Today’s Headlines – Sept. 26, 2012

Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organiations, including reports about a round of new polls sizing up the status of the presidential campaign as well as one from The Associated Press measuring public opinion about the implementation of the health law.

The New York Times: Test For Obama As Deficit Stays Over $1 Trillion
Mr. Romney is proposing to reduce the deficit and encourage economic growth by substantially shrinking the government — unrealistically so, in the judgment of many budget experts — while further cutting taxes and increasing spending on the military. He would inject more private sector competition into Medicare to rein in the quickly growing costs of health insurance for older people and would limit Medicaid payments to fixed amounts to the states. Mr. Obama wants to combine spending cuts and tax increases on upper-income households to close the fiscal hole without fundamentally reducing the role of government or altering the government guarantees at the heart of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Those programs account for 40 percent of federal spending, and they will grow to half in a decade as more baby boomers claim benefits (Calmes, 9/25).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: AP-GfK Poll: Most Say Obama’s Health Care Law Will Be Implemented; But 7 In 10 Expect Changes
They may not like it, but they don’t see it going away. About 7 in 10 Americans think President Barack Obama’s health care law will go fully into effect with some changes, ranging from minor to major alterations, an Associated Press-GfK poll finds. Just 12 percent say they expect the Affordable Care Act — “Obamacare” to dismissive opponents — to be repealed completely (9/26).

For more headlines …

The New York Times: Polls Show Obama Is Widening His Lead In Ohio And Florida
For weeks, Republicans in Ohio have been watching with worry that the state’s vital 18 electoral votes were trending away from Mitt Romney. The anxiety has been similar in Florida, where Republicans are concerned that President Obama is gaining the upper hand in the fight for the state’s 29 electoral votes. Those fears are affirmed in the findings of the latest Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News polls of likely voters in both states, which show that Mr. Obama has widened his lead over Mr. Romney and is outperforming him on nearly every major campaign issue (Rutenberg and Zeleny, 9/26).

The Washington Post: Post Polls: Obama Has Lead In Ohio, Edge In Fla., Hampering Path To Victory
With Romney lagging, Republicans face additional challenges down-ballot in the same battleground states. In the new Post surveys, Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio holds a substantial lead over Republican Josh Mandel, giving Democrats some breathing room in a race in which outside groups have put nearly $20 million toward defeating the incumbent. Brown leads Mandel 53 percent to 41 percent among likely voters. In Florida’s Senate race, incumbent Bill Nelson (D) holds a 14-point advantage over Rep. Connie Mack (R), leading 54 percent to 40 percent among likely voters (Balz and Cohen, 9/25).

The Wall Street Journal: Health Firms Size Up Election Outcomes
The close presidential election race is forcing the health-care industry to size up potential policy changes that could eventually switch millions of seniors to private insurance plans. Republican nominee Mitt Romney wants to eventually shift Medicare recipients to private insurance coverage, a provision that his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), helped pass through the House. At the same time, the pair pledges to wipe away the Obama administration’s health-overhaul law (Radnofsky, 9/25).

Los Angeles Times: Candidates For U.S. Congress Will Debate In Spanish
Texas’ first congressional candidate debate in Spanish could help decide one of the closest races in the country. Incumbent Republican Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco, 63, a tea party conservative, will face challenger Pete Gallego, 50, a Democratic state representative, Tuesday night in an hourlong debate aired by Spanish-language network Univision. … “I want the voters to know that during my time in office I have consistently voted for legislation that will lower taxes, create jobs and preserve Medicare for future generations,” Canseco continued.  “One of the many ways I’ve fought to preserve Medicare is by voting to repeal ‘Obamacare'” (Hennessy-Fiske, 9/25).

The Wall Street Journal: Rise In Knee Replacements Boosts Federal Health Costs
The number of knee replacements paid for by Medicare has more than doubled over the past two decades, according to a study published Tuesday that suggests the popular procedure is emerging as an important driver of costs for the nation’s health-care system (Wang, 9/25).

Politico: Hospitals: Feds Share Billing Blame
A threat from Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice to crack down on questionable Medicare billing has drawn a fairly strong rejoinder from two major hospital groups who say federal regulators deserve part of the blame. The Association of Academic Health Centers sent a letter Tuesday to HHS and DOJ echoing complaints from the American Hospital Association that the industry doesn’t have adequate guidelines on billing for some of the most common services. The hospitals said they had repeatedly asked for such information to no avail — and that the problem has gotten worse with the proliferation of electronic health records (Norman and Millman, 9/26).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: In Arkansas, Governor Changes Course On Health Care To Help Uninsured, Struggling Democrats
President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul has never been popular in Arkansas, a state where even most Democrats regard the law as politically toxic. But with a quarter of the state’s working-age population uninsured, a governor who once said he would have voted against the law now wants to use it to widen government-funded coverage to thousands of additional families. And he’s relying on the move to help prevent a Republican takeover of the state Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction (9/25).