KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: House Chairman Calls For Shinseki Resignation; Hagan’s Case For Obamacare

Fox News: Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki Must Resign
Since January of 2013, I’ve served as the chairman of the House Veterans’ Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee, which is tasked with the oversight responsibility of making sure that the VA meets all of our nation’s obligations to our veterans. Unfortunately, I’ve been shocked and disappointed at the systemic failures of the VA, impacting everything from delays and cost overruns at major VA medical construction projects to glaring patient safety problems resulting in preventable deaths and even to the inability of the VA to resolve the tremendous backlog of veterans’ disability claims in a timely manner. In almost every instance when a problem has arisen, the response by Secretary Shinseki, assuming that he publicly expresses one at all, is almost always defensive (Mike Coffman, 5/9).

The Washington Post’s The Plum Line: Another Vulnerable Dem Offers Strong Case For Obamacare 
Democratic Senator Kay Hagan is one of the most vulnerable Dems in the country, and her problems are said to be largely about Obamacare, thanks to the millions of dollars Americans for Prosperity has spent on ads attacking her over the law. So it’s curious that Hagan today made an aggressive case for a major pillar of the law that’s supposedly on the verge of ending her Senatorial career: The Medicaid expansion (Greg Sargent, 5/8).

The Washington Post: Obama’s Transformational Presidency 
His biggest legislative accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act, is a landmark because it establishes the principle that health care should be considered a right, not a privilege. Democrats such as Harry Truman — and Republicans such as Richard Nixon — sought for decades to move the nation toward universal care. The fact that Obama succeeded where others failed is, in itself, a huge achievement. Perhaps as important, however, is the fact that while Republicans still claim they want to repeal Obamacare, the debate within the party centers on how best to expand health insurance coverage. Returning to the way things were before the ACA is not an option (Eugene Robinson, 5/8).

The New York Times: Medicaid, Romneycare And Mortality
My post yesterday on the new study of post-Romneycare mortality rates in Massachusetts set up a contrast between two policy scenarios: One in which health insurance expansions have a substantial effect on health (as the Massachusetts mortality data suggests), and another in which insurance’s connection to public health is much more limited (as the data from the Oregon Medicaid experiment had indicated). But there’s also a third possibility, which Avik Roy — who knows the Romneycare story as well as anyone on the right — elaborates on here. It may be, he argues, that private insurance does improve outcomes but Medicaid mostly does not, and that the Massachusetts effect is the result of private coverage expanding in that state much faster than in the country as whole (Ross Douthat, 5/8).

Los Angeles Times: Obamacare May Prevail In Court, But Can It Survive Rising Premiums?
Although the total enrollment exceeded expectations and the percentage of uninsured Americans is dropping, Avalere's report finds one big dark cloud on the horizon. "[S]ecular increases in the cost of medical care and in utilization of services and new medical technology make it likely that exchange plans will need to increase their prices," the company predicted. ... [As] we saw last fall, the cost of individual policies gets a lot of attention from the media. And even if the next round of price hikes has little or nothing to do with the 2010 law, many people will still blame Obamacare. That could erode public support for the law, and its defenders in Congress, even further (Jon Healey, 5/8).

Fox News: Health Care’s Hidden Tax On Main Street
It was recently announced, and indeed celebrated, that over 8 million Americans signed up for coverage through ObamaCare.  As the administration completed their victory lap, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) quickly released a promising projection that health insurance premiums would be lower than expected, seemingly backing the president’s narrative that the health care law is a glowing success for all.  And yet, a recent USA Today/Pew Research Center poll found that a majority of Americans still highly disapprove of the ACA. So, where is the disconnect? (Dan Danner, 5/9).

The Wall Street Journal: Nancy Pelosi's Partisan Play On Mental Health
Arizona Rep. Ron Barber, a former aide to Gabby Giffords, led four House Democrats on Tuesday in unveiling The Strengthening Mental Health in Our Communities Act. Mr. Barber insisted his bill is a "comprehensive approach to long-ignored mental health issues" and a completely "nonpartisan" exercise. Which he would say, since this is in reality a Nancy Pelosi special: a raw partisan exercise in killing mental-health reform, shoring up midterm election prospects and protecting Democratic constituencies—all at the expense of the most seriously ill (Kimberley A. Strassel, 5/8).

The San Francisco Chronicle: Support Laura's Law For Better Mental Illness Care
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and dueling events planned for Tuesday on the south lawn of the state Capitol underscore the deep divide in the approach we take to treating the most vulnerable among us. On one side, we have the newly formed Right to Treatment group -- a collaboration of consumers, family members and providers -- whose goal is to ensure state and federal mental health parity rights in the public health care system. This group does not receive state or federal tax dollars.On the other is the state-sponsored Mental Health Matters! Day -- a one-day event promising serious speeches, personal stories of empowerment, food, a minor league baseball game and a $137,000 price tag - all on the taxpayers' tab. But apart from the thousands of lime-green "awareness ribbons" that ultimately will litter the lawn -- and the chance for a select group of consumers of public mental health services and the event organizers to get together for a day of fun and sun -- it's difficult to see how this group's state-sponsored extravaganza will do anything to expand treatment options for Californians with severe and persistent mental illness (Amy Yannello, 5/8).

The Star Tribune: Counterpoint: Don't Be Misled — Abortion Has Declined
As stated in “What’s being done in your name: Abortion” (May 7), the Minnesota Supreme Court in Minnesota ruled in 1995 that state Medicaid dollars may be used for abortion. That’s because every woman — no matter what her income is or where she gets her health coverage — should be able make a personal medical decision about her pregnancy based on what is best for her health and her family. Period. This is sensible policy (Sarah Stoesz, 5/8).

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