KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Berwick’s Advice; Romney’s Wager; Fighting AIDS

The New York Times: Candid Advice From A Health Care Visionary
Dr. Donald Berwick, who was blocked by Republicans from serving a full term as the administrator of the agency that runs Medicare and Medicaid, has been speaking out. He makes a compelling case about the harm caused by partisan demagoguery and about the need for health care professionals to take the lead in implementing reforms (12/13). 

The Washington Post: You Can Put Money On Romney's Wager
Americans with lives may have missed the Saturday night debate. To recap: Perry accused Romney of supporting a national health care plan like the one he helped create as governor of Massachusetts and claimed that Romney changed his book, "No Apology," to conceal that support. This is demonstrably and substantially false (Kathleen Parker, 12/13).

Bloomberg: Beware AIDS-Fighting Methods Built On Human Discipline
What this tells us about combating HIV is that the less prevention methods rely on compliance, the better. New infections could be significantly reduced if efforts were focused on strategies that require minimal human adherence…. It is spread mainly through sex, a basic, human act that tends to leave discipline behind. To defeat HIV, we need methods that don't depend on our weak points (12/13).

Forbes: The Federal Government's Deeply Flawed System For Controlling Medicare Cost
Medicare's hospital trust fund is set to be exhausted by 2024, according to the latest report from the program's trustees. Federal officials are understandably looking for easy ways to cut spending in the entitlement program in hopes of shoring up its finances. They believe they've hit on one with a two-year-old effort to introduce "competitive bidding" into the process for buying medical equipment. Unfortunately, the scheme contrived by the feds is deeply flawed. Not only are Medicare's auctions resulting in the delivery of low-quality or ineffective medical gear — they're also dampening investment into the research that can yield the next generation of innovative treatments (Sally Pipes, 12/12).

Des Moines Register: Are Catholic Bishops The New Voice For Choice?
Politics are often the mother of irony, and there's a juicy one indeed emerging in the debate over health care reform and abortion. The Catholic bishops of the United States, long at the forefront of the pro-life cause, today are stealing the rhetoric of the pro-choice movement out from under its feet. ... At the heart of this counter-intuitive turn is a set of proposed mandates from the Department of Health and Human Services, which would require private insurance plans, such as those offered by most Catholic employers, to provide coverage for sterilization and contraception, including drugs the church regards as forms of abortion (John L. Allen Jr., 12/13).

The New York Times: Free The FDA
The unilateral decision last week by Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, to block the Plan B One-Step contraceptive pill from being sold to adolescents without a prescription is shocking in more ways than one (Daniel Carpenter, 12/13).

San Francisco Chronicle: Wrong Call On Morning-After Pill
President Obama had pledged to run an administration that would keep politics out of decisions that should be decided on the basis of scientific judgment. His health secretary's decision to overrule a Food and Drug Administration recommendation and prevent the Plan B morning-after pill from being sold over the counter appeared to be an unsettling example of politics trumping science. (12/13).

Medscape: Plan B And Teens
Noting that some girls begin menstruating at age 11 years, Secretary Sibelius cited concerns that Plan B was not studied in that age group and, therefore, shouldn't be available to them. However, this concern does not address the true issue, which is the teen birth rate of 39.1 per 1000 in the 15- to 19-year age group (Cora C. Breuner and Laurie Scudder, 12/13).

The Seattle Times: Uninsured? Help Is On The Way
Yes, in fact if we succeed in doing absolutely nothing — by no means a sure bet — the vast majority of these 1 million uninsured will get access to health coverage. And here's the kicker: the rich will pay for much of it! Just as the street protesters have been demanding. That's because the federal health-care reform law, passed by Congress last year but not due to take effect until 2014, mostly taxes the top 1 or 2 percent to pay to expand health coverage for the poor and lower middle class (Danny Westneat, 12/13).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: State Medicaid Deadline Should Be Moved Back
As we feared, the State of Wisconsin and the federal government are in a standoff over how to fund one of the biggest of the big-ticket items in the state budget: Medicaid. The Obama administration last week said it wouldn't decide on some aspects of Wisconsin's plan until next year, which blows through a Dec. 31 deadline imposed by the state…. The state should not let thousands of people go without health insurance while this is sorted out. (Gov. Scott) Walker and the Legislature should push for a change in law that modifies the deadline so federal officials have more time to consider the entire request (12/13).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Another View: State's Proposals Would Keep Programs Sustainable
The recent public conversation about Wisconsin's Medicaid program has been missing a very key point: Every low-income Wisconsin citizen in the affected groups still will have access to affordable health care coverage…. Some legislators opposing the waiver have claimed it would "result in nearly 65,000 Wisconsinites -- including 29,000 children -- losing or being denied state health care coverage." Their insistence on state health care coverage as the reason to oppose the waiver is misplaced (Dennis Smith, 12/13).

Health News Florida: I'm Getting Lots Of Information, But Not From Doctors
Since I wrote a column about having cancer and no health insurance, I've received a lot of information. Unfortunately, none of it has come from doctors or nurses. It has all come through Facebook and e-mail. Meanwhile, I spent all last week trying to get my medical records transferred from one place to another. No success (Marty Clear, 12/13).

Health Policy Solutions (A Colorado news service): 'Get Covered Colorado' Website Explains Health Benefit Marketplace
The exchange represents a major and positive change for Colorado's health insurance market. The Health Benefit Exchange will help to create a larger and more competitive market for individuals and small businesses. It will do so by creating a larger pool of consumers that can more effectively leverage purchasing power and manage risk. Insurance-premium tax credits offered only through the exchange will make coverage more affordable for lower-income Coloradans. The exchange will also let low-income state residents know if they qualify for a public program (Bob Semro, 12/13).

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