KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Sanders On Angry Americans; Sebelius On Md. Exchanges; Samuelson: ‘It’s The Elderly, Stupid’

The Wall Street Journal: Why Americans Are So Angry
If the Republicans have their way, the entire burden of deficit reduction will be placed on the elderly, the sick, children and working families. In the midst of a horrendous recession that is already causing severe pain for average Americans, this approach is morally grotesque. ... The Reid plan is bad. The constantly shifting plan by House Speaker John Boehner is much worse. ... Those cuts would mean drastic reductions in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid  (Sen. Bernie Sanders, 7/29). 

The Washington Post: Why Are We In This Debt Fix? It's The Elderly, Stupid.
By now, it's obvious that we need to rewrite the social contract that, over the past half-century, has transformed the federal government's main task into transferring income from workers to retirees. In 1960, national defense was the government's main job; it constituted 52 percent of federal outlays. In 2011 - even with two wars - it is 20 percent and falling. Meanwhile, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other retiree programs constitute roughly half of non-interest federal spending (Robert J. Samuelson, 7/28). 

The Fiscal Times: Debt Crisis Was Fueled by Obama's Weak Negotiations
Obama offered Republicans another half-loaf by putting forward a health reform plan almost identical to those that they and conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation had proposed in the 1990s. Obama's offer was summarily rejected and Republicans suddenly decided that the individual mandate, which previously had been at the core of their own health reform plans, was unconstitutional (Bruce Bartlett, 7/29).

Baltimore Sun: Insurance Exchanges Will Help Md.'s Small Businesses
For millions of small business owners in Maryland and across the country, the health insurance market is broken. Because there's so little transparency, shopping for coverage can be a headache. And small companies can pay up to 18 percent more than their bigger competitors for the same coverage. ... This isn't just unfair. In an economy where small businesses create two thirds of jobs, it's a huge drain on economic growth. But last year's federal health care law, the Affordable Care Act, is giving small business owners better options (Kathleen Sebelius, 7/28). 

Fast Company: How Market-Driven Health Insurance Exchanges Can Be Stressful 
The government's Affordable Care Act aims to make health insurance more accessible and affordable to millions of individual Americans and employees of small businesses. State-run health insurance exchanges are a vital tool in achieving that goal. At their best, exchanges are efficient marketplaces that give buyers more choice, provide health insurers with an opportunity to reach more consumers and, through transparency and competition (two elements lacking in today's private health insurance industry) keep costs down (Bryce Williams, 7/29). 

The New York Times: Treating The Cause, Not The Illness
In some ways, the United States has come a long way since Lyndon Johnson declared the "war on poverty." But in others, we're still at square one. We now have a variety of federally-supported nutrition programs, but the health care system remains senselessly disconnected from the "social determinants of health." In this regard, the United States has fallen behind the rest of the world (David Bornstein, 7/28). 

USA Today: More People Of Color Need To Donate Organs
About 20 people in the USA die each day waiting for transplants. This fact is particularly significant for minorities because they suffer more frequently than whites from diseases of the kidney, heart, lung, pancreas and liver that can lead to organ failure. ... The entire U.S. population would benefit, of course, from greater donor participation. And though race isn't a determining factor in who receives what transplant when, transplants within the same race can improve the chances of success (James Key, 7/28).  

Fox News: Broken Health-Reform Promises?
It is looking more likely that we cannot afford the massive health-care costs that are coming down the pike under last year's health-reform law. Including government and private money, health-care spending in 2020 will average $4.6 trillion, or $13,710 for every American, according to Medicare's Office of the Actuary (Ray Hennessey, 7/28). 

Kaiser Health News: Why IPAB Is Essential – A Timely Review (Guest Opinion)
Despite the fanciful attacks from some conservatives, the IPAB will not be a modern-day Politburo that brings Soviet-style management to American health care. It will be, instead, a board comprised of 15 experts on health care policy, including consumer representatives. The president will appoint the members, subject to Senate confirmation, and they will serve six-year staggered terms. Their job will be to issue recommendations on how Medicare can spend its money more wisely (Jonathan Cohn, 7/28).

Kaiser Health News: The Questionable Lure Of Free Long-Term Placement Services (Guest Opinion)
These companies, which fall under the catch-all category of long-term care referral services, are the cyberspace era's quick fix solution for the growing number of Americans seeking non-nursing home institutional care for their aging parents, relatives and significant others. Unfortunately, this purported expert assistance in navigating this bewildering world of assisted living is, at best, a hit-or-miss proposition (David Spiegel, 7/28).

South Florida Sun Sentinel: Medicare Recipients Must Learn System 
With some smart research and evaluation of their needs, Boomers turning 65 can find the plan that's right for them. First, focus on understanding the program as it is structured today. Medicare has four main parts - A, B, C and D - that cover different types of health care services. By learning the ABCs of Medicare, Boomers can start to identify the combination that works for them (Lissette Garcia, 7/29).

Sacramento Bee: Birth Control Coverage Is Vital Part Of 'Preventative' Health Care
When you combine the scientific and economic evidence and general mood of most Americans, it is remarkable that it has taken this long for comprehensive women's health care and family planning to be recognized and covered as an essential part our health care delivery system. In California, we have seen firsthand the health and fiscal benefits of increasing access to and coverage of the services outlined in the Institute of Medicine's recommendations (Julie Rabinovitz, 7/29).

The Oregonian: Losing Insurance, Beating Cancer: Coverage Should Not Be Rejected Based On Cost 
[O]nce an American buys health insurance, reimbursement for all treatment isn't guaranteed, especially when care is costly. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that it is illegal for an insurer to reject coverage because of high cost, but the practice is difficult to prove -- especially in cases of rare diseases. Indeed, one way health insurance companies can avoid paying for expensive treatments is to classify the care as experimental. If this were a disease, it might be called a silent killer (Lauren Abrey and Peter Lafferty, 7/29).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.