First Edition: August 9, 2012

Today's headlines focus on campaign trail sparring regarding women's health issues, a political ad that has drawn criticism and a Romney aide's response.  

Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill: Contraception Coverage Issue Continues To Smolder On Capitol Hill (Video)
Kaiser Health News' Mary Agnes Carey talks with Jackie Judd about the continuing dispute over the health law provision mandating free-to-consumers contraception coverage, as the focus broadens from Congress to the courts as well (8/8). Watch the video.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Rep. Courtney Pushes Bill To Expand Medicare Coverage Of Nursing Home Stays; Where Have All The Forensic Pathologists Gone?
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Susan Jaffe reports on a legislative proposal regarding Medicare coverage of nursing homes: "Congress may be in recess, but Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) isn’t taking a vacation just yet.  He went to a New London nursing home Wednesday to drum up support for legislation that would help residents such as a 98-year-old woman whose life savings were wiped out by nursing home bills Medicare wouldn't pay" (Jaffe, 8/8).

Also on the blog, Matthew Fleming writes: "A draft report by a Justice Department Scientific Working Group for Medicolegal Death Investigation, which is open for comment through Aug. 22, spotlights the nation's shortage of these highly trained professionals who perform autopsies to determine the cause of death, whether from disease or foul play. The dwindling numbers have implications for the health care system not necessarily explored on CBS' CSI: Crime Scene Investigation or on the re-runs of Quincy" (Fleming, 8/8). Check out what else is on the blog

Los Angeles Times: Survey: 61% Of Employers Expect Cost Increase From Healthcare Law
More than 60% of employers in a new survey anticipate some increase in their health benefit costs due to the federal Affordable Care Act. The survey of 1,203 employers by the Mercer consulting firm found that 20% of those businesses expect an increase of 5% or more (Terhune, 8/8).

The New York Times: Obama Assails Romney On Women's Health Care
President Obama made one of his strongest pitches to date for the women's vote, which is crucial to his re-election, telling a mostly female crowd of 4,000 here on Wednesday that Republicans led by Mitt Romney would take them back to the era of the 1950s (Calmes, 8/9).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Obama: Romney Would Take Health Care Back To 1950s
Seeking to rally a crucial constituency, President Barack Obama on Wednesday warned women in swing-state Colorado that Republicans would seek to strip away health care benefits for them and cut funding for contraceptive services. In a passionate pitch for his health care overhaul, Obama sought to draw a stark contrast with presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney, saying his rival intended to take his health care law and "kill it dead" on the first day of his presidency and "get rid" of Planned Parenthood (8/8).

Los Angeles Times: Obama: Romney 'More Suited To The 1950s' On Women’s Health
Obama's remarks at a community college in Denver were tailored to woo women voters, a critical part of his base, and included a full-throated appeal based on policy and personality. Obama spoke of his single mother who raised him and died of cancer in her 50s, as well as his wife and daughters. He was introduced by Sandra Fluke, the former Georgetown law student who last spring found herself at the center of the debate over birth control coverage and religious freedom (Hennessey, 8/8).

The Wall Street Journal: Campaigns Put Focus On Suburban Women
The battle for suburban women, the archetypal swing voting bloc, is on. On most days, President Barack Obama talks about taxes, the economy and the middle class. But he is running a parallel campaign, aimed at suburban women, which focuses on contraception, abortion and the health-care law (Meckler and Lippman, 8/8).

Politico: Obama Gives Full-Throated Defense Of Health Care Law
President Barack Obama on Wednesday used women’s health as the platform for an all-out defense of his health care reform law, calling it the right thing to do and accusing Republicans of trying to take the law's benefits away from women (Haberkorn, 8/8).

The Wall Street Journal: A Harsh Anti-Romney Ad Sparks Criticism
In an interview, Mr. Soptic said he thought the ad was fair. But he also said of Mr. Romney: "I'm not blaming him for her death. I wouldn't do that." Mr. Soptic said that his wife was receiving health insurance through her employer at the time he lost his job at GST Steel, though she later suffered an injury, left her job and lost her insurance coverage (Nicholas and Nelson, 8/8).

Politico: Obama Super PAC Adviser: 'What Fact In That Ad Is Wrong?'
Bill Burton, the main face of Priorities USA Action, refused to back away from an ad that the pro-President Obama super PAC unveiled yesterday, despite blowback from Republicans and fact-checks that have questioned the account the spot relays. … Burton said the point of the ad is to describe the impact of decisions made by Romney's firm years after the fact on communities where jobs were lost. Blitzer said Romney "effectively left in 1999," and Burton responded, "He was the CEO. He was the sole shareholder. He's responsible for the decisions" of the company (Haberman, 8/8).

The New York Times' The Caucus: Romney Aide Touts Health Care Overhaul
A principal message-maker of the Romney campaign drew criticism from conservative circles on Wednesday by suggesting that if a laid-off steel worker in an anti-Romney ad had lived in Massachusetts, he would have had health insurance and his wife might still be alive. … But Ms. Saul's remarks threaten to upstage that message by reminding voters of the link between the president's health care law and Mr. Romney's Massachusetts health reform in 2006. The universal mandate to buy insurance that Mr. Romney promoted helped inspire President Obama's health care overhaul (Gabriel, 8/8).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Romney Campaign Attacks Democrats Over Ad About Woman's Death, But Aide's Remark Sparks Dismay
Mitt Romney's campaign fiercely protested a searing attack ad aired by allies of President Barack Obama on Wednesday, but drew expressions of dismay from conservatives when an aide to the former Massachusetts governor invoked the benefits of a state health care system he signed into law  (8/8).

The Washington Post: Romney Spokeswoman Praises His Efforts On Health-Care Reform As Governor
Mitt Romney drew new fire from his conservative allies on a familiar topic Wednesday — health-care reform — as his spokeswoman offered unusual praise for his efforts on the issue as Massachusetts governor. In an interview with Fox News Channel on Wednesday, Andrea Saul invoked Massachusetts's expansion of health coverage as a defense to a harsh new ad funded by a super PAC supporting President Obama (Helderman and Blake, 8/8).

Politico: Romney Spokesperson Cites Massachusetts Health Law
A Mitt Romney spokesperson offered an unusual counterattack Wednesday to an ad in which a laid-off steelworker blames the presumptive GOP nominee for his family losing health care: If that family had lived in Massachusetts, it would have been covered by the former governor’s universal health care law (Robillard, 8/8).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Missouri Senate Race Tilts Toward The Extreme As McCaskill And Akin Highlight Stark Contrasts
Within hours of Akin winning the Republican nomination, McCaskill was casting him as a conservative extremist who would jeopardize seniors’ health care and retirement savings while putting college out of reach for all but the rich. Akin countered by portraying McCaskill — one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents in the nation — as a budget-busting, tax-hiking, big-spending liberal (8/8).

Los Angeles Times: Komen Breast Cancer Charity's Top Leaders Step Down
The changes came six months after a public uproar when Komen's decided to stop funding breast health services operated by Planned Parenthood. Though Brinker and others in the national leadership said that the decision to halt funding had nothing to do with abortion politics, critics and some local Komen affiliates cried foul, and the charity reversed its decision within days (Brown and Khan, 8/9).

NPR: Susan G. Komen’s President To Leave Organization
The breast cancer charity Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced Wednesday a shakeup of its top ranks in the wake of criticism over its decision to halt partnerships with affiliates of Planned Parenthood. In a statement, Komen said its president, Liz Thompson, would leave the organization in September (Calamur, 8/8).

Los Angeles Times: Deal On California Workers' Compensation Overhaul Appears Likely
Hopes for a last-minute agreement to overhaul the state's $11-billion workers' compensation system are growing as the end of the 2012 legislative session approaches. A small group of labor unions and large employers has been meeting quietly since April to craft legislation that would cut administrative, legal and medical costs enough to fund a significant boost in benefits paid to workers who suffer permanent disabilities from job-related injuries or illnesses. And an agreement seems imminent (Lifsher, 8/9). 

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