First Edition: May 23, 2012
Today's headlines include reports about the CBO's dire predictions about a possible recession as well as details about how health policy is handled in new presidential campaign ads.
Kaiser Health News: Minnesota Seeks Bridge Across 'Affordability Gap'
Minnesota Public Radio's Elizabeth Stawicki, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "Under the 2010 health law, millions of Americans will gain access to affordable health insurance. But, in Minnesota, many are concerned that an affordability gap will leave about 100,000 low-income Minnesotans struggling to pay for health care" (Stawicki, 5/23). Read the story.
The New York Times: Recession Possible If Impasses Persists, Budget Office Says
The economy could relapse into a recession if President Obama and Congress remain at an impasse and allow several big tax increases and spending cuts to take effect at the start of 2013, the Congressional Budget Office reported on Tuesday. … Among the changes that will take effect if the White House and Congress do not act: … Reimbursements to doctors who treat Medicare patients will be cut significantly, taxes will increase for wealthy taxpayers to help pay for health insurance for more Americans and temporary business tax cuts, part of stimulus measures, will expire (Calmes, 5/22).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Top Senate Dem To GOP: No Tax Cuts For Rich, Drop Medicare Revamp For budget, Tax Deal
Republicans will have to drop their insistence on retaining tax cuts for the rich and plans to reshape Medicare before there can be a bipartisan deal on controlling federal deficits and averting a wide-scale tax increase in January, the Senate's top Democrat said. In a letter to GOP senators released Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blamed congressional Republicans' "strict adherence to tea party ideology" for the two sides' failure to reach such a deal (5/22).
The Wall Street Journal: GOP Mixed On Health Moves
Congressional Republicans are divided over what to do if the Supreme Court strikes down all or part of the health-care overhaul next month. House Republican freshmen from moderate districts say they need to have credible alternatives to present to their constituents if the court—or lawmakers—eliminate the law. They are eager to find ways to replicate popular provisions of the law, such as those requiring coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and allowing young adults to stay on their parents' insurance plans until age 26 (Radnofsky, Bendavid and Murray, 5/22).
The New York Times: Gains In Health Seen As Lasting By Some
The new health care law is already transforming the way care is delivered, and the changes will continue regardless of how the Supreme Court rules on the mandate for most Americans to carry health insurance, a Democratic senator and an Obama administration official said Tuesday (Pear, 5/22).
Politico: Paul Ryan Expects Mandate For GOP
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan predicted Tuesday that November's elections could bring a broad mandate for the Republican Party to enact aggressive reforms to the nation's finances. … Ryan said he and the Republican Party would "welcome" a debate with Obama on Medicare and taxes – believing that the GOP has an upper hand on the issue. In a question-and-answer session after his speech, Ryan said House Republicans will bring tax legislation to the floor in about a month that would extend the current rates for another year. That's intended to give lawmakers time to work through complicated budget and tax issues, instead of squeezing them in a lame-duck session (Kim, 5/22).
Politico: Kaine Calls For Tavenner Hearing
Virginia Senate hopeful Tim Kaine is blasting Senate Democrats for not planning a confirmation hearing for Marilyn Tavenner, President Barack Obama's nominee to run the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and a former top health official in his state (Haberkorn, 5/22).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Obama Campaign Releasing TV Ads Directed At Veterans, Seniors Dependent On Medicare
President Barack Obama's re-election campaign is airing two new ads, one focusing on his work with veterans returning home from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and another aimed at seniors dependent on Medicare. … The ad on Medicare notes that Obama was raised by his grandparents and cites his administration’s efforts to root out health care fraud (5/23).
The New York Times: Political Memo: In One Corner, A Champion Of Government. In The Other, Its Foe.
An Obama campaign video shows the president's national political director, Katherine Archuleta, tearfully crediting Mr. Obama with having saved her daughter's life. She portrays the president as a hero of government whose health care law assures her daughter, a cancer survivor, insurance coverage forever. A video by a political committee backing Mr. Romney follows a nearly identical tack: evocative music and a tearful description of Mr. Romney as "the man who helped save my daughter." But the testimonial, from a former partner at Bain Capital, depicts Mr. Romney as a hero of business who once shut down his firm to aid search efforts until the partner’s missing teenager was found (Harwood, 5/22).
Politico: Poll: Record Low Are 'Pro Choice'
The percentage of Americans who identify themselves as "pro-choice" is at the lowest point ever measured by Gallup, according to a new survey released Wednesday. A record-low 41 percent now identify as "pro-choice," down from 47 percent last July and one percentage point down from the previous record low of 42 percent, set in May 2009. As recently as 2006, 51 percent of Americans described themselves as "pro-choice" (Mak, 5/23).
NPR Shots Blog: Health Insurance Cutbacks Squeeze The Insured
Amber Cooper and her husband were doing OK. They both had jobs. A healthy 5-year-old son, a house in Riverbank, Calif., and health insurance from her job in the accounting department of a small manufacturing company. But then one day everything changed (Stein, 5/23).
The Wall Street Journal’s Total Return: Employment-Based Health Coverage Is Waning
Bad news for workers: The "brief uptick" in employer-based health coverage right after the recession "has not endured," according to a new report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Between December 2007 and June 2009, the percentage of workers with health coverage in their own name fell to 56% from 60.4%. Coverage rose by almost 1 percentage point by the end of 2009, and then fell to 55.8% by April 2011 (Greene, 5/22).
The Washington Post: Generic-Drug Makers' Complaints Over Brand-Name Access Prompt Investigations
Some drugmakers assert they are unable to create cheaper generic versions of drugs because their rivals are exploiting a legal loophole. It all comes down to process: To get a generic drug approved for sale, a company has to test a sample of the brand-name version and show regulators that the generic version is essentially identical and as effective (ElBoghdady, 5/22).
Reuters/Chicago Tribune: Labor Union Hopes Of Ousting Wisconsin Governor Fade
Democrats and unions hoping to turn Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker out of office over his efforts to tame the power of organized labor are finding it tough going with only two weeks to go before a historic recall election. … Walker pushed through the legislature a law requiring public sector union members to pay part of the cost of health insurance and pensions, limited pay rises, made paying union dues voluntary and forced unions to be recertified every year (5/22).
Check out all of Kaiser Health News' e-mail options including First Edition and Breaking News alerts on our Subscriptions page.