KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: The Argument For The Health Law; No One Wins Contraception Battle

The New York Times: Hurray For Health Reform
It's said that you can judge a man by the quality of his enemies. If the same principle applies to legislation, the Affordable Care Act — which was signed into law two years ago, but for the most part has yet to take effect — sits in a place of high honor (Paul Krugman, 3/18). 

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Rejecting Affordable Care Act Is Rejecting Constitution
The justices have the power to declare the (health) law unconstitutional and thereby kill "Obamacare" before it even leaves the birthing chamber. While some believe that such an outcome would be proper, we disagree. A court decision overturning the Affordable Care Act would be an egregious misreading of the Constitution (Akhil Reed Amar and Todd Brewster, 3/18).

Houston Chronicle: Health Care Reform And Your Insurance
If the ACA is repealed, one in 5 will be uninsured by 2020 -- 66 million. Those seeking to repeal the ACA had better come up with a substitute bill that works, or 66 million votes could swing an election (Arthur Garson Jr. and Carolyn Long Engelhard, 3/17).

Boston Globe: On Mandate, Romney Plays Both Sides
They say all things must end, but the wrangling over Mitt Romney’s support for an individual health insurance mandate persists without letup. It has been nearly six years since Romney, with much fanfare, signed the Massachusetts health care overhaul into law. On the eve of the signing ceremony, he had praised the bill's requirement that every resident obtain health insurance, and suggested with pride that the rest of the nation might want to follow the Bay State’s lead. "How much of our health care plan applies to other states?" he wrote in The Wall Street Journal. "A lot.’" It was a message he would reiterate time and again (Jeff Jacoby, 3/18).

McClatchy / The Kansas City Star: If Our Government Can Do This, What Can They Not Do?
It's always fascinating when people on either side of a partisan divide give each other gifts. Case in point: President Obama's approval of a rule ordering Catholic institutions to offer insurance policies covering birth control, sterilization procedures and the morning after pill — all contrary to church teachings. … For Republicans, it was an unexpected gift (E. Thomas McClanahan, 3/17).

The Dallas Morning News: Thanks Obama, But I Need More
I really appreciate your insisting that insurance companies and employers provide me with free birth control without regard to my ability to pay. Giving away free stuff to the middle class has worked so well in other areas of our national life. Just look at how well Medicare is working. And Social Security. And the auto bailouts. And your recently announced plan to help speculators who bought second, third or fourth homes with the hope of flipping them. Is this what you meant when you promised that Obamacare would reduce medical spending in the United States? (Mona Charen, 3/16).

Bloomberg: Anti-Contraception Battle A Loser On Policy and Politics
The federal government is right to encourage access to contraception. No church is required to dispense it; no congregant is required to use it simply because health insurance policies cover it. (The majority of private insurers covered birth control services and supplies before the Obama administration’s decision.) At this point contraception’s role in American culture and public health is firmly established. Why turn it into a political pill? (3/18).

Forbes: Yes, Virginia, There Can Be A Free Market For Health Care
Of the $2.6 trillion Americans spent on health care in 2010, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, $814 billion—31 percent—was for hospital care. And not all hospital care is acute. So, the inability to shop for care applies to less than three-tenths of all health spending. So, it seems to me, those who strongly believe in the shopping argument for socialized medicine should adopt a hybrid approach. Let’s have a free market for the 70-plus percent of health care where market forces can most directly apply, and let’s have universal catastrophic insurance for those situations where market forces work less well (Avik Roy, 3/18).

The Washington Post: 'Mediscare,' Republican Style
Are Republicans ready to be trusted with the reins of power? If you're thinking of answering this in the affirmative, you might want to pause long enough to learn what transpired on the third floor of the Capitol on Thursday. There, four prominent Republican lawmakers announced their proposal to abolish Medicare — "sunset" was their pseudo-verb — even for those currently on the program or nearing retirement. In Medicare's place would be a private plan that would raise the eligibility age and shift trillions of dollars worth of health-care coverage from the government to the elderly (Dana Milbank, 3/16). 

The Washington Post: This Cost-Cutting Reform Deserves A Chance
One of the most promising cost-control measures in the new health-care law is an entity called the Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB. To be launched in 2015, IPAB will have the authority, if growth in health-care costs exceeds a certain target, to recommend changes to the Medicare program. Those changes would take effect automatically unless Congress came up with equivalent savings elsewhere (3/18). 

Bloomberg/The New York Times: Letter From Washington: Saying Goodbye To The Dysfunctional Senate
The health care measure exemplified the political pettiness and paralysis in Washington. The Finance Committee, on which (Sen. Olympia Snowe) serves, was working on a bill as Congress adjourned in August 2009. During that recess, Tea Party conservatives and some Republicans ginned up the threat of "death panels," a canard that Ms. Snowe said "ignited a firestorm politically" and made bipartisan deals almost impossible. A few months later, Democratic Senate leaders forced a huge bill onto the floor with no explanation of some provisions. The measure passed, the country remains divided, and the issue will be settled in June by a politically split Supreme Court (Albert R. Hunt, 3/18).

Des Moines Register: Lawmakers Seeking To Shame Women
Arizona is now trying to outdo Texas in efforts to shame women seeking to control their fertility. Lawmakers are close to passing a bill to require a woman who files an insurance claim for birth control pills to prove she's not taking them to prevent pregnancy. Birth control, the Arizona legislators claim, could violate employers' (any employer, not just a religious one) moral beliefs. But violating a woman's dignity and right to make her own health care choices apparently isn't a problem (Rekha Basu, 3/17).

Arizona Republic: GOP Legislature Continues To Boost Obama
No one should be so foolish as to believe that mere embarrassment will keep Arizona lawmakers from meddling in the minutia of people's lives. Or from whipping up some new, wrongheaded scheme to stuff the Obama administration. But our so-called conservatives are becoming Exhibit A nationally in the case against Republicans taking back the White House. On an almost daily basis, they are producing YouTube fodder for their political opposition. ... The latest birth-control legislation, sponsored by Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale, is a great case in point (3/17).

Des Moines Register: Senate Takes Strides To Improve Iowa Health Care
One of the great collaborations in my legislative career has been the reform of our health care system. This year, in a bipartisan vote (32-18), the Senate passed the Mental Health Redesign Bill. Positioned to completely redesign the way our mental health system is structured and financed, we passed SF 2315, which creates a comprehensive system of patient-centered care with statewide standards, regionally administered and locally delivered (Iowa state Sen. Jack Hatch, 3/16).

The Minneapolis Star Tribune: A Proper Approach To Treating Cancer
Contrary to "An affront to cancer sufferers" (March 12) by Dr. Irv Lerner, the moratorium on the construction of new radiation facilities in the Twin Cities does have patients in mind. Radiation-therapy services provided in Minnesota hospitals ensure integrated care -- at their hospitals and in their clinics. Hospital-based radiation facilities serve both outpatients and those hospitalized, without requiring an expensive and unnecessary ambulance ride. Cancer patients often have other health issues that can all be managed under one roof with a full-service facility (Steve Kolar, 3/18).

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