KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: ‘Moneyball’ And Health Care; Daschle On Diabetes Treatment; Elton John And Sen. Nelson On Paying For AIDS Drugs

California Healthline: Why The 'Moneyball' Approach Isn't A Home Run For Health Care
Billy Beane's data-driven strategies made him the talk of baseball, the king of the current box office and a highly visible advocate for evidence-based medicine. But Beane's teams have faded since their "Moneyball" heyday — and evidence-based medicine might not be the home run that some reformers hope it will be (Dan Diamond, 10/12).

The Washington Post: Herman Cain's Deceptive And Unfair Tax Plan
Mr. Cain's plan is problematic, but not for the reasons his fellow presidential contenders claim. Rather than putting the country on a sustainable fiscal path, it risks not producing enough revenue to fund the government's needs. ... Mr. Cain would junk the existing, Byzantine structure of rates and deductions in the individual income tax code. He would end the estate tax, the payroll tax to fund Social Security and Medicare, and the capital gains tax. Instead, individuals would pay a flat tax rate of 9 percent; the only deduction that would remain would be for charitable giving (10/12).

Boston Globe: Military Pensions And Health On The Table
As the super committee on the deficit meets, seeking trillions in federal savings, even the Pentagon is beginning to acknowledge that everything needs to be up for discussion, including potential changes to the health and pension benefits of military retirees. While the nation can never pull back from its commitment to veterans, some cost-saving changes in health care and pensions are necessary and responsible. Well before the current debate, rising entitlement obligations had been a concern for Pentagon planners. Military health care and pensions for both active and retired troops cost $100 billion a year out of a $700 billion annual military budget. It is a remarkable number, and includes extremely generous health benefits to those who've been in the military, regardless of whether they ever faced active duty (10/13).

Bloomberg: Security Will Suffer Unless Pentagon Health Care Gets Cuts: View
An editorial on Monday identified specific weapons programs that could be targeted for cuts as the Pentagon faces growing pressure to help curb the federal deficit. There is, however, a huge area of potential Defense Department savings that doesn’t involve equipment and war-fighting capabilities: bringing under control the galloping — and unsustainable — cost of providing well-deserved benefits to those who serve our country. ... There are plenty of good ideas for controlling, and even reducing, these costs (10/12).

The New England Journal of Medicine: The Central Question for Health Policy in Deficit Reduction
Debates on health care policy are bound to bulk large in the deliberations of the super committee, as they do in Obama's proposals. Health programs constitute 23 percent of the federal budget and even more of projected spending growth. If spending is to be cut, they are too large to leave untouched. How they are changed is important. But whether tax increases are part of any program to cut the deficit is vastly more important — not just for the economy but also for health policy. ... If the no-increase-in-revenues position prevails, both Medicare and Medicaid, as well as other health care spending and all other domestic social spending, will inevitably be subject to cuts so large that they will make it quite impossible to meet the commitment the United States made half a century ago to assure the aged, disabled, and poor a standard of health care similar to that enjoyed by other Americans (Henry J. Aaron, 10/13).

The New England Journal of Medicine: Medicare Drug Prices and the Deficit 
The President has put forth an idea that promises important cost savings to the nation while preserving drug coverage for a vulnerable population. The approach obtains savings without undermining incentives for developing important new medical treatments. The anticipated side effects would be outweighed by the size of the estimated budget gains. This is as close to a win–win solution as we can get (Richard G. Frank, 10/13).

Roll Call: Daschle: Prevent Type 2 Diabetes, Cut Health Care Costs
While reducing government expenditures and living within our means are necessary and important priorities, our laser focus on cutting and slashing programs can cause us to be shortsighted and make decisions that could cost us more in the long run by shifting costs rather than implementing real, sustained reform in the system. The 2010 health care law, for example, provides some real opportunities to invest in cost-saving measures that are proven to prevent chronic disease and can yield the long-term savings that our health care system needs. The National Diabetes Prevention Program, which was authorized by the health care overhaul but remains unfunded, is one such program. The NDPP was intended by Congress to prevent one of the leading drivers of health care spending in our country — Type 2 diabetes (Tom Daschle, 10/13).

Kaiser Health News: Different Takes: Advice For The Super Committee
Kaiser Health News asked Henry J. Aaron of The Brookings Institution, Nina Owcharenko from The Heritage Foundation and Third Way's David Kendall what they view as the most substantive issue or challenge facing this panel, and what advice they might offer — specifically in regard to health care entitlement programs — to tackle it. Read their perspectives (10/12).

The Chicago Tribune: When Fighting Cancer Is Folly
Americans might keep that fact in mind in considering the recent news made by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. It recently recommended against routine screening of healthy men for prostate cancer, on two grounds: The test doesn't save lives, on balance, and the treatments are usually worse than the disease. Everyone who gets prostate cancer will die. But usually not from prostate cancer (Steve Chapman, 10/13).

Bloomberg: Klein: Brave New World Of Compulsory Wellness
The Cleveland Clinic is best known for providing excellent health care. ... But the clinic has a more interesting — and more consequential — story to tell right now, and it has nothing to do with providing health care to its patients and everything to do with curtailing health care for its workers. ... Like most employers, it struggles to contain health-care costs. But according to Michael Roizen, the clinic's director of wellness, over the past seven years a series of reforms instituted by the clinic's chief executive officer, Delos Cosgrove, slowed and then arrested the growth in employee health-care costs at the clinic (Ezra Klein, 10/12).

Politico: Life-And-Death Power Of AIDS Funding
Last year, Steven Dimmick, 31, sold his car and home in Jacksonville, Fla., then filed for bankruptcy protection. He needed cash to purchase the drugs that keep him from dying of AIDS. .... All 50 states now have assistance programs for people with low income, living with the disease. But, in an increasing number, the need for these medications is greater than federal and state funding. As a result, 13 states have already reduced the amount of drugs offered – and increased the number of people on waiting lists. ... Florida — with the nation's longest waiting list at more than 3,900 people — is proposing changes in eligibility that would not only leave more people like Dimmick on the waiting list but cut off more than 1,600 from the program (Sir Elton John and Sen. Bill Nelson, 10/12).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Each of Us Plays A Part In HIV Fight
Of all races, African-Americans have the highest rates of HIV infection in the nation. ... At the CDC, combating HIV among African-Americans is a top priority. ... However, even with these extensive efforts under way, the CDC alone cannot turn the tide and begin to reduce the number of African-Americans infected with HIV. We must come together as a nation and as a community to confront the complex socioeconomic factors that fuel the epidemic among African-Americans (Kevin Fenton, 10/13).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Pushing Courage From Pulpit
Last year, the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock took an HIV/AIDS test in front of his congregation at historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. The senior pastor took the test as part of the National Week of Prayer for Healing of AIDS. The results came minutes later: negative. Sure it was a publicity stunt, but it also served a purpose, a particularly poignant one given the general perception that the issue of AIDS — along with the dicey issues of sexuality, gays and morality that it encompasses — doesn't register as it should within black churches (Rick Badie, 10/12).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Team Effort
Milwaukee's teen birthrates plunged again last year, according to new city statistics, and Milwaukee remains on pace to reach the goals set three years ago of being in line with the rest of the state by 2015. It's encouraging news and proof that collaborative approaches, when carefully thought out, work. The work is far from over, of course, and may, in fact, get harder. The Milwaukee Health Department, United Way of Greater Milwaukee, Milwaukee Public Schools and the other partners need to stay the course (10/12).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.