First Edition: September 4, 2012

Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including previews of the Democratic convention and a New York Times analysis of how the Obama and Romney campaigns vary on Medicaid policy.

Kaiser Health News: Medical Centers Begin Training Programs For Specialists On Addictions
Writing for Kaiser Health News, in collaboration with The Washington Post, Sandra G. Boodman reports: "They are seen every day in doctors' offices, outpatient clinics and hospital emergency rooms: men in their 50s with bleeding ulcers; young adults pulled from car crashes; middle-aged women fighting a losing battle against chronic pain. As dissimilar as they seem, many of these patients are also suffering from another illness -- alcohol or drug abuse – that is at the root of the more obvious ailments that keep them cycling through the medical system. Even so, their addiction is rarely addressed by doctors" (Boodman, 9/3).

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: HHS Says Health Plans Cannot Discriminate Against Transgender People
In her latest Kaiser Health News consumer column, Michelle Andrews writes: "In a recent letter hailed by advocates in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, the Department of Health and Human Services clarified that provisions in the Affordable Care Act prohibiting sex discrimination in health insurance apply to transgender people" (Andrews, 9/4). 

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Sherpaa Could Guide The Way To New Company  Health Care
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Ankita Rao reports on a health care option in New York: "In 2007 pediatrician Jay Parkinson, fresh from a Johns Hopkins residency program, rejected a traditional private practice model in developing his own approach to providing health care. To cut down on overhead costs and staff, Parkinson created a public Google calendar on his site for patients around Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, where he lives, to request a time and date for appointments. He would then make house calls and request payment via the online service, PayPal" (Rao, 9/4). Check out what else is on the blog.

Kaiser Health News also tracked weekend news coverage of Democrats' plans to highlight the health overhaul law at their convention and efforts by President Obama and other key Democrats to assail Republicans' stands on Medicare and health. 

The Wall Street Journal: Obama To Press Case For Four More Years
A senior Obama campaign official said the president may offer one or two new policy proposals in his speech Thursday, when he accepts the nomination for re-election, but that he would spend more time arguing that his existing ideas on health care, education and deficit-reduction amount to "a clear, concrete and achievable plan" for a second term. ... The party also will emphasize its support for abortion rights and insurance coverage for contraception. Speakers include the chiefs of Planned Parenthood and Naral Pro-choice America, as well as Sandra Fluke, the law student who came to prominence after radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh attacked her for supporting Mr. Obama's mandate that most employer health plans include contraception coverage (Meckler, 9/3).

The New York Times: Democrats Say U.S. Is Better Off Than Four Years Ago
A day after fumbling a predictable and straightforward question posed by Mitt Romney last week — are Americans better off than they were four years ago — the Obama campaign provided a response on Monday that it said would be hammered home during the Democratic convention here this week: “Absolutely.” ... While Democrats pointed to polls showing that Mr. Romney appeared to get little polling “bounce” out of his convention, some Democratic strategists here conceded that Republicans had succeeded in muddying the waters on a traditional Democratic strong point, Medicare. ... Many Democrats had assumed the issue would be a major political help to them, but some Democratic strategists said Republican claims that Mr. Obama had cut $716 billion from the program had at least partly neutralized the Democratic advantage (Rutenberg, 9/3).

Los Angeles Times: Obama Aims To Tie Romney To Far-Right Republicans
Obama's team plans to portray the Republicans as an association of ideologues hoping to return to power with the election of a pliant White House servant who would follow a conservative, tea-party-driven agenda. In the Democrats' version of the campaign, (Mitt) Romney is a man with little substance who has subordinated himself to the party's most right-wing forces. Those include his running mate, Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, and other House Republicans and GOP candidates who espouse views about reproductive rights that Democrats say put them out of step with a majority of voters, particularly women (Parsons, 9/3).

Politico: DNC 2012: Democrats Reframe Abortion Debate
Democrats think they’ve figured out how to win the abortion debate: Don’t make it about abortion. Starting Tuesday, the Democratic convention here will feature speeches from Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, NARAL President Nancy Keenan and Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke, who became a flashpoint in the debate over requiring Catholic institutions to pay for birth control. But don’t expect them to focus on abortion — or even necessarily use the word. Instead, they’ll defend President Barack Obama’s record on reproductive health and reproductive rights. And, as they have before, they’ll accuse GOP nominee Mitt Romney and his party of waging a “war on women” (Dovere, 9/4).

NPR: Romney And Abortion: Another Shift In The Works?
Is Mitt Romney shifting his abortion position again? It's fairly well-known that Romney proclaimed himself in favor of abortion rights when he ran for office in Massachusetts, then reversed himself before launching his presidential bid. But recently, the GOP nominee seems to be softening his opposition somewhat. Or is he (Rovner, 9/3)?

USA Today: Biden: GOP Would Turn Medicare Into 'Voucher Care'
The Obama campaign is trying to put a new tag on Republican Medicare plans. "Voucher care." "We are for Medicare, they are for voucher care," said Vice President Biden on Sunday in Green Bay, Wis. "It's basic." Under proposals backed by GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan and other Republicans, seniors would be given vouchers of a set amount to buy health insurance on the private market (Jackson, 9/3).

Politico: Pelosi Blasts Ryan Medicare Plan At Convention
Nancy Pelosi teed off on Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan, saying Democrats “created” the senior health care program and “will not let them take it away.” In a 25-minute speech to the California Democratic Party delegation, Pelosi said that “nothing less than the character of our country” is on the ballot this November – a familiar refrain from the
House minority leader, who is trying to make Republican plans to reshape Medicare a major issue for the fall campaign. “We’re going to reject the Ryan plan, which is a transparent trick to end Medicare,” Pelosi said during a gathering over breakfast. “It’s just plain wrong to privatize, voucherize and end Medicare as we know it" (Sherman, 9/3).

NPR: 'Now It's Our Turn': The Democratic National Convention Kicks Off In Charlotte
Unlike what Republicans did in Tampa last week, Democrats will lay out a clear plan to get the country back on sound footing, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said during news briefing in Charlotte, N.C. ... Villaraigosa said that the next few days were a time to remind the country about Obama's first term in office. He said they'll try to explain how Obama "stopped an economic catastrophe" and "how he saved the auto industry" and passed a landmark healthcare law (Peralta, 9/3).

Politico: Democrats Release Platform
The Democratic Party released its platform on Monday night, laying out positions on issues ranging from health care to lobbying reform and ending the war in Afghanistan. The party's support of same-sex marriage was well-reported earlier this summer, but most of the other positions outlined in the document are aligned with longstanding Democratic views (Epstein, 9/3).

The New York Times: The Other Power In The West Wing
Leaders of the Roman Catholic Church were up in arms last fall over a proposal to require employers to provide health insurance that covered birth control. But caving in to the church’s demands for a broad exemption in the name of religious liberty would pit the president against a crucial constituency, women’s groups, who saw the coverage as basic preventive care. ... What (chief of staff William M. Daley) did not realize was that while he was trying to put out what he considered a fire, the person fanning the flames was sitting just one flight up from him: Valerie Jarrett, the Obamas’ first friend, the proposal’s chief patron and a tenacious White House operator who would ultimately outmaneuver not only Mr. Daley but also the vice president in her effort to include the broadest possible contraception coverage in the administration’s health care overhaul (Becker, 9/1).

The New York Times: 2 Campaigns Differ Sharply on Medicaid, Seeking Vast Growth or Vast Cuts
The way Mitt Romney and Representative Paul D. Ryan frame it, the debate over social programs that has become a dominant theme of the presidential race is all about the future of Medicare, the government health insurance program for retirees. But the outcome of the election will probably have a more immediate and profound effect on Medicaid, the joint state-federal program that provides health care to poor and disabled people. Few other issues present a starker difference between the Republican and Democratic tickets. President Obama, through the health care law that was a centerpiece of his domestic agenda, seeks a vast expansion of Medicaid, which currently covers more than 60 million Americans — compared with 50 million in Medicare — and costs the states and the federal government more than $400 billion a year (Goodnough, 8/31).

Los Angeles Times: More Older Workers Making Up Labor Force
Millions of workers in their prime have dropped out of the labor market in recent years, but many older Americans are delaying retirement and being added to the workforce in record numbers. Nearly 1 in 5 Americans ages 65 and older are working or looking for jobs — the highest in almost half a century. ... Having more older workers in the job market helps the country's precarious fiscal situation; by working, they're paying Social Security and other taxes rather than drawing public retirement and Medicare funds. The share of seniors claiming Social Security benefits fell last year to the lowest level since 1976. But there is a trade-off: In this lackluster economy, the increasing employment of seniors means fewer jobs for their younger counterparts (Lee, 9/3).

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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.