KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Today’s Opinions: Health Law Spending; Funding Threats Undercut U.S. Legal Tradition; Medicaid Falls Short

Politico: Resetting The 'Obamacare' Baseline
Rising entitlement spending is already driving the federal budget off a cliff. But Obamacare would add fuel to the fire with the largest entitlement expansion since the 1960s. So it takes a special kind of audacity for Obamacare's apologists to continue to insist that the new law will cut the projected budget deficits. ... It double counts premiums for a new, poorly structured long-term-care insurance program. The same $70 billion in startup premiums collected by the program are claimed for both deficit reduction over the next few years and long-term-care benefits beyond the visible budget horizon. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) called this gimmick "something Bernie Madoff would have been proud of" (Douglas Holtz-Eakin and James Capretta, 12/16).

Politico: Enforcement And The Health Care Law
Conservative promises to thwart "Obamacare" by cutting off funds needed for implementation sets up a dangerous precedent that Americans -- Republican and Democrat -- should be wary of. ... The newly elected U.S. legislators ... should stop short of anything that would appear to condone defiance of the law - including efforts to gut enforcement by underfunding responsible agencies (Daniel Speckhard, 12/16).

Chicago Tribune: Destructive Health Care Decision
The Obama health care law is constitutional, and the proof is Monday's federal ruling striking it down. This apparent paradox emerges from the bizarre new legal theories that U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson had to invent in order to invalidate the law - theories that, if taken seriously, would randomly destroy large parts of federal law (Andrew Koppelman, 12/16).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: An Individual Mandate
Conservatives have argued that if the government can force citizens to buy health care, it can force them to do almost anything -- "to buy an automobile, to join a gym, to eat asparagus," [U.S. District Judge Henry] Hudson remarked during an October hearing. It's a specious argument. There must be certain and appropriate checks on government power -- legally, there must be "a limiting principle." But the health care market is different from any other economic activity. There is no other product or service for which an individual can argue: I will never use this (12/15).

Roll Call: 112th Should Be The 'Repeal Congress'
The results of the historic 2010 elections have given us the opportunity to change course and restore our Constitutional government. The principles of limited government that were so fiercely protected by our nation's founders have been trampled upon by Members of Congress who have sworn to uphold the Constitution and unelected, overzealous bureaucrats who seek to regulate every aspect of our lives. One does not need to look further than the massive nationalized health care behemoth known as Obamacare as evidence of this overregulation (Rep. Connie Mack IV, 12/16).

The Fiscal Times: States' Budget Crisis Could Topple Obamacare
The biggest threat to President Obama's signature legislation is that so many states are already facing crippling budget deficits and will not be able to afford the increased Medicaid burdens imposed by the health bill. According to the Heritage Foundation, the mandated expansion of Medicaid rolls in states like Nevada, Oregon and Texas will be as much as 50 percent from current levels. Though the federal government will pick up the first three years' increase in coverage expenses, the cost of administering the enlarged program will fall on the states (Liz Peek, 12/15).

Politico: The Dangers Of The Medicaid Illusion
Medicaid exists to give low-income families, especially low-income mothers and their children, access to health care. But for millions of Americans, Medicaid is an illusion. It is the appearance of coverage - without the power of access. The program is administered by states and funded jointly by states and the federal government. And it is bankrupting both, along with physicians and hospitals (Rep. Bill Cassidy, 12/16).

The Arizona Republic: 'Ankle-Biters' Take On Brewer's Death Panel
The state budget is a disaster, as are state budgets across the country. No one is suggesting that AHCCCS should cover everyone for everything. But when elected officials are making tough decisions about money, it seems logical -- and humane -- that the very last to be cut off should be sick people who might die without treatment (E.J. Montini, 12/16).

USA Today: We're Getting Maternity Care All Wrong
The new health care law aims to expand maternity services by legislating that both private insurance and high-risk exchanges provide maternity benefits in addition to expanding Medicaid. The problem? Studies … indicate that increased access to publicly funded maternity care doesn't always translate into improved birth outcomes. Just because a woman might be Medicaid-eligible doesn't mean she can navigate the complexities of enrollment or physically get to a clinic. And even if she can access care, there is a wide range of practice standards, so maternity care varies not only county to county but also hospital to hospital (Jennifer Gunter, 12/13).

(Minneapolis) Star Tribune: Plan Now To Avoid Elder Cost Explosion
With the first wave of the giant baby boom generation turning 65 next year, it should be possible for even myopic thinkers to see that society's spending on long-term care, which already strains federal, state and family budgets, is headed for the stratosphere in a decade or two. If care for the frail elderly and disabled is to be put on a more affordable trajectory without unacceptable consequences, policymakers need to start now (12/15).

San Francisco Chronicle: FDA Targets Avastin -- My Mom's Last Hope
On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration may make a final decision on whether to maintain approval for the drug Avastin for the treatment of late-stage breast cancer. Tens of thousands of families across the country will be affected by this. One of those families is mine (Josh Turnage, 12/15).

Houston Chronicle: Fixing Our Food
Flawed and incomplete as it is, this bill addresses major weaknesses not only in domestic production and distribution, but in the standards for food products imported from China and other countries (12/15). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.