KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Raising Medicare’s Entitlement Age Doesn’t Save Money; New Anti-Fraud Efforts

Los Angeles Times: Medicare: Is 67 The New 65?
Looking for ways to slow the growth of entitlement programs, budget negotiators in Washington are considering making seniors wait two years longer to qualify for Medicare — from age 65 to 67. Many Republicans have endorsed the idea, noting that Medicare beneficiaries now live far longer on average than they did when Congress created the program in 1965. The problem with the proposal is that it wouldn't save the federal government much money overall, even though it might cut Medicare's costs. Worse, it would probably cause total spending on healthcare to go up faster, which is the opposite of what Washington should be trying to achieve (12/14).

Los Angeles Times: Stem Cell Conflicts
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the quasi-governmental agency authorized to spend $3 billion in taxpayer money on embryonic stem cell research, deserves praise for commissioning an independent study of its operations by a blue-ribbon committee of the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences. But the $700,000 spent on the study — funded by donations — will be wasted if the institute's oversight board fails to heed the committee's criticisms, which echo the findings of the Little Hoover Commission and other groups over the years (12/14).

Wall Street Journal: Haley's Dilemmas
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley faces two politically fraught decisions in the coming days that could help or hinder her re-election in 2014. The first is whom to appoint to retiring Sen. Jim DeMint's seat until a special election is held in 2014. ... Ms. Haley is also under considerable pressure to reverse her decision to reject the ObamaCare Medicaid expansion. Although Uncle Sam would initially pay for most of the expansion, Ms. Haley says the state would be on the hook for $1.7 billion in 2020. Provider groups and health non-profits—including the March of Dimes, United Way and the American Heart Association—have been urging legislators to ignore Ms. Haley and take the $3 billion in "free" federal cash (Allysia Finley, 12/14).

The Arizona Republic: Expansion Of AHCCCS Is Arizona's Best Option
On Monday, the Obama administration announced that Arizona must expand its Medicaid program, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, to everyone who is below 138 percent of the federal poverty level to be eligible for the increased federal match provided for in the Affordable Care Act. Unfortunately, this move places Arizona's health-care system and the vulnerable people AHCCCS serves on the critical list (Robert Meyer and 10 other co-authors, 12/14).

Politico: Stopping Health Care Fraud Before The Bills Are Paid
Everyone agrees that one area where we can save billions of dollars for taxpayers is fighting health care fraud. The Obama administration has taken important steps to crack down on fraud that are already yielding record results. As a result of the Affordable Care Act, doctors, hospitals and other health care providers and suppliers seeking to bill Medicare, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program are now required to undergo an enhanced level of scrutiny if they pose a risk of fraud or abuse. ... One of the most exciting new steps we're taking is to use state-of-the-art technology, similar to the technology that credit card companies use to flag suspicious activity, to review medical claims before they are paid. ... Since the technology was first used in 2011, all Medicare claims — over 1 billion — have run through the system before they were paid (Peter Budetti, 12/14). 

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