KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Did HHS Ignore Warnings About; Expand Medicare For All; Restaurant Calorie Labeling

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Were GAO Warnings About HealthCare.Gov Unheeded?
A Government Accountability Office report on last fall's debacle, released Wednesday in advance of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing Thursday, details what went wrong. But the bigger questions involve the culture that led administration officials to ignore–and even publicly repudiate–the warning signs that the GAO flagged well before the federal health exchange Web site crashed last October (Chris Jacobs, 7/31).

Los Angeles Times: In California, Good Vital Signs For Obamacare
Two pieces of news this week illustrated how much progress California is making on one of the main goals of the 2010 federal healthcare law, extending coverage to the uninsured. A new survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that the percentage of uninsured Californians has been cut in half thanks to the expansion of free and subsidized coverage for low- and moderate-income residents. And Covered California, the state's new insurance market, announced a surprisingly small increase in the average premiums its customers will face next year. As encouraging as these signs are, though, it's still too early to declare the Affordable Care Act a success (7/31).

Miami Herald: Medicaid Expansion Should Be A No-Brainer
The Florida Medical Association, the politically powerful lobbying organization that represents the state's doctors, recently approved a resolution endorsing Medicaid expansion for Florida’s low-income uninsured. What’s mind-boggling is why the FMA didn’t take a stance earlier, like perhaps during the last two legislative sessions, to convince the reluctant governor and legislative leaders to accept federal funding for the expansion (Paula Dockery, 7/30).

CNN: Expand Medicare For All Americans
But despite Monday's cautiously optimistic report on Medicare's solvency, a sustainable and comprehensive health care system requires covering everybody. Expanding Medicare for all is the fairest, most effective and straightforward way to ensure universal coverage in America. With Medicare, seniors have greater access to care. Yet most people deal with an overly complex system that fails to provide the same benefits our seniors receive. Even after the passage of Obamacare, unacceptable burdens remain (Vijay Das, 7/30).

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: 3 Takeaways From the Medicare Trustees Report
The annual report from the Social Security and Medicare trustees predicted that Medicare will be solvent until 2030, four years later than the trustees predicted last year. That’s thanks to the recent slowdown in Medicare spending and a stronger economy that yields higher revenue through payroll tax contributions to the Medicare trust fund (Drew Altman, 8/1).

The New York Times: When Wheelchairs Are Cool
I've never pretended to be in a wheelchair to curry favor, of course, but I've often felt that I can play the disability card for all it's worth. I have, I confess, used it to hustle my kids through Disney lines, even though I knew full well that I wasn't actually going to get on the ride myself (Ben Mattlin, 7/31).

Journal of the American Medical Association: Potential Benefits Of Calorie Labeling In Restaurants
Provisions in the 2010 Affordable Care Act will require chain restaurants with 20 or more US locations to display calorie information on their menus, including drive-through menu boards. The US Food and Drug Administration released preliminary regulations in April 2011, and the long-delayed final regulations are expected soon, perhaps as early as summer 2014. The documented effects of menu labeling on consumer and restaurant industry behavior suggest that menu labeling will likely encourage some consumers to eat more healthfully some of the time, and the policy is likely an important first step toward improving the public’s eating habits (Jason P. Block and Christina A. Roberto, 7/31).

Journal of the American Medical Association: Interstate Medical Licensure
The Interstate Medical Licensure Compact is a streamlined process that would allow physicians to rapidly become licensed to practice medicine in multiple states. If the compact were to be approved by state legislators and incorporated into the laws of most, if not all, states, it could catalyze many substantial changes in medical practice. The potential benefits include easing the physician shortage in rural and other underserved areas and speeding the growth of telemedicine. Telemedicine, whether by telephone, e-mail, videoconference, or online, has increasing uses in medicine (Robert Steinbrook, 7/28).

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