First Edition: September 30, 2011

Today's headlines include reports about how new and old health policy positions are playing on the campaign trail.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Blogwatch: Focus Of Health Law Challenges Shifts
Now on the Kaiser Health News' blog, Andrew Villegas mines the blogosphere to sample the chatter related to the Justice Department’s decision to seek a quick Supreme Court resolution of challenges to the health law. He writes: "The Justice Department Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to hear their appeal of the 11th Circuit's August ruling that found the individual mandate unconstitutional. The moves increase the likelihood that the Supreme Court will take the case up in its next term, potentially ruling on the constitutionality of health law before the 2012 elections. Here's how some bloggers handled the Obama administration decision and what they think it means for the law and for the politics of the 2012 elections." Check out what else is on the blog.

Kaiser Health News: GOP Presidential Hopefuls: Where They Stand On Health Care (updated chart)
At first glance, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, former Utah Gov. John Huntsman, Rep. Ron Paul and Gov. Rick Perry, both from Texas, former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum seem virtually identical in their health policy platforms. They are unanimously opposed to last year's health law, favor reducing federal investment in Medicare and expanding state flexibility in managing Medicaid. But there are important distinctions in policy and tone (9/29).

The New York Times: Some Common Ground For Legal Adversaries On Health Care
The 2010 health care overhaul law has provoked an unprecedented clash between the federal government and 26 states, dividing them on fundamental questions about the very structure of the federal system. But the two sides share a surprising amount of common ground, too, starting with their agreement in briefs, filed on Wednesday, that the Supreme Court should resolve the clash in its current term (Liptak, 9/29).

Politico: Republicans Target Health, Education For Cuts
House Republicans on Thursday released their draft 2012 budget for labor, health and education programs, a giant $153.4 billion measure that moves toward the Democrats in total dollars but still challenges President Barack Obama almost across the board on labor rules and his prized education and healthcare reforms (Rogers, 9/29).

The Texas Tribune/New York Times: Few Bright Spots In Perry's Health Care Record
But while Mr. Perry condemns both efforts to make carrying health insurance mandatory, Texas faces a staggering crisis in health coverage: the state leads the nation in the number of uninsured residents, has the third-lowest percentage of people covered by their employers and spends less per capita than all but one other state on Medicaid, the joint state-federal insurance program for the disabled and poor children (Ramshaw, 9/29).

Los Angeles Times: Gingrich Presents Another 'Contract With America'
The legislative changes include repealing the federal healthcare law and replacing it with a market-based program that includes tax breaks for those who purchase insurance; reducing the corporate tax rate to 12.5%; eliminating capital gains and estate taxes and allowing residents to file under a simplified flat-tax option. He would also repeal financial regulations, allow the partial privatizing of Social Security and Medicare, and require the jobless to participate in training programs in order to receive unemployment benefits (Mehta, 9/30).

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Gingrich Unveils His Policy Proposals, From Taxes To Brain Research
During a town hall in Des Moines, Iowa, Mr. Gingrich told voters to "disenthrall" themselves from the past as he unveiled a list of policy proposals that includes increased spending on brain science and allowing Americans to choose how they pay taxes and save for retirement (Yadron, 9/29).

Politico: New Gingrich's New Contract With America Is Announced
Newt Gingrich unveiled his 21st Century Contract With America on Thursday, a document he said offered a bold framework for an American turnaround. … Gingrich, who has acknowledged his past support for requiring people to buy health insurance, opens the 26-page document by slamming President Barack Obama’s health reform law as "unconstitutional, unaffordable, unworkable and stunningly unfair," promising to make its repeal his first act as president (Summers, 9/29).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: GOP Hopeful Rick Perry Attacks Romney, President Obama In Domestic Policy Address
In his first domestic policy speech as a presidential candidate, Rick Perry is outlining his record as Texas governor and accusing rival Mitt Romney of governing Massachusetts the same way President Barack Obama governs the country. The address, set for Friday at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, discusses Perry's record on health care and the environment. But Perry offers few policy proposals, instead focusing on criticizing Obama, hitting Romney's health care law and opening a more aggressive line of attack on Romney's record on climate change (9/30).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: White House Ties Health Care To Mitt Romney
Consider: White House press secretary Jay Carney was asked if Mr. Obama is disappointed that his health care law is headed to the Supreme Court.  He said the president is not disappointed because he expected it. Mr. Carney also said there’s no question Mr. Obama's law is divisive and he downplayed the significance of the Supreme Court fight, arguing that other big legislative achievements head to court. … Then the president's top spokesman zinged Mr. Romney, quoting from the GOP candidate's  interview on Sean Hannity's radio show" (Lee, 9/29).

The New York Times: New Chief Of Hospitals Has A History Of Cost Cuts
As the second in command of New York City's public health and hospital system, Ramanathan Raju helped initiate a plan to close a $1.2 billion budget deficit in four years. The experience in New York, whose health system is five times the size of Cook County's, should come in handy when Mr. Raju starts his job next week as chief executive of the Cook County Health and Hospitals System. He faces a deficit of more than $90 million, a figure that would have been larger had the county not contributed a $274 million subsidy (Lu, 9/29).

Los Angeles Times: A Night In The ER: Adrenaline, Chaos And Very Long Waits
This is the county's safety net hospital, the place where the ill come for medicine, the wounded come for help, and the dying come for miracles. As many as 550 patients a day pass through its emergency room, one of the busiest in the nation. They wait an average of four hours to see a doctor — and then longer for further evaluation, treatment or an open bed. The total wait from the time a patient arrives until he is admitted or discharged has averaged nine hours recently. The economy has made the delays worse. More jobless and uninsured people rely on the ER for primary care and prescriptions, and by law the hospital cannot turn them away. But much of the crowding stems from the decision to replace the old County/USC, an aging, earthquake-damaged relic, with a smaller hospital (Gorman, 9/30).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: NY Panel Proposes Medicaid Coverage For Transgender Surgery And Hormone Replacement Therapy
A panel advising Gov. Andrew Cuomo on ways to revamp Medicaid has proposed that the program that pays for low-income residents’ health care cover surgery and therapy for transgender New Yorkers. Cuomo earlier this year appointed a task force to overhaul the Medicaid system, which paid $53 billion for medical care in New York last year, and cut costs. A group of health care professionals examining disparities in coverage is expected to decide next week where the transgender proposal fits on its list of priorities (9/29).

The Wall Street Journal: Hospital Debt Is Hurdle
Hoboken officials are hoping to salvage the sale of one of New Jersey's oldest hospitals to avoid shuttering the 350-bed facility and being left holding $52 million in debt. The nonprofit that operates Hoboken University Medical Center filed for bankruptcy protection in August to facilitate a $65 million sale to HUMC Holdco LLC, changing the hospital to a for-profit model. Most of the money from the sale would go to repaying $52 million in city-guaranteed bonds that were raised when Hoboken purchased the ailing hospital in 2007.  But the hospital still needs to reach a settlement with creditors owed $34 million before the sale can go through (De Avila, 9/30).

Check out all of Kaiser Health News' e-mail options including First Edition and Breaking News alerts on our Subscriptions page.

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.