KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Obama’s Deficit Plan Earns Raves, Pans From Editorial Boards; More Views On Abortion And Planned Parenthood

USA Today: We Need 'Balanced Approach' On Deficit
I've proposed a balanced approach that looks at the entire budget for savings. … The third step is to reduce the growth in health care spending in order to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid for future generations. We will get rid of wasteful subsidies and fraud that cost Medicare billions of dollars each year. We'll cut spending on prescription drugs by helping to get generic brands of medicine to market faster. We will change the way we pay for health care - not by procedure or the number of days spent in a hospital, but with new incentives for doctors and hospitals to prevent injuries and improve results (President Barack Obama, 4/13).

The New York Times: President Obama, Reinvigorated
[H]e would wring savings in [Medicare] by using governmental tools to hold down annual increases in spending. His target for those increases was surprisingly low, much less than the current rate of growth, and it is not clear that that goal can be met without harming providers or beneficiaries. ... He also promised real savings on prescription drug costs in Medicare and refused to accept Mr. Ryan's notion of shrinking Medicaid into block grants. Negotiations with an implacable opposition are about to get much tougher, but it was a relief to see Mr. Obama standing up for the values that got him to the table (4/13).

The Wall Street Journal: The Presidential Divider
Did someone move the 2012 election to June 1? We ask because President Obama's extraordinary response to Paul Ryan's budget yesterday-with its blistering partisanship and multiple distortions-was the kind Presidents usually outsource to some junior lieutenant. … Mr. Obama said that the typical political proposal to rationalize Medicare's gargantuan liabilities is that it is "just a matter of eliminating waste and abuse." His own plan is to double down on the program's price controls and central planning. All Medicare decisions will be turned over to and routed through an unelected commission created by ObamaCare-which will supposedly ferret out "unnecessary spending." Is that the same as "waste and abuse"? (4/14).

Los Angeles Times: Obama's Budget Retort 
The version he presented of the House plan was excessively harsh, but Obama rightly criticized the GOP for trying to solve the deficit problem through spending cuts alone and foresaking critical investments in competitiveness. His plan also offered more concrete steps than the GOP did for slowing the growth in healthcare costs that threaten to hobble the economy (4/14).

The Washington Post: Obama's Deficit Speech: Worthy Of A President 
There are two ways to reduce the government's health-care expenses. One is Ryan's path, which, Obama said, "lowers the government's health-care bills by asking seniors and poor families to pay them instead." The alternative, which the president rightly embraced, "lowers the government's health-care bills by reducing the cost of health care itself" (E.J. Dionne Jr., 4/13).

The Fiscal Times: Obama Blasts Obamacare (Unintentionally)
Critics of Obamacare have argued that the bill does nothing to change the absurd reverse incentives in our Medicare program. Doctors won't write prescriptions for benign allergy medicines for more than a month at a time, not because it is unsafe, but because they get paid by the number of patient visits they receive. It's much more profitable to have a patient come in once a month for a new Rx. That Obamacare did not resolve this mess is one of the reasons that it was, and remains, so unpopular (Liz Peek, 4/13).  

Los Angeles Times: Drawing Budget Battle Lines 
[W]e now know what the 2012 election will be about: how fast to cut federal spending, whether to raise taxes and what to do about healthcare, especially Medicare. ... Ryan's free-market formula would make the voucher too stingy - and, in all likelihood, prompt a future Congress to vote for more spending. Obama's model would depend on his panel to enforce limits on Medicare services, and on the future Congress to go along. But at least they give voters a clear choice (Doyle McManus, 4/14).

The New York Times: Behind The Abortion War
What we have here is a wide-ranging attack on women's right to control their reproductive lives that the women themselves would strongly object to if it was stated clearly. So the attempt to end federal financing for Planned Parenthood, which uses the money for contraceptive services but not abortion, is portrayed as an anti-abortion crusade (Gail Collins, 4/13). 

Los Angeles Times: Campaign Of Misinformation Against Planned Parenthood
In the ongoing rancor surrounding federal funding of Planned Parenthood, misinformation has a starring role. There have been, of course, predictable gusts of hot air from pundits like Bill O'Reilly, who asserted last month that "nobody's life is affected by Planned Parenthood," and Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy of "Fox & Friends," who suggested on April 9 that Planned Parenthood's non-abortion-related services were redundant because you can get your blood pressure checked and get a pap smear or a breast exam at Walgreen's. (Blood pressure, yes; the rest, uh-uh.)  (Meghan Daum, 4/14).

The Atlanta Journal Constitution: Abortion Is Black Genocide? Nonsense, Of Course
[T]he more vociferous a critic of reproductive rights, the less likely the politician is to support Head Start or Medicaid or WIC, which provides milk and other nutritional assistance to poor pregnant women. They love those fetuses in utero. After that, not so much (Cynthia Tucker, 4/13). 
McClatchy: Agricultural Subsidies Tax Our Health
As we wrap up tax season with federal spending under scrutiny, Americans should consider this: Congress continues to spend billions of federal dollars on food policies that contribute to bad health. This boondoggle is worse than a bridge to nowhere -- it's a [publicly] funded super-highway carrying the entire country into a dismal future filled with diet-related medical problems and soaring health-care costs (Dr. Neil Barnard, 4/13).

KQED: The Cost Of Compassion
The spiritually driven, community-based, not-for-profit hospices of old are rapidly giving way to a for-profit industry of publicly traded companies. ... Studies have shown that for-profit hospice patients received the full range of hospice services only half the time that not-for-profit hospice patients did. Additional studies conclude that for-profits "cherry pick" patients to minimize expense and maximize profit (Doug Jena, 4/14). 

Times-Picayune: Seeking Better Health Care For New Orleanians
Low-income patients in New Orleans who now get primary care at three city-run clinics will instead be cared for by private providers, and that's a promising new public health development (4/13).

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