First Edition: August 16, 2012

Medicare grabs the headlines related to the presidential campaign. 

Kaiser Health News: Q & A: Paying For Ambulance Services (Video)
In this Kaiser Health News video, Insuring Your Health columnist Michelle Andrews answers a reader question about what you can do when insurance only covers a portion of an ambulance bill (8/16). Watch the video.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Denver Health: Low Readmission Rate Not Easy To Emulate
Now on the blog, Colorado Public Radio's Eric Whitney, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "If Denver Health can do it, every hospital ought to be able to do it. That's the implicit challenge of the new Medicare penalties for high hospital readmission rates that will be hitting 2,211 American hospitals come October. Denver Health, despite being a safety net hospital, won't be paying a penalty: It has an enviably low readmission rate. But there's a problem says Medicare’s poster child: Denver Health's quality chief calls the new policy imprecise and perhaps unfair, too" (Whitney, 8/16). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Reversing Obama Medicare Cuts May Backfire On Romney By Speeding Up Program's Insolvency
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's new promise to restore the Medicare cuts made by President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law could backfire if he's elected. The reason: Obama's cuts also extended the life of Medicare's giant trust fund, and by repealing them Romney would move the insolvency date of the program closer, toward the end of what would be his first term in office (8/16).

The New York Times: Health Care Leads Campaign Dialogue In Midwest
With Mitt Romney on the attack on Medicare, President Obama personally engaged in the fight on Wednesday as the popular public health program catapulted to the top of the presidential campaign agenda (Cooper, 8/15).

Los Angeles Times: Obama, Romney Trade Jabs Over Medicare
President Obama and Mitt Romney sparred over the future of Medicare on Wednesday in a battle to shape public opinion on the proposal by Paul D. Ryan, Romney's running mate, to revamp the popular healthcare program for the elderly and the disabled. … The heated rhetoric on what, just days ago, was a marginal topic in the presidential race reflected the impact of Romney's decision to put the Wisconsin congressman on the Republican ticket Saturday. Obama and Romney are racing to define Ryan's image — in opposite ways — for voters previously unfamiliar with him (Finnegan and Parsons, 8/16).

Los Angeles Times: Romney Steps Away From Paul Ryan's Medicare Cuts
Mitt Romney on Wednesday unequivocally disavowed more than $700 billion in Medicare spending cuts proposed by his new running mate, Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin. In an interview on "CBS This Morning," Romney was asked how he squared his running mate's plan to cut spending on the popular healthcare program for the elderly with his criticism of President Obama for making the same reductions (Finnegan, 8/15).

Los Angeles Times: Obama Says GOP Plan Would 'End Medicare As We Know It'
President Obama defended his Medicare reforms Wednesday as improvements that didn't affect benefits for seniors "by a dime." Countering a new critique from Republican Mitt Romney, Obama told a crowd here that his reforms have strengthened Medicare by cutting costs and saving money in prescription drugs for seniors (Parsons, 8/15).

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Weighs In On Medicare Rift
President Barack Obama added his voice Wednesday to the escalating spat over Medicare policy between his campaign and that of Republican Mitt Romney. Mr. Obama accused the Romney campaign of being "dishonest" about the changes he has made to Medicare, saying "they're just throwing everything at the wall to see if it sticks" (Lee, 8/15).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Romney Campaign Presses Issue Of Overhauling Medicare, While going After Obama’s Likeability
Mitt Romney's presidential campaign is trying to stay on the offensive in the increasingly heated debate over the future of Medicare. Romney and his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, signaled Wednesday that they invite scrutiny of their plans for the health care program that affects tens of millions of seniors. Such a focus would thrust the budget proposal Ryan authored — which included a controversial measure to transform Medicare into a voucher-like system — into the center of the race for the White House (8/16).

Los Angeles Times: Ryan Hits At Obama Over Medicare In Ohio
It was a strange place to talk about Medicare -- not a nursing home or before a group of seniors, but at a college campus where students beginning the school year may have different things on their minds. But Paul Ryan returned to his alma mater, Miami University of Ohio, on Wednesday to reminisce about his days on campus and attack the president over cuts to a Medicare program that he once supported (Semuels, 8/15).

The Washington Post: Paul Ryan On Medicare: 'We Will Win This Debate'
Paul Ryan spoke about the issue of Medicare for the first time since being tapped as Mitt Romney's running mate, telling a crowd of about 3,000 people Wednesday night at his alma mater, Ohio’s Miami University, that the conversation is one that Republicans welcome. "The president, I'm told, is talking about Medicare today," said Ryan, who graduated from the school in 1992 with a B.A. in economics and political science. "We want this debate. We need this debate. And we will win this debate" (Sonmez, 8/16).

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Paul Ryan Ventures Into The Medicare Debate
Medicare has become a flashpoint in recent days, with both campaigns arguing that the other would gut the program. The proposed changes in Mr. Ryan's budget blueprint touched off the debate, but until Wednesday, he had not mentioned Medicare on the stump during his solo campaign events (Nelson, 8/15).

Politico: Paul Ryan Uses The 'M' Word
For the first time since he was minted as his party's vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan used the "M" word in his stump speech as he campaigned Wednesday night on the campus of his alma mater. That is, he talked about Medicare, the federal health program for senior citizens that he has proposed - in the future - to turn into a voucher program for some people (Summers, 8/15).

Los Angeles Times: Biden Sticks To Script, Goes After Ryan Plan On Medicare
A light moment – when he got a big chuckle from the audience to a line in his stump speech mocking the Romney campaign's distinguishing "outsourcing" and "offshoring" – put him back into a more feisty form, just in time to hit the message of the day: Medicare. "They make massive changes in Medicare, turning it into a voucher system," Biden warned of the Republicans (Memoli, 8/15).

The Wall Street Journal: GOP Sees A Medicare Retort
Republicans are drawing lessons from a House election last year in Nevada for how to talk to voters about the party's plans to revamp Medicare, typically a thorny issue for the GOP and one that President Barack Obama has used in attacking Mitt Romney. Former state Sen. Mark Amodei turned the tables in the Nevada special election last September. Parrying Democratic efforts to focus on GOP proposals for changing Medicare, he argued that his Democratic opponent supported Medicare cuts that were part of Mr. Obama's 2010 health-care law (Hook, 8/15).

The Wall Street Journal: Some Seniors Worry Over Ryan Selection
The news that Mitt Romney picked Rep. Paul Ryan, who has suggested changing Medicare, as his running mate sparked worries over the weekend among some residents at the Stella Maris retirement community in Miami Beach—concerns that could reverberate among seniors nationwide (Campo-Flores, 8/15).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Boehner Urges House GOP To Go On Offense Over Medicare Issue
Speaker John Boehner is urging rank-and-file House Republicans to go on offense over Medicare as Democrats argue that the GOP presidential ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would end the government-run health care program that seniors have embraced for decades (8/16).

Politico: House Dems Huddle On Medicare
After Speaker John Boehner roused his GOP conference to aggressively head off Democratic attacks on Paul Ryan, House Democrats had their own huddle to urge its members to keep the heat on Republicans over Medicare. On a conference call Wednesday afternoon, Democratic lawmakers discussed Boehner’s remarks and the charges that Mitt Romney and Ryan – the GOP’s newly anointed vice-presidential pick – have lobbed against President Barack Obama and Democrats over their health-care law, according to an aide (Kim, 8/15).

The Wall Street Journal: Hedge Funds Seized On Health-Care Uncertainty
David Einhorn's Greenlight Capital Inc. and Daniel Loeb's Third Point LLC were among the prominent hedge funds that placed bets on health insurers even as Wall Street fretted over a Supreme Court ruling on the health-care overhaul (Chung and Beniot, 8/15).

Los Angeles Times: Mental Illness Sans Cliches
The shift in television characterizations might be a result of pressure from groups such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which sends out monthly newsletter alerts praising or panning entertainment portrayals of mental illness. Or maybe it's the fact that more than one-fourth of Americans, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder every year. No doubt, a lot of Hollywood insiders can relate. The more accurate portrayals might even be because creative folks are getting tired of the same old stories (Brink, 8/15).

USA Today: Far More Could Be Done To Stop The Deadly Bacteria C. Diff
A USA TODAY investigation shows that C. diff is far more prevalent than federal reports suggest. The bacteria is linked in hospital records to more than 30,000 deaths a year in the United States— about twice federal estimates and rivaling the 32,000 killed in traffic accidents. It strikes about a half-million Americans a year (Eisler, 8/16).

Los Angeles Times: Hoag, St. Joseph Form Hospital Partnership In Orange Country
Two nonprofit hospital companies with a major presence in Orange County announced plans for a partnership as the federal healthcare law spurs more consolidation nationwide. St. Joseph Health System and Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian said Wednesday they have agreed on an affiliation among seven of their hospitals in Southern California (Terhune, 8/15).

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