KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Medicare And Politics; Concerns About AARP; Medicaid’s Future

The New York Times: Medicare Back On The Hustings
Leading Republicans - after proposing to gut Medicare - are still trying to pose as the program's saviors. How cynical can they get? At the recent Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire, Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota warned that health care reform will take $500 billion out of Medicare and harm "senior citizens who have the most to lose." She failed to mention that the budget resolution approved by House Republicans, with her vote, would retain virtually all of the same cuts in payments to health care providers and to oversubsidized private Medicare Advantage plans. While they don't say it a lot, even the Republicans recognize that the cuts are necessary to bring Medicare spending under control (6/21).

The Washington Post: Pundit Protest 2.0
Unless you're trained as a lawyer or a Talmudic scholar, it's hard to see a practical, moral or constitutional distinction between Obamacare (requiring every American to buy health insurance from a regulated exchange or face a tax) and Ryancare (requiring every American to pay a Medicare payroll tax so they can buy health insurance from a regulated exchange at age 65). Both involve an individual mandate (Steven Pearlstein, 6/21).

The Huffington Post: Medicare Must Remain A Responsibility Of Congress
Democrats and Republicans have an opportunity to embrace bi-partisan legislation eliminating IPAB, thus giving direct oversight of Medicare back to Congress, and giving the policy-based payment reforms in the ACA a chance to work. This is the way to ensure continued access to care and lay the groundwork for the next phase of reform (Dick Gephardt, 6/21).

The Fiscal Times: AARP's Hidden Agenda - Boost MediGap Insurance
Across the country, seniors are scratching their graying heads and wondering: what happened to my AARP? How can an organization that champions the interests of retired people have embraced Obamacare's huge cuts to Medicare, and now waffle on Social Security? ... The flap over Social Security, coming on the heels of the Obamacare squabble, may lead older Americans to question whether AARP policy is aligned with their interests. The House inquiry, which is ongoing, may cause some to challenge AARP's integrity. AARP describes itself as nonpartisan and nonprofit. As they learn more about its activities, Americans may come to regard AARP as neither of those things (Liz Peek, 6/22).

Georgia Health News: Doing The Right Thing On Medicare
Why do our elected representatives submit proposals that do not discuss ways to make Medicare work - and flourish? ... Why are taxpayers the ones who are told that they will have to make additional "hard choices," when they need proposals to address the hard choices they've had to make between buying medicines or paying rent?There are so many more options available to us to save Medicare money than the cut-and-bleed approach endorsed by many of these political leaders (Robert W. Bush, 6/21).

The Philadelphia Daily News: Medicaid: The Cruelest Cuts
It appears that cuts in Medicaid coverage to 68 million poor and disabled Americans, half of them children, are about to become the sacrificial lamb in the budget talks being led by Vice President Joe Biden. Republican are pushing hard for huge reductions in government services in exchange for maybe, possibly, voting to raise the debt ceiling and not blow up the world economy. Democrats have pushed back hard to save Medicare and Social Security. Pledges to oppose any benefit cuts to either of those beloved programs have become guaranteed applause lines, as well they should be (6/22).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Preserve Transparency
Wisconsin faces a crisis in its Medicaid programs as the federal tap is shut off at the end of this month. Nationwide, about 90 billion additional dollars flowed from the federal treasury into the federal-state program - $535 million into Wisconsin in the current fiscal year alone. There is no question changes are coming - and are needed. But those changes should include consultation with those who know the program best: advocates and patients (6/21).

Tampa Bay Tribune: Medicaid Reform: Cost Savings For Who?
Pending federal approval, all Medicaid-eligible Floridians will be required, beginning in 2014, to participate in private, managed-care programs. Lawmakers who favor this measure say it streamlines the system and provides cost-effective health care for low-income Floridians. But big questions remain. Is this legislation in the interest of all taxpaying Floridians? Will it save money (and at what cost to patients, care systems and state revenues)? Where is the accountability? Finally, shouldn't a change that affects millions of Floridians be based on solid evidence? (Leda M. Perez, 6/21).

The Denver Post: Providing Better Health Care
And yet, far too many Americans still go without the best care. That's why the Obama administration has joined with Denver Health and more than 1,500 other hospitals nationwide - along with hundreds of employers, health insurers, provider organizations, and patient advocates, to launch the Partnership for Patients - an unprecedented alliance that will promote innovations to improve hospital care and reduce wasteful spending (Kathleen Sebelius and Patricia Gabow, 6/22).

Fox News: Calling All Lawmakers In Congress, It's Time To Get Serious About Saving Medicare 
Americans understand that unsustainable federal overspending is not only bad business - it also threatens the integrity of programs that, like Medicare, have come to serve as a foundation of individual financial security for many seniors. The American people are calling for action to maintain that foundation. It's time for our leaders in Washington to get serious, acknowledge the demographic and economic realities facing the program, and heed that call (James L. Martin, 6/21).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Can Surcharges Be Part Of Budget Deal?
It's about health care - again. A partisan fight over health care for the poor drove Minnesota into its first government shutdown in 2005. The same issue looms large this year as state government marches closer each day to a second shutdown if no budget is in place before July 1. Gov. Mark Dayton has reserved his harshest criticism of the GOP-approved budget for its health care parsimony toward the poor and disabled, for good reason. The now-vetoed Republican bill is $1.6 billion, or 13 percent, smaller than base funding for aid to the Minnesotans least able to help themselves (6/21).

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