First Edition: October 11, 2012

Today's headlines include previews of how Medicare and other health policy issues might playin tonight's vice presidential debate.  

Kaiser Health News: FAQ: The Health Law Coverage For Immigrants
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Appleby reports: "The U.S. is home to more than 21 million immigrants who are not citizens, and for many of them, health coverage is a concern. That is partly because so many of these immigrants, both those who came here legally and those who do not have permission to live in the United States, work in lower wage jobs that don’t include health coverage" (Appleby, 10/11). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Study: CMS Penalties Don’t Change Hospital-Acquired Infection Rates; Adderall For Healthy Kids: A Cost Shift To Medicaid?
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Julie Appleby reports on a development related to hospital-acquired infection rates: "A Medicare payment policy designed to push hospitals to cut their infection rates has had no effect in reducing two types of preventable infections among patients in intensive care units, researchers say in a study out Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine" (Appleby, 10/10).

Also on the blog, Jenny Gold reports on a development regarding Adderall and healthy kids: "Doctors in Georgia are prescribing ADHD medications to help low-income children struggling in elementary school, even when they do not have an attention deficit disorder, reports a front-page article in Tuesday's New York Times" (Gold, 10/11). Check out what else is on the blog.

The New York Times: This Election, A Stark Choice In Health Care
When Americans go to the polls next month, they will cast a vote not just for president but for one of two profoundly different visions for the future of the country's health care system. With an Obama victory on Nov. 6, the president's signature health care law — including the contentious requirement that most Americans obtain health insurance or pay a tax penalty — will almost certainly come into full force, becoming the largest expansion of the safety net since President Lyndon B. Johnson pushed through his Great Society programs almost half a century ago (Goodnough and Pear, 10/10).

The New York Times: Six Things To Watch For In Biden-Ryan Debate
Will Mr. Ryan be tempted to repeat a staple of his and Mr. Romney's stump speech, that the president has plundered $716 billion from Medicare to pay for "Obamacare?" There is danger there. Mr. Ryan incorporated the same $716 billion savings into his House budget this spring, and he has now renounced that plan because Mr. Romney promises to "restore" the money to Medicare. Mr. Biden would love to see Mr. Ryan, a self-described "numbers guy," get lost in the weeds of budget baselines and other details that he sometimes uses to explain this discrepancy. But the trap seems too easy (Gabriel, 10/10).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: 5 Things To Watch For Thursday Night In Biden-Ryan Vice Presidential Debate
Expect to hear lots about the House Republican budget plan written by Ryan. Biden's sure to criticize Ryan's spending cuts and Medicare proposal as too extreme. Even GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney has distanced himself from some of Ryan's more controversial ideas (10/11).

The Washington Post: Obama Vows More Aggressive Debate Approach Against Romney
Romney advisers have called Obama's questions about their candidate's honesty evidence that the president is unable to defend his record on job creation, health care and the management of the deficit. … In the radio interview, Obama said he expected the race to turn back his way, beginning Thursday night with the vice-presidential debate. He also dismissed the Democratic angst that has followed his performance in Denver as the same misplaced doubts that dogged his campaign four years ago (Wilson and Nakamura, 10/10).

The New York Times: Voters Give Romney Better Grades For Leadership, Polls In 3 States Find
Mitt Romney is seen by more voters in three battleground states as a strong leader after his dominant debate performance last week, but perceptions that the economy is improving remain a buttress for President Obama as the 2012 campaign comes down to its final weeks. … The president's support is built on strengths that have been evident for months. In the two states where he holds an advantage overall, Mr. Obama has consistently outperformed Mr. Romney on a series of issues, including international affairs, health care and Medicare (Shear and Thee-Brenan, 10/11).

The Washington Post: Romney Shifts To More Moderate Stances On Taxes, Immigration, Health Care, Education
The final weeks of the presidential campaign are bringing Mitt Romney full circle, back to a question that has tugged at him for nearly two decades: What does he really believe? Although he declared himself "severely conservative" during the ¬Republican primaries, the former Massachusetts governor has been sounding more moderate in recent days. There may be room for argument as to whether Romney's positions are changing. But the emphasis and tone with which he describes them unquestionably are — on issues that include immigration, taxes, education and health care (Tumulty, 10/10).

The Washington Post: Romney Appears To Pivot On Abortion
Mitt Romney, buoyed by recent polls that show him ahead of President Obama after a strong debate performance, appears to have modified his stance on abortion, a key issue among social conservatives, a voting bloc that has been skeptical of the Republican nominee in the past. In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Romney seemed to back away from his antiabortion position, suggesting that he would not actively pursue legislation that would outlaw abortions, a key objective among social conservatives (Henderson, 10/10).

NPR: Romney's Remarks On Abortion Cause A Stir
Just how many abortion positions does Mitt Romney have? Once again, that answer is unclear. This time the confusion began Tuesday, during a meeting with the editorial board of the Des Moines Register. "There's no legislation with regards to abortion that I'm familiar with that would become part of my agenda," Romney said. … But the comment about not pushing abortion-restricting legislation surprised those on both sides of the abortion debate (Rovner, 10/10).

The New York Times' The Caucus: Obama Campaign Says Romney Is Misleading Voters On Abortion
President Obama's campaign on Wednesday accused Mitt Romney of "cynically and dishonestly" trying to hide his real position on abortion and contraception after the Republican presidential candidate said he could not think of any abortion-related legislation that would be part of his agenda in the White House. Speaking to reporters on a conference call, Stephanie Cutter, the deputy campaign manager for Mr. Obama, scoffed at those remarks, calling them a desperate attempt to mislead voters about his real intentions on the subject (Shear, 10/10).

The New York Times: A Feisty Debate Crystallizes Differences In Tight Massachusetts Race
Elizabeth Warren and Senator Scott P. Brown kept the pressure on each other throughout a feisty, hourlong debate here Wednesday night. … Asked where he would cut the government, Mr. Brown cited President Obama's health care law, which, he said, was crushing Massachusetts businesses. He said the law would remove $700 billion from Medicare, an assertion that Mr. Romney made in last week's presidential debate (Seelye, 10/11).

Los Angeles Times: Berman, Sherman Mix It Up – Again – In Congressional Race Forum
Both supported the Affordable Health Care Act and said Wednesday that it had already provided access to healthcare for thousands of uninsured people and was a good first step.  And each said he wanted "comprehensive" immigration reform, including securing borders, providing a path to legal residency for  otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants and sanctions against employers who hire workers without proper documentation (Merl, 10/10).

The Washington Post: Kay Coles James Featured In New George Allen Ad
Republican Senate candidate George Allen on Wednesday released a new TV ad, the second featuring Kay Coles James, his secretary of health and human resource when he was governor. … Democrats have also questioned James as a surrogate in an election in which Kaine has sought to make women's health issues a focus. As director of public affairs for the National Right to Life Committee, James opposes abortion (Vozzella, 10/10).

The Wall Street Journal: Medicare Shift Fails To Cut Hospital Infections
A high-profile Medicare policy that sought to reduce certain hospital-acquired infections by cutting payments tied to treating them turned out to have no impact, according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine (Mathews, 10/10).

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