KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Health Law Savings Questioned; Ryan-Wyden Plan For All; Penalizing Hospitals May Not Save Money

The Wall Street Journal: ObamaCare's Bogus Cost Savings
As we approach the second anniversary of ObamaCare, it's worth re-examining some of the claims its proponents made about the impact of the law on health-care costs. Three of the law's most-touted cost-control measures have already been shown to be unlikely to succeed (Daniel P. Kessler, 3/14).

The Fiscal Times: The Game Plan That Lets Romney Beat Obama
(Mitt) Romney has already laid out a reasonable defense of the bill he adopted while Governor of Massachusetts. He portrays Obamacare as an attempt to conclude a "government takeover of health care," while his program was focused on helping people obtain health insurance. He has noted that his health care bill raised no new taxes and cut nothing from seniors' benefits; Obamacare does both. As we race closer to the huge tax increases Obamacare will levy in 2013 and 2014, this is a powerful distinction (Liz Peek, 3/14). 

Roll Call: Health Care Debate Remains Mired In Politics
If I were in the Democratic leadership, I would be tempted to propose a grand compromise: Take the Ryan-Wyden plan and apply it to everyone — insurance exchanges with Medicare as an option for all. That won't happen, of course. The Supreme Court may blow up all or part of the 2010 law, throwing its implementation into turmoil. Whether that happens (and there is a good chance the court will punt, putting off a decision until after the elections), if Republicans win the White House and Congress, they will move via reconciliation to repeal as much of the plan as they can. And they will discover that the "repeal" part of "repeal and replace" is a lot easier than the "replace" part (Norman  Ornstein, 3/14).

Politico: Government Cannot Regulate Beliefs
The issue is not one of good health — despite election-year efforts to frame it as such. If it were only about good health, government would have long ago outlawed smoking, mandated daily vitamins and forced employers to provide gym memberships. The issue is not even "free" contraception. If it were, a member of Congress with an elastic view of the Commerce Clause would have long ago introduced a bill providing it to the public for "free" — whatever that means. The real issues are whether the First Amendment is broad enough to include beliefs with which we disagree, and whether government can tacitly or otherwise force us to abandon our religious beliefs simply because something constitutes sound public policy (Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), 3/13).

The Dallas Morning News: Rick Perry And Women's Health
Gov. Rick Perry now promises to save the state’s endangered Women’s Health Program, so let’s begin by acknowledging this heartening development…. If you think Perry's late save hints at a game of chicken, you would not be far off…. As everyone scrambles to adjust, it's worth noting again that all of this is driven by politics and not by the real imperative — providing accessible contraception and health care to a most vulnerable population (3/14).

Journal of the American Medical Association: The Relationship Between Cost and Quality
Data from Dartmouth researchers and others have thus led policy makers to feel comfortable with broad payment reductions, in many cases targeting hospitals as a major source of savings for the Medicare program. ... Nearly every proposal to reduce Medicare spending, from Democrats and Republicans alike, seems to contain reductions in Medicare payments to hospitals. The notion that payments to hospitals can be reduced while maintaining or improving the quality of care delivered at these hospitals has become so ingrained in policy circles as to be a given. Recently, however, an increasing amount of evidence has emerged that should counter this misperception (Dr. Karen E. Joynt and Dr. Ashish K. Jha, 3/14).

Journal of the American Medical Association: "Transparency Reports" on Industry Payments to Physicians and Teaching Hospitals
Public awareness of industry payments to physicians and teaching hospitals in the United States is about to markedly increase. As required by the "Sunshine" provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, by September 2013 the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is to publish "transparency reports" that disclose these industry payments on a public website; the information must be "searchable," "clear and understandable," and "able to be easily aggregated and downloaded" (Dr. Robert Steinbrook and Dr. Joseph S. Ross, 3/14).

The Washington Post: Whitman-Walker's Stunning Turnaround
Whitman-Walker Health (WWH) Executive Director Don Blanchon attributes the stunning turn around to three factors. The clinic is seeing more patients. Its fundraising exceeded expectations. And it's living within its budgetary means. The result is a nearly $7 million swing from the red to the black in five years (Jonathan Capehart, 3/13).

The Seattle Times: Hospitals Ill-Equipped To Handle Psychiatric 'Boarders'
Because there are not enough psychiatric beds available for persons requiring inpatient mental-health treatment, those held under Washington's Involuntary Treatment Act are being "boarded" in hospitals throughout King County…. It is unsafe and unreasonable for patients with serious medical and psychiatric needs; their collective families, who rightly expect that their loved ones are being tended to in a safe and appropriate environment; and hospital staff, who bear the responsibility of caring for whomever is admitted to the hospital, regardless of the economic climate that causes resources to crumble around them as they work (Molly Murphy, 3/13).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.