KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Actuaries Report Validates Critics’ Skepticism Of Law; Campaign To Repeal Medical Devices Tax Is Paying Off

USA Today: ObamaCare Fails To Keep Promises
The non-partisan Society of Actuaries last week said that because of Obamacare, insurers could pay an average of 32% more for medical claims. Those costs will be passed onto those who buy insurance on the individual market in the form of dramatically higher premiums. The new report is further proof that this law is failing to deliver on its promises -- and that the opponents were right to be skeptical (Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 3/31).

The New York Times: One Industry's Hold On The Senate
Ever since Congress included a 2.3 percent tax on medical devices in President Obama's health care reform law in 2009, there has been a forceful and well-financed campaign to repeal the tax — waged, naturally, by the medical device industry. It has donated generously to lawmakers and candidates, taken them on tours of their plants and spent tens of millions in lobbying. The effort is paying off (4/1). 

Politico: Why Texas Should Not Expand Medicaid
America is facing an entitlement spending crisis, with unfunded liabilities for Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid approaching $100 trillion. This is an outrageous situation that threatens our fiscal and economic well-being as a country. And few brave souls are tackling these problems to find real solutions. Maybe we should start with the smallest of the big three entitlement programs: Medicaid. ... Here in Texas, the Medicaid program truly needs fundamental reform. The status quo leaves enrollees with inadequate access to providers and poor health outcomes. Part of the reason for this is that many Texas physicians, particularly specialists, won't accept Medicaid patients because payments from the state aren't even enough to cover the cost of providing care (Dick Armey and Arlene Wohlgemuth, 4/1).

Los Angeles Times: Don't Cut Lifesaving Dollars
For the last several years, the federal budget for the National Institutes of Health, the world's largest source of basic research funding, has remained at about $30 billion a year. If inflation is factored into the numbers, funding has decreased since 2002. The 2012 NIH budget was $30.7 billion, a $299-million increase over 2011 levels, but accounting for only about 1.25% of all tax revenue collected in 2012. The sequestration enacted March 1 cut the NIH budget 5.1%, a loss of $1.6 billion annually. ... But whatever the problems with current funding structures, the fact remains that public support for basic science is inherent to medical progress (Jessica Wapner, 4/2).

Kansas City Star: Should Companies Play Or Pay On Affordable Care Act?
November's presidential election made it clear that the Affordable Care Act would, indeed, be the law of the land. Early the day after the election, phones at our law office started ringing. The question on callers' minds: Should my company "play" by providing employees "affordable" health insurance coverage, or should we pay the penalty of $2,000 per employee per year beginning in 2014? For companies with more than 50 employees, if the penalty is less costly, paying the fine and turning employees over to the state or federal exchange for health benefits might seem the obvious choice. But it isn’t quite that simple. (Jim Holland, 4/2). 

Medpage Today: Match Day Highlights Growing Doctor Shortage
Medicare has written big checks when it comes to graduate medical education (GME). The program spends approximately $3 billion each year to assist in training doctors. … All told, Medicare spends $15 billion to $20 billion annually on training. The result of this investment, most critics agree, produces some of the best-trained physicians in the world. But is it worth the cost at a time when the system has come under fire for its huge price tag and the relatively low number of doctors who will eventually directly treat the elderly? (John Wasik, 4/1).

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