KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: WSJ On Medicare Advantage, Texas Gov. Perry On ‘Fed Inroads,’ Med Students’ Health Policy Ignorance

The Wall Street Journal: Another ObamaCare Concession
The White House has apparently decided that it won't enforce the unpopular parts of its health-care plan until after the 2012 election. The latest evidence is its decision not to slash Medicare Advantage, the program that Democrats hate because it lets seniors choose private insurance options. ... Would this be the same Medicare Advantage that candidate Barack Obama vowed to eliminate, saying in 2007 that "We shouldn't be rewarding the insurance industry for deceiving and defrauding our seniors"?  (2/25). 

Politico: Fed Inroads In All The Wrong Places
Encroachments into everything from health care to the education of our children continue unabated, but they are meeting increasing resistance from states like Texas, which continues to defend the rights of its citizens. ... States' own fiscal discipline - imposed largely by the type of balanced-budget amendments we need in Washington - can end up working against them as more of the costs of the federal government's endless expansion are passed along, occupying a larger share of states' fixed spending. Even the best-managed states could soon collapse under the weight of federal mandates (Gov. Rick Perry, 2/25). 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Those Other Parts
The public has focused, with good reason, on collective bargaining restrictions in Gov. Scott Walker's budget-repair bill. But other items deserve more scrutiny, and to get it, they should be stripped from the bill and debated separately. ... Under the bill, the administration could rewrite the rules governing the state's Medicaid program on eligibility, benefits and cost-sharing, reviewed only by the Legislature's budget committee - co-chaired by members of Walker's Republican Party. Those enrolled in the state's BadgerCare Plus and Core plans, FamilyCare and SeniorCare and Medicaid for those with disabilities and the elderly could be affected. There is a shortfall in the state's health care efforts of $214 million this year and $1.8 billion over the next two years. But maintenance of care for the least vulnerable among us has to be a priority (2/24).

Detroit Free Press: Negotiate A Fix For Retiree Health Care
State employees have gained at least a temporary reprieve from the Legislature's decision last year to have them put 3% of their pay toward retiree health care. An Ingham County circuit judge ruled Thursday that the plan was unconstitutional. … Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed setting $200 million aside in next year's budget to put into a permanent fund, similar to a pension fund, to save for retiree health care. ... Whatever the upshot of this case, the ultimate burden falls on Snyder to negotiate new contracts that remain reasonably fair to employees while reflecting the fact that the state's taxpayers have lost considerable household income over the past decade (2/25). 

New England Journal of Medicine: Advancing Medical Education by Teaching Health Policy
Medical education has long struggled with the questions of how and when to educate physicians about subjects such as health care systems, quality improvement, and medical economics - matters that are affected by health policy and that, in turn, ultimately affect patient care. For example, successful implementation of new approaches to care based on comparative effectiveness research will be contingent on adequately training physicians to interpret scientific results and practice evidence-based medicine. ... We propose a focus on four domains: health care systems and principles, health care quality and safety, value and equity, and health politics and law (Drs. Mitesh Patel, Matthew M. Davis and Monica L. Lypson, 2/24).

New England Journal of Medicine: Transforming Graduate Medical Education to Improve Health Care Value
Because of the important role Medicare plays in financing residency training through payment to teaching hospitals for graduate medical education (GME), the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) recently conducted a review of the U.S. GME system. This system is, in many ways, the envy of the world, annually producing thousands of new clinicians who are well trained in applying cutting-edge technology and techniques to aid severely ill or injured patients. ... However, that success and frame of reference are no longer adequate. The GME system must join others in transforming the U.S. health care system into an economically sustainable enterprise that provides appropriate care for all Americans (Glenn Hackbarth and Cristina Boccuti, 2/24). 

Star Tribune: What's At Stake In Proposed Cuts To Planned Parenthood
If it weren't for Planned Parenthood, my sister would be dead. ... The House majority leadership has tried to position this as being about abortion. It is not about abortion. It is about access for low-income women to cancer screenings, to birth control, to testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, and to screening for diabetes and high blood pressure. Simply put, it's about access to health care. ... Whose sister and whose family would House representatives throw out along with Title X family planning? Mine. And maybe yours (Lee Roper-Batker, 2/23).

The Des Moines Register: Call The Farm Bill What [It] Is: The 'Food Bill' 
Most commonly referred to as the "farm bill," the 2008 version included more than 1,700 pages of laws, programs and funding directives. It will cost taxpayers an estimated $403.6 billion. For all the billions of dollars that are distributed because of this bill and the very serious issues covered by this bill - energy policy, food stamp programs, water pollution and school nutrition programs - why don't the general public and the mainstream media pay more attention? ... Framing the debate in everyday concerns, like childhood obesity and polluted drinking water, brings the bill into our homes and kitchens (Rebecca Bell, 2/24).

The Seattle Times: Marijuana-Legalization Bill Deserves A Hearing
Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson's bill to legalize marijuana, tax it and sell it to adults through the state liquor stores - House Bill 1550 - deserves a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee. This is the money committee, and Dickerson's bill could create a revenue stream for the state of at least $300 million a year. The money is not the main reason we favor the bill. As we explained on this page last Sunday, our main reason is that we believe the costs of prohibition in police, courts, jails, gang warfare, civil liberties and blighted lives are too high, especially for a product that lends itself so well to be handled like alcohol. That is an argument valid anytime. Right now there is a crisis in state spending and revenue, which makes a $300 million river of cash of immediate interest (2/24). 

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