KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Judge Kessler’s Decision; Utah Is Role Model; Malpractice System Flaws

San Francisco Chronicle: GOP Budget Strategy Is Lies And Deception
The Republican strategy is to split the vast middle and working classes -- pitting unionized workers against nonunionized, public-sector workers against nonpublic, older workers within sight of Medicare and Social Security against younger workers who don't believe these programs will be there for them and the poor against the working middle class. ... In the coming showdown over Medicare and Social Security, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan will push a voucher system for Medicare and a partly privatized plan for Social Security -- both designed to attract younger middle-class voters (Robert B. Reich, 2/27).

The Wall Street Journal: Regulating 'Mental Activity'
Another federal judge ruled last week that ObamaCare is constitutional, and Democrats are saying this makes the score 3-2 for their side. We disagree with the decision, but it's worth noting the judge's reasoning because it so neatly illustrates the constitutional stakes. ... Though she may not have intended it, Judge (Gladys) Kessler has shown that the real debate is between a government of limited and enumerated powers as understood by the Founders, and a government whose reach includes "mental activity" (2/28).

Kaiser Health News: Govs Vs. Feds: Who Will Play The 'Power Card' In The Medicaid Struggle? 
The governors hold the power cards for health reform over the next two years, and they will continue to demand more flexibility to run the programs themselves. In this tug of war, I'm betting on the governors (Grace-Marie Turner, 2/28).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Will Wisconsin Be The GOP's 'Overreach' Moment?
The Tea Party and the GOP benefited from the perception that (President Barack) Obama and his party overreached on health care, but that doesn't mean they are immune from blowback themselves. Taking away workers' rights sure looks like this movement's overreach moment. ... (Gov. Scott) Walker has derided the protesters as out-of-state special-interest groups. That's wishful thinking (Jill Burcum, 2/26).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: When You Can't Trust Doctors, Who Can You Trust?
The vast majority of government employees in Madison continue to go to work while protesters, some of whom took time off their jobs and reportedly got excuse notes from doctors diagnosing them with stress, flood the Capitol. ... A note justifying a day off is a relatively little thing, I admit. ...The big deal is that, in the end, trust in doctors is often all we have. Or at least used to (Mike Nichols, 2/25).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Utah, Not D.C., Points The Way For Georgia On Health Reform
Utah created a health-insurance exchange in March 2009, around the time President Barack Obama began his health-reform push. ... More companies in Utah offer health insurance to workers now. And they didn't get subsidies to do it. Utah's exchange gives consumers information about plans and helps them enroll in one. ... State exchanges are also a feature of ObamaCare. But while its requirements for those exchanges are still in the works, they'll likely be more burdensome than what many states would design (Kyle Wingfield, 2/25). 

WBUR's CommonHealth blog: Mass. Health Reform 2.2 - The Beta Testing Begins
Last week saw the long awaited release of Health Reform 2.2 (aka Governor Patrick's proposed payment reform legislation.) ... The new system appears to be a less drastic departure from the current version of the operating system than some had hoped but many others had feared (Nancy Turnball, 2/25).

The Arizona Republic: Killing AHCCCS Would Be Major Blow To Arizona
The Legislature will push Arizona off an economic cliff if it eliminates AHCCCS. ... Senate Bill 1519 would pull the plug on the AHCCCS, cutting off $7 billion a year in federal funding. ... Arizona would lose almost 82,000 health-care jobs, from dentists to physical therapists, if lawmakers completely terminated the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System. The ripple effect would cost us another 77,000 jobs. The entire network of medical services that we all depend on would be shredded (2/27).

Los Angeles Times: The M.D.: Malpractice System Not A Cure-All 
The medical malpractice system provides a way for patients who've suffered injuries as a result of medical mistakes to be compensated. Unfortunately, it's a system that's seriously flawed. Many patients with legitimate claims never see a dollar of what they're owed, and many doctors who've done nothing wrong are sometimes found liable for enormous settlements (Dr. Valerie Ulene, 2/28). 

The Washington Post: Bad Medicine 
Prescription medications are the fastest-growing drugs of abuse in the United States, as a huge federal-state operation in Florida last week dramatically illustrated. Law enforcement broke up dozens of "pill mills" in which doctors allegedly issued phony prescriptions for highly addictive painkillers such as oxycodone, in return for cash -- a lot of cash. ... Thirty-five states, including Virginia, and the District have found a way to manage the trade-off: prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs), paid for with both their own funds and federal grants (2/27).

The Wall Street Journal: The FDA And Slower Cures 
The wonder is how the Administration can wonder why there aren't enough new medicines, even as the FDA rolls back accelerated approval. The reason is that the agency regards drug makers as adversaries that must be punished, not partners in the anticancer fight. The real victims are the patients with no attractive options who needlessly suffer when the government delays drugs (2/28). 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: County's Mental Health Challenges Require Strong Leadership 
The (Milwaukee) county's inpatient and long-term care staff are working valiantly to serve the most acute patients in our community, but they are under severe stress from enhanced regulatory scrutiny and loss of administrative and medical personnel. ... The need for strong executive leadership on mental health issues at Milwaukee County has never been greater. It would be unrealistic to expect the candidates for county executive to have detailed plans to fix the county's mental health problems, but each needs to demonstrate an understanding of the county's near- and long-term challenges and articulate a thoughtful and practical approach for addressing them (Rob Henken, 2/26). 

Star Tribune: Reject Challenge To State Smoking Ban
A proposal to repeal part of Minnesota's indoor smoking ban should be snuffed out immediately. Diluting the state's hard-won victory for clean indoor air is a terrible idea that shouldn't get any legislative traction this year. ... Individuals can indeed decide where to eat and drink. But they have no right to endanger the health of those around them or drive up health care costs for other taxpayers. ... Most states, including neighboring Wisconsin, have moved in the other direction by wisely prohibiting smoking in public indoor spaces (2/27).

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