policies abroad that would affect millions of women in the world's poorest countries, where lack of access to contraception, prenatal care and competent help at childbirth often results in serious illness and thousands of deaths yearly (10/19). 

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Abortion: Remley Steps Down
Karen Remley's decision to resign as Virginia's health commissioner comes at a bad time for Republicans ... She is resigning over tough new abortion-clinic regulations, rammed through by social conservatives, that will treat those clinics as if they were full-service hospitals. The tissue-thin rationale for the rules — patient safety — is refuted twice over: first by the fact that clinics have an excellent safety record, and second by the fact that the new rules, which govern things such as hallway widths and parking spaces, have nothing to do with safety (10/22).

Minnesota Post: Rep. Joe Walsh's Abortion Comment Is Stunning In Its Ignorance
Citing unnamed "advances in science and technology," (Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill.) told reporters Thursday night that abortion is never necessary to save the life of a woman. ... The idea there is some kind of modern medical technology or procedure that has made full-term pregnancies suddenly perfectly safe for all women is news to Dr. Carrie Terrell, an ob-gyn and chief of staff at the University of Minnesota Medical Center. "There are innumerable potential instances wherein a termination of pregnancy would be indicated to save a woman’s life," she said in a phone interview Friday (Susan Perry, 10/19).

The New York Times: In Wisconsin, Senate Candidates Shift Their Positions
Nearly three years ago, former Gov. Tommy Thompson and Representative Tammy Baldwin teamed up on a public service announcement showing parents how to sign up for the state's innovative BadgerCare program. It had been created during Mr. Thompson's administration as a way to provide health insurance to far more uninsured adults and children than were covered by Medicaid. Now the two are increasingly bitter opponents in the Wisconsin Senate race, and one of the biggest issues that divides them is coverage for the uninsured (David Firestone, 10/19).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: We Must Protect The Vulnerable
The five deaths at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex this year should be enough to make everyone pause, especially when you consider that less than two years ago, the facility came under fire for failing to protect patients and workers. ... The best care is provided through smaller facilities located within the communities, thereby providing better access to those who need services. A smaller mental health complex still could be used for patients who need more intensive care, but even in those circumstances, patients and staff need to be safe (James E. Causey, 10/20).

Los Angeles Times: A Heavy Price For Cheaper Drugs
You get what you pay for. This maxim is proving true all over again when it comes to steroid injections used to alleviate back pain. Making safe and effective versions of such drugs involves manufacturing steps that aren't trivial. The cost of the medicine has to match the care that goes into creating it and the oversight required to ensure that the standards are maintained (Dr. Scott Gottlieb, 10/21).

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