KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: The Health Law’s Double Count On Medicare Funding; Pa. Budget Endangering Health Safety Net; A Doctor’s Call For More Texting

The Wall Street Journal: Exposing The Medicare Double Count
One of the enduring mysteries of President Obama's health law is how its spending constraints and payroll tax hikes on high earners can be used to shore up Medicare finances and at the same time pay for a massive new entitlement program. Isn't this double counting? (Charles Blahous and James C. Capretta, 5/1).

Boston Globe: Payment Reform Is Working In Massachusetts
When it comes to health reform, many in our state are on a mission to demonstrate that it is possible to achieve both near-universal coverage and affordable high quality care. While the rest of the nation holds its collective breath as it awaits the Supreme Court's decision on national health reform, Massachusetts is moving forward aggressively into the next phase (Dr. Gene Lindsey, 5/1).

Philadelphia Inquirer: Endangering Pa.'s Health And Prosperity
In proposing his state budget for the coming fiscal year, Gov. Corbett emphasized the need to "sort through the must-haves and the nice-to-haves, and compress government into its core functions. ..." He went on to note, "If we believe in society, we must accept that we have a duty to care for and protect those among us who cannot fend for themselves." Sadly, though, the governor’s budget proposal does not match this rhetoric. In fact, his spending plan would weaken the health-care safety net for the most vulnerable among us (Carolyn F. Scanlan, 5/2).

CNN: Seriously? Doctors Say They're Underpaid
The Medscape survey found the average physician compensation now ranges from a high of $315,000 for orthopedic surgeons to a low of $156,000 for pediatricians. Sounds pretty good right? ... So how do doctors' salaries compare with other well-paying professions? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average computer and information system manager earns $125,660 per year. The average lawyer makes $130,490 per year. Orthodontists take home $204,670. The New York Times recently reported the average base pay for managing directors at Morgan Stanley is $400,000. When you consider these numbers, the thought of pediatricians making $156,000 a year doesn't seem unreasonable (Dr. Anthony Youn, 5/1).

Journal of the American Medical Association: Studying Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Although evaluating the research portfolio of any institute at the NIH is difficult, social and political pressures may influence area-of-interest funding, and decisions should be based on science. For complementary and alternative medicine, it seems that some people believe what they want to believe, arguing that it does not matter what the data show; they know what works for them. Because negative studies do not appear to change behavior and because studies performed without a sound biological basis have little to no chance of success, it would make sense for [National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine] to either refrain from funding studies of therapies that border on mysticism such as distance healing, purgings, and prayer; redefine its mission to include a better understanding of the physiology of the placebo response; or shift its resources to other NIH institutes (Dr. Paul A. Offit, 5/2).

Journal of the American Medical Association: Next: Text
I encourage my patients to call me or e-mail me, so why not use cell phones and texting to communicate? After all, it is a ubiquitous technology, and at least in the United States it is more egalitarian in its availability and affordability. Most of my patients do not own computers or have consistent Internet access, and e-mail can be a pain if you do not have easy access and basic computer competencies. On the other hand, almost everyone has a cell phone ... and a plan that covers unlimited texting (Dr. James S. Kahn, 5/2).

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