First Edition: October 10, 2012

Today's headlines include reports that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has pledged that his presidential agenda does not include abortion legislation.

Kaiser Health News: In New Health Exchange, Human Element Of Customer Service Is Up For Debate
Minnesota Public Radio's Elizabeth Stawicki, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "If you have health insurance through your employer, imagine what it would be like to choose a health plan without a human resources staffer to explain the choices. Would you know how to evaluate an array of different premiums, co-pays and deductibles?" (Stawicki, 10/9). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Revealing Angioplasty Outcomes Didn’t Improve Patient Mortality: Study; Schumer: 'A Lot Of Opposition' To Raising Medicare Age
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Jordan Rau reports on a new study about the impact of some health care outcomes: "In the 23 years since New York State began publishing hospital death rates of coronary artery-bypass graft patients, the number of publicly reported outcome measures has proliferated. There are now 258 public reports on health care quality available around the country, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation" (Rau, 10/9).

Also on Capsules, Mary Agnes Carey reports on signals sent by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., about what might be on the table for a grand bargain: "Democrats have said they are willing to overhaul entitlements if Republicans agree to new tax revenues as part of a 'grand bargain' to reduce the deficit, but don't expect the Medicare eligibility age to be increased as part of any deal, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said Tuesday" (Carey, 10/10). Check out what else is on the blog.

The New York Times: Obama Campaign Tells Supporters: Steady On
Big Bird was part of a broader effort by Mr. Obama and his team to reassure supporters — many of whom were confident a week ago that the election was all but assured — that his campaign had not lost its intensity or focus. By later in the day, Mr. Obama was delivering a spirited campaign appearance in Columbus, Ohio, his aides were reaching out to big donors with a calming message that they had always expected a tight finish, and the campaign had released new ads in battleground states on issues like potential cuts to Medicaid (Rutenberg and Zeleny, 10/9).

The Wall Street Journal: Romney Targets Obama Voters
Mitt Romney is putting a new emphasis on visiting counties that voted for President Barack Obama in 2008, as he urges Republicans in swing states to help him push the president's supporters to switch sides. … As Mr. Romney tweaks his message to appeal to more centrist voters, he must contend with positions he took as he fought for the Republican nomination, such as his vows to defund Planned Parenthood and his plan to restructure Medicare. At one point this year, Mr. Romney told voters that he had been a "severely conservative" governor of Massachusetts (Nelson and O’Connor, 10/9).

Los Angeles Times: Obama Campaigns More Urgently In Response To Debate Setback
Another spot released Tuesday reinforced in a more serious way the Obama camp's concerns about Romney's new momentum. That ad, airing in swing states, links Romney to running mate Rep. Paul D. Ryan's proposal to cut back spending on Medicaid. The cuts would "burden families with the cost of nursing home care," the ad said, picking up on a line of attack former President Clinton stressed when he made the case for Obama at the Democratic National Convention. The ad also indicated that the Obama campaign views Thursday's vice presidential debate as an opportunity to get back on track (Memoli and Reston, 10/10).

The Washington Post: Romney: No Abortion Legislation On His Agenda
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney told the Des Moines Register Tuesday that legislation regulating abortion would not be a part of his agenda, prompting the Obama campaign to suggest he was trying to confuse women voters about his position on the emotionally charged issue (Williams, 10/9).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Romney Promises No Abortion Legislation Will Be Part Of Presidential Agenda
Wading into an explosive social issue, Republican Mitt Romney on Tuesday said he would not pursue any abortion-related legislation if elected president. "There's no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda," he told the Des Moines Register in an interview posted on the newspaper's website (10/9).

The Washington Post: Ad Watch: Obama Ad Ties '47 Percent' To Medicare Vouchers
What it says: "Victims. Dependent. That's what Mitt Romney called forty-seven percent of Americans. Including people on Medicare. But what about his plan for you? Romney would replace guaranteed benefits with a voucher system. Seniors could pay six thousand dollars more a year. A plan AARP says would undermine Medicare. You’re no victim…you earned your benefits. Don't let Mitt Romney take them away" (Jennings, 10/9).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: In Tight Senate And House Races, Tempers Flare While Attacks Get Snarky And Personal
Short on time and tempers, House and Senate candidates in tight races are turning snarky and personal in their attacks on their opponents. … Across the land, candidates are launching incendiary attacks on each other in the final, fretful days of an election year colored by margin-of-error races that have refused to budge (10/10).

Politico: 10 Nastiest House Races
If you thought the presidential race was veering off the rails with small-ball attacks and Big Bird, the ugliest House races around the country take it to a whole new level. House races are more local, less polished and the candidates often know each other — and have built up a personal hostility palpable in the campaign (Kim and Nocera, 10/9).

The New York Times: Schumer Shakes Up Deficit Talks With Call To Raise Taxes On The Rich
But some Democrats involved in the negotiations say Mr. Schumer's position could prove helpful by demarcating the left’s opening position on tax cuts for the rich and by opening a new avenue for negotiation over entitlement programs. Mr. Schumer said Republicans would be drawn to the table by the prospect of making changes to Medicare and other entitlements. While he did not specify what changes he would accept, Republicans in deficit talks have demanded the restructuring of entitlements in exchange for added revenues (Weisman, 10/9).

The Washington Post: Schumer: Tax Reform Should Cut Deficits, Not Tax Rates
But some Democrats worry that opening with an offer to lower the top rate will push the final number far lower than Democrats are willing to go. “Simpson-Bowles is a compromise, not the starting point,” said one House aide. In that regard, Schumer may be planting the Democratic flag at 39.6 percent not to thwart compromise but to encourage a deal closer to 35 percent than to the lower GOP targets. Instead of lower rates, Schumer said, “the lure for Republicans to come to the table around a grand bargain should be the potential for serious entitlement reform” — including major changes to Medicare, the biggest driver of projected deficits. But Democrats have so far rejected structural changes to the program. On Tuesday, Schumer declined to say what new revisions Democrats were willing to contemplate (Montgomery and Khimm, 10/9).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Schumer: New Tack On Taxes
But he says that Republicans should be drawn to such a deal by the prospect of a bipartisan bargain that also includes changes to improve the sustainability of entitlement programs. Those programs – such as Social Security and Medicare – are expected to run substantial shortfalls in the future, adding dramatically to budget deficits. "The lure for Republicans to come to the table around a grand bargain should be the potential for serious entitlement reform, not the promise of a lower top rate in tax reform," Mr. Schumer is expected to say, according to excerpts of his speech (McKinnon, 10/9).

Los Angeles Times: Group Of Senators Seeks Bipartisan Deficit Reduction Deal
As a lofty political debate over taxes and spending plays out on the presidential campaign trail, a more practical one is unfolding this week in Virginia as eight senators try to strike a bipartisan deficit reduction deal (Mascaro, 10/9).

Politico: Senators Throw Elbows For Seats At Fiscal Table
There's nothing on the table yet from anyone. But these moves illustrate the furious, power-driven scramble under way right now to shape the real negotiations on the nation’s fiscal future immediately after the election. It's a drive to lay down markers on taxes, spending and deficit reduction before the real talks begin (Raju and Sloan, 10/9).

The New York Times' Economix: Q & A: Understanding The Fiscal Cliff
In the first two days of 2013, large tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003 will expire and across-the-board cuts to defense and nondefense programs in the government will begin a drastic and sudden hit to the economy — a so-called fiscal cliff — that both parties say could be damaging to the unsteady recovery. Here is a primer on the tax increases and program cuts and their potential impact on the economy (Weisman, 10/9).

The New York Times' Economic Scene: Cutbacks And The Fate Of The Young
But the nation’s growing debt is not the only threat to our children’s future. … Right now, the next generation is getting shortchanged all around, with children too often treated as an afterthought in policies meant to appeal to their elders. The United States tolerates the highest rate of child poverty in the developed world. Yet federal expenditures on children — including everything from their share of Medicaid and the earned-income tax credit to targeted efforts like child nutrition and education programs — fell 1 percent last year and will fall an additional 4 percent this year, to $428 billion, according to estimates by the Urban Institute based on the Congressional Budget Office’s projections (Porter, 10/9).

The Wall Street Journal: Military Families Balk At Health Fee
A provision in the national health-care law that lets young adults stay on their parents' insurance plan is popular with many families—but not ones in the military. Families covered by Tricare, the health program for active and retired members of the military, must pay as much as $200 a month to let an adult child stay on their plan until age 26. Most families in private plans now pay no fee to extend such coverage. Military families are starting to complain about the disparity, saying they can't afford those premiums and have let their children go uninsured (10.9).

USA Today: Medicare Won't Issue New IDs To Identity-Theft Victims
More than a quarter-million Medicare beneficiaries are victims of identity theft and hampered in getting health care benefits because the government won't issue new IDs, according to an investigation report released today (Kennedy, 10/10).

Los Angeles Times: For Heart Patients, Medical Disclosure Can Limit Treatment
Heart attack patients in states that require healthcare providers to report the outcomes of procedures to open blocked arteries are less likely to receive those live-saving treatments than similar patients in states without public reporting mandates, according to a new study. The disparities in care, however, appeared to have little effect on patient survival rates. The analysis, based on nearly 100,000 Medicare patients in 10 states, comes amid a nationwide push for greater transparency in how doctors and hospitals measure up against one another (Zarembo, 10/9).

The Associated Press: Federal Government Requests Full Appeals Court Rehearing On Graphic Cigarette Health Warnings
The U.S. government is asking a federal appeals court to rehear a challenge to a Food and Drug Administration requirement that tobacco companies to put large graphic health warnings on cigarette packages to show that smoking can disfigure and even kill people (10/9).

The New York Times: New Style Of Health Care Emerges To Fill Hospital's Void
The demise of St. Vincent's Hospital in Greenwich Village two years ago has led to a struggle for health care supremacy in some of New York's most distinctive neighborhoods, offering a glimpse, in the process, at what might be the future of urban medicine (Hartocollis, 10/9).

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.