KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Cutting Health Costs Is Next Battle; Texas Medicaid Chief On Why Expansion Won’t Work; Grief, Anger Over End-of-Life Decision

The New York Times: A Formula For Cutting Health Costs
No matter what happens to President Obama's health care reforms after the November elections, the disjointed, costly American health care system must find ways to slow the rate of spending while delivering quality care. There is widespread pessimism that anything much can be achieved quickly, but innovative solutions are emerging in unexpected places. A health care system owned and managed by Alaska's native people has achieved astonishing results in improving the health of its enrollees while cutting the costs of treating them (7/21).

The New York Times: Only The First Step In Containing Health Costs
Here's a frightening thought: Despite the recent Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act, serious work on more health care legislation is still needed. ... Even with the law, health care spending is still projected to rise rapidly over coming decades, so more steps to contain costs will have to be taken (Christina D. Romer, 7/21).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinal: Want Free Health Care? Show Up At 5 A.M.
It's 5:25 a.m. on a recent Saturday and a sizable line is already forming outside Columbia St. Mary's Family Health Center for its free clinic for the uninsured. The first-come, first-serve facility doesn't open its doors until after 7 a.m., but for those waiting to be seen, it's their only option (James E. Causey, 7/21).

The Dallas Morning News: Health Exchange Would Benefit Texas
This newspaper didn't think the Affordable Care Act was the best health care overhaul for America, but for the life of us we can't figure out why Gov. Rick Perry is so rock-solid against implementing sensible parts of the legislation. ... The governor and other opponents contend the Affordable Care Act comes with too many rules governing exchanges. Here's the problem: If Texas doesn’t create its own marketplace, the feds will do it for us. Since when is that a good idea? (7/20).

Austin American Statesman: Human Services Chief: Why Medicaid Expansion Won't Work For Texas
The Texas Medicaid program paid $467 million for almost 2.5 million emergency visits in 2009, and half of those visits weren't even for emergencies. Yet federal law makes it virtually impossible for states to charge even small co-pays to discourage unnecessary emergency room use by Medicaid clients. This is just one small reason why Medicaid is broken. If we want true reform of our health care system, we should start by reducing the convoluted maze of federal regulations that often prevents states from ensuring that Medicaid makes the most of limited tax dollars (Tom Suehs, 7/21).

Miami Herald: Not So Fast, Gov. Scott
Gov. Rick Scott's oh-so-quick dismissal of the opportunity to provide healthcare to more Floridians under Medicaid, which came just one day after the Supreme Court decision upholding most of the Affordable Care Act, should not be the last word on the subject. His decision was politically inspired, and his facts have been called into question. For Floridians desperate to get basic health care the consequences could be dire. Train wreck, perfect storm, falling off the cliff — all of these phrases have been used to describe the impact of Mr. Scott's decision unless the Legislature takes a more thoughtful approach (7/22).

Arizona Republic: Brewer Attacks On Health Care Bad For All Of Us
Nearly 1.3 million Arizonans lack access to quality, affordable health care -- and Gov. Jan Brewer is quietly moving to add to that number by taking away health-care coverage from families who currently have it. Immediately before the July Fourth holiday, the Governor's Office filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn an appeals-court decision allowing state employees to put domestic partners on their health benefits (Chad Griffin, 7/21).

Sacramento Bee: Is There An Rx For Coaxing Young To Buy Health Plans?
Just as Hollywood movies are judged by opening weekend box office, California's health exchange will be judged by Day One enrollment. So the state is planning aggressive pre-enrollment rollout for October 2013. More than 2.5 million uninsured adult students attend community colleges. The state should go there and focus on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube. It should connect with young people who are waiting restaurant tables, or employed at firms with part-time workers. The aim of the Affordable Care Act is to make sure that people are not priced out of coverage by life transitions. Young adults tend to be most affected by that and, thus, stand to be the biggest beneficiaries of the Affordable Care Act, if they enroll in insurance. That should reduce cost shifting and drive costs down for the rest of us, too (7/23).

iWatchNews:  A Nice Little Gift From ObamaCare Directly To You
One of the reform law’s most important provisions — the one that insurance firms and Wall Street despise most — is the one that sets the minimum allowable MLR, effective last year, at 80 percent for policies sold to individuals and small businesses. For large groups it's 85 percent. If insurers' MLRs drop below those percentages, they have to send rebate checks to their policyholders. Really.  That reckoning came last week for insurance companies that violated the law in 2011. Checks from insurance companies to individuals are now pouring into mailboxes all across the country (Wendell Potter, 7/23).

Los Angeles Times: For Palm Springs Man, Grief And Anger Over An End-Of-Life Decision
On the evening of July 2, Bill Bentinck, 87, was led from his Palm Springs home in handcuffs, in mourning and in shock. The body of his wife of 25 years, Lynda, was still in the house, but there was no time to grieve. After telling police that his terminally ill wife had chosen to disconnect her oxygen supply and put an end to her suffering from emphysema, he was arrested on suspicion of murder. Bentinck, a straight-talking man in the Jimmy Stewart mold, felt that he had made a difficult but compassionate choice in honoring his wife's last wish and not reconnecting the oxygen. But police saw it differently (Steve Lopez, 7/22).

Philadelphia Inquirer: The Family Factor In Health Care
Yet, even if they pull off a political coup by reversing the central legacy of the Obama presidency, Republicans are painting themselves into a corner if they think that "block-granting" Medicaid to the states, introducing a premium-support option for Medicare, ending tax disincentives for non-group insurance, and allowing consumers to purchase interstate health plans will, by themselves, solve the health-care "crisis." That's because the explosive growth of the health-care sector has more to do with social and demographic realities than a lack of free-market principles in health-care delivery and financing. Indeed, family breakdown all across America is the unacknowledged force fast tracking health-care expenditures (Robert W. Patterson, 7/22).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Nation Must Re-Examine Mental Health System
The shooting, like others before it, will raise two issues, one of easy access to guns and another involving the nation's mental health systems. We need to be clear that the vast majority of people with mental health issues are non-violent. But, while it is too early to know Holmes' mental status, his actions symbolize the need to re-examine how we look at mental health in this country (7/20).

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