KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Mass. At Disadvantage In Cutting Health Costs; McDonnell Says Va. Can Point To Better Way

The New York Times: Massachusetts Takes On Health Costs
Massachusetts will be the first state to try to cap overall health care spending, both private and public, so that it will grow no faster than the state economy. The state was able to reach near-universal coverage because the vast majority of its population was already covered by some form of insurance. It also could subsidize coverage for the uninsured using a big pool of money that had been used for charity care. But when it comes to controlling health care costs, Massachusetts has no advantage, and in fact is starting behind most other states (8/4).

The Wall Street Journal: RomneyCare 2.0
ObamaCare's illusions are starting to fall like autumn leaves, even among some liberals, and what they're discovering are things that have happened over and over again in Massachusetts. Beacon Hill "reformed" health care four years before Capitol Hill, and ever since it has reliably predicted the national trend — on surging costs, price controls, physician shortages and so much else. So Boston's latest adventure deserves particular scrutiny, since odds are its methods are coming soon to a hospital near you (8/5).

The Washington Times: Fix Health Care Once By Fixing It Right
Virginia has been a laboratory of democracy since the beginnings of our country, and as we debate the future of health care in our great nation, the Old Dominion should again step forward to lead in the discussion. To do this, Virginia must continue to work toward meaningful health care reform but stand up and object to the significantly flawed national health care mandates that threaten the economic stability of our country (Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, 8/3).

The Wall Street Journal's Real Time Economics: When More Insurance Means Higher Costs
In June the Supreme Court ruled that the health-care law requiring us all to have health insurance was constitutional. A lot of people cheered saying it would pave the way to solve the nightmare problem of health-care costs in the U.S. Not so fast. Insurance may actually be the root of the problem with our health-care costs. Or in other words, more people having insurance could actually make things worse (Simon Constable, 8/3).

Politico: 'Obamacare' Ends Don't Justify Means
Back in 2008, candidate Barack Obama campaigned against the individual mandate and promised to put the legislative negotiations on C-SPAN. The president and his allies, however, have moved from position to position — caring little for the truth and interested only in the end game (Colin Hanna, 8/6).

Denver Post: Finding Middle Ground On Contraception Coverage
Opponents of a provision of federal health reform requiring insurance coverage to include no-cost access to contraception and other preventive care are cheering an injunction issued last week by a federal court judge in Denver. While the initial legal victory can hardly be ignored, we would caution that the case is far from over and note that the ruling applies only to a specific company and not the numerous other legal challenges to the contraception component of the Affordable Care Act (8/5).

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Taking Obamacare May Cause Side Effects
More than three years in the making, the Affordable Care Act — popularly known as "Obamacare" — has been ruled constitutional by the highest court in the land. Now the real work begins. Just like new medications, new laws carry the risk of unintended side effects. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is no exception. The most worrisome potential side effect in the ACA is the danger of government interference with the doctor/patient relationship (David Charles, 8/6).

Richmond Times-Dispatch: The Road To Repeal Starts In The States
The (health) law relies on states to implement two of its most essential pieces: health-insurance "exchanges" and a vast expansion of Medicaid. Exchanges are government agencies through which the law channels $800 billion to private health-insurance companies. The Medicaid expansion adds another $900 billion to the federal debt, with private insurers again taking a slice. States are under no obligation either to implement either. Responsible state officials will say no to both (Michael F. Cannon, 8/5).

Roll Call: Johnson And Reardon: Health Investment For Cities, Nation Is Smart
It has been said that politics makes strange bedfellows, and our unlikely pairing may be Exhibit A: the Republican mayor of Hernando, Miss., and the Democratic mayor of Wyandotte County, Kan. We may be 500 miles apart and have traveled different paths on this journey, but we both share a passion for helping those who live in our areas become healthier and more productive. ... But we've both found that investing in health and prevention not only helps our friends' and neighbors' quality of life, it also gives our limited budgets the most bang for their buck (Chip Johnson and Joe Reardon, 8/6).

USA Today: Lab Test Access Carries Unintended Consequences
A patient once blamed me for causing him considerable anxiety because he had to wait several weeks before receiving the results of a lab test, which I had ordered. Many patients commonly have to wait days, if not weeks, before getting lab results from their doctor. The delay can affect patients' health negatively (Kevin Pho, 8/5).

iWatch News:  Real-World Health Insurance Math Doesn't Add Up
Aetna's had a lot to say lately about how business is good. The company disclosed last week that it made $458 million in profits this spring and said it expected to make more money this year than executives previously thought possible. … A significant part of Aetna's revenues come from its student health plan business. The company contracts with many colleges across the country to provide coverage to students. Trouble is, those policies typically have low annual and lifetime limits — as was discovered recently by Arijit Guha, a 31-year-old graduate student at Arizona State University who's been diagnosed with colon cancer. Guha was paying $400 a month for a policy that had a $300,000 lifetime limit. It didn’t take long for his care, including surgery and chemotherapy, to quickly exceed that (Wendell Potter, 8/6).

The New York Times: Erasing The Past At The Ghost Hospital
New York State has largely abandoned its comprehensive commitment to caring for the mentally ill and disabled. When the hospitals emptied out, patients were sent to group homes to be better cared for; many were forsaken there, too. A recent series of articles in The Times found that abuse and neglect plague the mental-health system to this day. It would be wonderful if someday profitable redevelopment of Kings Park led to a surge in financing for care of the mentally ill. I’m not counting on it (Lawrence Downes, 8/4).

The Seattle Times: State Should Step In At Normandy Park Group Home
Before state regulators can monitor a Normandy Park treatment clinic and residential home for mentally ill and drug-addicted patients, they must thoroughly investigate the facility to understand what's going on. …The goal is to find a way to provide state oversight of what appears to be a new breed of group home with a promising mix of treatment and semi-independent living (8/5).

Los Angeles Times: A Barbaric Death, And A Plea For A Change In The Law
Sandy Wester's husband, Donnie, had bladder cancer and had asked her to shoot him, begging repeatedly to die. She hopes California reconsiders a compassionate death law (Steve Lopez, 8/5).

Des Moines Register: Iowa Needs To Act To Really Be 'Best' For Aging
Five Iowa cities were ranked among the "Best Cities for Aging" in the nation by researchers at the Milken Institute. ... Yet Iowa has a long way to go when it comes to caring for the most vulnerable, elderly people, particularly those living in institutions. Though the study used some federal data about nursing homes and noted Des Moines had too few caregivers, the study did not consider many variables, including the oversight or quality of institutions where thousands of seniors live (8/5).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Health Care For Old Age
Minnesota intends to launch a public education campaign this year called "Own Your Future." Used in other states, the campaign's purpose is to raise people's awareness of the need to plan how they'll pay for their own long-term care. Awareness is good. But without sensible, affordable incentives and viable ways to pay, people will continue going destitute and using Medicaid as their insurance. Minnesota must move beyond Medicaid (Kathryn Roberts, 8/5).

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