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Today’s Headlines – Sep. 21, 2012

Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including reports about recent polling results indicating that, despite GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s efforts to frame the Medicare debate, President Barack Obama still has the advantage on this issue.

The Wall Street Journal: Headwinds For Romney In Latest Poll Results
The three state surveys come amid a broader set of challenges for Mr. Romney, among them the release of his videotaped comments at a Florida fundraiser. The Romney campaign moved Thursday to shift its focus to federal spending and its proposal to overhaul Medicare, the popular health-care program for seniors and the disabled. Rep. Ryan speaks to seniors’ lobby AARP in New Orleans on Friday. Mr. Obama will address the group by satellite (O’Connor and Hook, 9/20).

USA Today: Romney Fights On Medicare But Obama Retains Advantage
President Obama remains more trusted to address Medicare’s challenges, the latest USA TODAY/Gallup Poll of Swing States shows, even as Mitt Romney challenged him over the issue Thursday in retiree-rich Florida (Page, 9/20).

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Politico: Paul Ryan To Hit ‘Obamacare’ At AARP
In a speech Friday to a powerful senior citizens’ interest group, Paul Ryan will again go on the offense on Medicare, addressing an issue that many say is among his biggest liabilities on the GOP ticket. According to excerpts provided by the campaign ahead of his speech to the AARP national conference in New Orleans, Ryan will attack in detail President Barack Obama’s health care plan, and argue that “the first step to a stronger Medicare is to repeal Obamacare” (Summers, 9/21).

The Washington Post: Romney Huddles With Aides, Attends Fundraisers
The Romney campaign began the day promising a more detailed discussion of issues, beefed-up public appearances and a greater television presence. The campaign released a television ad on Medicare featuring Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)…. Romney lags Obama among Latinos 68 percent to 26 percent, according to the latest tracking poll by Latino Decisions. In the 30-second ad, Rubio says: “Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan get it. Medicare is going broke. That’s not politics. It’s math. Anyone who wants to leave Medicare like it is for letting it go bankrupt” (Henderson, 9/20).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Romney Ads Target Seniors, Women
The Romney campaign, aiming to regain its footing after a tough start to the week, is rolling out a pair of television ads that appear designed to build support from two key voting groups: seniors and women. On Thursday, the campaign released its newest ad, “Least We Can Do,”  which argues that leaving Medicare as it is will force the health-insurance plan for the elderly and disabled to go broke. The television ad also states that current retirees won’t be affected – and suggests that any changes to Medicare won’t happen for 30 years (Hughes, 9/20).

USA Today: Medicare Recipients Save $4.5 Billion On Prescriptions
Medicare beneficiaries have saved a total of about $4.5 billion on prescription medications because of the 2010 health care law since January 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services plans to announce today. … The announcement comes two days after the Congressional Budget Office found that about 2 million more people than expected would be paying an average $1,200 penalty for not purchasing insurance as required by the law beginning in 2014. The number affected is significantly higher than the 4 million the CBO had estimated would pay a penalty in 2010, shortly after the bill passed (Kennedy, 9/21).

The New York Times: Reversing Trend, Life Span Shrinks For Some Whites
The reasons for the decline remain unclear, but researchers offered possible explanations, including a spike in prescription drug overdoses among young whites, higher rates of smoking among less educated white women, rising obesity, and a steady increase in the number of the least educated Americans who lack health insurance (Tavernise, 9/20).

The Washington Post: FEHBP Premiums To Rise About 4 Percent On Average
Premiums in the health insurance program for federal employees and retirees will rise by just under 4 percent on average in 2013, although rates will hold virtually steady in the largest plan, government officials said Thursday (9/20).

The Washington Post’s Federal Diary: Health Premiums’ Rise Is Modest But Unwelcome
That’s down from the 3.8 percent increase this year and less than half of the 7.4 percent jump in 2010. But with the freeze on basic federal pay rates, now expected to go through the spring, the modest increase is not welcome (Davidson, 9/20).

The Washington Post: Senate Delays Votes On Short-Term Spending Bill
There appears to be no doubt on the final passage of a bill to provide funding for government agencies when the fiscal year ends Sept. 30. Federal spending would be capped at $1.047 trillion, a limit agreed to last summer as part of the bipartisan debt ceiling negotiations. The bill cleared a key procedural vote Wednesday. But Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) began threatening to hold votes on final passage this weekend after Republicans objected to his plans to hold a vote on Paul’s proposal (O’Keefe, 9/20).

Los Angeles Times: Gov. Jerry Brown Signs Bill To Overhaul Disabled Access Law
The disabled are being promised better wheelchair access to businesses at the same time that business owners are gaining some protection against expensive, “predatory” lawsuits under legislation just signed by Gov. Jerry Brown (Lifsher, 9/20).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Gov. Jindal Slams Obama Health Law
Mitt Romney might joke about accepting the role as the “grandfather” of President Barack Obama’s health-care law, but Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal didn’t take the bait. “I can’t speak to the governor’s sense of humor,” Mr. Jindal said in a conference call,  organized by the Romney campaign, in which he decried Mr. Obama’s health-care law (Murray, 9/20).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Virginia’s Top Health Official Discusses Federal Health Care Overhaul
Many unknowns still exist regarding what the federal health care overhaul that was upheld over the summer will mean for Virginia, the state’s top health official told legislators Thursday. Virginia Secretary of Health & Human Resources Bill Hazel told the Senate Finance Committee that Virginia faces deadlines this fall on determining which benefits will be required in basic health insurance plans sold to individuals and small businesses in the state (9/20).

The Wall Street Journal: State Accused Of $15 Billion Fraud Scheme
A congressional oversight committee on Thursday accused New York of overbilling Medicaid by billions of dollars by inflating reimbursement payments to its state-run institutions for the mentally disabled. In a scathing report, the Republican-led House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said New York overcharged taxpayers by $15 billion since 1990 (Gershman, 9/20).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: NY Pushes Insurer To Explain Coverage To Members
New York regulators say they’ve fined an insurer $665,000 for failing to explain health plan coverage to members, including ways to challenge claims they believe were improperly denied. Superintendent of Financial Services Benjamin Lawsky says Oxford Health was cited for approximately 300,000 instances of not providing required statements about service plans and appeals from 2001 to 2008 (9/21).