First Edition: October 5, 2012

Today's headlines include more coverage of how health policy issues were addressed during Wednesday's presidential debate.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Berwick: Debate Underscores Challenge Explaining Health Law; Highmark Files Suit Against West Penn Allegheny In Pittsburgh
Now on the blog, Phil Galewitz reports on what one expert describes as the "challenges" related to explaining the health law: "More than two and a half years after he signed the most far reaching health care legislation into law, President Barack Obama showed in his Wednesday debate with Mitt Romney that explaining the law is still no easy job" (Galewitz, 10/5).  

Also on the blog, Essential Public Radio's Erika Beras, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports on a market development: "The Pennsylvania insurer Highmark has filed suit in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas to prevent West Penn Allegheny Health System from forming alliances with other entities. Last year, Highmark said it was purchasing the financially struggling hospital system. Last week, West Penn Allegheny announced it was breaking ties with Highmark and searching for other fiscal partners, because the insurer wanted the health care provider to file for bankruptcy, which they said amounted to a breach of contract" (Beras, 10/4).Check out what else is on the blog.

The New York Times: Entering Stage Right, Romney Moved To Center
He used the first presidential debate to speak out forcefully to its wide television audience against the idea of cutting taxes for the wealthy, noting that "high-income people are doing just fine in this economy." Asked if there was too much government regulation, he answered, "regulation is essential." And he praised the Massachusetts health care bill, calling it a "model for the nation" (Cooper, Kocieniewski and Calmes, 10/4).

The New York Times: After Debate, Obama Team Tries To Regain Its Footing
Mr. Obama's advisers appeared almost to expect a different Mitt Romney to turn up for the debate: the hard-edged conservative who had largely pitched his message to the Republican base. Instead, Mr. Romney softened his rhetoric, promising that his reform of Medicare would not touch benefits for older Americans and praising elements of Mr. Obama's education policy (Landler and Baker, 10/4).

The New York Times: Debate Praise For Romney As Obama Is Faulted As Flat
At this point, it remains unclear whether these snap assessments and others made immediately after the debate will be matched by the more sober judgments of voters in the upcoming days. Voters sometimes surprise the pundits by coming to different conclusions about the outcome of a presidential debate. And Mr. Obama's top strategists predicted that some of Mr. Romney's answers — in particular, his admissions about the need for a voucher system for Medicare — would deepen the concern in some communities about Mr. Romney's policies (Shear, 10/4).

The New York Times’ The Caucus: On Health Care, Two Visions With Their Own Set Of Facts
If there was one area where Mitt Romney and President Obama sometimes seemed to inhabit parallel universes at their debate on Wednesday night — with separate sets of assumptions, beliefs and even facts — it was on the question of health care and government's role in providing it (Cooper, Goodnough and Pear, 10/4).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: No Cap On Romney's Medicare Payments For Future Retirees, But How Would GOP Plan Control Costs
Mitt Romney's Medicare plan won’t try to control costs by limiting the payments that future retirees would use to buy private health insurance, aides say, adding detail to a proposal from the GOP presidential nominee that has both intrigued and confused many Americans. Reining in costs is vital to keeping Medicare affordable, and in their plans both President Barack Obama and Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, set limits on the growth of future spending (10/5).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Debate Blurs Role Of Medicare Cost Board
In defending a cost-control board in his health law, President Barack Obama during Wednesday's debate cited the Cleveland Clinic as an example of how better health care is actually cheaper. But it's unlikely the Medicare cost-control board would adopt many of the practices that have lowered costs at the renowned clinic, located in the electoral battleground of Ohio (Burton and Radnofsky, 10/4).

Los Angeles Times: Obama And Romney Both Strayed From Facts In Debate
Obama, whose 2008 pledge to reduce insurance premiums is unfulfilled, continued to overstate the impact of the new healthcare law, claiming erroneously that premium increases had slowed in recent years. In fact, the average employee share of an employer-provided health plan jumped from $3,515 in 2009 to $4,316 in 2012, an increase of more than 22%, according to a survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust. That is up from an increase of 18% between 2006 and 2009. But Romney made more false claims about the healthcare law and his own plans to replace it (10/4).

Politico: 5 Potential Dem House Upsets
For Democrats to reach the 25-seat magic number to seize control of the House, they'll need to score more than a few upsets on Nov. 6. So party strategists are starting to look beyond the lineup of races they’ve long focused on to a handful of longer shot contests in which they might find success if things break just right (Isenstadt, 10/5).

Los Angeles Times: Feds Charge 91 Healthcare Providers With Billing Fraud
A federal healthcare strike force has charged 91 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals in a nationwide sweep in connection with fraudulently billing the government nearly $430 million. Those charged included a group in Los Angeles that ferried patients for ambulance rides that were never medically necessary (Serrrano, 10/4).

Los Angeles Times: Kaiser Permanente CEO George Halvorson To Retire
The longtime chairman and chief executive of Kaiser Permanente, George Halvorson, plans to retire in December 2013, and the nonprofit health system is searching for a new leader (Terhune, 10/5).

The Washington Post: Small Businesses Push Back On DC Insurance-Exchange Mandate
The District’s small businesses may have to buy their employee health insurance through a city-run exchange come 2014, following a controversial vote by a city board. The D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority, charged with implementing the federal health-care overhaul, voted Wednesday evening to accept a recommendation that all health-insurance plans sold in the city for 50 members or fewer must be purchased through the exchange (DeBonis, 10/4).

The Texas Tribune/New York Times: Medicaid Patient Shift Squeezes Home Caregivers
The abrupt exodus of thousands of South Texas Medicaid patients from one managed care health plan is putting a financial strain on home health providers already struggling to stay in business after the state’s transition to Medicaid managed care (Aaronson, 10/4).

USA Today: Free Birth Control Project Cuts Teen Births, Abortions
An experimental project that gave free birth control to more than 9,000 teen girls and women in one metropolitan area resulted in a dramatic decrease in abortions and teen pregnancies, a new study shows (Painter, 10/5).

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