KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Sen. Corker’s Plan To Avoid The ‘Fiscal Cliff’; Romney’s Brave Attempt To Deal With Health Entitlements; Fixing The Drug Shortage

The Washington Post: A Plan To Dodge The 'Fiscal Cliff'
I have shared with House and Senate leaders as well as the White House a 242-page bill that, along with other agreed-upon cuts that are to be enacted, would produce $4.5 trillion in fiscal reforms and replace sequestration. ... The proposal includes pro-growth federal tax reform, which generates more static revenue — mostly from very high-income Americans — by capping federal deductions at $50,000 without raising tax rates. It mandates common-sense reforms to the federal workforce. … It also includes comprehensive Medicare reform that keeps in place fee-for-service Medicare without capping growth, competing side by side with private options that seniors can choose instead if they wish. Coupled with gradual age increases within Medicare and Social Security; the introduction of means testing; increasing premiums ever so slightly for those making more than $50,000 a year in retirement; and ending a massive "bed tax" gimmick the states use in Medicaid to bilk the federal government of billions, this reform would put our country on firmer financial footing and begin to vanquish our long-term deficit (Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., 11/25).

Forbes: Thanks, Mitt Romney, For Campaigning On Big Ideas
Mitt Romney isn't going to be the next President of the United States. But the familiar spectacle of the post-election circular firing squad shouldn't blind us to the many good things that Mitt Romney brought to the 2012 election. First and foremost, he had the courage to campaign on the most pressing domestic policy problem we face: the explosion of deficit spending caused by our health-care entitlements. No modern Republican presidential nominee—not even Ronald Reagan—has ever attempted anything like it (Avik Roy, 11/24).

The New York Times: Fighting Fiscal Phantoms
But the deficit scolds aren't giving up. Now yet another organization, Fix the Debt, is campaigning for cuts to Social Security and Medicare, even while making lower tax rates a "core principle." That last part makes no sense in terms of the group's ostensible mission, but makes perfect sense if you look at the array of big corporations, from Goldman Sachs to the UnitedHealth Group, that are involved in the effort and would benefit from tax cuts. Hey, sacrifice is for the little people (Paul Krugman, 11/25).

Los Angeles Times: HIV Testing For All
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1.2 million people in the United States are infected with HIV but that close to 1 in 5 don't know it. Even before there was any effective treatment for HIV, large-scale testing as a preventive measure could have kept a tremendous amount of suffering and death at bay. It should have begun years ago. Decades ago (11/23). 

The Baltimore Sun: The High Price Of Health Disparities
Why do some people get sicker and die sooner than others? The answer involves more than our genes, behaviors and medical care, according to a new study by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and the advocacy group Equity Inc. It turns out that where we live is often the strongest predictor of our well-being, and that disparities along racial and class lines in health outcomes and access to care mirror the inequities in every other aspect of people's lives (11/23).

The New York Times: A Stubborn Drug Shortage
The drug shortages that have disrupted care for critically ill patients show no signs of going away anytime soon. As Katie Thomas reported in The Times this month, a rural ambulance squad in Ohio withheld its last vial of morphine from a patient in pain with a broken leg in case someone else needed it more (11/25). 

The New York Times: Dealing With Doctors Who Take Only Cash
A few weeks ago, my wife and I were at our wits' end: our 4-month-old daughter wouldn't sleep for more than an hour at a time at night. ... So my wife called a pediatrician who specializes in babies who struggle with sleep problems. The next day, he drove an hour from Brooklyn to our house. ... The only catch was this pediatrician did not accept insurance. He had taken our credit card information before his visit and given us a form to submit to our insurance company as he left, saying insurance usually paid a portion of his fee, which was $650 (Paul Sullivan, 11/23).

The Wall Street Journal: Round Up The Usual Social Conservative Suspects
According to Gallup, a majority of Americans now consider themselves pro-life, including one-third of Democrats. ... A 2012 survey of voters 30 years or younger by Naral Pro-Choice America found that pro-life voters were twice as likely as their pro-choice peers to say abortion is an important issue in determining their vote. Despite the Obama campaign's accusation of a Republican "war on women," Mr. Obama actually won women by a narrower margin than he did in 2008; he lost married women by seven points. ... If the GOP is serious about reaching out to minorities, social issues are rich soil for finding common ground (Ralph Reed, 11/25).

Detroit Free Press: The Free Press' Agenda For Improving Mental Health In Michigan
Michigan's 32 prisons hold thousands of mentally ill inmates, including as many as 200 isolated in segregation cells, where they are locked up for 23 hours a day or more, cut off from treatment programs, and often denied needed medications. ... Michigan should generally ban the segregation of severely mentally ill prisoners. For exceptions made for security reasons, MDOC should ensure that mentally ill inmates placed in isolation are treated as soon as possible at one of its inpatient or residential treatment centers. Any mentally ill inmate in segregation should be checked daily by a mental health professional. Mentally ill prisoners should not be removed from brand-name drugs with no generic equivalents, if the brand drugs work for them (11/25). 

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