KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: ‘Cynics’ In The House; Free-Market Reforms; RomneyCare Vs. ObamaCare

The Wall Street Journal: ObamaCare's March Madness
Sports fans relish this time of year for the NCAA Championship Basketball Tournament, aka "March Madness." But this year the tournament has a serious contender for that title. March is also ObamaCare's anniversary month (Grace-Marie Turner, Alex Cortes and Heather R. Higgins, 3/7). 

Bloomberg: Romney Can't Withstand Obama's Kiss Of Death
The 2012 presidential campaign is finally stirring to life, with would-be Republican candidates Haley Barbour and Mike Huckabee musing about whether Mitt Romney should be disqualified by similarities between Massachusetts' Romneycare and Obamacare. As if on cue, President Barack Obama defended his health-care overhaul in remarks to the nation's governors by associating it with Romney's, an embrace the former Massachusetts governor surely could do without. How Americans perceive Romney's health legislation is shaping up to be an important influence on whether he sinks or swims in his expected second bid for the presidency (Kevin Hassett, 3/7).

The New York Times: Holding Firm On The Budget
But this is not a moment for another difference-splitting deal. The House wants to carve $61 billion out of the government for just the next seven months, which would throw hundreds of thousands of people out of work and kill off scores of vital functions. Many of them, like funding for health care reform, environmental regulation and Planned Parenthood, are on the Republicans' ideological hit list. The latest deadline for an agreement is March 18; without one, the government would close (3/6).

Kaiser Health News: The GOP's Health Policy Cynics 
The health care community is discovering to its shock and dismay that it's not simply traditional Republican conservatives who have taken control of the House of Representatives, it's a new group of cynics (Michael Millenson, 3/6).

Kaiser Health News: So This Is Freedom? They Must Be Joking
ObamaCare goes the extra mile by only permitting approaches that are more coercive than itself. Its waiver provisions only apply to that law's private-insurance provisions, and require states to preserve the law's price controls prohibiting health rating, to cover the same number of people, and to provide coverage as comprehensive and subsidies as large as the new law does. These restrictions completely bar free-market reforms (Michael Cannon, 3/7).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Experimentation, Yes, But Done Transparently
Wisconsin's medical assistance programs for the needy have grown dramatically in recent years as the economy soured, and the bill is due: The state faces a $1.8 billion budget hole in those programs - half of the deficit Gov. Scott Walker seeks to fill with his new two-year budget proposal. ... The budget Walker introduced Tuesday called for reducing Medicaid spending by more than $500 million over the next two years. ... To find solutions to such a costly program, we favor experimentation. That requires a waiver from federal rules established as part of federal health care reform. The federal government should provide that waiver. But Walker and DHS, working with the Legislature, must agree that any changes to medical assistance programs be applied equitably - and debated openly. As of now, we are not reassured that the Walker administration sees the wisdom in that idea (3/5). 

The Arizona Republic: Aren't Those Needing Transplants Worthy?
Is this what we as a society have come to, putting a $14,000 price tag on someone's life? ... When (Rep. Gabrielle) Giffords was shot in the head, would (state Rep. John) Kavanagh have told her, "Sorry, but the statistics are against you"? Would Brewer, a friend and colleague of Giffords', have said, "Sorry, Gabby, but we don't have the money"? Without intervention, these transplant candidates will die. Just because theirs is a slow, agonizing death doesn't make their needs any less pressing (Mike Newcomb, 3/7).

Chicago Sun Times: Kidney Transplant Changes Make Sense
"Rationing" is a dirty word these days, thanks to the ongoing fight over health-care reform. There are times, though, when a scarcity of resources requires tough choices about how they will be distributed. Such is the case with deceased-donor kidneys, the most sought-after organs for people on the national transplant waiting list (3/6).

The Seattle Times: Detractors Of Crusade Against Childhood Obesity Should Eat Their Words
First lady Michelle Obama uses the bully pulpit to crusade against childhood obesity. Her campaign to eat healthier and exercise more is worthy, no matter how much the political right blasts her for promoting a nanny state. ... Really, so much bile about not much. It's one thing to dislike the Obamas, quite another to have a cow about greater understanding of the caloric content of foods, getting off the couch and touting the relatively benign sentiment of "Eat Your Veggies" (3/4).

The Seattle Times: Heed Auditor's Recommendation About Consolidating School Health Plans Legislators should heed the report released last month by state Auditor Brian Sonntag about health benefits for public school employees in Washington. ... Their report says the 100,000 employees in Washington's 295 school districts are covered by 200 plans administered by 10 different insurers. The plans are "quite generous," the report says, and are costly for the additional reason that there are so many of them. It suggests that they be combined in a new statewide plan with one self-funded pool for employees and another for retirees, with three tiers of standard benefits. It says the $90 million in savings is possible if participation is mandatory, as in Oregon... This report should be the beginning of bills that are offered in the session of 2012 (3/6).

The Miami Herald: Medical Tourism For Miami's Economic Health
We all know why people from across the country - and around the world - flock to Miami for their getaways. When it is cold in Buffalo or Buenos Aires, the sun shines bright in the Magic City. Lately, there is another reason people flock here: for their health. Miami is not just a vacation hot spot - it is fast becoming a top destination for medical tourism (Shaffer, 3/6).

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