KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Obama Seeking ‘To Preserve’ New Spending; Medicare Rule Change For Disabled Is ‘Humane Thing To Do’

The Wall Street Journal: A Second First Term
On Tuesday Mr. Obama finally tried to give the future more definition with a new plan, except it isn't new and barely qualifies as a plan. ... The pamphlet's sections on health care and entitlements show that his real budget priority is to preserve all of the government he expanded in the first term. He promises to protect the Affordable Care Act from repeal or Republican amendments. He also says he'll "protect retirement security" by opposing "efforts to gamble Social Security in the stock market"—which no one is proposing—and "stop proposals to turn Medicare into a voucher system." Having thus stopped serious entitlement reform, he'll be left to fiddle around the edges with the usual cuts to providers or reducing benefits for seniors he thinks are "rich" (10/23). 

The Washington Post: What The Debates Told Us
What we learned — and didn’t — from the debates. ... How important is the women’s vote? Here’s a clue: Obama mentioned Planned Parenthood — and Romney’s plans to eliminate federal funding for same — five times during the town-hall debate. On a related matter (the future of Roe v. Wade, among other things), the Supreme Court — hello? Appointing justices is one of a president’s most enduring actions, but it didn’t merit a single question. The only substantive mention of the court came during the vice-presidential debate, when Joe Biden raised the issue in response to a question about abortion rights (Ruth Marcus, 10/23).

The Journal of the American Medical Association: The Health Policy Election
Much is at stake in the 2012 presidential election. President Barack Obama's vision and former Governor Mitt Romney's vision differ across many domains, but perhaps most starkly in the area of health policy. Fundamentally, the candidates disagree on the role of government as the guarantor of affordable access to health insurance, as evidenced by their plans for private insurance markets, Medicare, and Medicaid (Dr. Aaron E. Carroll and Austin B. Frakt, 10/24).

The New York Times: A Humane Medicare Rule Change
A proposed settlement of a nationwide class-action lawsuit should make it easier for tens of thousands of disabled and chronically ill people to qualify for Medicare coverage. It is clearly the humane thing to do for desperately sick people with little hope of recovery (10/23). 

The Seattle Times: Runaway U.S. Health-Care Costs—By Design
All costs are somebody's revenue, and the medical industry does not want its revenue limited. Ordinary Americans don't want their medical care limited, either. They want the best…. It is not clear that the cost of medical care can be substantially brought down in any way people here would accept (Bruce Ramsey, 10/23).

The Philadelphia Inquirer: The U.S. Children's Bureau: Time For A Revival?
Founded in 1912 and housed in the Department of Labor, the Children's Bureau was the first federal agency to be run by women -- and the first time the federal government committed to efforts on behalf of children's health and welfare.  The bureau had a broad mission: reducing infant and child mortality, improving child health, abolishing child labor and advocating for those with special needs, including the orphaned, abandoned, disabled, and delinquent. Today, no single federal agency has the resources and mandate to address issues such as child poverty, high rates of illness among children, and a stagnant infant mortality rate that reflects dramatic disparities by race, ethnicity and income (Janet Golden, 10/23).

Bloomberg: Meningitis Outbreak Exposes Need To Stop Drug Shortages
A shortage in the generic form of the steroid injection may have encouraged health-care providers to buy the drug from state-regulated compounding pharmacies. From 2005 to 2011, the number of drug shortages in the U.S. rose from 61 to 251, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Until federal regulators can bolster the supply chain without compromising quality, we can't be assured of reliable access to safe medicines (10/23).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Celebrity With 'Street Cred' Needed To Fight Vaccine Hesitancy
We are increasingly seeing the public health impacts of this steady rise in vaccine hesitancy. Widespread outbreaks of several diseases like measles, hemophilus meningitis, and pertussis are occurring more and more frequently, fueled in large part by those who are unimmunized or under-immunized. ... Though I would never wish anyone sickness, a small part of me wonders what would happen if one of these outbreaks affected someone famous.  Ideally, it would be someone with enough "street cred" to meaningfully connect with today's parents, and also willing to step up to the plate and speak out nationally about the experience and why childhood vaccination is so important (Dr. Amanda Dempsey, 10/24).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: The Facts On End-Of-Life Care Programs
In 2001, my frail 94-year-old grandmother -- a lifelong Wisconsinite -- died in a way consistent with her wishes. But it wasn't easy. It required relentless advocacy by her daughter, who signed "Do Not Resuscitate" paperwork three separate times in one week after my grandmother fell and was taken to the hospital with a serious brain injury. ... All of this could have been avoided if a system had been in place that made it possible for health professionals to follow a seriously ill patient's wishes when transferred from one facility to another. With a system in place, patients with advanced illness might have thoughtful conversations with doctors and family about treatments they do or do not want, complete advance directives and appoint trusted loved ones as their health care decision-makers when they cannot speak for themselves (Dr. Terri Schmidt, 10/23).

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