KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Van Hollen On Medicaid Cuts; Debate On Raising Medicare Age; Women’s Health Issues

The Baltimore Sun: In Budget Balancing, We Must Preserve Medicaid
Walking away from the federal commitment to Medicaid doesn't solve the problem; it just passes health care costs down to states. Because almost every state, including Maryland, is required by law to balance its budget every year, it means cuts in services and more financial strains for already suffering families, cuts in provider payments, lost jobs in the health care sector, and dampened business activity as the consequences of lost jobs and unmet health care needs ripple through the economy (Rep. Christopher Van Hollen Jr., 7/25). 

The New York Times: The Party That Can't Say Yes
The White House was willing to cut $1 trillion in domestic and defense spending and another $650 billion from Medicare, Medicaid and even Social Security. Much of that savings would have come from raising the eligibility age for Medicare benefits and reducing the cost-of-living increases that elderly people depend on when receiving their health and pension benefits. It could have caused significant damage to some of the nation's most vulnerable people. ... on the eve of economic calamity, the Republicans killed an overly generous deal (7/22). 

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Principles For Lasting Federal Budget Reforms
Slowing the growth of health expenditures is crucial, but not all fixes are created equal. Price controls and rationing, for example, generate huge inefficiencies (Jeffrey Miron, 7/22). 

Atlanta Journal Constitution: Debt-Ceiling Circus In Washington 
Also apparently ignored by both sides involved in the current Great Debt Debate, is the cold, hard fact that Medicare and Social Security entitlements have committed the American people to nearly $62 trillion in future, unfunded liabilities. These unfathomable amounts of money constitute additional debt. However, this "debt" falls conveniently within Washington's large blind spot (Bob Barr, 7/25).

The New York Times: Messing With Medicare
At the time of writing, President Obama's hoped-for "Grand Bargain" with Republicans is apparently dead. And I say good riddance. ... what the president was offering to the G.O.P., especially on Medicare, was a very bad deal for America. ... raising the Medicare age is a terrible idea. Means-testing - reducing benefits for wealthier Americans - isn't equally bad, but it's still poor policy. ... The G.O.P.'s most potent political weapon last year - the weapon that caused a large swing in the votes of older Americans - was the claim that Mr. Obama was cutting Medicare. Why give Republicans a chance to do it all over again? (Paul Krugman, 7/24). 

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Raising Medicare Age Won't Work
Just when there seemed to be no more dopey ideas for reducing America's deficit, another one appeared. ... The problem is rising health-care expenditures, whether public or private. But that has nothing to do with the number of Medicare beneficiaries. When most Americans turn 65 and retire, they shift from private health insurance to Medicare. More doing so means more Medicare expenditures. But this is a change in where expenditures show up -- in public or private budgets -- not in total health-care spending (Theodore R. Marmor and Jerry L. Mashaw, 7/25). 

Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Gang of Six" Repeal Call Of Class Act Shortsighted
While it's good that Congressional Republicans and Democrats -- dubbed the Gang of 6 -- are talking with each other in efforts to avoid a debt default, their recommendation to repeal the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act (CLASS Act) is shortsighted at a time America needs vision (Eric Schubert, 7/22). 

The Wall Street Journal: 'The Flight To The Exchanges'
Small businesses are rarely best suited to be health-care providers, lacking large margins and H.R. departments. It's also true that insurance tied to jobs is inefficient and too expensive. But the solution isn't adding millions of middle-class workers and trillions of dollars in new costs to the government books while destroying private coverage, even if it increasingly looks like that's what ObamaCare is poised to do (7/25). 

Chicago Sun-Times: Health Care Must Cover Birth Control
This is just the kind of positive reform envisioned by the health-care law. Prevention of disease and unwanted pregnancies keep Americans healthier and saves money long-term (7/24).

Houston Chronicle: A Good Plan
An advisory panel of medical experts has just made an excellent recommendation: that all insurers should be required to cover contraceptives and other preventive services for women free of charge. Birth control is essential to a woman's, and a family's, health and well-being. Making it accessible on all insurance programs is a very good thing. It will result in far fewer unintended pregnancies and abortions, and will save far more than it costs (7/24). 

The New York Times: Why Won't They Say?
In a setback for women facing a particularly vulnerable moment in their lives, a federal judge has temporarily barred New York City from enforcing a new law that would require so-called crisis pregnancy centers masquerading as licensed medical facilities to disclose basic facts about their services. These centers, run by abortion opponents, have sprung up in many places around the country. They typically draw clients with advertisements that appear to promise neutral abortion counseling (7/24). 

USA Today: New Cigarette Package Labels Are Better Than Nothing 
By FDA estimates, the labels will result in some 200,000 fewer smokers, a small fraction of the total. But sparing even a small fraction of children from a lifelong addiction and the burden of tobacco-related disease seems worth the eye strain (Katherine Chretien, 7/24).  

Houston Chronicle: Texas Must (Modestly) Increase Taxes
Texas is already one of the lowest-spending states in the country ... So when people say we wouldn't have a problem if we just spent less on Medicaid, what they really mean is we wouldn't have a problem if we just denied more people health care. Certainly our nation must figure out how to keep people healthier for less money, but providing fewer people health care is not the answer  (F. Scott McCown, 7/23).

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