KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Leavitt On HHS Secretary’s Power; Entitlements And Fed Budget; Health Threat Of Wis. ‘Showdown’

The Washington Post: Health Reform's Central Flaw: Too Much Power In One Office
If I may, as a former HHS secretary, offer a suggestion to the current secretary, it would be this: Use these expanded discretionary powers to grant states and the private sector more flexibility and more autonomy. Competition, innovation and new models of providing care and expanding coverage are the only ways we will reverse the dangerous course of future health spending. That simply cannot be done from Washington (Michael Leavitt, 2/18).

National Journal: The Wrong Fight
Spending on defense now exceeds all domestic discretionary spending. Greater still is the bill for entitlements, which account for 55 percent of federal spending, with the aging population and rising medical costs propelling that growth. Obama's health care reform law takes some important steps to break that cost spiral, but far more must be done (Ronald Brownstein, 2/17). 

The New York Times: Willie Sutton Wept 
[By] proposing sharp spending cuts right away, Republicans aren't just going where the money isn't, they're also going when the money isn't. ...  What would a serious approach to our fiscal problems involve? I can summarize it in seven words: health care, health care, health care, revenue. Notice that I said "health care," not "entitlements". ... People in Washington often talk as if there were a program called Socialsecuritymedicareandmedicaid, then focus on things like raising the retirement age. ... spending on the major entitlement programs will rise sharply over the decades ahead, but the great bulk of that rise will come from the health insurance programs, not Social Security (Paul Krugman, 2/17).

The Washington Post: Mitch Daniels, Thinking Like A President
[Indiana Gov.] Daniels defined entitlement growth as the main challenge to American success and provided the best, single-sentence description of Medicare reform in the English tongue: "Medicare 2.0 should restore to the next generation the dignity of making their own decisions, by delivering its dollars directly to the individual, based on financial and medical need, entrusting and empowering citizens to choose their own insurance and, inevitably, pay for more of their routine care like the discerning, autonomous customers we know them to be" (Michael Gerson, 2/18).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: The Budget Showdown: Medical Aid Programs In Jeopardy
Tens of thousands of individuals have descended upon the state Capitol in response to Gov. Scott Walker's "budget adjustment" proposal. ... there is a relatively little-known proposal in the same bill that could have severe consequences for our state's medical assistance programs. This provision would give the Walker administration carte blanche authority to make far-reaching changes within vital health programs - including the spectrum of BadgerCare plans, Family Care and SeniorCare - with only minimal review by the Republican-controlled budget committee. ... roughly 65,000 Wisconsinites could lose access to health care coverage (Sandy Pasch, 2/17).

The Arizona Republic: Brewer's 'Jobs Bill' Very Irresponsible
The state currently has a structural deficit - the difference between ongoing revenues and spending - of $3 billion. Yet the "jobs bill" would cost the state more than $500 million annually when fully implemented...Now that the politicians have postured on supposedly creating jobs in the private sector, it would be nice if they would actually do their own job. Provide a plausible blueprint on stabilizing state finances. Tell us what we can expect in terms of state programs for things such as education and health care, what they will cost, and how they will be paid for (Robert Robb, 2/18).

Houston Chronicle: Food Deserts
Neighborhoods without a supermarket suffer disproportionately high rates of obesity, heart disease and other health problems, while people who live close to grocery stores are more likely to maintain healthy weights. The map of diet-related deaths in Houston is a grim match for the map of neighborhoods that lack grocery stores. What can be done? For starters, Houston and Texas can use economic-development grants to steer grocery stores into the neighborhoods that need them most (2/17).

Politico: Addressing USDA Regulations
The administration may fall short of its goal to create a "21st century regulatory system" if it fails to look at proposed regulations. There are nearly 200 on the docket, including a little-known – yet significant – proposed rule by a little-known Agriculture Department agency, the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration. This rule, while obscure, could effectively dismantle the business models used by livestock producers, meat packers and poultry processors – setting the industry back decades in its customer-driven evolution toward value-added products (J. Patrick Boyle, 2/18).


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