KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Longer Looks: Could Ryan’s Plan Be A Pitfall For Democrats?

Every week, reporter Jessica Marcy selects interesting reading from around the Web.

Mother Jones: Is GOP Medicare Ploy A Gift, Or A Trap?
For Democrats, it seems like a gift from above. On the very day that President Obama officially launches his reelection bid, House budget guru Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) announces a plan to privatize Medicare. This latest GOP cost-cutting scheme amounts to a medical voucher system: Rather than paying for care directly, the government would help elderly Americans purchase private insurance. … But the GOP could be pitching a spitball here. Democrats did a poor job of defending their reforms the first time around (see 2010 elections), but simply attacking Ryan's plan without trying to defend-perhaps even strengthen-their own tough-love efforts to save Medicare might also put them at risk (Suzy Khimm, 4/5).

Salon: Paul Ryan's Plan To Erase The Great Society
Total budget mayhem! For budget geeks, Tuesday provided an overwhelming abundance of excuses for wonkery, outrage and pontification. The prospect of an imminent government shutdown appears more likely than ever, and even if that scenario is avoided, a collision with the debt ceiling looms right around the corner. That should be enough for a normal week of political uproar. But just to make it all even loopier, here comes Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, with a radically ambitious plan to roll back the Great Society and fundamentally transform how the United States takes care of its poor, sick and elderly. ... Whether a shutdown happens this weekend or not, we're still just at the beginning of a budget drama that seems set to engulf the remainder of Obama's term  (Andrew Leonard, 4/6).

National Review: Paul Ryan Takes On The Medicare (And Medicaid) Industrial Complex
There will be howls of outrage on Capitol Hill today when House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan unveils a comprehensive federal-budget-reform package that cuts $6.2 trillion in government spending over the next ten years. Most importantly, Ryan's plan will fundamentally rewrite the rules for entitlement spending for the government's massive health-care programs, Medicare and Medicaid, that are on track to wreck the nation's finances. Ryan is taking on the trillion-dollar Medicare/Medicaid industrial complex at no small political risk to himself. (President Obama won't go near it, and didn't propose any serious entitlement reforms in his most recent budget package.) Here's the first, and most important thing to understand about both programs: Spending is completely uncapped (Paul Howard, 4/5).  

Congressional Quarterly: The Delicate Politics of Military Health Care
To lawmakers such as Democrat Barney Frank of Massachusetts, it's a bad time to increase health care costs for military retirees while tens of thousands of U.S. troops are still risking their lives in combat. … But Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates says he cannot wait any longer to address one of the fastest-growing portions of the defense budget. Health care costs are rising from about 6 percent of the base defense budget in fiscal 2001 to almost 10 percent in the projected 2012 budget … Unchecked, this kind of cost growth could cripple the Defense Department in coming years. … It's becoming a nightmare scenario for lawmakers, who are torn between concerns for troop morale and fiscal realities that make modest fee increases tempting (Frank Oliveri, 4/4).

The Root: The Shaky Future Of Health Care For All
With President Obama, historic gains were made in confronting racial differences in health care, but the GOP is threatening to roll them back. … It's well documented that African Americans and other ethnic minorities have disproportionately higher rates of poor health, including infant mortality and most chronic conditions -- heart disease, stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS, asthma and diabetes, among others. Racial differences in health have persisted for so long that they're largely seen as a standard fact of life, even though, truth is, these differences are avoidable. So when President Barack Obama tasked Congress with sending a health care reform bill to his desk in 2009, the Congressional Black Caucus saw a huge opportunity (Cynthia Gordy, 4/6).

Xconomy San Francisco: AnnDeGheest On Where The Action Is Heading In Healthcare: Delivery, Delivery, Delivery
Talking with the angel investor Anne DeGheest the other day was humbling. After all, I sweat out long days and nights digging up news and features on what I think often represents the leading edge in healthcare capitalism-new drugs, medical devices, diagnostics, etc. All that innovation is worthy of attention-she apparently didn't want to hurt this biotech scribe's feelings too much-but if you really want to find where the action is heading in healthcare, DeGheest insists it's in something she likes to call "healthtech" (Luke Timmerman, 4/6).

American Medical News: Bill Would Post Every Physician's Medicare Billing Data On Internet
A Senate bill aimed at curtailing Medicare fraud would publish physician billing data online, letting viewers determine how much individual doctors earn annually from the program. The release of the data has been prohibited by a court ruling for more than 30 years. But some lawmakers recently stepped up their efforts to lift the ban and bring Medicare billing data to light to prevent fraud (Charles Fiegl, 4/4).

Hospitals & Health Networks: The Law That Changed Everything-And It Isn't The One You Think
It was called a "wallet biopsy." Or "dumping." Very simply, prior to the implementation of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act of 1986, a patient coming into a hospital emergency department often had no right to treatment or even evaluation, no matter how dire his or her condition. … EMTALA has had both good and bad effects. It was and is an unfunded mandate, to be sure; but most hospitals were not in the habit of turning away people with emergency conditions before it was passed (Emily Friedman, 4/5).

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