KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Medicare Not Exempt From Sequestration’s Impact; Obama’s Plan To Have Board Cut Medicare ‘Has Little Chance Of Success’

Politico Pro: For Medicare, Sequestration Is Not The Answer
Fact: Congress must pass and the president must sign legislation by the end of this year that reduces federal spending by $109 billion -- or the first year of automatic across-the-board cuts in both domestic and defense programs will go into effect. … One program that is particularly vulnerable under sequestration is Medicare. Despite the fact that Medicare is currently a prime topic of debate for Republicans and Democrats alike, not enough attention has been paid to how sequestration will impact the program. Unlike other major social programs such as Social Security and Medicaid, Medicare is not exempt from sequestration and will face a 2 percent cut in provider payments should Congress fail to reach an agreement this year. A 2 percent cut may seem modest, especially when compared to potential future budget stringency.  But the effect of the cuts would be substantial, and the principle behind them is even worse (Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Kenneth Thorpe, 10/19).

The Washington Post: The Illusion Of Health-Care 'Trust Funds'
If we do not reduce the growth rate of health-care costs, they will consume the federal budget. We risk a debt crisis rivaling the 2008-09 crash. Changes that other countries have made soberly, achieving lower costs and better health outcomes, will be imposed on us by our creditors. Their goal will be the return of their money, not the quality of Americans' health care (Bryan R. Lawrence, 10/18).

CNN: Romney's Economic Plan Has The Edge
Romney and Obama disagree, however, on how to fix Medicare. Obama's approach consists of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a creation of the Affordable Care Act. The IPAB will have the power to restrict Medicare expenditure, chiefly by controlling health care prices and limiting reimbursement for care deemed unnecessary or not cost-effective. Romney wants to shift most or all future Medicare beneficiaries (those currently 55 and younger) to vouchers. By limiting the rate at which the voucher amount increases over time, this approach can also slow Medicare expenditure. And if competition among insurers makes the health insurance market more efficient, vouchers can reduce spending further. … Of the two, Obama's has little chance of success, given the failure of similar efforts in the past (Jeffrey Miron, 10/18).

Journal of the American Medical Association: How Realistic Is Romney's Pledge To "Repeal And Replace" The Affordable Care Act
Governor Romney has variously pledged to either "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or not to fully implement the key provisions in the act if he is elected. Republican supporters and funders have insisted that he remain faithful to his pledge. But is it realistic to believe that a President Romney could succeed? Romney's preferred strategy to repeal and replace the ACA would undoubtedly rely on a parliamentary tactic called the budget reconciliation process, the very method by which the Democratic-controlled Congress enacted the ACA (Lawrence O. Gostin, 10/18).

Kansas City Star: The Savage Mantra Of Personal Responsibility
It seems like poor form to spit on the graves of dead people, but such are the passions inspired by our health care debate. Last week I wrote that, contrary to what Mitt Romney has said in his campaign, Americans do die for lack of health insurance. Every day, in fact. Oh, the fury. Emails and telephone calls ranged from the generic "you are an idiot" to a reader's account about a woman who died of leukemia after passing up COBRA insurance because she didn't want to pay $400 a month. "You may report that she died because of lack of insurance," my correspondent wrote. "I believe she might have died anyway, but if it's anyone's fault it was her own for failing to exercise personal responsibility" (Barbara Shelly, 10/18). 

Los Angeles Times: U.S. Investigating CVS Prescription Refills
The U.S. Justice Department's civil fraud division is investigating claims that CVS Caremark wrongly refilled prescriptions and billed insurers without the knowledge or the approval of its customers. The probe will focus primarily on allegations of Medicare fraud, said Shana T. Mintz, an assistant U.S. attorney in the division's Los Angeles office (David Lazarus, 10/19). 

The New York Times: An HPV Vaccine Myth Debunked
One of the most preposterous arguments raised by religious and social conservatives against administering a vaccine to girls to protect them from human papillomavirus, or HPV, has been that it might encourage them to become promiscuous. That notion has now been thoroughly repudiated by a study published on Monday in Pediatrics, a journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (10/18). 

Houston Chronicle: Medicaid Managed Care Is A Smart Solution For Taxpayers
Through managed care, the state can achieve Medicaid budget certainty and also save tax dollars -- the Health and Human Services Commission estimated more than $1.1 billion in savings in the 2012-2013 budget cycle alone directly attributable to managed care. These plans also provide a level of coordinated care that was severely lacking in traditional Medicaid. Managed care providers have incentives to coordinate care and services that reduce the costs of in-patient care, over-utilization of prescription drugs and other expensive categories of health care services (John Colyandro and Tom Aldred, 10/18).

Detroit Free Press: Opposing Points Of View, Prop 4: Proposal Assures Higher Standards For Home Caregivers, Greater Safety For Patients
Proposal 4 ensures seniors and people with disabilities can direct their own care while remaining independent, safe and healthy in their own homes. It will help our loved ones who receive care in their own homes as an alternative to nursing homes. Importantly, Proposal 4 will ensure that those looking for care have access to a registry of home care workers who have undergone criminal background checks, an important safeguard to prevent neglect and abuse. For these reasons that impact the care and safety of countless Michiganders, I support this proposal (Dohn Hoyle, 10/19).

Detroit Free Press: Opposing Points Of View, Prop 4: Family And Loved Ones Providing Home Health Care Shouldn't Be Forced To Pay Union Dues
Approximately 40,000 Michiganders are home help providers -- private citizens who provide basic personal care to disabled adults in their own homes. Most of these home help providers are family members. Often, they are parents caring for children or adult children caring for their aging parents. To help with the financial cost of providing this in-home care, these families are eligible for support through Medicaid's Home Help Program. ... In 2005, the Service Employees International Union, which represents many government workers, joined with the Granholm administration to force home help providers in Michigan to join their union. Get a check from the state, even if it's for caring for your disabled child, and you're a government worker who belongs in our union -- or so they think (Robert and Patricia Haynes, 10/19).

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