KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Medicare’s ‘Doctor Payment Problem’; A ‘Wasted Advantage’; ‘Puzzling’ Rand Numbers

Los Angeles Times: Medicare's Real Doctor Payment Problem
The news that a small percentage of the country's physicians collected billions of dollars from Medicare in a single year may or may not be a testament to individual greed; some of the top recipients are under investigation for allegedly bilking the system, while others work long hours delivering costly care. But it is a powerful reminder that the program needs to stop rewarding doctors for the quantity of care they deliver rather than the quality. Happily, there's a bipartisan plan to do just that; unhappily, lawmakers haven't been able to agree on how to cover its cost. If Congress needed any further incentive to settle its differences, the fact that 1,000 doctors raked in $3 billion from Medicare should provide it (4/10).

The New York Times' Public Editor: Times Should Have Nodded To Wall Street Journal In Medicare Story
The New York Times led its print edition today with an extensive treatment of an important story: that a small fraction of doctors get a huge share of the billions of dollars paid out under Medicare. What’s missing in that story is any reference to The Wall Street Journal, whose persistent legal efforts over several years helped result in a trove of Medicare data being made public, including much of the data that Wednesday’s news reports were based on (Margaret Sullivan, 4/9).

Bloomberg: Medicare's Wasted Advantage
Anyone worried about the cost of health care in the U.S. should view this week's capitulation on Medicare Advantage with concern. Faced with a lobbying campaign that health insurers have described as their "largest ever," the federal government backed down from next year's proposed cuts to the program, which pays private insurers to deliver Medicare benefits. If the government has this much trouble trimming a useless subsidy for the insurance industry, it will have a hard time being frugal when it comes to health spending that actually matters (4/9).

Bloomberg: How To Give Obamacare The Slip
Here's the scenario: You run a trade association, and your corner of the health-care sector gets stuck with part of the bill for Obamacare. Naturally, you'd rather not pay that bill, so you start a campaign against it. You assemble a coalition of lawmakers from both parties to support your argument. You pay for studies. You write letters. You meet with officials. What happens next? If you represent the insurance industry, and you've been fighting the law's reduction in Medicare Advantage payments, you rack up a series of modest wins. If you represent the medical device industry, and you've been fighting the law's excise tax on your products, you get bupkis (Christopher Flavelle, 4/9).

Los Angeles Times: Watch The Right Search Desperately For Bad News On Obamacare
The peculiar efforts by opponents of the Affordable Care Act to knock down the unquestionably good news about its effects have continued this week, fueled by an omnibus survey released Tuesday by the Rand Corp. We reviewed the report's findings here. The report, based on the latest poll of a group of respondents questioned by Rand every month, concluded that 9.3 million Americans gained health insurance between September 2013 and sometime in mid-March. It acknowledged that there's a built-in margin of error because of the survey size (roughly 2,400 individuals), and that its figure might change because sign-ups for 2014 were still continuing when polling ended, but it said that on the whole "the ACA has already led to a substantial increase in insurance coverage" (Michael Hiltzik, 4/9).

Bloomberg: More Puzzling Obamacare Numbers
Late last month, the Los Angeles Times got a lot of buzz when it used data from an unpublished RAND Corp. report to assess the state of Affordable Care Act enrollment. That report is now available, and a lot of folks have been poring over its findings. Actually, puzzling over its findings might be a better way to put it (Megan McArdle, 4/9).

The Wall Street Journal: The Obamacare Debate Is Far From Over
With the announcement earlier this month that 7.1 million Americans signed up for health insurance through Obamacare, Democrats think they are over the hump. House Leader Nancy Pelosi told CNN's Candy Crowley that congressional Democrats "are happy to not run away from what we have done. We're very proud of what we have accomplished." Democrats at risk in Republican states this November agree. Louisiana's Sen. Mary Landrieu says Obamacare "holds great promise and is getting stronger every day." Alaska's Sen. Mark Begich proclaims "seven million people have access to quality, affordable care and are in control of their own health-care choices." ... That's a wish, not a fact. Obamacare is and will remain a political problem for Democrats because there's a huge disconnect between the party's rhetoric and the reality that people affected by the law have experienced (Karl Rove, 4/9).

The Fiscal Times: Two Studies Raise Red Flags On Obamacare's First Round
The White House celebrated as it announced that 7.1 million consumers had signed up for health insurance through the federal and state exchanges, slightly exceeding their original goals and significantly outpacing expectations after the disastrous rollout of Obamacare last October. "The debate over repealing this law is over," President Obama told the press on April 1. "The Affordable Care Act is here to stay." Last week, that sounded like wishful thinking. Two new studies released this week prove it (Edward Morrissey, 4/10).

The Washington Post: 400,000 Ways For McAuliffe To Win On Medicaid
Gov. Terry McAuliffe needs to ditch the talking points about hospitals, jobs and investments that he's used to justify Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. They aren't going to change any minds. At the same time, he needs to stop worrying about Obamacare, the federal deficit, broken Washington promises and all the other bullet points used to justify opposition to Medicaid expansion. ... Medicaid expansion comes down to one point, or more precisely, 400,000 versions of the same point. This is the rough number of poor Virginians whom the Medicaid component of Obamacare was designed to help get health care they couldn’t otherwise afford. Due to bad genes, bad luck or bad choices, many of them have pressing health issues but no way to get insurance (Norman Leahy and Paul Goldman, 4/9). 

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