Abortion, Other Issues Continue To Stoke The Politics Surrounding Health ReformPolitico reports that "the issues of health care and abortion" are making the campaign tough for some Democrats. Among the vulnerable Democrats are Reps. Kathleen Dahlkemper, D-Pa.; Steve Driehaus, D-Ohio; and Indiana Reps. Joe Donnelly and Brad Ellsworth, who is running for Senate. "'We are going to do everything we can to point out that Democrats who said they were pro-life caved on the big one,' said Marilyn Musgrave, a former Colorado congresswoman who is project director of the Votes Have Consequences campaign for the conservative women's group Susan B. Anthony List." Anti-abortion activists say the health overhaul will create a loophole to allow taxpayer money to fund abortions. Proponents of the law say it will not.
On the other side of the debate, "Catholics United has created its own campaign, dubbed Set the Record Straight, which is aimed at disputing 'myths' about the health care reform bill - including the assertion that abortion services will be covered, said Chris Korzen, the group's executive director. The group ran ads in the spring thanking Democrats for passing health care reform. Now, it's raising money for a new set of commercials defending those votes and recruiting local allies who can organize voters and appear in the local media" (Cummings, 7/27).
The Hill: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is saying that health reform will end up helping Democrats at the polls this November. "Reid, who is facing a tough re-election challenge himself, said public opinion is shifting in favor of the new healthcare law Democrats passed through Congress earlier this year, and predicted more and more voters would reject Republicans' calls for repealing the legislation. The more people know about healthcare, the better they like it, said Reid. Republicans, for their part, note that polls have been much more mixed than Reid had argued. Senate Republicans released a research document last Wednesday showing three polls that show support for the reform law below 50 percent" (O'Brien, 7/26).
In the meantime, Kaiser Health News addresses two specific ways seniors will be affected by the health overhaul. Under the reform law, people who opt into a new long-term-care plan won't be able to collect benefits until 2017. "The voluntary insurance program is intended to help offset some of the costs of long-term care and help people who have functional or cognitive disabilities stay in their communities rather than be institutionalized. It will pay out a cash benefit that will average at least $50 per day. The precise amount of the benefit will vary depending on someone's degree of disability." In addition, a prescription drug coverage gap in Medicare is starting to close after the overhaul's enactment. "The coverage gap, or 'doughnut hole,' in which Medicare beneficiaries are responsible for paying 100 percent of their drug costs, won't close completely until 2020. But the gap starts closing this year, with $250 rebate checks sent to seniors whose drug spending lands them in the doughnut hole. An estimated 4 million beneficiaries will receive checks this year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services." The gap comes after Medicare Part D pays for 75 percent of the first $2,830 in total drug costs. Beneficiaries must then pay $3,610 of their own money before coverage kicks in again (Andrews, 7/27).
Politico, in a second story, reports that some lawmakers - many of whom voted against the health overhaul - are trying to guarantee that insurance agents and brokers will have a continuing role in health care once the new overhaul is fully implemented. "Agents are hoping to be included on the government's Web portal of insurance options in time for scheduled updates this fall and want to have some kind of contact information listed on the health insurance exchanges when they open in 2014." A bipartisan group of lawmakers sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last week asking for preservation of the agents' roles. The agents are worried that the website and the exchanges "threaten to take them out of the process of buying coverage. They argue that the process of buying insurance - particularly in the individual market - isn't as easy as clicking around a website" (Haberkorn, 7/27).
The Hill, in a separate story: Republicans and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce also are targeting a portion of the health law, one that requires companies, nonprofits and government offices to file 1099 forms with the IRS when they purchase goods from another business that are worth more than $600 in a year. "Under previous law, the reporting requirement pertained only to services exceeding that amount." The mandate to file the new paperwork starts in 2012. "Democratic leaders are defending the new 1099 mandate, arguing that it will close the business tax gap. Indeed, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the change would increase government revenues by $17 billion over the next decade" (Lillis, 7/26).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.