KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: A Gamble On Alzheimer’s Research; Hidden Costs Of Insurance Rebates

The New York Times: A New Attack On Alzheimer's
The Obama administration has announced a bold research program to test whether a drug can prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease well before any symptoms appear. It is a long shot, but the payoff could be huge (5/20).

The New York Times' Opinionator: Entitlement Reform For The Entitled
When it comes to Social Security and Medicare, Republicans emphasize cuts and privatization, while Democrats strongly oppose both approaches. ... But here is a better bipartisan reform: Graduated eligibility. Instead of having a fixed age at which people can get Social Security and Medicare, we should link the age of eligibility to lifetime wealth. The richer you are, the older you would have to be to be eligible for Social Security and Medicare (Ezekiel J. Emanuel, 5/20).

Forbes: Putting The 'Insurance' Back In Health Insurance
If we really want to make health insurance affordable and accessible to everyone, we need to go back to basics, and understand all of the government-induced distortions that have made health insurance look nothing like actual insurance. ... Reforming the system involves, first and foremost, encouraging people to buy insurance for themselves, by eliminating the tax-code discrimination against individually purchase health insurance. Second, people should be able to buy insurance across state lines. ... Third, we should eliminate federal mandates that drive up insurance costs, especially in the individual market (Avik Roy, 5/21).

The New York Times: Waiting For Health Care
This Op-Doc video, adapted from my feature-length documentary "The Waiting Room," presents a composite day in the life of patients at Highland Hospital in Oakland, Calif. — edited from five months of filming in 2010 (Peter Nicks, 5/20).

Roll Call: Health Care Plan Rebates Have Hidden Costs
Some consumers and businesses might see a little extra cash this summer as a result of the 2010 health care law. ... The rebates are required by an obscure regulation in the health care law, called the "minimum loss ratio," which also contains longer-term incentives for health insurers to increase costs that will be passed along to all of us. Instead of rushing to spend these extra dollars, rebate recipients are better off pocketing it to pay for higher premiums in the future (Christopher Conover and Jerry Ellig, 5/21).

Des Moines Register: Medicare Payment Board Merits Repeal
More than 500,000 seniors in Iowa rely on Medicare for their health care needs — and they might be in for a surprise next year. Unless Congress takes action to stop it, a new all-powerful government panel called the Independent Payment Advisory Board could soon force dramatic reductions in seniors' access to health care under Medicare (Jim Swanstrom, 5/18).

Los Angeles Times: A Campaign Bombshell
At first glance, the political implications might look simple. If the court upholds the law, Obama's biggest legislative achievement, the president wins; if the court declares the law unconstitutional, he loses. But as with many things in politics, it may not be that simple at all (Doyle McManus, 5/20).

iWatch: Spinning The Supreme Court's 'Obamacare' Decision
The reason Obamacare is built around the individual mandate is because of the relentless lobbying by insurers, and not just on Capitol Hill. Representatives of the industry made frequent trips to the White House during the debate on reform to twist the arm of President Obama, who had campaigned against the mandate when he was running for president (Wendell Potter, 5/21).

Politico: Deb Fischer: Anatomy Of An Upset
In the closing week – just as late deciders were tuning in – [Nebraska Republican Senate candidate Deb] Fischer signed the Repeal Pledge, a comprehensive promise to repeal, push back, defund and dismantle "Obamacare." ... How did that turn out? Well, among Nebraska primary voters, "Obamacare" repeal ranked highest of any single issue as the determining factor in the respondent's vote. Roughly 57 percent of respondents said that Fischer signing the Repeal Pledge mattered to them (Hadley Heath and Heather R. Higgins, 5/19).

USA Today: The Fatter The Nation Is, The More You Pay
Ever wonder why health care costs keep rising faster than inflation? One major contributor is America's struggle with weight. Estimates of the cost of treating obesity-related conditions run from $150 billion to $190 billion a year, the majority of which is passed on to others in the form of higher insurance premiums and government expenditures. The fatter the nation is, the more you pay (5/20).

Bloomberg: U.S. Obesity Plateau Shows What Works In Weight Battle
Obesity has become a danger far greater than hunger. Yet amid the alarming stories about its harm to America's health and economy, one bit of information has been drowned out: The percentage of U.S. adults who are obese appears to have plateaued. ... It should not, however, be reason to give up the fight. Rather, the findings lead us to twin conclusions: We can make gains against obesity, and we should find ways to accelerate that progress (5/20). 

San Francisco Chronicle: Congress Needs To Fund Veteran's Services
No one should have to wait a year or more to have his or her claim decided, especially if suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury after multiple combat deployments. ... Do we really think that overworking VA staffers will result in better efficiency and accuracy? And, given the time it takes to train new workers, we are looking at years before that situation improves. Better to call in federal retirees and train veterans coming out of the current wars as claims processors (Douglas Nelson, 5/21).

Boston Globe: Doctors, Hospitals Should Back Blue Cross On Painkillers
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts is taking a measured step to curb the abuse of prescription painkillers by limiting the amount of medication a patient can receive without the insurer's prior approval. There is some concern that the plan could inconvenience legitimate sufferers and burden busy doctors with extra documentation. But on balance, this is a carefully crafted approach that other health plans would do well to duplicate (5/21).

Arizona Republic: Prison Health Care Needs Overhaul, Not Simple Outsourcing
Last week, the Arizona Department of Corrections responded to the lawsuit by denying claims that they have ignored the basic health-care needs of prisoners. The response comes on the heels of a prior announcement by the state prison system that it will outsource the delivery of health care to Wexford -- a for-profit prison corporation that critics say has a history of incompetence, waste and corruption. As bad as conditions are in the Department of Corrections, the state's decision to hire Wexford will only make things worse (Doris Marie Provine, 5/20).

Los Angeles Times: Old Folks Have To Live Somewhere
People generally don't think of the elderly as nuisance neighbors. They rarely throw loud late-night parties, play loud music or have loud sex. Nevertheless, the issue of elderly group homes is a controversial one in single-family neighborhoods (5/20).

Chicago Sun-Times: County Health Struggle Moves To Springfield
[A] waiver would let 100,000 low-income people in Cook County [Ill.] join Medicaid in July. The problem is, when the legislature was banning people from signing up for Medicaid, it neglected to also adopt a law banning them from being sick. So the last-resort county hospitals -- Stroger and Provident, plus 16 ambulatory care clinics — are forced to treat more people for free than they already do: some 55 percent, 80 percent in the ERs. That is not a healthy business model (Neil Steinberg, 5/20).

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