KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints Raise Questions: Can Free Market Fix Medicare? Should Military Families Pay More For Health Care?

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Pro & Con: Should Congress, President Overhaul Medicare?
Yes: If even a fraction of [the president's Medicare cuts] take place, a whopping 87 percent of doctors say they will stop seeing or will restrict the number of Medicare patients they see, further shrinking the pool of providers and further restricting access to care.  Rationing will ensue. ... The only way to save Medicare is to change it (Grace-Marie Turner). ... The truth is that there are several other ways to strengthen Medicare, but there has been a false debate in the nation regarding the rising costs of Medicare. ... It would only make sense for there to be bipartisan support for Medicare to be able to use the full faith and credit of the federal government and be able to negotiate down the rising costs of prescription drugs (John Conyers Jr., 6/1).

The Washington Post: Why Paul Ryan Is Losing The Medicare Argument 
The enactment of Medicare was an admission that most senior citizens simply could not afford health coverage without government help. What was true of seniors in 1965 is now also true of many non-elderly Americans. Ryan and his allies seem to believe that there are some magical things the free market can do in the United States that it hasn't done anywhere else in the world. I suspect he really believes this. I don't see why the rest of us should (E.J. Dionne, 6/1). 

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: A Case Study In Why Free Market Can't Cure Health-Care Woes 
Conservatives believe that an open marketplace and empowered consumers can drive down costs; liberals believe that consumers lack the technical knowledge, the motivation and the market power to force efficiencies on providers. ... If competition worked in the medical industry, shouldn't costs here be considerably lower, instead of considerably higher? (Jay Bookman, 6/1).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: There Is Still Time 
The Ryan plan has its faults. It would, for example, give younger Americans a voucher to buy health care instead of the standard Medicare plan, which runs the risk of shifting the burden from the government onto seniors. But the Ryan plan should be a starting point for a discussion (6/1). 

Georgia Health News: Medicare Reform: Getting Beyond Medi-Scare
Here are ideas - some that have barely been mentioned to the American public - that could be part of broader reform:
(1) Eliminating fraud (2) Removing the 150-day limit on hospital stays (3)Providing a maximum out-of-pocket level for physician services (4) Allowing Medicare Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) (Ronald Bachman, 6/1). 

USA Today: Our View: Military's Tricare Benefits Are Too Sweet A Deal
The annual amount the Pentagon charges retirees for the military's basic Tricare health insurance plan - $460 for family coverage - was set back in 1995. It hasn't changed in 16 years. Can anyone else in the USA say that about his health premiums? [Defense secretary Robert] Gates' proposal requires retirees to pay an extra $5 a month for family coverage, or $2.50 a month for individuals (6/1). 

USA Today: Opposing View: Troops Already Sacrificed For Health Care 
[T]he law should acknowledge that career servicemembers have already pre-paid very large premiums for their health care in retirement - through decades of service and sacrifice - over and above what they pay in cash. ... Those who seek major cuts in the military compensation package while mouthing words of praise for that community's sacrifices are curiously insensitive to how hollow their praise rings (Vice Admiral Norb Ryan Jr., 6/1).

The Arizona Republic: State Should Fold On Medicaid Lawsuit
Gov. Jan Brewer and Republican legislators are promising a fierce legal fight against a challenge to their Medicaid cuts brought by Tim Hogan, litigator extraordinaire for the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest. While I understand their frustration, that's probably not the most prudent course of action (Robert Robb, 6/1). 

Albany Times Union: Get To Work On Health Insurance Exchange
Federal health care reform brought the promise of more affordable health insurance for millions of New Yorkers. But that promise cannot be fulfilled without state action. Yet Albany is procrastinating. New Yorkers who are feeling the pinch of expensive insurance -- or worse, don't have coverage at all -- cannot afford a delay in reform. ... The first step is passing legislation to create a statewide health insurance exchange (Kate Breslin, 6/2).

The Sacramento Bee: How Regulation Keeps Health Care Costs Down
Californians are struggling to pay their health insurance bills while insurance companies' profits are on the rise. One apparent fix is Assembly Bill 52 authored by Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles, that would allow state regulators to reject excessive rate increases. However, the recent experience of Massachusetts suggests that this California bill may not go nearly far enough (Micah Weinberg, 6/2). 

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