KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: GOP Lawsuit Against Obama On Health Law Is Not A ‘Stunt’; ‘Wisdom’ Lacking In The House; The Danger Of Cyberattacks On Hospitals

The Wall Street Journal: The Case For Suing The President
"So sue me" is President Obama's message to Congress. And on Wednesday the House of Representatives took up his taunt, authorizing a lawsuit to challenge the president's failure to faithfully execute provisions of the Affordable Care Act as passed by Congress. The House lawsuit is no "stunt," as Mr. Obama has characterized it. The lawsuit is necessary to protect the Constitution's separation of powers, a core means of protecting individual liberty. Without a judicial check on unbounded executive power to suspend the law, this president and all who follow him will have a powerful new weapon to destroy political accountability and democracy itself (David B. Rivkin Jr. and Elizabeth Price Foley, 7/30). 

The Wall Street Journal: So Sue Him
The House challenge involves crucial questions about the architecture of American government and the separation of powers -- questions that haven't been joined in this kind of challenge at the courts. Mr. Boehner contends that Mr. Obama's habit of amending or suspending (not enforcing) statutes that conflict with his political goals have usurped "all legislative powers herein granted" by Article I to Congress (7/30).

The Washington Post: In House, Priorities -- Like Wisdom And Understanding -- In Short Supply
The people's representatives were hurrying to depart Thursday for their five-week summer vacation, but first they had some important business to complete. Emergency legislation to ease the crisis at the border? Funding to keep highway repairs going? Afraid not. House Republicans were instead taking up their not-quite-impeachment legislation: a bill that would authorize the House to sue President Obama for allegedly violating the Constitution, which, by definition, is an impeachable offense (Dana Milbank, 7/30). 

Politico: A Constitutional Crisis For Fun And Profit
The reality is that House Speaker John Boehner's lawsuit that [Democrats] say is part of the nefarious impeachment plot will, even if successful, have little practical effect beyond establishing the precedent of Congress suing the president (a precedent Democrats may welcome if they lose the White House in 2016) (Rich Lowry, 7/30).

The Wall Street Journal: Democrats Try the Impeachment Ploy
So why are Democrats -- led by the Obama White House -- incessantly raising impeachment? First, it fattens Democratic bank accounts. ... Finally, talk of impeachment diverts attention from everything else. Every moment spent discussing impeachment is a moment not spent discussing issues that hurt Democrats, such as ObamaCare, the weak recovery, the border crisis, the nation's growing debt and the world's increasingly dangerous condition (Karl Rove, 7/30). 

Bloomberg: Why Shouldn't Democrats Fan The Impeachment Flames?
Republicans such as Speaker John Boehner and Bob Corker dismiss the issue, and possibility, as frivolous. The problem is these political wardens can't control some of the inmates. Palin earlier this month called on Congress to impeach Obama for a variety of offenses, the top being failing to control the border with Mexico. "If after all this he's not impeachable," she argued, "then no one is." ... Although serious scholars dismiss as silly any notion there are "high crimes or misdemeanors" -- the grounds for impeachment --there are no shortage of charges cited by right-wing Republicans. ... The Democrats' response: Bring it on and we'll take it all the way to the bank (Albert R. Hunt, 7/30).

The Wall Street Journal: Amid Tensions, Legal Immigrants Fear Signing Up For Obamacare
The wave of unaccompanied undocumented minors entering the U.S. has captured national attention. But a new Kaiser Family Foundation survey reveals a very different immigration issue. In California, legal immigrants entitled to health coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are afraid to enroll because they worry that doing so would expose an undocumented relative to investigation and deportation. That's despite assurances from the government that any information gathered about immigrant families from ACA coverage applications will not be used toward immigration enforcement (Drew Altman, 7/30). 

The New York Times' The Conscience Of A Liberal: Stealth Single Payer
The Kaiser Family Foundation has a new survey on Obamacare in California, and it's full of remarkably good news. For those who haven't been following this, CA -- with its now-dominant Democratic Party -- is where Obamacare was implemented the way it was supposed to be implemented: the website worked pretty well from the beginning, Medicaid expansion was implemented, and the state worked hard on outreach. It was also a place that really needed reform: the uninsured were a high percentage of the population, and an individual market without community rating meant that the mere hint of a preexisting condition was enough to prevent coverage (Paul Krugman, 7/30).

The New York Times: The F.D.A.'s Blatant Failure On Food
Every year, antibiotic-resistant infections kill at least 23,000 Americans and make another two million sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's why a recent ruling by the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals is so appalling. It allows the federal Food and Drug Administration to leave an antibiotic used in animal feed on the market even if the agency openly states that the drug’s use is not safe and increases the risk of antibiotic resistance in people (Ruth Reichl, 7/30). 

USA Today: VA Deal Shows Congress Can Work: Our View
Something unusual is happening this week in the otherwise gridlocked and dysfunctional Congress: Lawmakers are coming together to pass a law to address a significant national problem. The problem is veterans' health care. With the August recess approaching, political opportunity high and midterm elections looming, the system is responding in the way it is supposed to but too rarely does (7/30). 

USA Today: Sen. Coburn: Don't Reward VA For Failing
The bad news for veterans is that little at the VA will change if the House-Senate conference agreement becomes law. In typical Washington fashion, instead of making the agency more transparent and accountable, Congress is rewarding the department for its failures with a $16 billion bonus. The problems plaguing the VA, which boasts the second largest budget in the federal government and ends every year with billions of unspent dollars, are not the result of a lack of funds (Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., 7/30). 

The CT Mirror: Federal Insurance And Obamacare: Why This Birthday Matters
Imagine parents having twins and each year celebrating the birthday of only one. Rough, huh? But that is exactly what America has done every July 30 since 1964, the day Medicare and Medicaid were born. These vital programs are now 49 years old… and one, Medicare, has received far more policymaker love than Medicaid. Medicare provides health care coverage mostly to senior citizens; Medicaid to the poor and underprivileged. By 2020 there are expected to be more people enrolled in Medicaid than Medicare. Therefore it is a serious problem that on average across all 50 states, Medicaid in 2012 paid providers about two thirds of what Medicare reimbursed for comparable services (Doug Olson, 7/30).

The Sacramento Bee: Improve Health Care By Building On Medicare’s Success
I’m appreciative of the expansion in coverage that the ACA has allowed, but we still have a ways to go. There are still 13 percent of Americans without health insurance. Many of my patients who just enrolled in Medi-Cal are having trouble getting specialty care because their plans have not negotiated contracts with specialists in their areas. ... The answer to health care costs that are 2.5 times higher than the industrial nation average (and yet fail to produce higher-quality care and more favorable morbidity and mortality indicators) is Medicare for All (Dr. Erica Heiman, 7/31).

The New England Journal Of Medicine: Reforming The Financing And Governance Of GME
After reviewing the relevant literature, the committee reached several important conclusions that helped shape its recommendations: forecasts of future physician shortages are variable and have been historically unreliable; increasing the number of physicians is unlikely to resolve specialty and geographic maldistribution; increasing Medicare funding is not essential for increasing the physician workforce. ... Despite the potential for disruption, the committee firmly believes that Medicare funding of GME can and should be better leveraged than it has been to date for achieving national health care objectives and meeting the needs of the American people (Gail R. Wilensky and Dr. Donald M. Berwick, 7/30).

The New England Journal Of Medicine: Innovation In Medical Education
Our nation's lack of research in medical education contrasts starkly with the large and essential commitment to biomedical research funded by industry, philanthropic organizations, and the public. No one questions the need for sustained support for research in cancer, heart disease, or dementia. But despite medical education's central role in creating a workforce capable of delivering the resulting biomedical advances -- and despite the $15 billion in annual public investment in the medical education enterprise -- funding for medical education research is conspicuously absent (Drs. David A. Asch and Debra F. Weinstein, 7/30).

The New England Journal Of Medicine: Subsidies And the Survival Of The ACA -- Divided Decisions On Premium Tax Credits
In rapid succession on July 22, two federal courts of appeal reached opposite conclusions on the single most important outstanding legal issue affecting the Affordable Care Act (ACA): whether the federally facilitated insurance exchanges that serve two thirds of the states can grant premium tax credits to individuals purchasing health insurance plans. ... It is obvious that the premium-tax-credit provision is awkwardly worded. The purpose of the statute is clear, however, and there is no evidence, other than the four words on which these cases turn, that Congress meant to deny millions of Americans health insurance simply because their states elected not to operate exchanges (Timothy Stoltzfus Jost, 7/30).

The New England Journal Of Medicine: When 'Hacktivists' Target Your Hospital
Earlier this year, Boston Children's Hospital was targeted in a sustained cyberattack purportedly instigated by the hacker group known as Anonymous. With cybersecurity becoming an increasingly important focus for both corporations and individuals, and with electronic systems now central to most operational functions in health care organizations, it is important to learn whatever lessons we can from this event. ... Fortunately, no patient was harmed, and no patient data or other data were lost or compromised during the weeks that the hospital was under assault. Advance planning, well-trained and dedicated staff, the support of a multidisciplinary team, and the resources and expertise of the ISP and third-party partners were all critical to managing the response (Dr. Daniel J. Nigrin, 7/31).

The New England Journal Of Medicine:  Cybersecurity In Health Care
In a recent study, a whopping 94 percent of health care institutions reported having been victims of cyberattacks. To date, cybercrime against health care has manifested as four specific threats: data loss, monetary theft, attacks on medical devices, and attacks on infrastructure. ... The threats of cyberattack are clear and present in health care. It is time to organize, convene, and focus in a way that that truly protects our patients, providers, and institutions. Technology has unquestionably improved health care. Let's be sure that its promised benefits continue to be delivered safely (Eric D. Perakslis, 7/31).

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