KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Medicare’s Lessons For The Health Law; Krauthammer Says Obama Shouldn’t Try To Write His Own Laws

Politico: How To Destroy Obamacare From Within
As a Sept. 30 budget deadline approaches, many in the Republican Party are pushing to repeal the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. The law's most radical opponents are even threatening to shut down the government by refusing to pass a continuing resolution, which would fund existing government programs at current or slightly adjusted levels. The political flaws of this strategy have been debated endlessly inside the GOP. But there is another important consideration: This doesn't have to be Republicans’ "last stand." Obamacare doesn’t have to be rolled back from without; it can be replaced from within. And Medicare, perhaps surprisingly, shows the way (Yevgeniy Feyman, 8/16).

The Washington Post: Can Obama Write His Own Laws?
[N]iceties must not stand in the way of an administration's agenda. Indeed, the very next day, it was revealed that the administration had unilaterally waived Obamacare's cap on a patient's annual out-of-pocket expenses — a one-year exemption for selected health insurers that is nowhere permitted in the law. It was simply decreed by an obscure Labor Department regulation. Which followed a presidentially directed 70-plus percent subsidy for the insurance premiums paid by congressmen and their personal staffs — under a law that denies subsidies for anyone that well-off. Which came just a month after the administration's equally lawless suspension of one of the cornerstones of Obamacare: the employer mandate. Which followed hundreds of Obama­care waivers granted by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to selected businesses, unions and other well-lobbied, very special interests (Charles Krauthammer, 8/15).

Bloomberg: Will Obamacare Save Taxpayer Money? That's Classified
Even as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act pushes to get health insurance for millions more Americans, the law is meant to work just as hard at bringing down the cost of Medicare. On this front, a principal goal has been to move the system away from fee-for-service payments, removing the incentive to provide unnecessary care. ... So it was discouraging to learn last month that a nationwide test of accountable care organizations - - a promising new payment system in which doctors and hospitals coordinate their efforts and share in the savings that may result -- didn't do so well in its first year. ... But now comes further reason to worry: The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has missed the reporting deadlines, some of them mandated by Congress, for at least nine other payment-reform experiments -- and, in many cases, won't even say how late the agency is. Nor will CMS say when the data will be revealed (8/15).

The New York Times: Economix: Controlling Health Care Spending, Revisited
A hotly debated question among health policy wonks is whether the decline in the year-to-year growth in health spending in the United States, which started in 2002, will leave that growth rate at a permanently lower level (Uwe E. Reinhardt, 8/16).

The New York Times: Economix: Having More Doctors Might Reduce Health Spending. Or Maybe Increase It.
Would increasing the supply of doctors lead to lower health costs? This question came up repeatedly in my reporting for Monday's article about barriers to entry for foreign-trained physicians. It seems as if there should be a pretty straightforward answer, based on the usual laws of supply and demand: If you artificially limit the supply of doctors, that should push up the prices of the services they provide. So if you suddenly increase the supply of doctors, that should lower health care costs (Catherine Rampell, 8/15).

Fox News: A Look At ObamaCare’s Significant, Widespread And Very Real Problems
ObamaCare is poised to "destroy the foundation of the 40 hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class." And that's the president's supporters talking. The dire warning came last month in a letter from three of the nation’s most influential union bosses to Democratic leaders in Congress (Edmund F. Haislmaier, 8/15).  

Toledo Blade: Stop Stalling On Medicaid
The federal government would pay almost all of the cost of Medicaid expansion. But GOP lawmakers remain willing to deny their constituents access to health care to satisfy the extremist Tea Party ideology, which manifests itself in knee-jerk opposition to Obamacare. Governor Kasich, balancing conservatism with pragmatism, said at a recent rally that the issue is helping real people, not swearing allegiance to political abstractions. But he is in the minority in his own party. ... So lawmakers refuse to interrupt the vacation they haven’t earned to deal with the most important issue before the state right now. They are leaving $13 billion in federal aid on the table. Instead, the state will spend more money to preserve the indefensible status quo (8/15).  

Los Angeles Times: CVS Thinks $50 Is Enough Reward For Giving Up Healthcare Privacy
Since February, CVS Caremark has been pushing its pharmacists to enroll customers in a prescription-drug rewards program. The benefit to customers is the opportunity to earn up to $50 a year in store credits that can be used to buy shampoo, toothpaste or other products. The benefit to CVS is persuading pharmacy customers, through questionable means, to give up federal privacy safeguards for their medical information and permitting the company to share people's drug purchases with others (David Lazarus, 8/15). 

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Surgery Centers: Vital Part Of Health Care Reform
It's hard to follow the news these days without seeing something about health care reform. But politics aside, today's health care system is challenged to meet the needs of patients in a cost-effective manner, while delivering quality care. That's where Ambulatory Surgery Centers, or ASCs, come into play and are prepared to have a larger role in the health reform conversation (Bruce P. Kupper, 8/16).

San Francisco Chronicle: California Needs More Interpreters For Patients
Within minutes of the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash in July, San Francisco General Hospital administrators knew they needed language translation services to help victims of this horrific accident. The hospital's medical staff put out the call for anyone who could interpret, and hospital personnel were able to communicate with the injured by asking Korean-speaking staff to double as interpreters. These patients were fortunate that San Francisco General found enough medical interpreters, but the unfortunate truth is that access to translation services is a major gap in our health care throughout the state (Philip Y. Ting, 8/16).

Baltimore Sun: A Supporter Sours On Obamacare
At the start of 2013, I looked forwarded to a barrage of public service announcements informing citizens on need-to-know facts about the full implementation of the ACA. I anticipated a full media blitz and a 50-state campaign to break down this tremendous bill for everyone to understand and accept wholeheartedly. Now we are two months away from full implementation, and the commercials never came. The cornerstone of President Barack Obama's first-term legacy, having survived a Supreme Court challenge, is a complete mess (Justin Cuffley, 8/15).

Los Angeles Times: Prescription Drug Crackdown
The growing death toll from prescription drug overdoses reflects the increased use of powerful painkillers and psychotherapeutic drugs, many of which are addictive and toxic when misused. Since The Times' Scott Glover and Lisa Girion began highlighting the problem late last year, state lawmakers have responded by trying to plug the information gaps that enable patients and doctors to abuse the system. Those efforts are slowly yielding results, although not to the extent that's needed (8/16).

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