KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Today’s OpEds: Differing Views On The Berwick Appointment, Physician Reimbursement And High-Risk Pools

Finally, A Medicare / Medicaid Chief The New York Times
President Obama made a sensible move Wednesday when he bypassed the Senate and appointed Dr. Donald Berwick, an expert on reducing health care costs, to oversee Medicare and Medicaid. Republican senators had made it clear that they would use confirmation hearings to distort his record and rehash their arguments against the recently enacted health care reforms, mostly to score political points for the November elections (7/7).

The Berwick Evasion The Wall Street Journal
White House respect for the public's health-care views dropped another notch yesterday, if that's possible, with its recess appointment of Donald Berwick. Circumventing Senate confirmation to appoint the new Medicare chief is part of the same political willfulness that inflicted ObamaCare on the country despite the objections of most voters (7/8).

A Needed Recess Appointment The Baltimore Sun
By all accounts, Dr. Donald Berwick, whom President Barack Obama nominated in April to lead the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, is an excellent choice to head the $800 billion-a-year federal agency that oversees health care services to the nation's elderly, poor and disabled. … Yet in the months since his nomination, there seemed little chance that Dr. Berwick would ever get to bring his talents to bear at the federal health-care programs that serve more than one out of three Americans. The reason: Senate Republicans vowed to torpedo his confirmation hearings using the tactics of endless obstruction and delay (Michael Cross-Barnet, 7/7).

The SGR For Physician Payment – An Indispensable Abomination The New England Journal of Medicine
Congress has just extended the life of the sustainable growth rate (SGR) - the formula that Medicare uses to calculate physicians' fees - for 6 more months. … But it ignores the principal reason that health care spending outpaces income growth: the increasing number and complexity of medical interventions. The SGR purports to control total spending on physician services, but it controls only prices, even though spending is the product of the price and the number and intensity of services (Henry Aaron, 7/7).

Congress Needs To Enact Sensible Pay Formula NewsOK
Physicians who accept Medicare and Tricare patients are being forced to limit the number they can serve because of the low reimbursement rate. … This time, it is Congress that needs to stop the bleeding and enact a sensible payment formula to keep doctors in their offices (Larry Bookman, 7/7).

High-Risk Pools: A Rare Opportunity For Bipartisanship Kaiser Health News
The high-risk insurance program does not rely on budgetary chicanery or unfunded mandates. It was designed and was funded to roughly double the population served by state high risk pools. That's what it will do, providing welcome assistance to 350,000 people. … Yet [Sen. Mike] Enzi is right that there are real problems here. The new high-risk program lacks the resources to insure every uninsured American who suffers from a costly illness or injury. Implicitly or explicitly, needy people will likely be turned away (Harold Pollack 7/8).

America's Coming Health Care Oligopoly Forbes
Although Democrats claimed their reform would bring competition to the health care system, in fact the system will rapidly move to a bevy of oligopolies where a handful of large players will survive, and maybe even thrive. The losers will be competition, innovation and ... patients (Merrill Matthews, 7/7).

Redesigning The Health Care System Bloomberg Businessweek
A day spent on the phone with tech support or in line at the DMV is enough to illustrate the inefficiency and waste in fragmented systems. But when we're talking about health care, fragmentation is tragic (Sohrab Vossoughi, 7/7).

Many Texas Families Begin To See Benefits Of Healthcare Reform My San Antonio
While many have used the recently passed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Affordable Care Act) as some harbinger of an ominous "federal government takeover," this new legislation actually brings many immediate benefits to Texas families (Leticia Van de Putte, 7/8).

Welcome To The Hospital California The New York Times
Sometimes patients say things so true it's painful. A few months ago someone about to be discharged snarled at me, "This place is like a prison!" And then he thought about it and said, "No, it's not - it's like the Hotel California" (Theresa Brown, 7/7).

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