KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Debating The Best Ways To ‘Fix’ Medicare; ACO Rule; States ‘Punishing’ Women?

The Washington Post: The Gang Of Six Is Our Best Shot
The truth is, there is no perfect plan - we all know that. We also know that the only way this works is through a bipartisan effort where everyone prods their own sacred cows into the cattle chute, and everyone gives up something they like to protect the country they love. ...  Members of both parties and both houses must publicly support the work of the Gang of Six. This is the time for heroes (Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, 6/2).

The Wall Street Journal: What Paul Ryan's Critics Don't Know About Health Economics
It's clear that Medicare-spending growth must be curtailed and eventually limited to the growth rate of GDP-if not below. The big question now is how to do it. Unfortunately, the debate on Capitol Hill and in the media is too often fueled by partisan fear mongering instead of a thoughtful examination of the facts. ... in the face of unsustainable federal deficits, 10 years is too long to wait to start cutting costs. Congress should focus on implementing competition in Medicare sooner (Alain Enthoven, 6/3).

Fox News: Saving Medicare By Killing It
"Dire Forecast Sparks New Medicare Debate" was the headline … June 6, 1996. In fact, according to Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn, Medicare's immediate extinction has been predicted no fewer than 18 times in the last 40 years. When it serves their political interests, the Chicken Littles from both parties squawk about how the nation's insanely popular (albeit effectively socialized) medical system is going to go broke any moment. The fact that none of these predictions has ever come true is not stopping Republicans today. They are using the latest Medicare trust fund forecasts to make a truly sick argument: Medicare might be in trouble eventually so, just to be safe, we're going to destroy it now (Sally Kohn, 6/2).

Des Moines Register: Students: We Can't Wait To Fix The Deficit, Debt
In April, our class participated with public finance classes from the University of Northern Iowa and the University of Iowa in a deficit workshop in Iowa City sponsored by the Concord Coalition, a bipartisan group focused on federal deficit issues…The workshop and our studies quickly led to a conclusion that the growth and financing of entitlement programs (Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) are the dominant public finance concerns for members of our generation. … Our generation will likely need to continue supporting the current group of retirees as well as transition to a system in which we will have to support more of our own retirement costs. Therefore, we have a special interest in how our society deals with these issues (6/3). 

Los Angeles Times: Obama Healthcare: Government, Heal Thyself
Even at a time of high-profile budget cutting, the Obama administration is spending not just on the essentials of governance but also on social engineering to promote its liberal inclinations. One example is the Department of Health and Human Services announcement in May of the availability of $100 million for "community transformation grants," a program created by "Obamacare" (Jeff Stier and Henry Miller, 6/3).

Politico: Now's Time To Redraft The ACO Rule
ACOs remain a good idea, and the concept has been embraced on both sides of the aisle. At this point, though, the Obama administration needs to rethink its approach in order to recapture ACOs' bipartisan appeal. Given how flawed the initial draft was, though, they may want to think about starting the whole process from scratch (Tevi Troy, 6/3).

Forbes: Irrational Exuberance And Accountable Care Organizations
What is it about health care that leads otherwise rational people to conclude they can effectively micromanage the health care decisions of millions of patients and providers? Here's how Dr. Donald Berwick, the unconfirmed administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), put it recently: "I am absolutely certain that we can have what we want and need-better care, better health and lower costs-all at the same time. But we can have that only if we are willing to improve the healthcare system, itself-only if we are willing to change the way we deliver care." And how will he achieve this feat? (Merrill Matthews, 6/2). 

The New York Times: When States Punish Women
The Obama administration has rightly decided to reject a mean-spirited and dangerous Indiana law banning the use of Medicaid funds at Planned Parenthood clinics, which provide vital health services to low-income women. The law, signed by Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana in May, is just one effort by Republican-led state legislatures around the country to end public financing for Planned Parenthood - a goal the House Republicans failed to achieve in the budget deal in April (6/2).

San Francisco Chronicle: Military Should Cover Abortion For Raped Servicewomen
First we learn that women in the U.S. military are more likely to be raped by their fellow soldiers than killed by enemy fighters. Then we find out that military health coverage does not cover abortion in the case of rape. Last week, the most recent congressional attempt to change military policy on abortion was silenced. Why is women's military service not deemed worthy of the same health care coverage offered other female federal employees (6/3)? 

The Baltimore Sun: Maryland's Proud Record On Youth Dental Care
Four years ago, a 12-year-old boy from Prince George's County named Deamonte Driver died from complications of an untreated dental infection. ... Deamonte's death was a shocking call to action. ... Among many steps taken, Maryland increased reimbursements for dentists in the Medicaid program; created Maryland Healthy Smiles to streamline dental access for Medicaid children and pregnant women, and trained primary care providers to perform dental screenings and apply fluoride varnish. Also, new dental clinics became part of a stronger dental public health infrastructure throughout the state (Joshua Sharfstein, 6/2).

Los Angeles Times: Falling Through The Cracks With A Pre-Existing Condition 
The U.S. is cutting healthcare premiums for those with preexisting conditions under federal programs created as part of healthcare reform. But where does that leave residents of California and other states that run their own programs? (David Lazarus, 6/3).

Denver Post: Editorial: Hick's Reason For Veto Makes Sense
Gov. John Hickenlooper's veto of a bill requiring some parents with children in a state health-care plan to pay monthly premiums would have been highly disappointing if it weren't for what he said at the same time in his veto message. He strongly endorsed the idea of cost-sharing within the plan but suggested this bill's specifics needed a closer look - and a possible tweaking … Hickenlooper said he was troubled, however, by an estimate from the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing that "approximately 20 percent of the children currently enrolled in the CHP+ program, or 2,500 kids, would drop off the program because of the dramatic increase in cost" (6/2). 

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