KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Debt Talks ‘Opportunity’; NY Times On Cancer Drugs; Calif. Insurance Rate Regs

The Washington Post: Dishonesty In The Debt Talks
For months, we have known that no plan will succeed if it just slashes programs such as Medicare or imposes big hikes in tax rates. We've known that we need a plan that eliminates at least $4?trillion in debt over the next decade, slows the growth in entitlement programs and raises new revenue through tax reform (Sen. Mark R. Warner, 7/6).

The Wall Street Journal: Obama's Debt-Ceiling Opportunity
As a liberal Democrat, this could be Mr. Obama's Nixon-to-China moment. He could draw on ideas with fairly broad bipartisan support, including changing the way benefits are indexed for inflation, raising the age at which people start receiving benefits, and modest means-testing. These reforms wouldn't make Medicare or Social Security permanently solvent, but they would put the programs on firmer financial ground for decades. It would be good for the country, to say nothing of Mr. Obama's re-election chances (Karl Rove, 7/7). 

McClatchy: U.S. Military's Abortion Policy Is Out Of Date
I was disappointed by the House Rules Committee's decision to block a floor vote on an amendment to this year's National Defense Authorization Act that would have repealed the ban on abortion coverage in cases of rape for women in the military. ...  I am heartened, though, by the recent introduction in the House and Senate of the MARCH (Military Access to Reproductive Care and Health) for Military Women Act (Lawrence J. Korb, 7/5). 

The New York Times: Extremely Expensive Cancer Drugs
Many patients with advanced cancer must feel great relief after last week's decisions by Medicare to pay for two drugs that provide limited medical benefits. For these patients, even a few more months of life is beyond price. The unaddressed issue, however, is whether public and private insurance should continue to pay the staggeringly high cost - reaching $88,000 and $93,000 in some cases - for drugs that offer modest help to the typical patient (7/6).

Kaiser Health News: Why It's Okay That EHR Adoption Will Fall Behind 2011 Goals (Guest Opinion). 
Many older, costly and difficult-to-implement legacy EHRs will be replaced by less expensive, more agile systems that have been developed specifically for meaningful use and are deliverable in the cloud as Software-as-a-Service. Transitions like these take time, but the dynamics are foreseeable (Brian Klepper and Dr. David Kibbe, 6/7). 

Roll Call: Time To Change Tack On Malpractice Claims 
The most common reason malpractice claims are dropped, however, is because they are so complex. ... Plaintiffs and defendants play "hide the ball," withholding information from each other and avoiding a serious discussion about resolution. The result is years of litigation, causing anxiety for both sides and large costs for the medical system. Patients and doctors have a joint interest in finding a better process. There are models for how this could be done (Dwight Golann, 7/7).

iWatch News/Center for Public Integrity: Death Panels Real And Imagined 
[Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga.] seems determined to keep alive the lie that the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a., Obamacare) will create government-run death panels in the Medicare program. ... You see, the real death panels that operate in this country are not run by a bunch of government bureaucrats but by a bunch of corporate bureaucrats who work deep inside U.S. insurance companies (Wendell Potter, 7/7).

Dallas Morning News: It's Austin's Turn To Stand Up To Lobbyists
One of the most exciting things to happen in the last session of the Texas Legislature was the passage of an interstate compact. With Congress' approval, we will be able to join with other states and take complete control of our health care programs, including Medicare, Medicaid (John Goodman, 7/6). 

San Francisco Chronicle: AB52: A Necessary Check On Health Care Rates
California's generally strong insurance laws come with a glaring exception. Health plan rates, which have rocketed upward in the past decade, can't be blocked by the state's elected commissioner. ... Previous efforts to regulate health care premiums have died either in the Legislature or on the governor's desk, victims of intense lobbying by insurers who don't want to justify startling rate jumps to public officials. The latest test comes today before the Senate Health Committee. ...The measure, AB52 by Assemblyman Mike Feuer, a Los Angeles Democrat, would give California consumers many of the same protections offered in 35 other states: state oversight of insurance premiums (7/6). 

Health Policy Solutions (Colorado health news service): Mammography Guidelines Have Chilling Effect On Breast Cancer Screening
New studies show that women in their 40s are getting mammograms less frequently after much-publicized new guidelines came out in 2009. I am greatly concerned that these guidelines are subjecting women to unnecessary risk (Dr. Lara Hardesty, 7/6). 

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