KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Budget Disappointment; Supporting CLASS Act; Health Law’s Medicaid ‘Mess’

USA Today: Our View: Obama's Budget Ducks Tough Choices
If fiscal sanity is to be restored, Americans need to be told the hard facts - not just that the national debt is out of control and that deficits can't go on and on, but that getting the nation's finances in order will require going everywhere in the budget: domestic programs, defense spending and the big entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid that already consume three of every five dollars the government spends (2/14). 

USA Today: Opposing View: 'Meaningful Down Payment'
The budget that we sent to Congress today is a responsible plan that shows that we can live within our means and we can also invest in the future. It cuts spending, and crucially, it cuts the deficit. ... On the domestic discretionary side, we have a five-year freeze, which will save $400 billion over 10 years (Jacob Lew, 2/14). 

The New York Times: The Obama Budget
Real deficit reduction will require grappling with rising health care costs and an aging population, which means reforms in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, as well as tax increases to bring revenues in line with obligations. Mr. Obama's budget does not directly address those big issues, but doing so would require a negotiating partner, and Mr. Obama, at present, does not have one among the Republican leaders in Congress (2/14).

Los Angeles Times: Obama's Overly Tame Budget
President Obama's budget for fiscal year 2012 landed with a thud Monday, laying out short- and long-term tax and spending plans that disappointed lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. ... The rising healthcare costs that are driving up Medicare and Medicaid expenses are especially important factors in the long term. But the budget has little to offer on healthcare costs (2/15).  

Kaiser Health News: An Irresponsible Roll Of The Dice 
According to the Congressional Budget Office, spending on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the new entitlements created in the health law will total about $1.6 trillion in 2011. By 2021, spending on just those programs will reach $3.0 trillion, a jump of $1.4 trillion in just 10 years. The president's budget leaves these programs on auto-pilot. Consequently, according to the president's own numbers, the debt will reach $19 trillion in 2021 -- and it would be even higher if not for the assumptions of a booming economy and implausible "offsets" from the health law (James C. Capretta, 2/14).

The Wall Street Journal: ObamaCare And The Medicaid Mess
Facing growing resistance to Medicaid costs, the Obama administration's Health and Human Services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, sent a letter to states last week noting the "urgency of your State budget concerns" and suggesting some minor program changes to save money. They aren't enough. ... Medicaid reform should allow states to experiment with the eligibility for and design of their health-care services (Peter Suderman, 2/15). 

McClatchy: Fix The CLASS Act, Don't Repeal It
One of the key battles over the fate of the landmark 2010 health law is being fought over an obscure provision called the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act. CLASS is a national, voluntary long-term care insurance program that aims to help pay for personal care for the frail elderly and younger people with disabilities. Polls suggest the idea is popular among those who know about it. But there are real questions about whether, as designed, it can succeed. … CLASS should be revamped, not repealed, because it is a modest first step toward turning long-term care from an unsound and inappropriate welfare program into an insurance-based system (Howard Gleckman, 2/14).

Houston Chronicle: Women's Health Care Under Assault
Under the guise of deficit reduction, these House leaders are myopically intent to end Title X and Planned Parenthood's programs that do so much to prevent unintended pregnancy and provide essential health care. If they succeed, millions of women across the country will lose access to basic primary and preventive health care. Lifesaving cancer screenings, contraception, HIV testing and counseling and annual exams are all on the chopping block (Peter J. Durkin, 2/14).

San Francisco Chronicle: San Francisco Needs A Supervised Injection Clinic
The evidence is conclusive that (supervised injection facilities) reduce HIV and hepatitis transmission risks, prevent overdose deaths, reduce public injections, reduce discarded syringes and increase the number of people who enter drug treatment. ... Even here, we have some officials who remain invested in addressing drugs as a criminal justice issue rather than a public health issue. They continue to support the status quo, where people cycle through our jails and emergency rooms at great cost. We will continue to waste resources putting sick people in jail until our elected officials and policymakers are willing to step up and redirect resources to more effective approaches that will save money over time, such as a supervised injection facility (Laura Thomas, 2/15).

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