Today’s Headlines – August 27, 2012

Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including reports about this week’s GOP convention, the politics of Medicare and abortion, and the latest health policy news from the states.

The Washington Post: Poll: Obama, Romney Neck-And-Neck Ahead Of Party Conventions
The Republican National Convention opens this week with President Obama and presumptive nominee Mitt Romney running evenly, with voters more focused on Obama’s handling of the nation’s flagging economy than on some issues dominating the political debate in recent weeks. … Fewer voters place great significance on other issues that have roiled the campaign, including newly minted GOP vice presidential candidate’s plan to restructure Medicare, differences between the parties on women’s issues and Romney’s handling of his tax returns. The proposed Medicare changes included in Ryan’s budget proposal in the House have been a focus of sharp debate since he was picked by Romney two weeks ago, and the specific changes to the health-care program are viewed negatively by about two to one (Balz and Cohen, 8/27).

The Wall Street Journal: New Policy Details Unlikely To Come At The Convention
And while policy debates have flared briefly, including over Medicare, the Romney campaign has decided, at least for the moment, not to divulge fresh details of its economic platform, campaign officials said. They believe there isn’t public demand for specifics and worry new information could be used as a weapon by the Obama campaign, people close to the process said (Paletta and McKinnon, 8/26).

For more headlines …

Politico: Mitt Romney’s Law Has An ‘Unelected Board’ Too
Mitt Romney is on the warpath against President Barack Obama’s “unelected board” of health care bureaucrats — but his own Massachusetts health care law has been blasted more than a few times for the same reason. It’s another reminder that, as much as Romney is trying to campaign against “Obamacare,” there’s almost always some similarity in “Romneycare” that can come back to bite him (Cheney, 8/24).

Politico: GOP Platform: Cut Health Costs, Lose Weight
The draft Republican platform that was accidentally posted on the Republican National Committee website Friday – before POLITICO discovered it and the RNC took it down – suggests that people should do their part to hold down health care costs by avoiding unhealthy habits and lifestyles, which lead to expensive health care needs (Nather, 8/24).

Politico: Romney Touts His Health Care Plan
On the eve of the Republican convention in Tampa, Fla., Mitt Romney abruptly embraced his Massachusetts health care law in response to President Barack Obama’s attacks that Republicans have declared a “war on women” (Gibson and Samuelsohn, 8/26).

The New York Times: Despite Democrats’ Warnings, Private Medicare Plans Find Success
Even as President Obama accuses Mitt Romney and Representative Paul D. Ryan of trying to privatize and “voucherize” Medicare, his administration crows about the success of private health plans in delivering prescription drug benefits and other services to Medicare beneficiaries. More than a quarter of the 50 million beneficiaries receive coverage through private Medicare Advantage plans, mostly health maintenance organizations, and Medicare’s drug benefits are delivered exclusively by private insurers, subsidized by the government. Obama administration officials, lawmakers from both parties and beneficiaries have generally been satisfied with the private plans (Pear, 8/25).

The Washington Post: Paul Ryan’s Fiscal Policies Are Deeply Rooted, Both Politically And Personally
Paul Ryan is famously a man with a plan. The Wisconsin Republican has pushed for budgets that radically change tax codes and entitlement programs and boil away much of the federal government. Although the congressman’s vision is often described in the language of wonkery, replete with numbers, charts and graphs, he is pushing a deeper ideological agenda: Ryan believes that much of what government does is toxic to the American psyche — that government programs designed to help people can actually end up hurting them (Achenbach, 8/25).

Los Angeles Times: Dust-Up In Tampa As Ex-GOP Governor Backs Obama
In his Sunday op-ed, Crist hit favorite Democratic Party talking points on Obama and took shots at the Republican ticket, most notably on Medicare, a top issue in a battleground state with a huge elderly population. Obama’s opponents, Crist wrote, “would end the Medicare guarantee by creating a voucher that would raise seniors’ costs by thousands of dollars and bankrupt the program” (Finnegan, 8/26,).

The Wall Street Journal: Same Doctor Visit, Double The Cost
But something had changed: his cardiologist’s practice had been bought by Renown Health, a local hospital system. Dr. Hubbard was caught up in a structural shift that is sweeping through health care in the U.S.—hospitals are increasingly acquiring private physician practices. Hospitals say the acquisitions will make health care more efficient. But the phenomenon, in some cases, also is having another effect: higher prices (Mathews, 8/26).

The Washington Post: Affordable Care Act Driving Health Care Mergers
Two of the region’s corporate giants — one focused on government health insurance, the other specializing in communities for seniors — were acquired by larger industry players last week, as consolidation heats up in health-related sectors (Ho, 8/26).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: As Convention Script Undergoes A Rewrite, Romney Accuses Obama Of Exploiting Abortion Issue
His Republican National Convention curtailed by a threatened hurricane, Mitt Romney conceded Sunday that fresh controversy over rape and abortion is harming his party and he accused Democrats of trying to exploit it for political gain (8/26).

The Wall Street Journal: Pregnancies From Rape Prove Tough To Count
The outcry over Mr. Akin’s remarks, made after he was asked whether he favors allowing abortion for women impregnated by rape, raises a question that researchers who have studied rape and pregnancy struggle to answer precisely: How many pregnancies result from rape each year in the U.S.? (Bialik, 8/24).

Politico: GOP Sidetracked By Abortion Details
Republicans have been taking ground in the war on abortion for years, putting Democrats on the defensive on specifics like “partial-birth” abortion and parental rights. But suddenly the GOP has fallen into a similar trap, bedeviled by details: rape, invasive ultrasounds and the merits of contraception. Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” remark forced fellow Republicans to publicly explore the details of how they think about abortion — details that don’t serve their broader argument and that give Democrats a chance to reframe the debate, conservatives say (Allen, 8/24).

The New York Times: Benefits Of Circumcision Are Said To Outweigh Risks
The American Academy of Pediatrics has shifted its stance on infant male circumcision, announcing on Monday that new research, including studies in Africa suggesting that the procedure may protect heterosexual men against H.I.V., indicated that the health benefits outweighed the risks (Rabin, 8/27).

Los Angeles Times: Pediatricians’ Group Shifts In Favor Of Circumcision
The American Academy of Pediatrics has shifted its official position on the contentious issue of infant circumcision, stating Monday that the medical benefits of the procedure for baby boys outweigh the small risks (Brown, 8/26).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Circumcision Benefits Outweigh Risks And Insurers should Pay; Pediatricians Revise Stance
The nation’s most influential pediatricians group says the health benefits of circumcision in newborn boys outweigh any risks and insurance companies should pay for it. In its latest policy statement on circumcision, a procedure that has been declining nationwide, the American Academy of Pediatrics moves closer to an endorsement but says the decision should be up to parents (8/27).

The Washington Post: Texas Counties Consider Going It Along On Medicaid Expansion
Local officials in Texas are discussing whether to band together to expand Medicaid coverage in some of the state’s biggest counties, making an end run around Gov. Rick Perry’s opposition to the expanded program included in President Obama’s health-care law (Aizenman, 8/26).

Los Angeles Times: California’s Health Exchange Considers A Fruity New Name
Want to buy health insurance from an avocado? California thinks you might. Officials at the California Health Benefit Exchange, knowing their new online marketplace for medical insurance is a mouthful, are considering some new brand names to generate buzz with millions of consumers. “Avocado: A uniquely California approach to affordable healthcare” was one possibility presented at a board meeting Thursday (Terhune, 8/24).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: NY Auditors Note Medicaid Overpayments
New York auditors note partial steps have been taken by the state Health Department to stem improper Medicaid payments to managed care plans and providers on behalf of patients with duplicate or multiple identification numbers (8/26).