KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Ariz. Shooting And Mental Health Care; Republicans’ Reform Agenda; Calif. Insurance Hikes

CNN: Put Divisive Health Care Debate On Hold 
Democrats can do their part by resolving not to thwart everything that the Republican majority wants to accomplish, but rather by looking for opportunities to work with the opposing party for the good of the country. ... Republicans can reciprocate by not repeating a costly mistake that Obama made when he first took office and rushing into the health care debate when the country wanted him to focus on jobs, jobs and jobs (Ruben Navarrette Jr., 1/13).

The Kansas City Star: Now's The Time To Debate Health Care Like Adults
We hear much talk now about a watershed moment, about tamping down the rhetoric, about making government something other than a zero-sum competition. … We are fated to debate health care in this nation for a long time, perhaps indefinitely. But if Congress could lead the way in making the debate civil, maybe we'd end up feeling better (Barbara Shelly, 1/13). 

Kaiser Health News: A New Definition For Health Reform
The principal divide in American health care policy is over what to do about rapidly rising costs. On one side are those who believe the solution is to enhance the government's power to direct the system's resources and enforce budgetary controls. This point of view animated the drafting of the recently passed health care law. On the other side are those who believe the answer is a functioning marketplace for insurance and care, not coercion and heavy-handed regulation. The key to such a competitive market is cost-conscious consumers, something sorely lacking today (James Capretta and Tom Miller, 1/14).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Health Care Repeal Vote Postponed
There are some steps the Congress can take to move us at least with small steps, away from the direction in which ObamaCare is pushing us. Appropriations bills could include cuts to funding various provisions in the healthcare legislation. The Senate Judiciary Committee could do a much better job than in the past of aggressively probing judicial nominees' views on the absurd reach of the Constitution's so-called "commerce clause." ... And Members opposed to the law can discuss it regularly and substantively (Bob Barr, 1/14).

The New York Times: How The GOP Can Cut And Survive
The new Congress is less than two weeks old, but pundits from across the political spectrum are already urging the newly empowered Republicans to take on Medicare and Social Security. ... if Republicans spend much of the next two years fighting over these programs, voters who depend on them are going to be unpleasantly surprised. Keep in mind that most voters oppose cuts to Social Security and Medicare, so they are likely to be very nervous about any proposals to restrain their growth, especially if opponents portray such cuts as excessive (Ramesh Ponnuru, 1/13).

The Wall Street Journal: New Jersey Sits Out ObamaCare Fight
The historic constitutional challenge to ObamaCare is gathering force, with Wisconsin, Wyoming, Ohio and Kansas in recent days starting to sign onto the original 20-state lawsuit. One state that won't be joining, however, is New Jersey, as Gov. Chris Christie declared yesterday during a meeting with The Wall Street Journal editorial board (Joseph Rago, 1/13). 

Los Angeles Times: Some Firms Still Basing Health Insurance Rates On Gender
Virtually all insurers have cited the federal healthcare reform law as a key reason for recent rate hikes. ... But the bottom line is this: Insurers asked for and received an additional year of charging gender-based rates with the understanding that all such rates would be eliminated by Jan. 1 of this year. ... Now most of those same insurers are saying they'll get around to eliminating gender pricing as soon as they can, but in some cases it could take up to an additional year to bring all customers into compliance with California law (David Lazarus, 1/13). 

Houston Chronicle: Evidence Is Growing For Benefits Of End-Of-Life Talks
The bottom line seems to be that, while politicians are slapping the ping-pong ball around, the evidence is growing that having a discussion sooner rather than later with your trusted personal physician about your plans for late in life could pay off tremendously. Will Medicare step up and encourage physicians to have those discussions by providing fair reimbursement? (Dr. Howard Brody, 1/13). 

The Arizona Republic: Shooting Briefly Draws Attention To Mentally Ill
Cuts to mental-health programs in the past legislative session left patients of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment system with only basic services. Over the past couple of years, mental-health funding to Maricopa County has been cut by nearly $60 million. Most of those who suffer from such cuts are a danger to no one but must endure an additional stigma each time a violent incident occurs (E. J. Montini, 1/14). 

The Sacramento Bee/McClatchy: We Must Mend Safety Net For Mentally Ill 
[S]tate "hospitals" are little more than prisons for mentally ill people who have broken laws, while prisons house tens of thousands of others who also are mentally ill. Despite its ongoing fiscal crisis, California is one state that may be getting a little better. Voters in 2004 approved Proposition 63, raising taxes on high earners, helping to house 14,000 chronically homeless, mentally ill people (Dan Morain, 1/14).

McClatchy/The Kansas City Star: We Must Address Mental Illness More Aggressively
Increasingly, society leans toward protecting us from the relatively few among the mentally ill who take to violence, rather than taking on the issues entangled with doing more to aid the larger numbers of people suffering. ... The current pitch for less government, coupled with the deep crisis for state and local budgeting, isn't amenable to increasing access to mental health treatment. Long-term, money and lives would be saved. But I'm doubtful politicians can successfully make the pitch (Mary Sanchez, 1/14).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: The Holloway Plan
Lee Holloway's proposal for revamping the way Milwaukee County provides mental health care sounds promising and deserves serious consideration. ... county taxpayers have been paying millions extra each year because the county fails to conform to federal mental health standards and thus misses out on Medicaid funding for such care. ... Under his plan, Milwaukee County would create a series of small-scale mental health facilities jointly operated with private vendors, including possibly local hospitals (1/13).

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