OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Medicare wars intensify

The presidential race hasn't turned into the great Medicare policy debate that many pundits were expecting, but Medicare is still gaining ground as one of the most important issues of 2012.

President Obama leaned into the issue over the weekend, telling voters in Florida that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan's plan would cause seniors' costs to skyrocket.

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Obama was citing a report from the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and the study's authors provided some backup Monday. The report, by Harvard University Professor David Cutler, who advised Obama's 2008 campaign, says seniors retiring in 2023 would pay $59,500 more under Romney and Ryan's plan.

"So basically your costs would rise by thousands, so their profits can rise by billions," Cutler said Monday. Healthwatch has the story.

Pre-existing confusion: The Romney campaign muddied its own healthcare messaging over the weekend, this time on the question of people with pre-existing conditions. Romney has said in the past that federal law should guarantee coverage for people who have a pre-existing condition and have been continuously insured.

The problem with that proposal is that it is already federal law, at least for people who get coverage through an employer. So it's not really relevant to a discussion of Obama's healthcare law, which guarantees coverage to sick people who have had a gap in their coverage. Romney has not said whether or how he would ensure those people could get coverage without the Affordable Care Act.

As Washington Post blogger Sarah Kliff reported, the parsing leaves out roughly 89 million people.

Per The Hill's Russell Berman, House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) had this to say when asked about Romney's interview and whether Republicans would repeal the entire healthcare law:

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"The issue of pre-existing conditions and the issue of children staying on health [plans of parents] — those have been in Republican plans. I think it is very clear — we have always said we need health reform, but you first have to repeal ObamaCare. ... We have a plan for pre-existing conditions and the others. We plan on solving the healthcare problem."

Math: The Affordable Care Act reduces seniors' Medicare costs. It also reduces government spending on Medicare. Therefore, repealing the Affordable Care Act, without a replacement plan, would increase those costs. This is the point that the Kaiser Family Foundation makes in a new "data note." The explanation doesn't really get any more complicated, but nevertheless, Healthwatch has more.

War over women: Planned Parenthood's political arm will hit Mitt Romney over abortion with new ads in Virginia and Ohio, the group announced Monday. The ad buy, worth $3.2 million, comes as part of the largest-ever campaign effort for Planned Parenthood Votes. The group has already invested $1.4 million on ads in Iowa, Florida and Virginia. Healthwatch has the lowdown.

On the other side: While Planned Parenthood Votes shelled out its record-breaking sums, abortion-rights opponents are launching a fundraising campaign of their own. Americans United for Life said in a fundraising pitch that "we need your immediate contribution to end Planned Parenthood's occupation of the White House in November." Here's our post.


Tuesday's agenda

The Ways and Means Oversight subcommittee holds a hearing on the IRS's role in implementing healthcare reform. The witness list is here.

The House Small Business Committee's health panel will hold a hearing on competitive bidding in Medicare.

America's Health Insurance Plans holds the second day of its Medicare conference. CMS's Jonathan Blum is slated to speak in the morning.

The Kaiser Family Foundation releases its annual survey of employer benefits.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius is speaking in the morning at a conference for home and community-based healthcare services.

HHS is making another "important Affordable Care Act announcement" at noon.

Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) will be honored at the Alliance for Aging Research’s 19th annual Bipartisan Congressional Awards Dinner.


State by state

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) won't say whether he plans to take part in the healthcare law's Medicaid expansion.

"RomneyCare" notwithstanding, medical debt persists in Massachusetts.

Arizona's Medicaid program lost the latest round of a legal battle over $200 million in pharmaceutical spending.


Lobbying registrations

Tauzin Strategic Network / EMD Serono

Arent Fox / PulmoCare Respiratory Services, Inc

McDermott Will & Emery / United Allergy Services

Tarplin, Downs & Young / Pfizer

Clark Lytle Geduldig & Cranford / Aveta

Tiber Creek Health Strategies / Novartis

The Duberstein Group / Kellogg

Dade Medical College (self-registration)

Mason Consulting / American Academy of Nurse Practitioners

Onyx Pharmaceuticals (self-registration)

Core Synergy Group / Priority Professional Care

Purple Advocacy / Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare



Reading list

President Obama's healthcare advisers haven't always been opposed to premium support, National Journal reports.

The Health Affairs blog takes a closer look the Medicaid expansion and vulnerable populations.


What you might have missed on Healthwatch

Sebelius touts new strategy to prevent suicide

Durbin: Romney wanting to retain part of health law shows he’s on ‘defensive’

Obama: Seniors would lose 'thousands' under Romney Medicare


Comments / complaints / suggestions?

Please let us know:

Sam Baker: sbaker@thehill.com / 202-628-8351

Elise Viebeck: eviebeck@thehill.com / 202-628-8523

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