KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Treating Ebola Patients In The U.S.; Medicare Costs; Discouraging Medicaid Enrollment

Los Angeles Times: How To Deal With The Ebola Outbreak
It was a commendable decision — and more unnerving than risky — for Emory University to accept into its hospital two Americans who contracted the deadly Ebola virus while doing humanitarian work in Africa. The arrival of the first patient on Saturday is considered to be the first instance of the virus entering the U.S.— albeit in the care of infectious disease specialists working in an isolation unit built in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Officials of the CDC say there is little safety threat and no cause for panic among Americans (8/4). 

Reuters: The Best Way To Treat Ebola Patients Who Return To America
Dr. Kent Brantly, an American physician stricken with Ebola, was evacuated this weekend from Liberia to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, where he will receive treatment for the deadly virus. His colleague Nancy Writebol, also infected with the Ebola virus, is expected to follow in the coming days. But many Americans have expressed outrage over transport of these Ebola patients into the United States. This reaction is unjustified — and callous. In the United States, much more can be done for a critically ill Ebola patient than if he or she were on the ground in West Africa (Celine Gounder, 8/4).

The Washington Post: The Slowing Growth Of Medicare Provides An Opportunity For Reform
For years, lawmakers, policy experts and journalists have fretted about the explosive growth of health-care spending. Would the United States ever find a way to "bend the curve" on economic charts that projected seemingly endless growth in health care's share of the gross domestic product and, consequently, uncontrolled expansion of federal spending on health-care entitlement programs? Lately, though, the situation has quietly been improving — as the most recent government data released last week again confirmed (8/4). 

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Little Reason To Celebrate About Medicare
Lost amid discussion of the Medicare trustees report and the additional four years until the program becomes insolvent is the fact that for the sixth consecutive year, Medicare's hospital insurance trust fund paid out more in benefits than it generated in revenue (Chris Jacobs, 8/4). 

The New York Times' Well: Throwing Money At The Past
The current physician training system, heavily subsidized by the federal government, has not produced doctors prepared to serve in a changing health care system and cannot account for billions of dollars in public funding each year, an exhaustive new report has concluded (Dr. Pauline W. Chen, 8/4). 

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: A Closer Look At The Courts' Impact On Health Policy
Court decisions can have huge policy implications. Because judges are not policy experts, statistical modelers or economists, and because these are inexact sciences anyway, the policy implications of judicial rulings may not be fully appreciated when they are made. A good example is the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made Medicaid expansion optional for states. It’s hard to imagine that the justices had any idea that their decision would leave 4.8 million low-income people in a coverage gap without insurance in states that chose not to expand (Drew Altman, 8/4). 

The Wall Street Journal: No Need For A Halbig Rehearing
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month in Halbig v. Burwell that the Obama administration's regulations for federal health-insurance exchanges violate the Affordable Care Act's plain language. But the administration hopes that its loss will prove short-lived: On Friday the Justice Department formally petitioned the court to rehear the case en banc—that is, for all 11 active judges to vacate the original three-judge panel's decision. ... But if the D.C. Circuit rehears the case en banc, it would be a sharp break from history. The D.C. Circuit rehears virtually none of its cases (Adam J. White, 8/4). 

Bloomberg: You Qualify For Medicaid: Don't Sign Up
The debate over Obamacare's Medicaid expansion divides states into two broad categories -- those that expand their program and those that don't. New research suggests we should talk more about a third group: States that agree to expand Medicaid, then impose premiums whose only purpose seems to be keeping people out of the program. A paper released today in the journal Health Affairs, written by researchers from the federal government's Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, seeks to quantify the effect of premium increases on children's enrollment in Medicaid or its sister plan, the Children's Health Insurance Program. They found that even small premiums lead to big drops in sign-ups (Christopher Flavelle, 8/4).

Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier: Expedite Medicaid Applications
Medicaid expansion remains a topic of heated debate. So do numerous other aspects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. But there should be no debate about the need to give Americans who apply for Medicaid fair -- and prompt -- notification of whether they are eligible for the program. Unfortunately, though, as reported on Tuesday's front page by Lauren Sausser, that need is not being met in our state (7/30).

Sheboygan (Wis.) Press/Eau Claire Leader-Telegram: Walker Should Accept Medicaid Expansion
Democrats have pounced on [Gov. Scott] Walker, a Republican, for refusing to accept an additional $119 million in available federal money for 2013-15 to cover the entire cost of expanding Medicaid coverage for adults with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. ... Walker said he is concerned that the debt-ridden federal government will renege on its promised funding, leaving states in the lurch. Fretting over something that may happen in the future while leaving people needlessly without insurance in the present doesn't make much sense. ... You don't have to be a cynic to believe that politics played a major role in all of this (8/4).

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