KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Today’s OpEds: Shift Entitlement Spending To The States; The Lack Of A GOP Health Plan; Battling Tobacco

It's Time To Shift Spending To The States Politico
The U.S. fiscal path is unsustainable, primarily because of out-of-control entitlement spending. … At some point, therefore, the economy is due to crash unless Washington reins in spending. One way to avoid this outcome would be to transfer entitlement programs to the states ... failure to slash entitlements could mean a bankrupt economy. When that happens, it's sure to be the poor who suffer the most (Jeffrey Miron, 7/16).

Obamacare Is Bad, But What Is The GOP For? CQ Politics
Polls suggest that President Barack Obama's health care plan is becoming somewhat more popular - even as evidence mounts that it will be astronomically expensive and may cause millions of workers to lose their employer-provided health insurance. Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans are calling for repeal of the plan - without any realistic hope of doing so and without offering an alternative that would cover anywhere near the 30 million who will get insurance under Obamacare (Morton Kondracke, 7/15).

Don't Forget Tobacco The New England Journal of Medicine
It is tempting to believe that the battle is largely won and that we should move on to other pressing public health issues. But the prevalence of smoking in the United States hovers at 20%, more than 8 million people are sick or disabled as a result of tobacco use, and smoking kills 450,000 Americans annually (Steven Schroeder and Kenneth Warner, 7/15)

Better Technology Will Deliver Better Health Care To Iowans The Des Moines Register
In less than two years, a high-speed, safe and secure wireless and fiber optic health care network will have the capability of serving almost 2 million Iowans, 650,000 households and 134,000 businesses in the state. It will open the way to offer tele-health to even the most remote rural areas of the state, into residents' homes and through doctors' offices and clinics. It will make possible the transmission of X-rays and CT-scans to virtually any hospital or medical center in Iowa. And what the nation has been talking about for years now -- the Electronic Health Record -- will be portable from doctor to doctor, hospital to hospital and for patients all over Iowa. In short, it will mean better care, with the goal being better patient outcomes (Bill Leaver, 7/15).

Rationer-In-Chief The Economist
Since Dr Berwick got the job merely as a "recess appointment", Republicans will get their chance to grill him in the future. His term must expire by the end of 2011, when the next session of Congress draws to a close. So why are Republican politicians and pontificators so angry? The short answer is that they would much rather have full-blown hearings now, so that they can attack Dr Berwick (and, by extension, ObamaCare) in the run-up to the mid-term elections in November (7/15).

Rationing Debate Reason Magazine
If government-run health care is such a bad thing-at once too expensive, too impersonal, and too ineffective-shouldn't those who oppose it want to see the government's major health care payment systems run by someone who has single-mindedly devoted himself to cutting costs, focusing on patients, and increasing health outcomes? Dr. Donald Berwick, President Obama's appointee to run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), is, judging by his record, just such an individual (Peter Suderman, 7/15).

How To Liberate The NHS The Wall Street Journal
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley's NHS reform, announced this week, is the biggest decentralization of decision making ever undertaken in any organization. The idea of liberating front-line employees is a powerful and exciting one. The bureaucracy of the NHS is not just a nightmare for patients, but also for the doctors, nurses and other workers too. Patients only have to contend with it when they're sick. NHS employees confront it every day (Isaac Getz, 7/16).

Only You Can Prevent Health Care Deficits Forbes
This week in San Francisco a new executive order from Mayor Gavin Newsom takes effect, banning soft drinks from all vending machines on city property and replacing them with juice and soy milk. … What suddenly makes government control of our diets "appropriate" and "not intrusive"? The answer is ObamaCare, and the growing share of health care expenditures that will become part of the federal budget. If the government pays for your health care, every decision you make that affects your health also affects the federal budget (Warren Meyer, 7/15).

The Revolving Door Spins Faster On Healthcare Reform Salon
Beginning in 2001, Liz Fowler was the Chief Counsel for the Senate Finance Committee in charge of health and entitlement issues. … In 2006, she was hired by the health insurance giant WellPoint to serve as its Vice President for Public Policy and External Affairs -- in other words, overseeing WellPoint's lobbying and other government-influencing activities. Then, in 2008, once it was likely that there would be a Democratic President and thus a new, massive healthcare bill enacted, Fowler left WellPoint and returned to the Senate, as top aide to Democratic Sen. Max Baucus. … Fowler is the very embodiment of the ... Revolving Door and lobbyist-dominated politics which candidate Barack Obama endlessly vowed to subvert (Glenn Greenwald, 7/15).

Life With Health Care Coverage The Argus Leader
Everyone comes to this nation's ongoing conversation about health care from their own personal experience, which, of course, can make it difficult to understand where those with opposing views manage to get their thoughts. My experience involves the times I've lived without health care coverage and when I've lived with it. I'd like to think that those polar experiences help make my perspective a bit more well rounded than it otherwise might be, but I could be just kidding myself. Still, I'll dare to say that, based on personal experience, life with health care coverage is far better than without it (Yvonne Hawkins, 7/16).

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