KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Medicare Obligation Is Heavy Future Obligation; Mental Health’s ‘Elephant In The Room’

The Wall Street Journal: Yes, Mr. President, We Are A Nation Of Takers 
A growing body of empirical evidence points to increasing dependency on state largess. The evidence documents as well a number of perverse and disturbing changes that this entitlement state is imposing on society. ... Social Security and Medicare have already made tens of trillions of dollars in future promises that are not covered by their expected funding streams. If and when outside resources are required to honor their promises, these entitlements become transfer programs, not insurance programs (Nicholas Eberstadt, 1/24).

The Washington Post: Health Care Threatens To Crush U.S. Growth
The 2012 annual report for the federal government, released last week, continues to use dubious accounting standards to avoid putting the cost of government retirement promises into the headline deficit of $1.1 trillion. ... One example is the cost, in today’s dollars, to make Social Security and Medicare solvent for the next 75 years ... Every other developed country delivers universal health care with better results and lower costs. The U.S. government’s own annual report shows that our finances are unsustainable unless we do the same (Bryan R. Lawrence, 1/24).

The New York Times: Deficit Hawks Down
President Obama’s second Inaugural Address offered a lot for progressives to like. There was the spirited defense of gay rights; there was the equally spirited defense of the role of government, and, in particular, of the safety net provided by Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. But arguably the most encouraging thing of all was what he didn’t say: He barely mentioned the budget deficit (Paul Krugman, 1/24).

National Journal: We Need To Talk About Mental Health Even If It’s Only A Sideshow To The Gun Control Debate
The federal law governing mental-health allocations to states hasn’t been reauthorized since 2000. Over the past three years, budget cuts have cost state mental-health systems $4.3 billion, according to the research institute connected with the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors. Sandy Hook offers an opportunity to address the mental-health components of violence. If the conversation is a sideshow to gun control, so be it (Fawn Johnson, 1/24).

National Journal: Why Improving Mental Health Would Do Little To End Gun Violence 
[A]lthough people with serious mental illness have committed a large percentage of high-profile crimes, the mentally ill represent a very small percentage of the perpetrators of violent crime overall. Researchers estimate that if mental illness could be eliminated as a factor in violent crime, the overall rate would be reduced by only 4 percent. ... Better screening and treatment could, however, make a significant difference in preventing one type of violence. Those who suffer from mental illness are much more likely to harm themselves than other people (Margot Sanger-Katz, 1/25).

Boston Globe: All Americans Are At Risk
Statistics show the United States ranking below other rich countries on health measures are often broadly attributed to the lack of public health resources and dangerous environments confronting Americans who are poor or members of minority groups. But while unequal access to health care remains a problem, a new report by the National Institutes of Health has a sobering message: Unhealthy and unsafe practices are leaving even well-off Americans with lower life-expectancies than their peers in other countries (1/25).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Colorado Medicaid Expansion Would Make 86,000 College Students Eligible
Gov. John Hickenlooper wants yet another expansion of Colorado Medicaid. This one will cover the more than 86,000 college students in Colorado that the Census Bureau estimates have incomes below the federal poverty level. ... Many Colorado colleges already require students to buy health coverage. But Medicaid enrollment is free and it covers everything from unnecessary emergency room visits and major surgery to over-the-counter drugs with $5 copays and no deductible. Students and their parents know a good deal when they see one (Linda Gorman, 1/24).

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