KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Washington Post Details Six Senators To Watch On Health Care; Politics Of Fear Gain Prominence

The battle over health care reform will happen in the Senate, even though President Obama keeps getting all the attention, The Washington Post's The Fix reports.

"Knowing this, the president and his inner circle have been working the issue for months -- seeking to identify strong, and, more important, weak spots among senators as well as testing out what sort of compromises are possible. Passage of a bill so fraught with so many sorts of political peril for so many senators is a gargantuan undertaking that requires a keen understanding not just of where each member of the world's greatest deliberative body stands on the issue but also who they stand with and who they listen to."

In the Senate, six keys players have emerged as shaping and deciding the fate of health care reform, including Utah Republican Sens. Bob Bennett and Orrin Hatch, both seen by Democrats as critical to winning in reform; Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Republican in a Democratic state who will likely be pressured into accepting some form of reform; New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat who has his eye on the political implications of the bill; Sen. Mitch McConnell, Ky., the Senate minority leader; and Sen. Edward Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat whose presence alone looms over the debate (Cillizza, 6/16).

Roll Call reports that part of the debate, especially in the Senate, will hinge on the fear factor regarding the change - for better or worse - that reform will bring. It's a debate starting to dominate as Republican senators and Obama trade fear-based talking points on reform. Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz., said there's a reason Obama says the time is now for reform: "'Because,' Kyl said, 'he knows that momentum will inevitably slow for something that will be extraordinarily costly, will deny people the coverage that they already have, will ration their health care and could provide some kind of government insurance company that's going to drive out the private insurance companies.'" Obama, in his speech to the American Medical Association, also engaged: "The president himself eagerly waded into the politics of fear. 'Make no mistake: The cost of our health care is a threat to our economy'" (Koffler and Drucker, 6/16).

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