KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Bill Could Make Universal Health Care Possible Via States; The Need To Change How Physicians Are Paid

Los Angeles Times: Legislation May Enable States To Offer Universal Health Care
Universal coverage, Medicare for all, single payer -- call it what you will. It's clear that conservative forces are determined to prevent such a system from ever being introduced at the national level. So it's up to the states. The catch is that to make universal coverage work at the state level, you'd need some way to channel Medicare, Medicaid and other federal health care funds into the system. At the moment, that's difficult if not impossible. But legislation quietly being drafted by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) would change that (David Lazarus, 5/25).

JAMA: Sustainable Health Care Reform Requires Changing How Physicians Are Paid
With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, renewed attention is being given to reforming how health care is organized and delivered. But there's another element needed for sustainable health care reform: finding ways to deal with unsustainable increases in health care spending. And that will require developing a more rational way to reimburse physicians (Gail Wilensky, 5/24).

Boston Globe: Health Care Will Test Gov. Patrick's Skills
The state's congenial, consensus-oriented CEO has become a successful, well-regarded governor in tough times. But though it's no doubt a delight to be Deval these days, the governor also faces a ticklish policy problem in the weeks ahead. That's health care cost containment, an issue that involves a sector vital to the state's economy, includes an array of powerful stakeholders and energized activists, and will play out during a national campaign, in which Republicans can be expected to saddle Barack Obama, Patrick's presidential pal, with anything Massachusetts Democrats do (Scot Lehigh, 5/25).

The Wall Street Journal: The Liberal Legal Meltdown Over ObamaCare
In apparent panic at the tenor of the Supreme Court argument over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare), liberal law professors have exploded with anticipatory denunciations of the court's conservative justices -- claiming that it would be "hypocritical" and "partisan" of them to invalidate legislation passed by Congress when they generally oppose "judicial activism" (Michael McConnell, 5/24).

The Wall Street Journal: Prostate Testing And The Death Panel
It's hard to avoid a political aside, so I won't try. A healthy market-driven free economy leads to innovation and the development of breakthroughs, like the PSA test. A highly taxed and highly regulated economy leads to "Death Panels," like the U.S. Preventative Health Service (Tom Perkins, 5/23).

Forbes: Why Closing Medicare's 'Donut Hole' Is A Terrible Idea
Many conservatives believe that George W. Bush betrayed their cause. Exhibit A, these conservatives say, is the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003. That law established Medicare's prescription-drug benefit plan without offsetting spending cuts or tax increases, adding $16 trillion to our unfunded liabilities. And yet, if media reports are to be believed, some of these very same conservatives want to shower the program with even more taxpayer money, for no other reason than because it "polls well" (Avik Roy, 5/23).

The Washington Post: Sen. Tom Coburn, Part 2: Reforming Health Care
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) is a physician and the author of "The Debt Bomb: A Bold Plan to Stop Washington from Bankrupting America." This interview, which focuses on America’s health care system, is the second in a two-part series. ... Coburn: And my point is the best care I give is when the patient is active and questioning what I'm doing. Don't question the doctor? We can’t afford not to question doctors anymore. You need to know why you're getting a test, where you can get it cheaper, and what they can do about it. ... You have to invest some time. But you know how long it is before the average doctor interrupts the average patient for the first time? Seventeen seconds. Because we have a fixed-price system and they need to get to the next patient. So instead of me practicing the art and science of medicine, I'm practicing a scheduling-driven practice and ordering a bunch of tests to cover my rear end (Ezra Klein and Sen. Tom Coburn, 5/24).

The Washington Post: Kerrey’s Case For Entitlement Reform
Speaking by phone from the campaign trail in Nebraska, [Democratic Senate candidate Bob] Kerrey rattles off the statistics on fewer workers supporting the benefits of a larger number of retirees as federal entitlement spending squeezes out every other public investment in the general welfare. ... The main obstacle to entitlement reform, he told me, is the "presupposition that people older than 65 can't take the truth. People are afraid of them. . . . We need to get people over 65 to look at people under 40, who, right now, are going to get screwed. They are going to get less than they were promised. We need to ask the grandparents, does that bother them?" Not as much as it should. But it bothers Kerrey (Michael Gerson, 5/24).

Arizona Republic: Left Out Of Arizona's 'Moral' Majority
Thousands of single adults were eliminated from [the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System] by (Gov. Jan) Brewer and the Republican majority in the Legislature, a move that opponents did not consider particularly moral. It was, however, a majority decision. At least among politicians. And as Brewer explained in her interview, "This is the arena in which this is all debated. And then we choose sides and there are winners and there are losers." That's politics. That's economics. But is it morality? (E.J. Montini, 5/25)

Philadelphia Inquirer: Onward, Christian Soldiers, Against Obama's Birth-Control Mandate
Finally, my church spoke truth to power, and fired a legal -- and most likely lethal -- shot against an oppressive, unconstitutional requirement that Catholics be forced to subsidize sin (Christine Flowers, 5/25). 

Chicago Sun-Times: Weighing Budget Cuts Vs. Cigarette Tax Hike
Pensions and Medicaid spending is gobbling up almost 40 percent of the state's budget. And if nothing is done right now, in just a few short years the mountain of overdue Medicaid bills alone will be higher than what the state spends on its annual budget. In other words, even with the income tax increase, there’s no money left to dig out from under that pile of overdue bills (Rich Miller, 5/24).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:  Hope And Help For Those With Mental Illness
Although the prevalence of mental illness is high, if social acceptance is broadened and those with mental illness receive targeted support and services, people living with mental health conditions can minimize future disability and achieve recovery. I cannot emphasize this enough: People with mental illness can and do recover, and treatment works. … While there will always be a need for inpatient care, the majority of the people we serve are residing in the community and working hard on their recovery (Hector Colon, 5/24). 

The Washington Post: The District Can Do More On Children's Mental Health
Children with unmet mental health problems suffer the effects. So do their families. But the consequences don't stop there: Many of these children will need costly special education, end up in the juvenile justice system, drop out of school and grow into adults who are unable to get work and will rely on public assistance. The cost to children, families and society is why it is so important that the D.C. government focus attention on improving its children’s mental health system (5/24). 

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