KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Insurers, Hospital Stocks Register Presidential Election Jitters

As polls show a virtual tie between President Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney, news outlets report on how the health care industry and those who are sick or uninsured are contemplating the possible outcomes.

The Washington Post: WaPo-ABC Track: 49 Romney, 48 Obama, Three Days Running
For the third consecutive day of the Washington Post-ABC News national tracking poll, a single — statistically insignificant — percentage point separates the two presidential contenders: 49 percent of likely voters back Republican Mitt Romney, and 48 percent support President Obama. The parity in the contest shows up elsewhere as well: the two candidates are just two points apart when it comes to dealing with taxes, and they are three points apart on health care policy. The poll's margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for the sample of 1,278 likely voters (Cohen, 10/29).

Los Angeles Times: As Romney Edges Toward Moderation, Ryan Takes A Lower Profile
Ryan hasn't necessarily persuaded Romney advisors that he should be front and center, said Goldstein, the professor. "It seems to me that there have been a number of instances where his campaign has drawn some big negative attention," he said. There's Ryan's budget plan, which would have changed the way Medicare was administered, questions about the accuracy of many statements in his convention speech, his misstatement of his time in a marathon and his co-sponsorship of a "personhood" bill with Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri (Semuels, 10/28).

The Associated Press: Insurers Nervous Over Prospect Of Romney Victory
You'd think health insurance CEOs would be chilling the bubbly with Republican Mitt Romney's improved election prospects, but instead they're in a quandary. Although the industry hates parts of President Barack Obama's health care law, major outfits such as UnitedHealth Group and BlueCross Blue Shield also stand to rake in billions of dollars from new customers who'll get health insurance under the law. The companies already have invested tens of millions to carry it out. Were Romney elected, insurers would be in for months of uncertainty as his administration gets used to Washington and tries to make good on his promise to repeal Obama's law (Alonso-Zaldivar, 10/28).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Presidential Race Affecting Health Care Stocks
When Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said in a video posted online that 47% of Americans depend on government and believe they are victims, hospital stocks spiked higher. When Romney beat President Barack Obama in the first debate this month, hospital stocks declined. The outcome of the presidential race has high stakes for health care stocks. ... Hospitals write off as much as 10% of revenue because patients without insurance often can't pay for the care they receive, Heupel said. Obama's plan requires people to buy government-approved health insurance or face a fine starting in 2014. Hospitals would benefit by having more insured customers and more patients in general, Heupel said (Gallagher, 10/28). 

Kaiser Health News: Health Law's Promise Of Coverage Not Resonating With Miami's Uninsured
Miami-Dade is Florida's biggest county, and Florida, with 29 electoral votes, is the largest of the critical swing states in the Nov. 6 general election. Health care routinely polls nationally as one of the nation's top two or three concerns, and in Florida in August, a Quinnipiac/CBS/New York Times poll of likely voters put it in second place, four points behind the economy, and well ahead of Medicare and the budget deficit. With this high profile, the availability of health insurance should loom as a pivotal issue for Miami-Dade's uninsured voters, especially with the stark choice facing them: the goal of Obama's Affordable Care Act is health insurance for everyone; Romney has promised to repeal the law. Yet most uninsured patients interviewed in mid-October visits to Peñalver and the Helen B. Bentley Health Center in Coconut Grove, did not routinely link their concerns about health care to their voting intentions (Gugliotta, 10/29).

Los Angeles Times: Election May Determine Fate Of Sick, Uninsured Americans
(Jode) Towe is one of nearly 50 million people in the United States who don't have health coverage. Close to 30 million have been uninsured for at least a year, according to the Commonwealth Fund, a New York healthcare foundation. Many of the uninsured are young, healthy or don't want insurance. About one-fifth aren't citizens. Millions, however, are like Towe: sick and unable to afford the medical care they need. The fate of these Americans — at the heart of the nation's tortured, decades-long debates over healthcare — is now bound up with the outcome of the presidential election (Levey, 10/28).

Also in the news -

The New York Times: Des Moines Register Endorses Romney
Mitt Romney won the endorsement of The Des Moines Register on Saturday evening, becoming the first Republican presidential candidate to capture the newspaper’s recommendation to Iowa voters since Richard Nixon in 1972 (Zeleny, 10/27).

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