KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Congress Should Make CMS Leader Nonpartisan Position; ‘Extreme’ Attack On Abortion In Arkansas; Daschle On New Health Workforce

The Washington Post: Making The Centers For Medicare & Medicaid Services Nonpartisan
Mr. Obama has nominated the acting CMS administrator, Marilyn Tavenner, to head the agency permanently. ... The Senate should move expeditiously to confirm Ms. Tavenner. More broadly, Congress should consider whether short-term political appointment remains the best way to fill this trillion-dollar post. The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation serves a 10-year term. The commissioner of Social Security serves six years. These arrangements help minimize the politicization of functions that need to be carried out in as nonpartisan a manner as possible. Running the gigantic CMS is the same kind of job (3/7).

The Washington Post: Deficits Do Matter
It doesn't have to be this way. Republicans and Democrats can still find common ground to address our long-term debt. Military spending can be reduced, and our decade-long wars can be brought to an end. The Pentagon should move beyond a defense strategy based on a Cold War threat that no longer exists. Americans also know that costs for Medicare, Medicaid and private health services must be brought under control. A recent study by the prestigious Institute of Medicine puts the waste in total health-care spending — both public and private — at $750 billion per year. And a bipartisan tax reform plan could close egregious loopholes, promote fairness and economic efficiency and align revenues with spending (Joe Scarborough and Jeffrey D. Sachs, 3/7).

The Wall Street Journal: Obama's Not So Grand Offer
When Republicans say they want to reform Medicare, they mean they want to make durable changes to the program's structure and operations so that this gap narrows over time while achieving the same or better results. They don't want to cut for the sake of cutting or "austerity." They want to solve Medicare's problems. Mr. Obama's definition of reform is different. Medicare would continue its current march into insolvency, but at a slightly slower pace: some nips and tucks, but nothing approaching the larger modernization that the health safety net needs to survive (3/7). 

The New York Times: Arkansas's Attack On Abortion
Republican-controlled legislatures have been working for many years to limit women's access to legal abortion care, but the Republican-led Legislature in Arkansas took the campaign to a new extreme on Wednesday when it overrode the veto of Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, and ignored the Supreme Court to adopt the most restrictive abortion ban in the country (3/7).

Health Affairs: Creating A Workforce For The New Health Care World
The ACA's recent enactment has triggered a series of new and concerted efforts to address some of the many challenges relating to health care cost, access and quality that the U.S. faces today. One of the most important challenges involves the number and mix of health providers that will be needed to meet the demand resulting from changing demographics, more expansive availability of health insurance, and a new emphasis on wellness and preventive care. In this post, I discuss some of the factors that bear on this challenge, and I suggest some policy steps that we could take to help develop the workforce needed for the post-health reform world (Tom Daschle, 3/7).

Los Angeles Times: When A Drug Costs 30 Times What It Once Did
Manufacturers can charge wildly different prices for essentially the same generic medicine. Pharmacies should make clear whether a customer is getting the lowest-priced generic available (David Lazarus, 3/7).

WBUR Cognoscenti: 'I Am Listening': What Every Autistic Child Wants You To Know
Elizabeth’s first typed word was "agony," and her first sentence was "I need to talk," at age 6. Before and since, she would storm and tantrum and hit herself and rock, like so many people on the autism spectrum. So Elizabeth looks far more "lower functioning" than she actually is (because her typed sentences and poems and high IQ score show this). One of her most compelling responses to the question, "How did you learn all this?" was "I am listening." I am listening. Elizabeth's sentence blew me away. This what so many autism parents like me believe about our own children, but forget (Susan Senator, 3/8).

Boston Globe: Colleges Should Grant Amnesty If Students Seeks Alcohol Help
Boston University  freshman Anthony Barksdale II's death in the early hours of March 2 appears to be a tragedy too often repeated: another young person's life cut short after a night of underage drinking. ... it needs to think about more creative ways to educate students on the dangers of drinking while showing them that the school is there to help. An obvious next step would be for BU to follow the lead of other local campuses, including Harvard, MIT, Northeastern, and Emerson, and institute a medical amnesty policy. Under such a Good Samaritan provision, if one student seeks help for another out of concern about alcohol toxicity or overdose, there are no disciplinary repercussions for either student for violating campus rules on alcohol or drug use (3/8).

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