KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Limited Choices For Prescriptions; Health Mandate Is About Liberty; VA Fails To Serve Vets’ Mental Health Needs

Los Angeles Times: Insurers Limit Consumers' Choices For Getting Prescribed Drugs
Just a few years ago, so-called pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, like Medco would contract with most leading drugstore chains so people could fill their prescriptions almost anywhere they pleased. Then the PBMs realized they could operate more efficiently (and profitably) by limiting people's choices to a single drugstore — their own. So they laid down the law with consumers (David Lazarus, 5/4).

The Wall Street Journal: The Lonely Life Of Julia
Barack Obama has a new composite girlfriend, and her name is Julia. Her story is told in an interactive feature titled "The Life of Julia" on the Obama campaign website. Julia, who has no face, is depicted at various ages from 3 through 67, enjoying the benefits of various Obama-backed welfare-state programs. ... Obama is setting forward a vision contrary to the American tradition of self-sufficiency--a welfare state that runs from cradle to grave. And it's a dishonest vision, because it presents all of these benefits as "free," never acknowledging that they are paid for through coercive taxation (James Taranto, 5/3).

The Wall Street Journal: Wisconsin Recall Amnesia
Since last summer, unions have been throwing millions at defeating the man who reformed collective bargaining for government workers and required union members to pay 5.8% of their paychecks toward pensions and 12.6% of their health insurance premiums, modest contributions compared to the average in private business. As the May 8 Democratic recall primary nears to determine who will run against Mr. Walker on June 5, this should be their rhetorical moment ne plus ultra (5/3).

Bloomberg: Yes, The Health-Care Mandate Is About Liberty
As they await the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act, legal critics of the law say their case is about liberty. If the government can instruct people to obtain health insurance, they keep asking, what’s to stop it from requiring them to buy broccoli? But the real threat to liberty in this case isn't a hypothetical broccoli law. It's the problem that the mandate remedies -- the failure of the health-insurance market -- and the long-standing national crisis of rising health-care costs that Congress finally found a way to address (Jonathan Cohn and David A. Strauss, 5/3).

Houston Chronicle: Texas Must Invest In Training More Primary Care Physicians
Our current medical education system is designed to underproduce the primary care physicians Texas desperately needs. Our system must change because if we always do what we've always done, then we'll always get what we've always gotten. In the case of Texas' physician work force, the viability of our health care delivery system and security of our economy, the status quo is simply not sustainable (Tom Banning, 5/3). 

The Seattle Times: VA Held Accountable For Limited Access To Mental-Health Care
A report released last week by the Department of Veterans Affairs' Office of Inspector General put a bright light on the bureaucratic games being played at the expense of those who need help. In 2011, the VA was claiming 95 percent of new patients received full evaluations for care within a 14-day period set by the department. Inspectors found only 49 percent met that standard, and the average wait was 50 days…. Failing to help those who step forward to serve their country is unconscionable. The nature of the wounds suffered has changed along with the nature of the battlefield (5/3).

San Jose Mercury News: Congress Must Keep Student Loan Rates Low -- And Address Problem Of College Affordability
If rates on subsidized Stafford loans are allowed to rise, as many as 7.4 million students will pay about $1,000 more this year; San Jose State estimates the rate hike will affect more than 8,000 of its students. This can't be allowed to happen. If the parties can't agree on how to pay the $6 billion cost of lower rates -- Republicans want to take it from preventive health care, while Democrats want to close a tax loophole benefiting the wealthy -- they should add it to the deficit (5/3).

JAMA: The Future Of Private Insurance
The overarching differences between the candidates on health reform and public programs like Medicare and Medicaid have received more attention, but they also envision divergent futures for private insurance. There's no one right way to create a fair insurance market, but different choices have consequences. How accessible will coverage be for people with preexisting health conditions? What benefits will insurance provide and at what cost to patients? (Larry Levitt, 5/4).

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