KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Health Law’s Threat To Individual Liberty; Conflicting Opinions On The Constitutionality Of The Individual Mandate

The Wall Street Journal: The Supreme Court Weighs ObamaCare
On Monday, the Supreme Court will begin an extraordinary three-day hearing on the constitutionality of ObamaCare. At stake are the Constitution's structural guarantees of individual liberty, which limit governmental power and ensure political accountability by dividing that power between federal and state authorities. Upholding ObamaCare would destroy this dual-sovereignty system, the most distinctive feature of American constitutionalism (David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey, 3/21).

The New York Times' Opinionator: Never Before
So it's perhaps not surprising that just about half the public apparently believes that the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate is unconstitutional. Free of convention, and fresh from reading the main briefs in the case to be argued before the Supreme Court next week, I'm here to tell you: that belief is simply wrong (Linda Greenhouse, 3/21).

Politico: Health Care And Constitutional Armageddon
By every indication, this is constitutional Armageddon, an epic battle for the heart and soul of our constitutional democracy. But the case could end with a whimper instead of a bang. And our democracy might be better off if it does (Daniel Conkle, 3/21).

Roll Call: Necessary, Proper And The Individual Mandate
The question is whether the individual mandate is within Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce ("Commerce ... among the several States") or is "necessary and proper for carrying into Execution" that power. ... Ultimately, the Obama administration’s arguments on the "necessary" test undermine its arguments on the "proper" test and render the individual mandate unconstitutional (Jack Painter, 3/22).

The Washington Post: The Supreme Court's Other Monumental Health-Care Hearing
Contrary to nearly universal expectations, the justices decided to review the constitutionality of the law’s expansion of the federal-state Medicaid program for the poor. That expansion focuses on low-income adults: It requires all states that want federal Medicaid funding to set a floor under program eligibility at 133 percent of the federal poverty level — $14,856 in annual income for an individual, $20,123 for a couple (Ron Pollack and Wade Henderson, 3/21).

Fox News: Battle Of The Health Care Flip-Floppers--How Romney Can Defeat Obama
If Romney squares off with Obama in the general election, the American people will face a choice between two flip-floppers on the issue. But it is Obama, not Romney, who is presently wrong on the issue. And it was Obama who broke a specific campaign promise in actually imposing this disastrous policy on the American people (Phil Kerpen, 3/21).

Politico: Health Care Reform: Repeal Disastrous Affordable Care Act
As the implementation of this monstrosity proceeds, we see that the president's promises to lower costs and allow Americans to keep the coverage they have were just talking points, designed to secure this unrealistic expansion of the federal government. The reality is that the president’s signature domestic achievement massively expands entitlement spending, contributes to an already unsustainable debt, raises taxes on millions of families and businesses and puts Washington between patients and their doctors (Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., 3/21).

The Fiscal Times: Health-Care Giants Warn Sickly Earnings Ahead
Not a single one of the 16 health-care companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index that issued guidance on their first-quarter results took an optimistic perspective. ... Health-care costs have soared at rates that greatly exceed the official rate of inflation. Insurers are scrambling to keep up ... but the combination of the recession and pushback by hospitals and other providers has put downward pressure on prices (Suzanne McGee, 3/22).

The Seattle Times: Rolling Back The Clock On Women's Health
Just when you thought the top issues in America were jobs and the economy, along comes a raft of anti-women's health-care rhetoric and lawmaking. It looks like an all-out effort to roll back the 1960s and 1970s. Or, for that matter, much of the 20th century…. I suspect many female voters feel like I do. I will not vote for any candidate who participates in these absurd attacks on women and their need for legitimate, comprehensive health care (Joni Balter, 3/21).

The Baltimore Sun: Why I Demanded A Voice For Sandra Fluke
But there is another core interest we must consider as part of this debate, and that is the interest of the women affected by these policies. Even if the chairman and other Republicans disagree with women who support insurance coverage for contraceptives, these women have a right to their position, and we in Congress have an obligation to listen. Frankly, my Republican colleagues just don't seem to get that (Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., 3/21).

Medscape: Contraceptives and Government: PCPs, Add Your Voice
This is a debate many of us thought was settled by the Supreme Court in the 1960s, and of course the folks at the Institute of Medicine issued a report that made it stunningly clear that investments in contraception improved the health of women dramatically, improved the economy, and in general improved the status of women by enabling all sorts of control over their life (Dr. Robert W. Morrow, 3/21).

Roll Call: The Budget Case For Combating Childhood Obesity
A new study, released today by the Campaign to End Obesity, points to the economic imperative of taking real action on obesity, especially when it comes to our children. ... Today, our nation spends $147 billion each year on obesity-related health care expenses, and this fails to count the billions more in costs to businesses, communities and families. Clearly, if we don’t address this epidemic, health care costs, already the fastest-growing area of federal spending, will continue to skyrocket (Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., and Donna Katen-Bahensky, 3/21).

Denver Post: Doctors' Preference Should Be Natural Childbirth
The World Health Organization determined that there is no medical reason for any region to have a cesarean birthrate higher than 15 percent. In Colorado, the C-section rate is 24 percent, making it one of the most common operations in the state. ... We questioned why doctors would take greater risks with Lindsey's low-risk pregnancy. In our research, we found this statistic: According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, cesarean rates increase from 13 percent for women paying out of pocket to 27 percent for women with private health insurance (Kevin Mohatt, 3/22).

Reuters: Six Keys To Long-Term Care Coverage
Some 70 percent of people over 65 will require long-term care services —- including assisted living, nursing home or home care —- during their lifetime, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Costs, on average, range from $4,000 to $8,000 per month. For consumers who can't afford to self-insure against big costs like that, there are few alternatives. Medicare doesn't cover such expenses, and individuals with more than $2,000 in assets can't qualify for Medicaid assistance (Kathleen Kingsbury, 3/21).

Boston Globe: Mass. Lawmakers Should Pass Sick-Leave Bill
For years, legislators have proposed laws giving all workers in the state the right to stay home without penalty when they are ill. For years, they've hit brick walls. But this year might be different. Legislation sponsored by Representative Kay Khan and Senator Pat Jehlen is gathering momentum on Beacon Hill. It would require employers to give workers up to seven paid sick days a year. ... Supporters say paid sick leave would actually save businesses more than it would cost: It would reduce turnover, keep workplaces healthier and more productive, hold down health care expenses, and foster loyalty (Yvonne Abraham, 3/22).

(St. Paul) Pioneer Press: Medical Device Tax Will Hit Small and Mid-Size Companies Hard
We need to look for ways to encourage -- not tax and stifle -- an environment of innovation for Minnesota's medical technology companies, large and small, to continue creating high-paying, private-sector jobs that develop critical life- and cost-saving technology. Repealing Obamacare and the harmful medical device tax would be a step in leveling the playing field and moving in the right direction (Pete Hegseth, 3/21).

New England of Medicine: The Potential for Cost Savings Through Bundled Episode Payments
[O]ur results suggest that it is possible to achieve very substantial health care savings by moving from a fee-for-service model to bundled payments for episodes of care, whether in a stand-alone program or as a component of an overall global-payment model (David M. Cutler and Kaushik Ghosh, 3/21).

New England Journal of Medicine: Registered Nurse Labor Supply And The Recession — Are We In A Bubble?
Employers and workforce policymakers should not be lulled into complacency by the current absence of a nursing shortage. ... Shortages of RNs may reduce access to care and increase costs as employers raise salaries to attract nurses, potentially imperiling the success of health care reform (Douglas O. Staiger, David I. Auerbach and Peter I. Buerhaus, 3/21).

New England Journal of Medicine: Financing Graduate Medical Education — Mounting Pressure For Reform
Disparate voices from the White House, a national fiscal commission, Congress, a Medicare advisory body, private foundations, and academic medical leaders are advocating changes to Medicare's investment in graduate medical education (GME), which currently totals $9.5 billion annually (John K. Iglehart, 3/21).

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