KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Financing College Educations With Grandparents’ Social Security; Revamping Food Stamps

The New York Times: Share The Wealth
In the Children's Opportunity Bequest, older Americans could agree to forgo Social Security or Medicare benefits for one to three years — to start getting benefits at 66, 67 or 68 instead of 65. (They would then begin receiving Social Security benefits at the normal retirement age level, that is, without delayed retirement credits.) They could designate that the money saved — amounting on average to tens of thousands of dollars a year — be targeted for use by their very own grandchildren or any specific child identified by their Social Security number (Ezekiel J. Emanuel, 6/24). 

McClatchy Newspapers: The Food Stamp Program Needs To Get In Shape
The food stamp program needs to go on a healthy diet. The government currently provides massive subsidies to companies that produce unhealthy foods, and then provides incentives for food stamp recipients to put these same unhealthy foods in their grocery carts. As a health and wellness expert and a mother, I'm teaming up with the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine to propose a plan to get the nation's food policies in shape (Jillian Michaels, 6/22).

Boston Globe: Marriage Equality, In Sickness And In Health
Lesbian and gay couples who are as deeply committed as my husband and I are, who've shared private jokes and dumb arguments, budget-making and childrearing just as we have, can't count on being able to fully support one another when one of them is ill or injured. Even in the handful of states where same-sex couples can legally marry, rights including spousal health-care benefits are not guaranteed (Dr. Suzanne Koven, 6/25).

Sacramento Bee: Brown Merges Health Plans, Takes Big Risk
Gov. Jerry Brown apparently has persuaded Democratic lawmakers to fold Healthy Families, a successful program that provides health care for 900,000 children, into Medi-Cal, a program that is troubled. On its face, the change makes little sense. The shift will save a modest $13 million this year and in essence end a program that for 15 years has worked. But in the context of other cuts, perhaps Brown, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez had little choice. There was no good option, as they saw it. They could merge Healthy Families with Medi-Cal, or make deeper cuts to child care for welfare recipients, and further reduce in-home supportive services for elderly and disabled people who are trying to avoid going into nursing homes (6/23).

Boston Globe: Soda Shouldn't Be Banned, But No Tax Exemption, Either
Before cities start trying to ban sweetened drinks over a certain size, they ought to recognize the many ways in which public policy in the United States promotes their consumption. Beyond the federal agricultural subsidies that make sweeteners artificially cheap, state sales tax law provides an exemption for fizzy beverages that are chock full of calories and utterly devoid of nutritional value. Against these forces, a proposal to limit the serving size for sweetened beverages at dining establishments in Cambridge seems simultaneously bothersome and inconsequential — an inconvenience to restaurateurs and diners that wouldn’t actually do much to make city residents thinner (6/25).

Boston Globe: Beacon Hill's Health Plans Are Doomed To Failure
The Massachusetts Legislature will soon pass a bill promising to control health costs. But a bill that can pass will be too weak to work. Political pressure to craft a law with real teeth is still lacking. The world's other rich democracies surpass the U.S. in containing health costs while covering all people and enjoying superior longevity. Despite big differences in how they raise money, cover people, and pay hospitals and doctors, they share six key approaches to containing costs (Alan Sager and Deborah Socolar, 6/22).

Boston Globe: The Lesson From Abroad: Spending More Doesn't Always Lead To Better Care
Growing demand and the cost of health care are stretching the budgets not just in Massachusetts, but all over the world. Governments everywhere are faced with a stark choice: leave the health care system as it is and face rising taxes and declining quality of care, or start to do things differently. Towards this end, many nations and states are resorting to sweeping legislative reforms. The hurdles faced by Affordable Care Act in the US are a reminder that improving health care through ambitious legislation can be protracted, complex, and highly contentious (Dr. Daniel Vasella, 6/22).

The Boston Globe: 20 Years Later, Weld's Deregulation Of Hospital Rates Looms Large As The Root Of Today's Cost Crisis
In health care, the Weld administration essentially deregulated the system in 1992, based strictly on ideological grounds. Hospitals could charge what they wanted, passing on the costs to insurers — who, in turn, passed them on to employers and the economy as a whole. The results have been abysmal. Massachusetts health care costs are now 15 percent above the national average, and our individual market rates until recently were the highest in the nation (Philip W. Johnston, 6/21).  

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