KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Sebelius On Medical Mistakes; Stockman On Solving Deficit; Fox On Medicare’s Political History

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Taking On Medical Mistakes 
A recent study found that as many as one out of three hospital patients is harmed by his or her care. And the Institute of Medicine estimates that as many as 100,000 Americans die each year from preventable medical errors in hospitals. That's about the number of annual deaths caused by auto accidents, AIDS, and breast cancer combined. ... These mistakes don't just cause pain and anguish. They also contribute to the rising cost of health care, which is stretching family, business, and government budgets to the limit (Kathleen Sebelius and David Cote, 4/25).

The New York Times: The Bipartisan March To Fiscal Madness
It is obvious that the nation's desperate fiscal condition requires higher taxes on the middle class, not just the richest 2 percent. Likewise, entitlement reform requires means-testing the giant Social Security and Medicare programs, not merely squeezing the far smaller safety net in areas like Medicaid and food stamps. Unfortunately, in proposing tax increases only for the very rich, President Obama has denied the first of these fiscal truths, while Representative Paul D. Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, has contradicted the second by putting the entire burden of entitlement reform on the poor (David Stockman, 4/23).

The New York Times: A Real Choice On Medicare
Americans need to give a close reading to the Democrats' and Republicans' plans for Medicare reform. There are stark differences that will profoundly affect all of our lives - and clear political choices to come. ... We were skeptical when the Republicans suddenly claimed to be Medicare's great defenders. We are even more skeptical now that we have read their plan. We are also certain that repealing reform - the Republicans' No. 1 goal - would do enormous damage to all Americans and make it even harder to wrestle down health care costs, the best way to deal with the country's long-term fiscal crisis (4/23).

The Wall Street Journal: How Health Reform Punishes Work
[S]urprisingly little attention has been focused on the [health] law's most problematic provision: government subsidies to help individuals and families purchase health insurance. This new entitlement - which the chief actuary of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimates will cost more than $100 billion per year once it is fully implemented - will damage the country's long-term fiscal outlook. It also will introduce far-reaching negative effects on rewards to work and bizarre new inequities into American life (Daniel P. Kessler, 4/25).

Chicago Tribune: Love Of Medicare Chills Tea Party Fever 
People, if we're going to get this deficit under control, something's got to give. It's best if the sacrifice is shared. There's plenty of pain to go around. One hopeful sign: Polls show younger adults are less opposed to major changes that can keep Medicare and Medicaid solvent. They also have more time to prepare for whatever changes might take place in the future. ...  Yet, ironically, younger voters are the least likely to turn out for elections (Clarence Page, 4/24).

Fox News : The Medicare Mess, Part 3; Barack Obama, 'The Truman Strategy' And the Politics Of Health Care In 2012
In the previous installments of this we saw how Democrats, going back to the 1940s, have used national health insurance, including Medicare, as a hammer against Republicans. That hammer has not always been effective, but Democrats have loved to used it ... the even bigger question now is whether the ultimate fiscal issue - the specter of national bankruptcy - will change the calculus on the senior health program. ... [I]t's not clear that Americans will see Medicare cuts as anything other than a last choice (James Pinkerton, 4/23).

The Washington Post: Obama Abdicates On The Budget
Given better health, longer life expectancy and wealthier elderly, why shouldn't Social Security and Medicare eligibility ages be raised and means-testing broadened? The president doesn't broach this debate (Robert Samuelson, 4/25).

The New York Times: Let's Take A Hike
The core of the Ryan proposal is a plan to privatize and defund Medicare. Yet this would do nothing to reduce the deficit over the next 10 years, which is why all the near-term deficit reduction comes from brutal reductions in aid to the needy and unspecified cuts in discretionary spending. Tax increases, by contrast, can be fast-acting remedies for red ink (Paul Krugman, 4/24).

The Miami Herald: Florida's Medicaid Experiments Haven't Moved In Right Direction
Floridians are growing older and, as wages drop, poorer. This means that more of us will qualify for Medicaid, and our costs will be higher. Something must be done, but the state's recent experiments with Medicaid are not moving in the right direction (Santiago Leon, 4/23).

St. Petersburg Times: Medicaid Cuts Hurt More Than Patients
In its effort to balance the state budget without raising revenue, the Florida Senate wants to eliminate $1.8 billion in hospitalization coverage for the sickest and poorest patients. But such calculus is penny wise and pound foolish. Besides its catastrophic human costs, the Senate's Medicaid plan would just shift costs to local governments and private hospital patients. It also would leave far more federal dollars on the table than it would save the state. The Florida House has a less draconian plan for lowering Medicaid hospitalization costs (4/25).

The Baltimore Sun: New Nonprofit Lets Youth Fight Back Against AARP
[AARP] hates the Republican plan to control insane Medicare costs for seniors ... But it also hates the Democratic plan, saying it would depend on "arbitrary spending targets." The only possible conclusion is that AARP wants Medicare to maintain its ruinous course until, oh, about 2040, at which time the government will present everybody left alive with a multitrillion-dollar invoice. ... Our Time, based in Washington ... wants to organize "our generation in one all-encompassing membership group" to contest decisions "that adversely affect our future without our knowledge or consent" (Jay Hancock, 4/24).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: An Ill-timed Attack On Planned Parenthood 
Just two weeks ago, our nation was on the brink of a federal shutdown because of congressional conservatives' fanatical focus on demonizing and delegitimatizing Planned Parenthood. ... My Catholic commitment to social justice sounded an alarm. Now those conservatives have set their sights on Minnesota, introducing a bill to deny funds to Planned Parenthood. ... Ensuring family-planning services remain accessible to all fulfills the dictates of our faith (State Sen. Scott Dibble, 4/21). 

New Orleans Times-Picayune: Take A Scalpel To The State's Hospital Plans
Now that a huge chunk of [New Orleans] Mid-City has been demolished, we all need to believe in the glittering future that University Medical Center, the new VA Hospital and the associated biotech corridor are supposed to usher in. But, unless LSU anticipates an outbreak of yellow fever or bubonic plague, the proposed 424-bed hospital will clearly exceed demand and require huge subsidies to operate. That will just be piling it onto the taxpayer, who is in for it already; the state plumped for the $1.2 billion option when it had only about $800 million on hand (James Gill, 4/24).

The Oregonian: A Health Insurance Exchange Should Have Oregon's Imprint
About 600,000 Oregonians, adults and children alike, go without health insurance. That's a problem when medical care, almost all of it expensive, is needed - most uninsured folks earn less money. ... In Salem Monday we could start to turn the situation around. The Senate votes on whether to create a health insurance exchange offering private insurance plans that are paid for in significant part by government subsidy. Senate Bill 99 is complex and far-reaching. But its message couldn't be simpler: Let's get our people covered in a way that suits Oregon's health care needs and establishes a foundation we can refine and build from (4/24).

San Francisco Chronicle: California Mental Health System A Dangerous Relic
Last fall, 54-year-old Donna Gross was found dead. She'd been strangled. … What made her death especially horrifying was another factor: Her alleged killer was a violent mental patient who stalked her on the grounds of Napa State Hospital. The death of Gross, a psychiatric technician at the hospital, has touched off a furor over the operations of California's state-run mental facilities. Instead of a system that protects and treats the frail and unstable, another picture has emerged. After years of gradual change, the system has become a de facto arm of the prison system, filled with violent patients and managed by poorly protected personnel (4/24).

The Baltimore Sun: Discrimination In Ruxton
[Intolerance towards mental illness is a major reason for] the recent outbreak of community-based hysteria involving Sheppard Pratt Medical Systems' proposal to turn a Ruxton mansion in an upscale rehabilitation facility to help those under treatment for mental illness make a transition back to living at home. … These are not outsiders to be feared, they are just people who are recovering from an illness, and they deserve the community's respect and tolerance (4/25).

Sacramento Bee: There's A Gender Wage Gap For Doctors
Men and women have yet to be treated equally – even in medicine. I recently met a young woman medical student who was applying to be a surgery resident – a position that has not traditionally been filled by women. In the United States, women make up less than 16 percent of the nation's 160,000 surgeons (up from 7 percent in 1972). … This student was 26 weeks pregnant … (and) her advisers suggested that if she wanted to be taken seriously for a surgery position she'd best hide her pregnancy and not discuss the topic of children or families (Michael Wilkes, 4/24).

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