KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Disability Insurance ‘Time Bomb;’ Leavitt On The Lessons Of Medicare Part D’s Rollout; Boys And Eating Disorders

The Wall Street Journal: The 2016 Disability Insurance Time Bomb
Social Security for retirement and Medicare are the best known of the major entitlement programs with looming financial disasters. While some argue about when they will run out of money, their projected 75-year unfunded liabilities grow larger every year and now total $40 trillion, much worse thereafter. But the ticking time bomb of entitlement reform is Social Security's Disability Insurance Fund (Michael J. Boskin, 7/14). 

The Wall Street Journal: Why the President's ObamaCare Maneuver May Backfire
President Obama's announcement on July 2 that he is suspending the Affordable Care Act's employer health-insurance mandate may well have exposed his actions to judicial review—even though that is clearly what he sought to avoid (David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey, 7/14). 

The Washington Post: To Implement Obamacare, Look To Bush's Medicare Reform
This past spring, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) called the impending implementation of the Affordable Care Act "a huge train wreck." His words caught my attention because the last time the federal government delivered a new health-care benefit to more than 40 million people, I drove the train. As secretary of health and human services during President George W. Bush's second term, I faced the daunting task of rolling out Medicare’s new prescription drug benefit (Michael O. Leavitt, 7/12). 

Sacramento Bee: The Conversation: Take Employers Out Of The Insurance Business
President Barack Obama's recent decision to delay enforcement of penalties on employers who don't provide health insurance for their workers is a move that Democrats and Republicans should applaud and voters should welcome as a step in the right direction. The administration last month announced that it would postpone penalties of $2,000 per employee on companies with 50 or more workers who don't offer affordable insurance for their workforce. The official reason was that implementing the system on schedule Jan. 1 was going to be too complex for many employers to handle. The unofficial reason might be that Obama's advisers feared a major pushback from employers in a big congressional election year (Daniel Weintraub, 7/14).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Walker's Obamacare Decision Looking Better
In mid-February of this year, as soon as Gov. Scott Walker announced that his budget would not use funds under the federal Affordable Care Act to expand Medicaid in Wisconsin, liberal groups began hyperventilating. "If Governor Walker turns down billions in federal money for BadgerCare, there is no doubt that many Wisconsinites will die as a consequence," said Citizen Action of Wisconsin Executive Director Robert Kraig. ... But while efforts abound to cast the governor as a chainsaw wielding madman ("Hide the kids! Scott Walker's on the loose!"), Walker's recently-passed budget actually expanded health coverage beyond his Democratic predecessor, Jim Doyle (Christian Schneider, 7/13). Beshear Did Right Thing On Medicaid
We are so accustomed to complaining about the short-sightedness of our elected officials that sometimes we don't notice when a politician does a great thing. Let's consider Gov. Steve Beshear's decision that Kentucky will participate in Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). ... Medicaid expansion will insure some 308,000 Kentuckians, nearly 50 percent of Kentucky's uninsured (Richard Cullison, 7/13).

The New York Times: Do Clinical Trials Work?
[A]t the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology last month, much of the buzz surrounded a study that was anything but a breakthrough. To a packed and whisper-quiet room at the McCormick Place convention center in Chicago, Mark R. Gilbert, a professor of neuro-oncology at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, presented the results of a clinical trial testing the drug Avastin ... Gilbert's study found no difference in survival between those who were given Avastin and those who were given a placebo. ... The centerpiece of the country's drug-testing system — the randomized, controlled trial — had worked. Except in one respect: doctors had no more clarity after the trial about how to treat brain cancer patients than they had before (Clifton Leaf, 7/13). 

Los Angeles Times: Leveling The Field For Human Egg Donors
In the United States, there is a competitive market in human eggs provided for reproductive purposes. An "extraordinary" egg donor can earn as much as $50,000 when she offers her eggs to an infertile couple. In California, however, that same "extraordinary" individual would receive nothing, aside from payment for her direct expenses, if she provided those same eggs for research purposes. That could change soon (Naomi Cahn and June Carbone, 7/13). 

Boston Globe: Male Eating Disorders: Excessive Workouts To Blame?
Binging, purging, and diet-supplement abuses are traditionally viewed as women's-health issues. But recently, the Los Angeles Times reported that in Los Angeles county, young men are just as likely as women both to induce vomiting and abuse diet pills. This is part of a growing pool of evidence that eating disorders are affecting more men every year. Indeed, a 2011 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study shows that around 3 percent of teenage boys in Boston have induced vomiting, and over 8 percent have fasted to control their weight (compared to 4 percent and 15 percent among girls). But while parents and teachers are on alert for signs of eating disorders in girls, they often fail to notice similar signs in boys (7/15).  

Texas Tribune: The Policy And The Politics Of The Abortion Debate
The Texas Capitol, quiet for most of the year, has been full of protesters and demonstrators off and on for the last month as lawmakers consider abortion legislation. Like all activists and partisans, they bring their props with them, including, in some cases, props who are related to them: kids. ... Children show up at all sorts of functions, even political ones. But even after all the years and all the fights, they can be an uncomfortable presence at a rally on this subject (Ross Ramsey, 7/15).

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