KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Viewpoints: Ask Clinton About Her Health Plan; Ill. ‘Bait And Switch’; Improving Hearing

A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.

The Washington Post: Hillary Clinton Should Be Pressed On Health Care, Too. Here’s How.
As the battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders over health care has heated up, a number of liberal writers have published pieces taking a hard look at Sanders’ single payer plan. ... But the single payer flap suggests a line of questioning on health care for Hillary Clinton, too. ... The fair question for Clinton is: How, in detail, would you go about building on the Affordable Care Act to cover the remaining uninsured? (Greg Sargent, 1/21)

Huffington Post: Here’s One Big Problem With The Bernie Sanders Plan For Health Care Utopia
The Bernie Sanders health care plan, which the Vermont senator released this week, sounds pretty spectacular at first blush. It’s a proposal to create a single-payer system, which means that Sanders would wipe away existing insurance arrangements and replace them with a single government program. Everybody would get insurance, free of co-pays or deductibles. ... To help pay for his plan’s unprecedented benefits, Sanders proposes to extract unprecedented savings from the health care system. Here is where the details get fuzzy and hard to accept at face value, even beyond the usual optimistic assumptions that figure into campaign proposals. (Jonathan Cohn, 1/21)

Bloomberg: BernieCare Looks to Europe. Americans Don't.
Bernie Sanders probably knows that his plan to give all Americans free health care is never going to become law. Yet he's doing the country a service: His proposal has re-ignited a national debate -- the third since the 1990s -- over why the U.S. can't be like Europe, Canada and the rest of the industrialized world and adopt universal health care. ... [Sanders' plan] sounds appealing. But would it really be popular once Americans found out how it worked? There are strong reasons to doubt it. (Paula Dwyer, 1/21)

New Orleans Times-Picayune: Fast-Tracking Medicaid Expansion For Louisiana Is The Way To Go
Louisiana is way behind on the Medicaid expansion that was part of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. Gov. John Bel Edwards took advantage of the expansion the day after his Jan. 11 inauguration, but our state essentially missed the first two years of the program. So it is smart of the Edwards administration to try to fast track the process to enroll uninsured Louisiana residents who qualify. ... Fast track enrollment uses data from other government programs to help verify that low-income residents are eligible for the Medicaid expansion, which covers people earning up to 138 percent of the poverty level. (1/21)

The Chicago Tribune: Land Of Bait-And-Switch
No, there's no health insurance company named Land of Bait-and-Switch operating in Illinois. But we understand why people might think so. Over the past few months, many people signed up with upstart insurer Land of Lincoln Health in part because it offered the University of Chicago Medical Center and affiliated doctors in its network. You'll recall that thousands of people here had to scramble to find coverage after the state's dominant carrier, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, eliminated a popular individual market plan that included U. of C. .... In late December, after many people had enrolled for 2016 with Land of Lincoln, the insurer dropped the U. of C. from its insurance network, effective March 1. (1/21)

JAMA: Policy Solutions For Better Hearing
Assessment of hearing is rarely included in routine primary care evaluations, and physicians often view hearing impairment in patients as a difficulty in communication (which it is) and not a medical problem that needs attention. One reason for this lack of attention is that hearing loss has been considered a normal aspect of aging and therefore not amenable to medical treatment. Another challenge, as noted by the US Preventive Services Task Force, is that there is limited evidence about screening (such as the most effective screening tools) for asymptomatic adults older than 50 years. It is time for the health care system to make hearing a priority, a key part of healthy aging, and to increase the availability of hearing technology to the millions of people who could benefit from it. (Christine Cassel, Ed Penhoet and Robert Saunders, 1/21)

Health Affairs: Supplemental Benefits Under Medicare Advantage
Much has been written about the relative merits of Medicare Advantage (MA) and Medicare Fee-For-Service from the standpoint of efficiency and care coordination, but less attention has been paid to the supplemental benefits that distinguish MA plans. ... It has been suggested that Medicare Advantage’s supplemental benefits, such as gym memberships, have been designed to attract healthier enrollees. However, CMS data reveals that these are relatively trivial elements of MA supplemental benefit packages. The bulk of supplemental benefits under MA are features of greater value to the sick than to the healthy. In addition to mandatory supplemental protection from catastrophic out-of-pocket costs, the majority of MA plans include preventive dental care, eye care, and hearing assistance. (Christopher Pope, 1/21)

news@JAMA: Promoting Therapeutic Innovation: What Do We Do About Drug-Device Combinations?
There’s been a heated debate over the past year over whether legislative incentives are needed to encourage certain types of therapeutic innovation. Much of this debate centered on the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act by the US House of Representatives (awaiting action by the Senate), which contained provisions intended to expedite availability of medical products such as new antibiotics and high-risk devices. Somewhat less prominent is legislation proposed in the Senate, the Combination Product Regulatory Fairness Act, which is intended to promote innovation among products that contain both a drug and device. (Bo Wang and Aaron S. Kesselheim, 1/21)

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