KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Entitlement Spending ‘Hurts The Young;’ State Uncertainty On Medicaid; Dr. Carson’s Remedy For Health Care

The New York Times: Carpe Diem Nation
Federal spending is the most obvious example. The federal government is a machine that takes money from future earners and spends it on health care for retirees. Entitlement spending hurts the young in two ways. It squeezes government investment programs that boost future growth. Second, the young will have to pay the money back. To cover current obligations, according to the International Monetary Fund, young people will have to pay 35 percent more taxes and receive 35 percent fewer benefits (David Brooks, 2/11). 

Des Moines Register: Uncertainty Over Medicaid Is Real
Critics accused President Barack Obama of creating "uncertainty" that discouraged job creation and hindered economic recovery. Yet when health care spending comprises about 20 percent of this country's gross domestic product, governors who say they will not expand Medicaid in 2014 are the uncertainty culprits. They are making it difficult for businesses, state government and residents to plan for the future. Gov. Terry Branstad continues to oppose insuring thousands of low-income Iowans under the health reform law (2/12).

Kansas City Star: Medicaid Study Must Not Be The Last Word
A new study calculates that a broad expansion of Medicaid eligibility would cost Kansas an additional $1.1 billion over 10 years, more than double the anticipated increase if the state maintains its current low eligibility threshold. That's a hard-to-swallow commitment for a governor and legislators who are viscerally averse to most government spending and all aspects of "Obamacare." But the findings from the Aon Hewitt consulting firm can't be considered in isolation. Leaders have a responsibility to seek a complete and accurate picture of what a Medicaid expansion, as called for in the federal Affordable Care Act, would mean for the state (2/11).

Los Angeles Times: A Message To Obama, Served Cold
In an earlier era, Dr. Benjamin Carson's speech before the National Prayer Breakfast last week would have been a really big deal rather than mere fodder for a brief squall on Twitter and cable news. … Carson's idea for healthcare reform is even more Washingtonian. Instead of the technocratic behemoth of Obamacare, empower the individual. "When a person is born, give him a birth certificate, an electronic medical record and a health savings account to which money can be contributed — pretax — from the time you're born till the time you die. If you die, you can pass it on to your family members ... and there's nobody talking about death panels." The beauty of Carson's argument exceeds its simplicity, particularly as even economist Paul Krugman now concedes that something like death panels are inevitable if we stay on our current path (Jonah Goldberg, 2/12).

The Oregonian: Oregon Should Emphasize Detection And Treatment Of Mental Illness In Young People
It would not be unreasonable to argue that if we eliminated obesity and mental illness, just about everything would improve: Medical and social service costs would plummet, people would stay in school and lead productive lives, the prison population would decline by up to one third, government agencies would no longer need to compete for more and more funding to meet the needs of more and more medically and emotionally hobbled citizens. Heck, we might even find a path forward in the post-Newtown gun debate. But it would be unrealistic, if not unreasonable, to assume that Oregonians could find the discipline and money required to tackle obesity and mental illness and to eliminate their threat to prosperity and government. But that's what they are -- a threat -- when you put a meter on them (2/11).

The Washington Post: George W. Bush's Words That Saved Millions
Even among the few, odd, nerdy children who want to be speechwriters when they grow up (I was one), none dream of writing a State of the Union address. These tend to be long and shapeless affairs, lumpy with random policy, carried along by strained applause lines. … There are a few exceptions: Lyndon Johnson announcing a War on Poverty; Bill Clinton, as a scandal unfolded, undismayed in the lion's den. And then there were these sentences in the 2003 address 10 years ago: "Tonight I propose the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief," said President George W. Bush, "a work of mercy beyond all current international efforts to help the people of Africa. This comprehensive plan will prevent 7 million new AIDS infections, treat at least 2 million people with life-extending drugs and provide humane care for millions of people suffering from AIDS and for children orphaned by AIDS" (Michael Gerson, 2/11).

Boston Globe: Time To Expand The Family Medical Leave Act
As we gear up for tonight's State of the Union Address — in which the president is expected to be combative, and Republicans are expected to reject every syllable he utters — here's a fact worth chewing on: Two decades ago, the Family Medical Leave Act passed with bipartisan support. Yes, there was some opposition to the modest idea behind the bill: that workers should be able to recover from major illnesses, help ill relatives, or care for new babies without fear of losing their jobs. Groups like the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Realtors firmly predicted that American business would grind to a screeching halt. But within the halls of Congress 20 years ago last week, common sense prevailed, for reasons that actually go to the heart of conservatism (Joanna Weiss, 2/12).

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