KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Pres. Obama On Debt Deal, Medicare; Sen. Barasso On Insurance Future; Pundits On Compromise

USA Today: President Obama: Go 'Big' On Debt Deal
For years now, America has been spending more money than we take in. The result is that we have too much debt on our nation's credit card - debt that will ultimately weaken our economy, lead to higher interest rates for all Americans, and leave us unable to invest in things like education, or protect vital programs like Medicare. … In the short term, my No. 1 focus is getting our economy back to a place where businesses can grow and hire. … But over the last few months, I've also said that I'm willing to cut historic amounts of spending in order to reduce our long-term deficits. ... I'm willing to take on the rising costs of health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid, so we can meet our obligations to an aging population (President Barack Obama, 7/21). 

The Wall Street Journal: Out Of The Way, Please, Mr. President 
The Gang of Six-three Democrats and three Republicans in the Senate-this week put forward a plan aimed at reducing the national debt by almost $4 trillion over the next 10 years. It includes $500 billion in immediate cuts, and repeals a costly provision of ObamaCare. ... This is all pretty good. It moves the ball forward in the right ways (Peggy Noonan, 7/23).

The New York Times: The Grand Bargain Lives!
Imagine you're a member of Congress. You have your own preferred way to reduce debt. If you're a Democrat, it probably involves protecting Medicare and raising taxes. If you're a Republican, it probably involves cutting spending, reforming Medicare and keeping taxes low. … At the last minute, two bipartisan approaches heave into view. ... You are being asked to risk your political life for an approach that bears little resemblance to what you would ideally prefer. Do you do this? I think you do. You do it because all the other options are worse (David Brooks, 7/21).

The Fiscal Times: Barack Obama: The Democrats' Richard Nixon?
Here are a few examples of Obama's effective conservatism: ... He put forward a health plan almost identical to those that had been supported by Republicans such as Mitt Romney in the recent past, pointedly rejecting the single-payer option favored by liberals (Bruce Bartlett, 7/22).

McClatchy: Watch For Dramatic Declines In Employer-Provided Health Insurance
Most American workers value their employer-provided health insurance. It gives them the security of knowing they can get the care they need, from the doctor they want, at a price they can afford. All that will change drastically if the president's health care law remains on the books. ... Americans want high-quality, affordable health care coverage. The president's health care law doesn't come close to achieving that goal (Sen. John Barrasso, 7/21).

McClatchy: Discredited Survey Pushed Myth Of Employers Dropping Health Care Coverage
A recent report by McKinsey and Company was seized upon by opponents of health care reform to create a new myth: that President Barack Obama's health insurance reform -- the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or PPACA -- will cause huge numbers of employers to drop health insurance coverage that they currently provide for employees. The McKinsey study was soon shown to be worthless, and McKinsey itself acknowledged that it "was not intended as predictive economic analysis." But the myth seems not to be completely dead yet (Mark Weisbrot, 7/21). 

Bloomberg: Longer Lives, Lower Health Costs 
Health care isn't a homogeneous good, all of which is essential. There are large luxury components that may appeal to some but that aren't necessary for sound basic care. It is, of course, necessary to provide medical care for those who are too poor to purchase it, but for those with more resources, shifting to private savings accounts for health services is an effective way to relieve pressure on the finances of both businesses and government (Robert William Fogel, 7/21). 

Des Moines Register: Free Birth Control Proposal Goes Too Far
This newspaper has long supported women's reproductive rights. And comprehensive health insurance coverage for all Americans. And coverage by insurance companies of preventative health services. ...  there is a danger in requiring insurers to pay the entire cost of services. Namely, it ensures patients have no financial "skin in the game" when it comes to paying for care. When an insurer picks up the entire tab for a medical service or drug, patients do not think twice about the expense (7/21). 

Denver Post: Guest Commentary: A Cure For Health Care
Whether or not federal reform improves quality, increases access and reduces costs, the onslaught of political grandstanding, partisan bickering and negative ads over health care will do little or nothing to advance that goal. ... Fortunately, in Colorado - a state known for its pioneering spirit and practicality - there is no shortage of innovative and collaborative thinking that will ultimately save and improve lives. Case in point: the Western Slope's acclaimed health care system, a long-standing relationship between the region's dominant physicians group, hospitals and health insurance carriers that is regarded by national health policy experts as a "model" of high-quality and efficient care (Dr. Stephen Shogan, 7/22).

New England Journal of Medicine: Single Payer Ahead - Cost Control and the Evolving Vermont Model 
It is worth watching Vermont's development of its single-payer system as a model for guaranteeing coverage for all citizens, reducing administrative waste, and simplifying insurance for both patients and providers. ... But Vermont's most meaningful work in the near term will be aimed at changing our health care payment and delivery systems. I am convinced that that's where the real savings, and the sustainability, lie (Anya Rader Wallack, 7/20).

New England Journal of Medicine: The Effects of Medicaid Coverage - Learning from the Oregon Experiment
Our results cast considerable doubt on both the optimistic view that Medicaid can reduce health care spending, at least in the short run, and the pessimistic view that Medicaid coverage won't make a difference to the uninsured. We expect ongoing data collection to provide even more information about the longer-run costs and benefits of Medicaid coverage (Katherine Baicker and Amy Finkelstein, 7/20).

The Journal of the American Medical Association: Time to Take Health Delivery Research Seriously
The benefits from investing in biomedical and clinical research fall far short of their full health potential because limited funding and attention go into health delivery and outcome-optimizing research-research that can improve health care quality by aligning stakeholders in an important and unified purpose with a valid and measurable goal. Greater investments in health delivery research, for more balanced portfolio and enhanced absolute funding, could produce improved outcomes and reduce costs of care (Dr. Peter J. Pronovost and Christine A. Goeschel, 7/20). 

Roll Call: The Best Care? Embracing A Healthy Lifestyle 
[T]oday's Medicare debate is mostly a proxy battle over how we can pay for the astounding increase in the chronic diseases that are plaguing America's health. One thing is certain: The long-term viability of Medicare depends on a national commitment to preventing the onset of costly disease in the first place. And that must begin with an investment in primary prevention (Joe Moore, 7/21).

Forbes: Why Washington Lets Medicare And Medicaid Fraudsters Bilk Taxpayers Of Trillions 
Fundamentally, politicians and government officials have no incentive to root out fraud and abuse, because completely eliminating fraud and abuse means investigating and hassling their constituents: doctors and hospitals who game the system by prescribing unnecessary treatments, or by diagnosing patients with more severe conditions than they actually have, in order to reap richer reimbursements (Avik Roy, 7/21). 

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