KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Krugman Says GOP’s Attacks On Big Government Don’t Translate To Medicare; Democrats Must Overcome Hesitancy To Bargain

The New York Times: The GOP's Existential Crisis
By all accounts, Republicans have, so far, offered almost no specifics. They claim that they're willing to raise $800 billion in revenue by closing loopholes, but they refuse to specify which loopholes they would close; they are demanding large cuts in spending, but the specific cuts they have been willing to lay out wouldn't come close to delivering the savings they demand. It's a very peculiar situation. ... Since the 1970s, the Republican Party has fallen increasingly under the influence of radical ideologues, whose goal is nothing less than the elimination of the welfare state — that is, the whole legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society. From the beginning, however, these ideologues have had a big problem: The programs they want to kill are very popular (Paul Krugman, 12/13).

The Washington Post: Democrats Losing Their 'Balance' On Entitlement Reform
The cartoon version of the fight is that Democrats want to soak the rich, and Republicans want to slash the poor. But here's the problem: There's no way for either of them to solve this problem without affecting the middle class, which in the end will have to pay more and accept something less than what has been promised. Neither party likes either side of that equation. ... But there's no way to fix America's problem without doing something on entitlements. If the Democrats — and Mr. Obama, in particular — don't get more seriously into that discussion, they have no standing to complain about the Republicans' lack of balance (12/13).  

Los Angeles Times: Sofia's Choice
When I told Sofia her diagnosis, she looked down. She told me how she had been forced to choose between buying health insurance and paying for food and housing for herself and her three children. She was a healthy 40-year-old with no medical problems, and was hoping to get insurance through a permanent job in the future. Cancer had not been a part of her calculation (Dr. Palav Babaria, 12/14).

The Wall Street Journal: It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad ObamaCare
For sheer political farce, not much can compete with ObamaCare's passage, which included slipping the bill through the Senate before dawn three Christmas eves ago. But the madcap dash to get ready for the entitlement's October 2013 start-up date is a pretty close second. The size and complexity of the Affordable Care Act meant that its implementation was never going to easy. But behind the scenes, even states that support or might support the Affordable Care Act are frustrated about the Health and Human Services Department's special combination of rigidity and ineptitude (12/13). 

The Wall Street Journal: The End Of Birth-Control Politics
As a conservative Republican, I believe that we have been stupid to let the Democrats demagogue the contraceptives issue and pretend, during debates about health-care insurance, that Republicans are somehow against birth control. It's a disingenuous political argument they make (La. Gov. Bobby Jindal, 12/13).

Los Angeles Times: Getting The Runaround On Long-Term Care Insurance
As the baby boomers enter their sunset years, long-term care coverage represents an increasingly costly gamble for insurers. That's why Prudential stopped selling individual policies in March. MetLife exited the business in 2010. About 70% of people over age 65 will require long-term care services during their lifetime, and more than 40% will need care in a nursing home, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (David Lazarus, 12/13).

Des Moines Register: Branstad's Concerns About Iowa's Mental Health Treatment Are On The Mark
Gov. Terry Branstad is raising questions about Iowa's four state-run mental health institutes. The facilities in Cherokee, Clarinda, Independence and Mount Pleasant were built in the era of so-called insane asylums, when the state locked up and looked after thousands of people. ... The Des Moines Register's editorial board has argued for closing at least one of these facilities, and perhaps more, if they can be consolidated into a single location. Iowa's health care infrastructure should reflect the fact that we are living in the 21st century, not in 1902, when the last of the four institutes was built (12/14).

Kansas City Star: Why Kansans Should Worry About 'Like-Minded' State
As a deadline for partnering with the federal government in a health insurance exchange drew near, (Gov. Sam) Brownback's office put out a statement saying that "we are discussing options and alternatives with like-minded states and with our legislative partners in Kansas." The next day, Kansas participation in an insurance exchange was off the table. Brownback hasn't said yet whether he'll recommend that Kansas expand its Medicaid eligibility threshold to the limits called for in the Affordable Care Act, but a statement from his office provides a clue. "We continue to discuss options and alternatives with like-minded states" (Barbara Shelly, 12/13).

The Palm Beach Post: Is Obama Right To Rule Out Raising Medicare Eligibility Age?
Many budget hawks have insisted that raising the Medicare eligibility age is the only sure way to rein in rapidly rising health care costs. The eligibility age for Social Security already has risen to 66 for Americans born from 1943 to 1954. It goes up to age 67 for people born in 1960 or later. Medicare, unlike Social Security, is a major factor in the U.S. deficit. But many politicians, and Democrats in particular, have been reluctant to make cuts in Medicare benefits (12/13).

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