KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Calif., Oregon Exchanges Curb Premiums With Limited Networks; Why The U.S. Pays So Much For Health Care

The Wall Street Journal: ObamaCare Is Raising Insurance Costs
A closer examination of these health plans (to be offered on the California and Oregon exchanges) reveals a less rosy picture. Although the premiums are lower than some anticipated, this has been achieved by designing the plans around much more limited provider networks and including greater cost-sharing than the typical commercial health-insurance plan. The premiums for the policies that will be offered on the states' exchanges are much higher than analogous plans being sold today (Daniel P. Kessler, 6/3).

The Wall Street Journal: ObamaCare Bait And Switch
Liberals have spent years claiming that "rate shock" under the Affordable Care Act—the 20% to 30% average spike in insurance premiums that every independent analyst projects—is merely the political imagination of Republicans and the insurance industry. So they immediately claimed victory when California reported last month that the plans that will be available on the state's new insurance exchange next year would be cheaper than they are today. Except now it emerges that California goosed the data to make it appear as if ObamaCare won't send costs aloft as the law's regulations and mandates kick in (6/3).

The Washington Post: Godspeed To Obamacare's Cadillac Tax
Last seen predicting a "landslide" win for Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election, political "analyst" Dick Morris has resurfaced as a radio pitchman for the paperback "ObamaCare Survival Guide" (only $4.95 plus shipping and handling). His spiel dwells on the health law's "hidden taxes," including "a 40 percent tax on some health plans." What Morris seemingly has in mind is Obamacare’s "Cadillac Tax" — which is neither hidden nor, as he implies, levied on the entire value of plans. It is an excise tax on gold-plated — or "Cadillac" — coverage that the current tax code wastefully encourages (Charles Lane, 6/3).

Bloomberg: The Real Reason We Pay So Much For Health Care
A lengthy New York Times report yesterday detailed just how much more Americans pay for medical services than people in other countries. Often a lot more: almost twice what the Swiss pay for a colonoscopy, three and a half times more than the Dutch for an MRI and five times more than Spaniards for a hip replacement, according to the International Federation of Health Plans. ... How could policymakers do a better job of bringing down per-unit costs? This country is about as likely to adopt a single-payer health care system as it is to adopt the blind mole rat as its national symbol, but that doesn't change the fact that such systems push down costs by negotiating better rates with providers (Christopher Flavelle, 6/3).

Sacramento Bee: Why Does U.S. Pay So Much For Basic Medicine?
Trying to find out how much a hospital stay or any medical procedure costs requires "an advanced university degree in Dante's Circles of Hell," wrote Joe Livernois in an April 7 piece in The Bee's Forum section. He was trying to compare the cost of his father's nine-day hospital stay in Mexico – including all the lab work, drugs, anesthesia and specialists – with an equivalent stay in California. In Mexico, the cost was $6,375. Here, the cost was nigh impossible to pin down, but after considerable tracking, Livernois estimated it would be about $125,000 (6/4).

San Jose Mercury News: Governor Should Let Counties Keep Health Care Funds Until Savings Are Realized
California and Santa Clara County are well positioned to be role models for implementing Obamacare -- but only if Gov. Jerry Brown lets counties keep the money they need to make their health programs work. The governor and Legislature did a good job establishing the new health insurance exchange. The premium rates announced last week are lower than expected. They are working to expand Medi-Cal to reduce the number of uninsured residents and to restore dental care for adults, since the alternative is far costlier emergency room visits (6/3). 

Des Moines Register: Iowans Need Answers To Medicaid Questions
State workers are now in the midst of preparing the application to secure a waiver from the Obama administration (to develop its own program for the Medicaid expansion). One of those hoops the state has to jump through is hearing from the public. A federal rule requires states to seek public input prior to submitting a Medicaid waiver application. That is an important requirement. ... But the meetings held Monday and today were not designed to answer questions. In fact, the moderators said they were not allowed to do so. The meetings are simply to solicit public input. ... That’s fine — except people have important questions. State officials should schedule public meetings to answer these questions (6/4).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: The Importance Of Handoffs: It's Not Just In Football; It's In Health Care 
The passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act has made health care a topic of everyday conversations around our dinner and conference tables. However, most of the discussion is political and not about whether our health-care system works for its intended audience – patients. An important story lost in the clutter of health-care politics is the patient's experience when they leave the hospital and return home. For the millions of Americans who are too often readmitted to the hospital, the story does not have a happy ending. However, with a common sense change in the delivery of health care, we can improve these health stories and save money in the process (Donald Crane, 5/31).

The Boston Globe: A Day In The Life Of A Modern Intern 
If you're a medical intern, most of what you need to do your job can be pulled off a computer screen: Blood test results. Paged messages. Orders to start a medication. All but, of course, how sick a patient is (Ishani Ganguli, 6/3).

Politico: Organize And Educate For Women's Access To Care
The Republican Party and its allies have revealed their plan for women in the next round of elections. Their goal is to demonize the fight for reproductive rights and hijack the legislative process to limit or even abolish women’s access to reproductive health care. But women aren't fooled — and we intend to win this fight, however long it takes (Terry O'Neill, 6/2).

The Medicare NewsGroup: A Personal Account Of The Morass Of End-Of-Life Decisionmaking
Ultimately, I hope that we will discover and put into place a more humane way of approaching the final days that brings into the conversation everyone from Medicare policymakers to families sitting in anguish in intensive care units (John Wasik, 6/3).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Colorado Economy Depends On Drug Innovation
According to PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the number of biotechnology and medical device companies receiving start-up funding is the lowest it's been in 18 years. Colorado's patients -- in desperate need of new treatment -- cannot afford bad policy that would stifle innovative research funding and venture capital. Before drug companies are forced to scale back on research, we need to make sure our members of Congress understand the importance of medical breakthroughs and how to keep the pipeline flowing (April Giles, 6/3).

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