KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Gambling On Entitlement Cuts; ‘Culture War’ Over Family Planning; Insurance Premium ‘Gouge’ In Calif.

The Kansas City Star: On Entitlements, GOP Is Gambling Big
The House Republicans are rolling the political dice. They've pledged that in their budget for next year they will offer detailed proposals for curbing spending on "entitlements" - Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. When Democrats heard this, their world suddenly brightened. One congressional aide dismissed the Republicans as "suckers" (E. Thomas McClanahan, 3/4).

The Miami Herald: Targeting The Poor First
The U.S. House of Representatives has declared war on Planned Parenthood, the nonprofit provider of affordable reproductive health care to millions of women and teens who otherwise couldn't afford to get it. A spending bill, HB 1, includes a provision that would strip Planned Parenthood of all federal funding, which comes to $330 million a year in Title X and Medicaid funds. A second provision would zero out all Title X funding - $317 million - that goes to local family planning clinics, including Planned Parenthood (3/3).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Culture War Redux
In the U.S. House, the GOP majority approved a bill that defunds Planned Parenthood and Title X, the federal family planning program for low-income women. [Gov. Scott] Walker, in his biennial budget released on Tuesday, did the same for Title V, the state's family planning program for low-income women. If the state Legislature goes along, that means the end of access to birth control and basic reproductive health care for many of Wisconsin's low-income women and girls. ... The U.S. Senate must halt the House's defunding. And the Legislature should not approve Walker's assault on Title V and should not give such sweeping authority to his administration as part of a budget bill. Break out these proposals, and debate them separately. These actions constitute a perfect storm purposely and counterproductively directed toward women. There is no credible reason for it (3/3).

San Francisco Chronicle: Stop The Gouge On Health Insurance Premiums
Another day, another health insurance rate increase. This time, the culprit is Anthem Blue Cross. The Woodland Hills-based insurer recently notified many of its individual policyholders that there will be a new rate increase as of May 1. This comes nearly a year after Anthem proposed rate increases of up to 39 percent on its California policyholders. ... We've urged the Legislature to give the state insurance commissioner the power to approve or reject these kinds of astronomical increases. It has the opportunity to do so this year, by passing AB52. Its author, Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles, should amend the bill to give the same power to the state Department of Managed Health Care (3/4).

San Francisco Chronicle: Medical Marijuana: S.F. Must Rethink Rules
In 2005, San Francisco adopted its first regulations on medical marijuana dispensaries. The city has been patting itself on the back ever since. That can stop now. The rules, which were pushed through by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, were groundbreaking at the time, but they've left a large loophole that could turn the burgeoning South of Market neighborhood into the largest, most concentrated, cluster of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city. That's got city officials - including Mirkarimi - rethinking dispensary regulations. And they should. It's time to get specific with pot clubs, which currently don't even require a background check for operators (C.W. Nevius, 3/3).

San Jose Mercury News: California Needs To Release State's Sickest Inmates
California could save $500 million a year in prison costs by taking one simple step: Release the 1,500 chronically ill inmates who are costing taxpayers, on average, more than $300,000 each per year. It's absurd that schools are laying off teachers and cities are laying off cops while the state is paying millions to guard and treat medically incapacitated inmates who pose no threat to society. … California has to start approving medical parole for inmates like these (3/3).

The Arizona Republic: Flimflam Muddles State Medicaid Debate
According to the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association, withdrawing from Medicaid would cost Arizona 159,000 jobs. That's a very big number. That would mean an increase in the number of Arizonans unemployed of more than 50 percent. In fact, it is a number so big as to be self-evidently preposterous. Instead, it is an illustration of the use of flimflam economic impact studies in public-policy debates. For the number the hospital association is peddling to be true, there would have to be a job created for every eight enrollees in the state's Medicaid program. That would mean that if the state wanted to add 100,000 jobs, it would just have to add 800,000 people to the Medicaid rolls. ... Whether to reduce Medicaid coverage or withdraw from the program entirely involves important questions about state finances and a health-care system for the poor. Trying to turn it into a monumental economic issue is flimflam (Robert Robb, 3/4).

The Arizona Republic: A Gentle Prod For 'Death Panel'
At first, the politicians said that the transplants weren't effective or economical. That argument didn't work. It has been disproved by health professionals and by the fact that the same surgeries are available to legislators in their health plan. Then they said that the state didn't have the money for the transplants. That also isn't so, since the speaker of the House found $5 million that he wants to give to Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu for a special unit, money that Babeu couldn't persuade his own board of supervisors to give him. ... The transplant families and their supporters set up a website ( in which they offered at least 26 funding alternatives that would cover the transplants. They have been ignored (E. J. Montini, 3/4).

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