KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Republicans’ ‘Temper Tantrum’ On Health Care; ‘Mixed Message’ On Cancer

The New York Times: Republicans Against Reality
Last week House Republicans voted for the 40th time to repeal Obamacare. Like the previous 39 votes, this action will have no effect whatsoever. But it was a stand-in for what Republicans really want to do: repeal reality, and the laws of arithmetic in particular. The sad truth is that the modern G.O.P. is lost in fantasy, unable to participate in actual governing (Paul Krugman, 8/4).

The New York Times: Mixed Blessings
Pity the poor patient who tries to make sense of federal advisory committee reports that appear headed in opposite directions. For at least three decades, Americans have been told that it's best to detect cancers early, when they are theoretically most curable. So it was not all that surprising when an authoritative advisory group recommended that very heavy smokers get an annual CT scan to check for early signs of lung cancer. It was much more surprising, however, when a separate group of experts suggested that for several cancers — including potential lung cancers — early scans are detecting too many abnormalities that aren't dangerous and should not be treated (8/4).

Los Angeles Times: Is The GOP Self-Destructing?
How divided are Republicans in Congress? So divided, one conservative joked, that it shouldn't be called a civil war: "It's not organized enough for that." The Republicans are divided over how much to cut federal spending and how fast. [Sen. John] McCain and his "Gang of Eight" GOP senators are negotiating with Obama on a bargain that could include new spending on jobs in the short run in exchange for cuts in Medicare and other programs in the long run. To tea party Republicans like [Sen. Ted] Cruz, that's anathema. The GOP is also divided on how to fight the implementation of Obama's healthcare law, which begins signing up clients Oct. 1 (Doyle McManus, 8/4).

Los Angeles Times: Give America's Caregivers A Break
In the next two decades about 78 million baby boomers in the U.S. will turn 65. As they age, a portion of them will be cared for by their families, and others will no doubt enter facilities for the elderly. But many will rely on a growing cadre of domestic in-home workers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the demand for the kind of personal-care aides who can help cook, clean and bathe the elderly and disabled is expected to grow by 70% from 2010 to 2020. Today, these caregivers often labor in conditions that would not be tolerated in any other industry (8/2).

The Washington Post: Pension Crunch For States Means Schools Vs. Nursing Homes
The bankruptcy of Detroit is an extreme example, but it is not an isolated case. State and local governments face a prolonged squeeze between costly commitments to retirees and demands for better services. Think schools, police, libraries, parks, roads and prisons. As the Great Recession fades, pressures for immediate service cuts may recede, Detroit notwithstanding. Don’t be fooled. The reality is that the scramble for scarce resources is intensifying. Schools compete with nursing homes (Robert J. Samuelson, 8/4).

The Wall Street Journal: Congress's ObamaCare Exemption
To adapt H.L. Mencken, nobody ever went broke underestimating the cynicism and self-dealing of the American political class. Witness their ad-libbed decision, at the 11th hour and on the basis of no legal authority, to create a special exemption for themselves from the ObamaCare health coverage that everybody else is mandated to buy (8/5).

USA Today: Health Care 'Temper Tantrum' Could Punish GOP: Our View
ObamaCare's most diehard opponents are escalating their tactics in a dangerous way. These opponents say that unless the law is defunded, they will block a measure to keep the government operating after Sept. 30 — a threat as delusional as it is doomed to failure. ... Once Americans who could never get affordable health insurance begin to get it, and the 85% of Americans who are mostly unaffected by the law realize it's not the freedom-robbing boogeyman they've been told it is, ObamaCare might actually become popular. Although the law is far from perfect, it's much better than the status quo (8/4).

USA Today: Sen. Mike Lee: Defund ObamaCare
The House can add language to the next spending bill, known in Washington as a "continuing resolution," that says Congress will fund all the functions of government — the military, veterans benefits, Social Security, entitlement programs, etc. — except ObamaCare. After the House passes that bill, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Democrats will have a choice: Fund the government or shut it down to protect ObamaCare. The only responsible choice now is to protect the country from ObamaCare's looming disaster, start over and finally begin work on real health care reform that works for everyone (Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, 8/4).

The Washington Post: The GOP Flips The Script On Obama
Republicans need to make up their minds: Is President Obama a socialist or a corporate stooge? ... Republican lawmakers seem to think that Americans have short memories and lack Internet connections, for their latest line of attack — that Obama's health-care and tax policies favor the corporate elite — directly contradicts their previous allegation that Obama was waging "class warfare" with "socialist" policies attacking these very same corporate elites (Dana Milbank, 8/2).

Washington Post: Getting Children The Nutrition They Need
A bologna sandwich. Celery sticks. Canned oranges and chocolate milk. It's hardly a feast, but don't tell that to the children for whom this meal makes all the difference. The experience of a food bank running a summer lunch program for needy children in rural Tennessee shows that more ways must be found to feed the millions of children who go hungry when schools let out (8/4).

The New York Times: For Obamacare to Work, Everyone Must Be In
Two beliefs continue to shape debate on Obamacare. First, pre-existing medical conditions shouldn't prevent people from obtaining affordable health insurance. And second, people who don't want health insurance shouldn't be forced by the government to purchase it. These may seem to be reasonable positions. But they are incompatible (Robert H. Frank, 8/3).

Atlanta Journal Constitution: A Campaign Of Organized, Conscious Mendacity
Forty. As their last official act before leaving on a five-week recess, House Republicans voted Friday for the 40th time to repeal or undo ObamaCare. Their vehicle this time was the Keep The IRS Off Our Health Care Bill, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Tom Price of Marietta. According to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the law is needed because otherwise, the IRS “will have access to the American people’s protected health care information” and, he implied, might use that against the administration's political enemies. ... It is also a bald-faced, blatant lie, a lie that exposes the moral bankruptcy of the case that Cantor and others are attempting to make (Jay Bookman, 8/3).

Denver Post: Obamacare Exchanges Present A Privacy Risk
Americans were told that we would find out the fine points of Obamacare after it passed. Well, add another horror lurking in the details. When individuals sign up for federal insurance exchanges, they enter their personal information into a new Federal Data Hub. This program then collects medical records, Social Security numbers, tax information, and bank account data, by coordinating with the relevant federal departments, to determine the individual's eligibility for an insurance subsidy (Ken Buck, 8/2). 

Des Moines Register: Concerns About Wellmark? Get Involved
Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield is Iowa's largest health insurer. It controls about 86 percent of the individual health policies and sells insurance to individuals not covered under group policies, to employers insuring their workers and to seniors buying Medicare supplemental coverage. Wellmark is a for-profit company, but you can't buy shares of its stock. That's because Wellmark is a mutual insurance company, meaning it is owned by its policyholders. You would be forgiven, however, if you thought Wellmark was privately owned, because the company does a poor job of looping its policyholders in on management of their company (8/3).

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