KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: GOP Leaders Reject Obama’s Budget Compromise; President’s Entitlements Proposal Is ‘Modest;’ Mental Illness In Prison

The New York Times: The President's Budget
Curbing the rise of Social Security benefits and raising Medicare premiums for higher-income people were two of the highest priorities for Republican leaders just a few months ago. Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, said last fall that if Mr. Obama proposed them, he would consider allowing tax revenue to go up. But, on Wednesday, when the president actually did so, Mr. McConnell dismissed the budget as unserious. Not a single Congressional Republican could be found to consider a budget that combines twice as much in spending cuts as it raises in tax revenues. ... It is clear that the incessant demands by Republicans for entitlement cuts were always hollow (4/10).

The Washington Post: Obama's 2014 Budget Is An Offer To Negotiate
Unlike the Senate Democrats’ budget, Mr. Obama’s does not pretend that deficits can be meaningfully reduced by soaking the rich while largely avoiding entitlements. ... We’re not suggesting that Mr. Obama’s plan adequately addresses the country’s long-term fiscal predicament any more than the House or Senate budgets did. ... More worrying, the president's plan confirms the federal government's relative retreat from non-entitlement functions such as defense, health and safety regulation and law enforcement (4/10). 

The Wall Street Journal: The President's Priorities
Mr. Obama wants federal spending to grow to $4.45 trillion by 2018 fueled mostly by the exploding costs of his Affordable Care Act. This spending surge appears smaller than it is only because the government will bank large reductions in military spending as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars wind down. But unlike in the 1990s, this peace dividend will be spent (4/10)

Reuters: Obama's Budget Bid For A 'Grand Bargain'
[The president] is also renewing his verbal offer to Republicans from last December's negotiations for more than $400 billion in healthcare savings – including roughly $370 billion in Medicare spending over the next 10 years. ... Obama’s budget doesn’t adequately address our soaring healthcare costs — the one thing capable of bankrupting the country. We need to rationalize our healthcare promises, change payment systems and impose a healthcare budget. We are the only industrialized nation with no limits on our healthcare spending (David M. Walker, 4/10). 

Politico: President Obama's Charmless Budget
Obama has repeatedly congratulated himself in public for his courage on entitlements behind closed doors, without ever bothering to propose in open view what he advocated in private. Now, he has put it in writing. That's progress. And he deserves credit for doing what Republicans haven't dared — cutting an entitlement benefit for current retirees. His base, which is driven into paroxysms of rage over proposals to modernize Medicare 10 years from now, is predictably unhinged over the idea of touching the holy of holies, Social Security, right away (Rich Lowry, 4/10).

The New York Times: Mental Illness In California Prisons
There are about 33,000 mentally ill prisoners in state prisons in California, close to 30 percent of the prison population. The number of suicides in state prisons has soared in recent years, to about 24 suicides per 100,000 inmates a year, a rate nearly twice the national average. ... The only way for California to satisfy Constitutional standards for its prisons is to reduce the number of inmates and improve the mental health care in those institutions without delay (4/10).

Kansas City Star: Missouri Senate Should Seize Chance To Fix Medicaid
This was supposed to be the year the Missouri Senate would show the state it was capable of wise, innovative legislating. But on the signature issue of this session — the chance to transform the state's Medicaid program and enable hundreds of thousands of low-income citizens to see a doctor — the Senate is reverting to its old, backward ways. Some smart Republicans in the House have stepped forward with courageous legislation to insure more Missourians (4/10).

The New England Journal of Medicine: Reforming Premedical Education — Out With The Old, In With The New
Recent years have seen many calls for enhancing, overhauling, or abolishing the traditional premed requirements. Critics argue that the pace of scientific discovery and its clinical application have outstripped the requirements; that information technology has made memorizing vast amounts of content unnecessary; that the requirements lack clinical, scientific, and social relevance ... [At Mount Sinai's Icahn School of Medicine since] 1987, humanities majors have been entering medical school here having neither undergone traditional premed science preparation nor taken the MCAT. ... According to a retrospective analysis, these students performed as well as their peers  (Dr. David Muller, 4/11). 

The New England Journal of Medicine: Holistic Review — Shaping The Medical Profession One Applicant At A Time
Successful adoption of holistic review in medical school admissions requires a strong commitment by the school, but the process can be bolstered by support from the AAMC's Holistic Review Project ... This effort is led by a committed group of admissions officers, diversity directors, deans, medical educators, students, and residents from around the country who continue to remind us that medical school admissions is not merely about selecting next year's first-year class, but also about selecting the physicians who will successfully lead a rapidly evolving 21st-century health care workforce (Dr. Robert A. Witzburg and Dr. Henry M. Sondheimer, 4/11). 

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