KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Santorum’s Record On Health Care; Forcing Care On The Mentally Ill

The New York Times: Republicans Versus Reproductive Rights
In Iowa, the Republican presidential contenders tried to outdo one another in attacking reproductive rights as they sought the support of caucusgoers from the religious right. In New Hampshire, where voters are less socially conservative, the candidates have focused more on economic issues (1/8).

Forbes: Is Rick Santorum A Conservative Health-Care Champion?
Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Penna.), of course, is the hot story this week in the Republican Presidential sweepstakes. If you go by what Santorum says about health-care and entitlement reform, you could call him a champion of free-market health policy.  On paper, he says all of the right things. The trillion-dollar question is: how committed would a President Santorum be to leading the country toward far-reaching reforms? There's reason for doubt (Avik Roy, 1/6).

iWatch: President Santorum Would Be Insurers' Best Buddy
Santorum was without a doubt one of the most reliable go-to guys in the Senate when insurers needed a champion for one of their causes. That was certainly true in regard to the industry’s efforts to shift ever-increasing portions of the cost of medical care from them to us (Wendell Potter, 1/9).

Modern Healthcare: Referendum On Reform
President Barack Obama and the Democrats who constructed the reform law cannot escape criticism. The law holds little promise of serious cost-control, especially in the short term. Cost is also the ding against "Romneycare" in Massachusetts, and getting it under control is the only thing that will make our healthcare system sustainable. There's no magic bullet to slay the healthcare inflation beast. One place to start would be a New Year's resolution by all parties in all branches of government to amend and improve the Affordable Care Act through some grand compromise (David May, 1/9).

The Wall Street Journal: Obama's Defense Drawdown
What's different now? The growing entitlement state. The Administration is making a political choice and sparing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which are set to hit nearly 11% of GDP by 2020. And that's before $2.6 trillion for ObamaCare, which will surely cost more. These entitlements are already crowding out spending on defense and thus reducing America's global standing, following the tragic path that Europe has taken. The difference is that Europe had the U.S. military in reserve. Who will backstop America? (1/9).

The Washington Post: Government: The Redistributionist Behemoth
This includes generational strife. Most transfer payments redistribute wealth from workers to nonworkers in the form of pensions and medical care for retirees. The welfare state's primary purpose is to subsidize the last years of Americans' lives, and the elderly are, after a lifetime of accumulation, better off than most Americans: In 2009, the net worth of households headed by adults ages 65 and older was a record 47 times that of households headed by adults under the age of 35 — a wealth gap that doubled just since 2005 (George F. Will, 1/6).

The Wall Street Journal: The Cancer Revolution
Forty years ago President Nixon declared a "war on cancer" and signed the National Cancer Act in December 1971, which dramatically increased government funding for oncology research. More than a few Jeremiahs are using the anniversary to lament the supposed stagnation of progress against the disease, but this is more accurately a moment to celebrate the rapid and ongoing U.S. revolution in cancer diagnosis and treatment (1/9).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Our View: A Difficult Discussion The Community Must Have
Let us again emphasize a few points: These are difficult problems involving a very small segment of those who have mental illness. Overreacting to tragedies, such as the shootings in Tucson or Virginia Tech, can cause more harm than good. What's needed is a far more open discussion of how to reasonably and safely help the truly dangerous. And the risks posed by that 1% must not be ignored. They need help. We must figure out how to get it to them (1/7).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Patients Need Array of Choices
The "Imminent Danger" series claims that the Lessard decision creates barriers to treatment for people with mental illness -- assuming that civil commitment and the use of force are optimal means of providing such care. In fact, civil commitment is the least effective and most expensive means of providing care…. Providing individuals with nonjudgmental outreach and an array of choices avoids the need for civil commitment in all but the rarest of cases. It is an approach that is more effective and less expensive than forced treatment -- and more respectful of personal autonomy (Thomas K. Zander, 1/7).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: The High Cost Of An Ideology
Zander and his colleagues are presumably proud of having protected Lessard from receiving adequate treatment for her illness since she was first hospitalized 40 years ago. But have they really done her a favor? She has been homeless, slept in trash bins and been jailed multiple times. Most painfully, she has been assailed almost continually for more than 40 years by voices and delusional thoughts of persecution, in what surely has been a living hell. In contrast, if she had been allowed to be adequately treated, such as having been given a trial of clozapine, the most effective antipsychotic known, she might have recovered her sanity and been able to live a better life, perhaps to have resumed teaching (E. Fuller Torrey, 1/7).

Denver Post: In His Sophomore Year, Hickenlooper Must Shift Into Gear
The fastest-growing component of the state budget is health-care spending, especially Medicaid, where the number of enrollees has jumped by 58 percent since 2007. Republicans have demanded the governor seek a federal waiver to rules governing the program in order to slow spending, but Hickenlooper maintains that "there are no waivers that allow you to reduce services." No matter who is right, Medicaid's spending growth is unsustainable and must be slowed, and the governor needs to exert forceful leadership, even if it means becoming a vocal critic of how the program is structured and the constraints imposed on states (1/8).

Houston Chronicle:  Funding Needed To Keep Texas-Trained Doctors In State
(W)e need more medical school graduates and residency trainees to address our physician shortage. And in order to do that, there needs to be a comprehensive review and redistribution of federal funding for residency programs in Texas (Dr. Giuseppe Colasurdo and Dr. Nancy Dickey, 1/6).

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