KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Ryan, Obama Deficit Plans Continue To Generate OpEd Heat On Medicare, Medicaid Provisions

The New York Times: The New Republican Landscape
Mr. Ryan called the vote "our generation's defining moment," and indeed, nothing could more clearly define the choice that will face voters next year. His bill would end the guarantee provided by Medicare and Medicaid to the elderly and the poor, which has been provided by the federal government with society's clear assent since 1965. The elderly, in particular, would be cut adrift by Mr. Ryan. ... Fully two-thirds of his $4.3 trillion in budget cuts would come from low-income programs (4/17).

Los Angeles Times: Can Medicare Be Saved? 
Ryan's ideas about Medicare address a fundamental problem that last year's healthcare reform bill largely ignored: Consumers don't pay attention to the cost of many of the procedures they demand because someone else pays for them. ... Despite the ideological gulf between Republicans and Democrats, the right path for Congress would be to incorporate into last year's law the elements of Ryan's plan that promote more cost-sensitive consuming and more competitive markets without ending the commitment to affordable healthcare to seniors and the poor (4/17).

USA Today: Our View: Obama, Ryan Know You Can't Handle The Truth On Medicare 
In the final analysis, Medicare is no more broken than is all of American health care. In fact, it delivers coverage for lower costs. Doing away with the most efficient system hardly seems the best way to address the central problem driving federal deficits (4/17). 

USA Today: Another view: Ryan's Way Is The Better Way
Albert Einstein is reputed to have defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." But when it comes to reforming Medicare, President Obama and Democrats in Congress offer only more of the same (Michael D. Tanner, 4/16). 

Detroit News: Medicare Can't Be 'Untouchable' If Federal Deficit Is To Be Brought Under Control
Medicare is one of the fastest-growing expenses in the federal budget and, aside from Social Security, the most vexing to solve because of the political risks involved. But real solutions for fixing Medicare can't be kept off the table in discussions of corralling federal spending. The Republican deficit reduction proposal should serve as a starting point for that debate (4/17).

CNN: Fareed's Take: Obama's Intelligent But Flawed Budget Speech 
I praise Republican Paul Ryan's plan for its courage in presenting a budget that takes risk and proposes pain. It also had the effect of spurring Barack Obama to present his own serious proposal. I prefer Obama's approach - which is also closer to that of the Simpson-Bowls Commission - which contains a mix of spending cuts and some tax increases, but it needs much larger cuts to entitlement programs to make it work. But let's step back: What is critical here is that finally, after years of kicking the can down the road, America is having that long-delayed debate about its future (Fareed Zakaria, 4/17). 

Journal Sentinel: A Hopey, Changey Deficit Plan
[Medicaid block grants] give federal taxpayers certainty and states a budget. Especially if states, closer to the front lines, are freed to deliver care in more efficient ways now barred by federal micromanagement, they can see to it that what we do spend actually helps the poor. ... The president's plan, such as it is, consists of faintly sweet vapor (Patrick McIlheran, 4/16). 

McClathy / The Myrtle Beach Sun News: With Ryan's Medicare And Medicaid Debate, May Sanity Prevail
The Affordable Care Act went a long way toward forcing the country to deal with that reality and is projected to help stem the tide of rising health care costs, slice into our debt and provide health insurance to millions more Americans.  It's going to be tempting to demonize Ryan's budget the way many Affordable Care Act critics demonized that law. But I hope we all resist that temptation. This is a discussion too important to our collective future to do anything less (Issac Bailey, 4/18).

National Journal: Is Entitlement Reform The GOP's Waterloo?
Five months after a midterm election that turned in part on GOP warnings that Democrats' health care overhaul would gut Medicare, liberal activists may soon give Republicans a taste of their own medicine. ... Some activists are targeting lawmakers with a starkly political message: Defend entitlements or pay a price (Eliza Newlin Carney, 4/18).

Kaiser Health News: Governors' Letter Shows Why Medicaid Block Grants Are Necessary
Shortly after House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., unveiled his plan to convert federal Medicaid funding to a block grant, 17 governors issued a letter to congressional leaders to say they "strongly oppose" it. ... Under block grants, states would keep 100 percent of the savings from rooting out fraud and abuse, which would encourage states to spend their Medicaid dollars wisely, reduce the cost of the program, and enable states to do more with fewer resources. ... It wasn't their intention, but those 17 governors inadvertently demonstrated why block grants are necessary (Michael Cannon, 4/18).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: 'Obamacare' Looks Likes To Survive Court
Opponents of President Obama's health care program lost the legislative battle, but they have high hopes of stopping the program yet. That could be accomplished by defeating Obama in 2012 and electing a Republican Congress. Or it could be done sooner, without an election, by the Supreme Court. But one eminent conservative legal scholar says: Dream on. Harvard Law professor Charles Fried, who was solicitor general under Ronald Reagan, believes the constitutional argument against Obamacare is so weak that even the Roberts court will reject it (Steve Chapman, 4/17).

The Washington Post: How Patients Can Help Doctors Practice Better, Less Costly Medicine
[Doctors] have embraced the new technologies, tests and medications, and we are encouraged by everyone to use them all: by our patients who want us to do everything possible; by hospitals that want us to use all their resources; by insurance companies that "cover" most of these interventions; by health administrators who develop detailed protocols; and by our legal system, which frightens us into practicing defensively. Incentives are everywhere; disincentives are few (Dr. Sean Palfrey, 4/16).

Los Angeles Times: The Case For Rationing Healthcare
We want our doctors to go all-out for our loved ones and ourselves. But as voters and consumers, we send a different message. We pick politicians who promise to cut taxes, and we demand low-cost insurance. We're telling government and the healthcare industry to hold the line on healthcare costs, even if it means sacrificing clinical benefits. And we put doctors in the middle of this contradiction (Dr. M. Gregg Bloche, 4/18).

The Wall Street Journal: New Efficiencies in Health Care? Not Likely 
I could not but smile a little wanly when President Barack Obama said this week that he hoped an increase in the use of generic drugs, together with an expert commission to examine the cost-effectiveness of medical treatments, would make a significant impact on the vast budget deficit of the United States. We in Britain have been there and we have done that, and our health-care costs doubled, perhaps not as a result, but certainly at the same time (Dr. Anthony Daniels, 4/16).

Scripps Howard/San Angelo Standard Times: Illegal Immigrants Shouldn't Get Federal Health Subsidies 
By some estimates, 60 percent of illegal immigrants already have health care provided by their employers who believe those workers are in the United States legally. But once the government starts to subsidize care to make it more affordable, it will be cheaper for employers to end health care coverage for their employees, and force them onto government subsidies. ... It seems an easy fix to prevent employers from cutting health insurance for illegal immigrants, whom the vast majority of Americans - including legal immigrants - do not want to subsidize with taxpayer funds. (Bonnie Erbe, 4/17).

Des Moines Register: Insurance Is Key On Mental Health Care
In Iowa, counties are largely responsible for helping uninsured adults with mental health problems. With 99 counties, this state has 99 different systems to do so, each at the mercy of local budgets. ... Now lawmakers are considering legislation that would give people greater access to services delivered over larger regions, and transfer more responsibility to the state. ... But the new health care reform law will assure that thousands of Iowans - and millions of Americans - have health insurance. ... That will give people more options for care and eventually relieve local governments of the cost of providing mental health care (4/15).

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