KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Ryan Responds to Obama; Calling Ryan’s ‘Bluff’; ‘Magical Solutions’

The Washington Post: A Budget For The 21st Century
This week the House of Representatives will take the first real step in addressing our looming fiscal crisis by bringing "The Path to Prosperity," a budget resolution for next year and beyond, to the House floor. This budget offers a clear contrast to the president's speech on Wednesday. … [A] deficit speech that doesn't even rise to the level of a plan. Missing was a credible way to curb out-of-control spending. Instead, the president called for greater reliance on government price controls, which would strictly limit the health-care options of current seniors while failing to control costs. The president would couple this approach with $1 trillion in tax increases, which would destroy jobs and hurt the economy (Paul Ryan, 4/14). 

The New York Times: Who's Serious Now
Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, sounds upset. And you can see why: President Obama, to the great relief of progressives, has called his bluff. … Last week, Mr. Ryan unveiled his budget proposal. … Then people who actually understand budget numbers went to work, and it became clear that the proposal wasn't serious at all. In fact, it was a sick joke. The only real things in it were savage cuts in aid to the needy and the uninsured, huge tax cuts for corporations and the rich, and Medicare privatization (Paul Krugman, 4/14).

The Washington Post: Medicare Debate Reminds Us: Empowering People Is Great, But Protect Them First
Beware of magical solutions - and one-size-fits-all ideological agendas - like the idea that free markets can solve all our problems. When you think about it, it's just as silly as the idea that government can fix everything. Take the proposal by one of Washington's shining stars, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), to "reform" Medicare by having recipients pick among insurance company plans rather than having basic benefits and costs set by the government (Sloan, 4/14).

The New York Times: The Republican Medicare Reshuffle
Mr. Ryan's proposal would change Medicare from an entitlement program in which the government pays for a defined set of medical services into a "premium support" program in which the government would give beneficiaries money to help them buy private insurance. He contends that competition among health care plans and more judicious use of health care services by beneficiaries can help bring down the cost of health care and reduce the federal government's burden. But the C.B.O. says a private plan offering comparable benefits would be a lot more expensive than traditional Medicare because the private insurer would have higher administrative costs, would need to make a profit and, in an extrapolation of current trends, would pay hospitals, doctors and other providers substantially more than Medicare does (4/14).

The New York Times: Ultimate Spoiler Alert
President Obama and Paul Ryan are two of the smartest, most admirable and most genial men in Washington. … If they met, would they resolve their differences? No, but they would understand them better. Paul Ryan believes five things Barack Obama does not. First, he believes that aging populations, expensive new health care technologies and the extravagant political promises have made the current welfare state model unsustainable. Fundamental reform is necessary or the whole thing will collapse, here and in Europe (David Brooks, 4/14).

Kaiser Health News Column: The Ryan Plan: An Attempt To Reduce Health Care Spending, But At A High Cost 
For the better part of two years, the debate over how to control health care costs had a certain one-sided quality to it, because the Democrats had a plan and their critics did not. Democrats were forced to put their ideas on paper, with specifics, and subject them to nonpartisan accounting. All the critics had to do was attack. And attack they did. … All of that changed this month, when House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., released his budget proposal and included within it radically conservative reforms of the nation's major health care programs (Jonathan Cohn, 4/14).

The Washington Post: The Selfish Budget? Or The Selfless One?
It was refreshing to hear all those unambiguous declarations from President Obama on Wednesday. "I will not" let Medicare become a voucher program or deprive families with disabled children of needed benefits. "We will" reform government health-care programs without disavowing the social compact. "I refuse" to sign another renewal of the Bush tax cuts for millionaires. Republicans "want to give people like me a $200,000 tax cut that's paid for by asking 33 seniors each to pay $6,000 more in health costs. .?.?. And it's not going to happen as long as I'm president." … Before we get carried away with praise, let's remember that even as he gets in touch with his Old Testament side, Obama is playing defense (Eugene Robinson, 4/14).

The Wall Street Journal: Winning The Real ObamaCare War
The 2011 budget deal is done, and it's clear the Republicans' real victory was shifting the terms of the debate to fiscal reform. House Speaker John Boehner got President Barack Obama, one of history's great spenders, to praise the cuts he once resisted, and to present a do-over of his own budget (Kimberley Strassel, 4/15). 

Denver Post: Bullying Planned Parenthood In Budget Battle
A battle to defund Planned Parenthood nearly shut down the federal government last week. Was the fight over cutting spending or funding abortion? The answer is neither. On Thursday, Congress defeated the senseless budget resolution from Congressman Mike Pence, R-Ind., to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood. It was the right move. Defunding Planned Parenthood won't save a single dollar (Lisa Wirthman, 4/15).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Overturning A Bad Idea
Milwaukee voters placed a risky bet in 2008 when they approved an ordinance requiring businesses to provide paid sick leave. Although on its face, the measure sounded good, the unintended consequences of this ordinance would deal a blow to job growth and economic development at a time when the city can ill afford it. The state Legislature sent a bill to Gov. Scott Walker this week to correct that error. The governor said he is likely to sign it. He should do so (4/14).

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