KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Insurance Rate Increases; High Risk Pools; Mental Health Funding

Los Angeles Times: Blue Shield's Blues
In another sign of dysfunction in the U.S. healthcare system, Blue Shield of California has levied three rate increases in rapid succession that could raise some premiums as much as 59%. New state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones has said he plans to scrutinize the increases, and that's a good thing, given that Anthem Blue Cross sought a huge increase in premiums last year based on faulty math. But Blue Shield's request also highlights why the country should stay the course on healthcare reform (1/12). 

Slate: Pool Fools 
High-risk pools are, in fact, a terrible solution to the health-care crisis. But they happen to be the terrible solution Republicans most favor (along with tax breaks) whenever they're forced to state their preferred alternative to last year's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. They were the central idea in the health plan proposed by Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain  (Timothy Noah, 1/11). 
The Orlando Sentinel/McClatchy: Health Reform Repeal Is A Ruse
Under new Speaker John Boehner, U.S. House Republicans are bulling ahead with a doomed effort to repeal the health reform law that Congress passed last year when Democrats were in charge. It's a pointless and partisan stunt that will steal limited time and resources from other priorities, starting with reviving the economy and creating jobs (1/10). 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Repeal Of Obama's Health Care Reform Will Backfire
When an uninsured person goes to the hospital with a life-threatening emergency, they are forced to pay out of pocket, but when you consider that most uninsured households had total assets of $600 or less, where do you think the money will come from? Too many people are falling through the safety net, and the health care bill, although not perfect, can help those with the biggest needs (James E. Causey, 1/11).

The Dallas Morning News: Health Care Tax Filing Rule Burdens Small Businesses
Most members of Congress and President Barack Obama agree the 1099 provision needs to be repealed before it takes effect in 2012. Attempts to strip it from the law last year won majorities in the House and the Senate but still failed to get through (Jim Landers, 1/11).

The Seattle Times: Thoughtlessly Dancing Around Substance
After all, mourning the death of Christina Taylor Green, the sweet 9-year-old girl killed in the shooting rampage, is an easy call. But if we mourned the death of every child who died because of limited or no access to health care, we'd drown in our own tears. Instead we dance around the substantive issues and politicians play to our emotions (Lynne K. Varner, 1/11). 

Des Moines Register: Follow Through On Mental Health Reform
The opening day of the Iowa Legislature is always marked by a lot of hopeful -- some would say wishful -- rhetoric about bipartisanship. ... Rep. Scott Raecker, R-Urbandale, says the mental health problem in Iowa, marked by a waiting list for treatment of 844 people, "must be fixed. Caps, bold, underline" (Kathie Obradovich, 1/11).

The New Republic: A Portrait Of A Disturbed Assailant
[N]otwithstanding laws, such as the 2008 Mental Parity and Addiction Equity Act, that have helped to provide more financial support for treatment, funds for care and support of the mentally ill remains woefully inadequate. Private insurance rarely provides enough coverage for the seriously ill, overwhelming public systems to the point where people who could benefit from therapy, drugs, and community supports--frequently living totally normal, productive lives--instead end up without treatment and sometimes without homes (Jonathan Cohn, 1/10).

The Dallas Morning News: Getting To The Real Issue In Arizona Tragedy: Mental Illness
The worry ... is whether a sufficient system is in place to take care of those with mental illnesses – especially those with no other place to turn. That worry is compounded by the headlines in recent days about a state budget shortfall anywhere between $15 billion and $27 billion. ... At $34 a person, Texas spends just a third of the U.S. average of $103. And you wonder why so many mentally ill people stand on street corners, fill homeless shelters and overflow our jails (Steve Blow, 1/12). 

The Baltimore Sun: Ignoring Mental Illness, Until It's Too Late
[W]e know some of the reasons why people newly developing serious mental illnesses often don't get care until they are very ill. One big reason is that mental illness is among the most stigmatizing labels one can propose, and it is a huge barrier to getting care (Larry Wissow, 1/11).

Houston Chronicle: Healthy Choice: The New Food Safety Bill's A Bargain, Despite Critics' Plans To Block Funding
Unlike health care and other concerns - food safety has not until now been regarded as a partisan issue...So let us fervently hope that the bipartisanship that resulted in this long-awaited, low-cost bill finally becoming a reality will prevail. The safety of our food is an issue that affects every American. It should not become fodder for a political agenda (1/11). 

The New York Times: Playing With The Band 
[I]f the F.D.A. approves the lap band for people who are only 30 or 40 pounds overweight, taxpayers may soon be paying billions of Medicare dollars for these procedures, and for fixing the potential complications. Health insurance companies would be pressured to follow Medicare's lead, which could add to the cost of insurance for all of us  (Diana Zuckerman, 1/11).

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