KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: GOP Attack On Medicare, Medicaid Could Hurt Critical Programs; Will Says Obama Is Repeating His Overreach On Health Care

The New York Times: Health Care Entitlements
Congressional Republicans are insisting that big cuts to Medicare and Medicaid be on the table in the negotiations over the so-called fiscal cliff and deficit reduction. That stance is largely a political move against two programs, which have been critical to the public welfare for the past half-century (11/28).

The Washington Post: A Cliff Of Their Own Choosing
With a chip on his shoulder larger than his margin of victory, Barack Obama is approaching his second term by replicating the mistake of his first. Then his overreaching involved health care -- expanding the entitlement state at the expense of economic growth. Now he seeks another surge of statism, enlarging the portion of gross domestic product grasped by government and dispensed by politics. The occasion is the misnamed "fiscal cliff," the proper name for which is: the Democratic Party's agenda (George F. Will, 11/28).

The Wall Street Journal: The Outlines Of A Budget Deal Are Obvious
Will a second term feature a new, fiscally responsible Barack Obama? We'll know soon enough. Real spending restraint must involve changes to entitlements and other mandatory programs, which (along with interest payments) comprise 64 percent of this year's budget. But the White House says it's not considering any Social Security reforms, has offered little in the way of fixes for Medicare, and now finds that its union and liberal pressure-group allies vociferously oppose any entitlement changes (Karl Rove, 11/28).

JAMA: Key Decisions Loom For States About The Health Care Law
Health insurance exchanges have, in many ways, become synonymous with "Obamacare" in state-level debates. The judgments of governors and state legislatures about whether to go ahead with them are indeed significant ones, in both practical and political terms. The option of federally run exchanges in states that refuse to create them on their own, however, provides a fallback for individuals and small businesses. But without such a fallback for the Medicaid expansion, the consequences for consumers, hospitals, and health professionals in states that decide not to participate are in fact far greater (Larry Levitt, 11/28).

The Denver Post: Sticker Shock On Medicaid Costs
If you know anything about the state budget, it's probably that there's not a bunch of extra money lying around. You might even remember the University of Denver report last year that said lagging revenues meant Colorado would be unable to pay for Medicaid, public schools and prisons by 2025. Which is why a recent Kaiser Family Foundation estimate that expanding Medicaid in Colorado under Obamacare could cost the state as much as $858 million over the next 10 years should give all of us pause (11/29).

The Arizona Republic: Governor Chooses Fear Over Affordable Health Care
The politicians opposed to the Affordable Care Act, "Obamacare," understand that fear is a powerful political medicine, a cure-all for a lack of sound arguments. Unfortunately, scare tactics are bad for your health. Gov. Jan Brewer proved it Wednesday with her decision not to establish a state health exchange, letting the federal government do so instead (E.J. Montini, 11/29).

WBUR: Cognoscenti: The Little-Known Provision Of Obamacare That Could Have A Big, Bad Impact
Passing through Kendall Square one might never get a sense of the medical research and innovation going on here. But when my business partner and I founded Semprus BioSciences, a medical device company, we had an inkling it was the place to be. It turned out to be one of our best decisions. In Kendall, our neighbors are some of the smartest people in the world -- innovative companies that create better disease detection and whose therapies and products help treat cystic fibrosis, cancer, diabetes and many other life threatening diseases. … But (the) labs and companies ... those that are tackling many of today's toughest medical problems, face a daunting threat that may well stifle that innovation and technology transfer -- the true lifeblood of our industry (David Lucchino, 11/29).

Politico: Help Medicare To Thrive Under ACA
Here are the facts. Medicare spending per beneficiary, for the past two decades before 2008, rose much more than inflation, in general, year in and year out. The growth was as much as 7 percent in 2006 and stayed above 5 percent through 2008. That rate, combined with a growing elderly population, eroded the program’s long-term financial prospects. But beginning in 2010 after passage of the Affordable Care Act, the trend changed dramatically. Per capita spending inched below 4 percent in 2010 and has been below 3 percent ever since. Today, Medicare is defying predictions by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., 11/28).

The New England Journal of Medicine: Implications of the 2012 Election for Health Care -- The Voters' Perspective
Now that the election is over, we have analyzed a range of pre-election and post-election polls as part of a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation project. ... As expected, health care was not the top issue but was an important one in this close election. ... Voters saw President Obama as better than Governor Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate, at handling key issues in health care and Medicare. However, the President's lead in handling health care was not as large as those held by Democratic presidential candidates in the previous three elections (Robert J. Blendon, John M. Benson and Amanda Brulé, 11/29).

USA Today: Birth Control Pill Proposal Not Easy To Take
In a country where nearly half of pregnancies are unintended and an alarming 7 percent of teens get pregnant, it's useful to look for ways to make birth control more accessible. That's what the nation's leading group of obstetricians and gynecologists is doing with its recommendation this month to put birth control pills on drugstore shelves, eliminating the need for prescriptions. ... But beyond the science lie several thorny issues that make this decision more complex (11/28).

USA Today: Opposing View: Make The Pill More Accessible
Contraception is essential to women's health, and improved access is critical. The U.S. continues to have one of the highest unintended pregnancy rates among developed countries. ... There are many reasons for our high unintended pregnancy rate. Access and cost are two common reasons why women do not use contraception or use it sporadically. Trying to get a prescription renewal -- or getting to the doctor or pharmacy at all -- can be difficult for many women. Fifty years after its debut, the birth control pill is the most widely used contraceptive in America. It is also one of the most studied drugs in the world. No drug, prescription or over-the-counter, is without risk. However, the data clearly show that oral contraceptives are safe for the majority of women (Dr. James T. Breeden, 11/28).

Los Angeles Times: Keep The State Off My Plate
We have entered the eating season, a time when fresh-baked goods appear on counters at work and families and friends get together to raise a glass and enjoy good food and good company. But this year, our indulgence is likely to be more fraught, as the government continues its intrusion into what we choose to eat and drink (Julie Gunlock, 11/29).

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