KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Today’s Opinions: End-Of-Life Counseling; Rising Costs Of Boomers; Controlling Infections In Hospitals

Chicago Sun-Times: End-Of-Life Advice Is Good Medicine
Death panels. Government-sponsored euthanasia. Pulling the plug on grandma. Those were just some of the blatantly false terms conservatives threw around last year to scare Congress into stripping a provision out of the health-reform bill that would have allowed Medicare to reimburse doctors for providing voluntary, end-of-life counseling to their patients. The scare tactics worked (1/2).

The Washington Post: 'Death Panels' Are Real – Brought On By Budget Pressures
During the debate over health reform, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Sarah Palin and others railed against the "death panels" that would result from the bill. Government bureaucrats, critics said, would decide who would die and when. The bill passed -- and indeed there are death panels. But they do not come from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. "Obamacare." They come from Republican administrations in states such as Arizona and Indiana (Norman J. Ornstein, 1/1).

Boston Globe: To Contain Health Costs, State Should Try A New Way Of Paying
A state commission in 2009 concluded that the most effective way to provide a realistic check on costs would be to revamp the entire payment system for health care. The current fee-for-service system, in which hospitals and doctors are paid for specific tasks, is an engine of inflation, encouraging overuse of tests and procedures (1/2). 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Jobs And The Community Health
It says something when a community rivals Third World countries in how many of its youngsters survive childhood. And it says something when too many spouses and live-in partners fear for their safety from their significant others. And none of what this says is good. A community ignores public health issues such as these -- including the alarming rise in HIV/AIDS rates -- at its peril (1/1).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Different D.C. Dynamic
For the past year, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has stifled Republican amendments on most bills, and he's sure to do the same on [efforts to repeal the health law.] But like the different dynamic facing the White House, the landscape of this debate will be a bit different this year as well for Democrats in the Senate, since so many of them must run for re-election in 2012. Republicans know who is up for re-election, and will be putting the heat on those Democrats over health reform, the budget and more (Jamie Dupree, 1/3).

The Sacramento Bee: Is State Ready For A Wave Of Elder Boomers?
The reality is that few individuals can afford to pay for long-term care on their own -- averaging more than $70,000 a year in California -- for any length of time. What happens after individuals spend down their assets to cover the high costs of their long-term care? (1/3).

Modern Healthcare: Zero Tolerance: Take Steps To Implement Infection Control
Selfishly speaking, if your outpatient center or hospital's name appears in the newspapers for unnecessarily infecting one of your patients, or if you're sued for malpractice and you lose, what is the true cost to your organization? Can you afford the financial penalties of not complying with Medicare's infection control guidelines (David Daniel, 1/3)?

Boston Globe: Nonprofits Should Use Formula For Payments In Lieu Of Taxes
The business of running Boston falls disproportionately on residential and commercial taxpayers because more than half the city's land is exempt from property taxes. Boston's nonprofit institutions -- especially its universities and hospitals -- should contribute more to the betterment of the city, and without a lot of fuss (1/3).

Minnesota Public Radio: Health Insurers Should Stop Scaring Seniors
Regardless of your political sensibilities, I hope you can see that intentionally scaring the elderly with inaccurate and incomplete information doesn't uphold the ethical standards of doing no harm that the rest of us in health care try to live by. The industry we count on as the steward of our precious health care resources should be investing in the health of its customers, not diverting millions of dollars to fund political melodrama. (Dr. Will Nicolson, 12/28).

The Philadelphia Inquirer: It Is A Government Takeover, the online oracle of all things true and untrue in America's political debate, is wrong in saying it is the "lie of the year" to call "Obamacare" a government takeover of health care. The proclamation shows that its editors need a Truth-O-Meter of their own. Obamacare is a uniquely American government takeover of health care. Its 2,801 pages of legislation and insidious regulatory structure give the secretary of Health and Human Services almost unlimited authority to rule over every corner of our health (Grace-Marie Turner, 12/29).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Health Care Georgians Deserve
Finally, America is moving forward in the direction of sealing the gap between the insured and the uninsured. I am ecstatic to know that our new health reform bill will save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Georgians by providing them with health insurance and access to quality health care. I am optimistic that it will benefit many like my patient, giving them the financial support needed to get treatment for their illnesses before it is too late (Dr. Gayathri Suresh Kumar, 12/30).

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