KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Suggestions For Reducing Medicare Spending; Medicaid Cuts Hurt; Personal Health Responsibility

The New York Times: The Road Not Taken
Over the past months, Republicans enjoyed enormous advantages. Opinion polls showed that voters are eager to reduce the federal debt, and they want to do it mostly but not entirely through spending cuts. There was a Democratic president eager to move to the center. He floated certain ideas that would be normally unheard of from a Democrat. According to widespread reports, White House officials talked about raising the Medicare eligibility age, cutting Social Security by changing the inflation index, freezing domestic discretionary spending. … But the Republican Party decided not to pursue this deal, or even seriously consider it (David Brooks, 7/18). 

The Washington Post: Tweaking Mitch McConnell's 'Escape Hatch' 
If there is no prospect of the Republican allergy to new taxes easing, or of many Democrats becoming more open to the kind of entitlement reform President Obama has called necessary, it's not clear how any balanced proposal is going to make it through Congress (7/18). 

Fox News: For the Health Of the Country, Let's Use Commonsense To Reduce Medicare Spending
As the debate continues there are several ways for lawmakers to reduce Medicare spending in a commonsense, bipartisan manner. For example, the eligibility age for Medicare should be 67 -- not 65. Making this change would save $124 billion. Lawmakers should also cut back subsidies for beneficiaries to buy supplemental "Medigap" insurance. This could save $92 billion by 2021. Increase premiums that beneficiaries pay for Medicare doctors' coverage so they cover 35 percent of the program's costs -- instead of today's 25 percent -- would save $241 billion (Douglas E. Schoen, 7/18). 

Related, from KHN: FAQ: Seniors May See Changes in Medigap Policies (Appleby, 7/15) 

Des Moines Register: Where Iowans In Congress Stand On Debt Ceiling
The Des Moines Register asked Iowa's congressional delegation to respond to questions about the debt ceiling. We asked them to be specific as to what type of deal they would support to raise the debt limit - including only cutting spending, only raising taxes, a combination of both or none of the above. We asked them if they could guarantee programs like Medicare and Social Security would not be disrupted if the ceiling was not raised (7/18). 
US News & World Report: Health Reform That Passes The Buck Is Short-Sighted 
Nearly 40 percent of the projected growth in federal spending over the next decade is traced to two programs-Medicare and Medicaid. Recognizing this fact, many entitlement reform proposals or options have focused on slowing the growth in spending in these two healthcare programs. However, most of these proposals have focused on shifting rather than reducing healthcare costs. ... We need entitlement reform proposals that will reduce the underlying growth in spending in the Medicare and Medicaid programs ... These approaches need to address the two key issues: rising rates of largely preventable chronic disease prevalence, and providing effective team-based care coordination nationally in the Medicare program (Kenneth Thorpe, 7/18).

USA Today: Medicaid Cuts Will Make Things Worse
A decade ago, I looked down the road and saw the Medicaid debacle coming. Reimbursements to doctors already had dropped so low and the mandatory paperwork requirements had become so burdensome that I decided to drop out of the program entirely. ... This troubling shortage of doctors who will work with Medicaid certainly means that the country can't afford to lose any more. Yet, as this newspaper reported earlier this month, several states are imposing further cuts on reimbursements to doctors (Dr. Marc Siegel, 7/18). 

The Register-Guard: Oregon's Medicaid Test
With states spending an average of 15.4 percent of their general-fund budgets on Medicaid and the federal government kicking in even more in matching funds, Americans deserve to know whether this massive expenditure is actually improving people's lives. ... Oregon has provided the laboratory for a controlled experiment, and the results suggest that Medicaid works: It makes people healthier. ... That seemingly obvious conclusion now has a scientific underpinning that will be vital in the budgetary discussions ahead (7/19). 

McClatchy: Critical Funding To Save The Most Vulnerable Of Lives
As leaders in Washington seek ways to pay the government's bills, some are making suggestions that could have short-term financial gains at the expense of long-term health and safety. One such plan can be seen in President Obama's proposed elimination of the Children's Hospitals Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) program in his 2012 budget. If this elimination were to take place, our children's health will be put at risk (James Mandell and O. Marion Burton, 7/18). 

Seattle Times: Federal Health-Prevention Strategy Should Put People Empowerment First
Like a great meal that leaves you wanting another bite, the newly released National Prevention Strategy left me hungering for more. Don't get me wrong. The report is full of great stuff. While the tastiest nuggets focus on collective policy ideas, personal responsibility seems to be an afterthought on the strategy menu (Greg Vigdor, 7/18). 

McClatchy / The Kansas City Star: When Standards Of Justice Clash With Compassion For Mentally Ill
Few crimes have stirred so much debate on a number of social and legal questions as the murderous rampage of Jared Lee Loughner. His gun attack at a political gathering in Tucson, Ariz., in January left six dead and 14 others wounded, including the amazingly resilient Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz. … It bears stressing that the vast majority of mentally ill people are not violent. Loughner is an anomaly in that regard. His predicament now is far more representative of mentally ill people who reach adulthood without proper diagnosis and care. In fact, one of the cruelest aspects of some forms of mental illness is that it seems to manifest fully when people are of legal age to refuse help (Mary Sanchez, 7/18). 

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