KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Starting Point For Fiscal Cliff Puts Entitlements At Risk; Cancer Center’s Actions Provide Leadership On Reducing Drug Prices

The New York Times: The Cliff Is A Hard Place To Compromise
[T]he closest thing to a framework for a big deficit agreement has more for Republicans to like than for Democrats. Mr. Obama was so eager to reach a deal with Congressional Republicans in 2011 that he agreed to the outline of a plan that made many Democrats cringe. It was well to the political right -- with fewer tax increases, fewer military cuts and more cuts to Medicare and Social Security -- of the bipartisan plan released by the Bowles-Simpson commission in 2010 (David Leonhardt, 11/10).

The New York Times: Budget Showdown Offers An Opportunity For Progress
Republicans in Congress will likely insist that reforms to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security be part of any budget deal. Democrats should meet them partway. It will be impossible to get our long-run deficit under control without slowing entitlement spending. Rather than fighting all changes to these programs, Democrats should work to preserve their core functions and protect the most vulnerable (Christina D. Romer, 11/10).

The New York Times: The Fiscal Delusion
Now that the election is over, Washington's attention is consumed by the looming combination of automatic spending cuts and tax increases known as "the fiscal cliff." That combination poses risks, including economic contraction and erosion of confidence in government. But it also offers a chance to address our unsustainable and dangerous fiscal trajectory. ... We should let the Bush high-end tax cuts expire, with an achievable, progressive reduction in tax expenditures. And we should have spending cuts, including entitlement reforms, equally matched by revenue increases (Robert E. Rubin, 11/12).

Fox News: Off The Fiscal Cliff And Into The Great Abyss
The federal deficit exceeds $1 trillion dollars -- up from $161 billion in 2007, the last year before the financial collapse. Spending is up some $1 trillion, as outlays for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlements have increased by an amount equal to the entire 2013 defense budget. By the end of the decade, runaway entitlement spending will require shutting down the military or crippling many other domestic spending programs to head off ballooning deficits. With Americans living longer, the only reasonable solution is to raise the Social Security retirement age to 70, and pattern U.S. health care reforms after other national systems that better contain costs (Peter Morici, 11/12).

The New York Times: The Choice Confronting Republican Governors
Republican governors and legislators routinely rail against federal intrusion in activities that they think would be better managed by the states. This week they will have a chance to show they really mean it. ... [P]ragmatic Republican legislators, insurers and advocacy groups for patients and health care providers ought to press their governors to move ahead [with health exchanges] (11/10).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Create Insurance Exchange To Meet Wisconsin's Needs
An unlikely collection of business groups and liberal Democrats is urging [Gov. Scott] Walker to have the state do its own work, and we agree that's probably the best approach. A Wisconsin exchange should acknowledge the state's unique strengths and be tailored as much as possible to the state's health care landscape. The Affordable Care Act requires certain baseline standards, and federal officials will have to sign off on any state-designed exchange. That's why that other option -- the blended approach of close cooperation with federal health care officials -- also might make sense (11/12).

The Baltimore Sun: Maryland's Obamacare Gamble Pays Off
The outcome of last week's presidential election has vindicated the wisdom of Maryland's early decision to begin setting up a state health exchange where consumers can shop for affordable health insurance coverage. President Barack Obama's victory virtually assures that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act he signed in 2010 will go into effect as planned in 2014 (11/12).

The New York Times: Incredible Prices For Cancer Drugs
An unusually bold stand by doctors at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York has forced a big drug company to reduce the cost of an overpriced drug for treating colorectal cancer that was no better than a cheaper competitor and did almost nothing to extend a patient's life. It is a heartening sign that alert and aggressive physicians can potentially play a major role in helping to reduce the escalating costs of health care for treatments of marginal value (11/12).

The Wall Street Journal: Not Enough Cancer Drugs, Too Many Price Controls
Cancer patients face daunting challenges, including side effects of treatment, impact on family life and work disruptions. They now face another problem: shortages of vital drugs. Imagine an oncologist talking to his patient: Everything is going well with your treatment, he says, but one of the drugs you've been receiving is unavailable. There's a substitute -- sort of. Your Medicare copayment for the drug we've been using is $9. Now it will cost you $520 each time the substitute is given (Bill Cassidy and Patrick W. Cobb, 11/11).

Los Angeles Times: Patient Trapped In Health Insurance Rate Hike
It's understandable that car insurance rates can change when you move. One neighborhood might have more accidents or burglaries than another. But health insurance? (David Lazarus, 11/13).

Kansas City Star: Condom Requirement For Porn Actors Gets A Bad Wrap
A condom is not a crime against humanity. It's a form of protection. But to hear James Deen, one of the porn industry's biggest stars tell it, a new Los Angles County law requiring adult film actors to wear condoms is no different than laws banning gay marriage. The Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act, known as Measure B, passed Tuesday in Los Angeles County. Proposed by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the legislation mandates performers wear condoms and also requires porn producers to apply for a permit from the L.A. County Department of Public Health. The Free Speech Coalition, a trade group representing the adult film industry, is planning to challenge the rule (Jeneé Osterheldt, 11/11).

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Tobacco: Money to Burn
The catechism recited by every advocate for a government program includes a line to the effect that spending money now will save money later. If that were true, then at some point one would expect government spending to shrink. Absent outside forces -- such as a recession -- it never does. But just because the argument is not true in all cases does not make it false in every case. Some spending probably does save money down the line. Spending for smoking-cessation treatments likely falls into that category. Yet as a recent Times-Dispatch news story pointed out, Virginia spends only a small fraction of what it should on smoking prevention and cessation (11/13).

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