KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Views On Health Reform: U.S. Not Getting Value For Its Spending; Cutting Doctors’ School Debt To Curb Costs

Los Angeles Times: How To Cure U.S. Healthcare
When it comes to healthcare, Americans are not getting a lot of value for their money. The United States spends 17.6% of its gross domestic product, nearly twice the average of the nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. But life expectancy in the United States in 2010, at 78.7 years, is below the OECD average of 79.8 years. The U.S. infant mortality rate is higher than in most developed countries — it is higher than the rates in Greece, Hungary and Slovakia (Dalibor Rohac, 7/20).

The Wall Street Journal: Doctor Pay And Social Priorities
There is no scarcity of reasons for the growth of health-care expenditures. ... Yet another factor was left out of the equation. The United States is alone among Western nations in launching its medical school graduates into the world carrying sizable debt—$158,000 in 2011, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges. Whatever we may yet do to reshape health care, this debt and the need of individual physicians to repay it will inevitably affect the system. If we are moving inevitably toward more and more "socializing" of how doctors are compensated for their usually exemplary professional labors, the question arises: Should we "socialize" the costs of creating the skills they bring to those labors? (John Schnapp, 7/19).

Arizona Republic: Doctor Treats Victims Of Health Care Politics
Politicians get to condemn sick people to death without ever looking them in the eye. Dr. Randy Oppenheimer doesn't have that luxury. "Most people have no idea," Dr. Oppenheimer told me. "Even medical people. They have no idea what the people I see are going through. I'm sure the governor has no idea what she did to all these people by kicking them off of AHCCCS. (The state's Medicaid program.) It's a death sentence. And it's not necessary. Even if you just look at the economics" (E.J. Montini, 7/19).

Denver Post: Health Care Reform, The Colorado Way
Whether the Affordable Care Act should be upheld, tweaked or repealed, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on the matter isn't the first or last word on reforming health care in Colorado. In recent years, Colorado organizations and policymakers have explored many innovative approaches to improve Coloradans' health, health coverage and health care — both in tandem with and independent of the Affordable Care Act. In many respects, our state is already ahead of the curve in health and health care (Anne Warhover, 7/20).

Boston Globe: Municipal Health Reform Yields Huge Savings
A million dollars goes a long way in a small city like Haverhill, and when officials announced this spring that the city had reached an agreement with its unions to save $1.1 million by moving employees and retirees into a cheaper health plan, it was a big victory for a municipality that had been forced to cut back services and furlough workers to pay for skyrocketing insurance costs. Stories like Haverhill's have played out in dozens of towns across Massachusetts over the last year, thanks to municipal health insurance reforms pushed by House Speaker Robert DeLeo and signed by Governor Patrick (7/20).

Boston Globe: A Word Of Caution On Massachusetts Health Cost Reform
The idea of legislators attempting to fix any kind of market should come with caution flags. A government plan to influence one of the biggest segments of the state's economy — a last-minute compromise hatched behind closed doors — makes me very nervous. There are certainly elements of a plan everyone can agree upon. Greater transparency in the incredibly opaque world of medical costs has to be a good idea. The list of agreeable details goes on, but not for too long (Steven Syre, 7/20).

CNN: Take Another Look At Health Care Act
I have argued many times that I don't think the Affordable Care Act does enough to contain costs. I still believe that's true. But let's not ignore the fact that it does a lot. ... You may not like these types of efforts. ... But there's a difference between arguing that you want different measures and pretending those measures don't exist (Aaron E. Caroll, 7/19).

Miami Herald: Medicaid Expansion Benefits Florida's Children
Of course, if Florida does not to expand its Medicaid coverage, $20 billion in federal funds will be diverted from Florida to other states over the next ten years. This is money paid by Floridians through federal income taxes that will go to residents of other states if our state government rejects Medicaid expansion. Over two million children in Florida participate in Medicaid or the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP) also known as Florida KidCare. The vast majority of individuals enrolled in and benefitting from Florida's Medicaid program are children from families who work at low-income jobs. How much would it cost our state to expand health insurance coverage to low-income children and families, children with disabilities and children with serious chronic health problems? (Peter A. Gorski, 7/19).

Des Moines Register: Branstad's Puzzling Disaster Push
Even a governor cannot persuade Mother Nature to drop some rain, but [Terry] Branstad vowed to do what he can: Push to get the federal government to declare Iowa counties agricultural disaster areas. That paves the way for federal aid. That’s commendable. But you can see why that request might confuse some Iowans. Only a few weeks ago, Branstad expressed concerns about the state accepting federal money. He said he was reluctant to expand Medicaid under the new health reform law because he doesn’t think Washington can afford it. He wants federal money to help Iowa farmers but not uninsured, low-income Iowans? (7/19)

Des Moines Register: Obama Represents Good Catholic Values
As a lifelong Catholic, I have dedicated my life to care of my fellow human beings and tending to the needs of the poor and vulnerable in line with the tenets of the Catholic Church. I believe in President Obama's commitment to provide health care for all citizens. As a nurse and health care administrator for many years, I can say unequivocally our old health care system that left so many people without care and uninsured needed to be reformed (Sister Patricia Miller, 7/19).

Journal of the American Medical Association: Gaming Out The New Medicaid Option
The most important policy implications from the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) pertain not to the individual mandate but to Medicaid. Although the court seems to have left the states with 2 options—accept or decline the 2014 expansion—without any implications for current program funding, the available range of options is potentially larger than that, and implications vary (Austin B. Frakt, 7/19).

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