KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Pelosi Says Higher Medicare Age ‘Doesn’t Work;’ Marketplace’s Clout Could Lower Seniors’ Drug Costs

USA Today: Truth About Medicare Age
(In) the talks to avert the fiscal cliff, the idea of raising the Medicare age is central to the Republican proposal. There's just one critical problem: It doesn't work. It doesn't have public support. It's unfair. And it doesn't lower health expenditures. Such a proposal is a reflection of the broader Republican plan: an assault on the middle class, seniors -- and our future (Rep. Nancy Pelosi, 12/11). 

The New York Times: The 2,000-Year-Old Wonder Drug
The inexorable rise in health care spending, as all of us know, is a problem. But what's truly infuriating, as we watch America's medical bill soar, is that our conversation has focused almost exclusively on how to pay for that care, not on reducing our need for it. In the endless debate about "health care reform," few have zeroed in on the practical actions we should be taking now to make Americans healthier (David B. Angus, 12/11).

Los Angeles Times: When Government Does Things Better Than Private Enterprise
There seems to be a consensus developing that raising (Medicare eligibility) age to 66 or 67, from today's 65, would be a fairly painless way of demonstrating our commitment to fiscal responsibility. You're all living longer, so what's the big deal? — you'll have plenty of time to enjoy the fruits of Medicare, if you're a little more patient. Best of all, the change would save the federal budget $5.7 billion in 2014 alone. ... What's on the other side of the Medicare-age ledger? (Michael Hiltzik, 12/11).

The Washington Post's The Plum Line: Raising Medicare Age Could Leave Hundreds Of Thousands Uninsured
It looks increasingly possible that lawmakers will reach a fiscal cliff deal that includes a hike in the Medicare eligibility age — a concession to those on the right who seem determined to see very deep entitlement cuts, even if they take benefits away from vulnerable seniors. One argument for raising the eligibility age is that seniors who lose benefits can get insurance through Medicaid or the Obamacare exchanges. But a new report to be released later today undercuts that argument — and finds that up to half a million seniors could lose insurance if the eligibility age is raised (Greg Sargent, 12/11). 

Huffington Post: Seniors Shouldn't Have To Pay More To Medicare To Pad Drug Company Profits
People in Washington are talking about raising Medicare costs for some beneficiaries. That's the wrong way to address our budget deficit. Instead we should allow Medicare to use its marketplace clout to negotiate better prices or rebates for prescription drugs. That would produce significant savings. Proposals to raise seniors' costs, including means-testing and raising the eligibility age for Medicare, miss the mark (Ethan Rome, 12/11).

Baltimore Sun: The Other, More Dangerous, Cliffs
The "fiscal cliff" isn't nearly the biggest cliff we face -- if we're talking about dangerous precipices looming on the horizon. Here are three: The child poverty cliff. A staggering number of our children are impoverished. Between 2007 and 2011, the percentage of American school-age children living in poor households grew from 17 percent to 21 percent. Last year, according to the Agriculture Department, nearly 1 in 4 young children lived in a family that had difficulty affording sufficient food at some point in the year. Yet federal programs to help children and lower-income families -- such as food stamps, federal aid for poor school districts, Pell grants, child health care, subsidized lunches, child nutrition, prenatal and postnatal care, Head Start and Medicaid -- are being targeted for cuts by deficit hawks who insist we can no longer afford them (Robert Reich, 12/12).

Des Moines Register: Seeing Health Reform As Economic Tool
(We) are recasting our message to the governor on this issue: Don't expand Medicaid just to help the poor and the mentally ill and the elderly Iowans who need it. Do it to help businesses. Governor (Terry) Branstad may not have thought about Medicaid as an economic development angle. We're not sure who has advised him when he first took a position against expanding Medicaid. ... A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that the additional federal money for new Medicaid enrollees will actually save the state money and put more revenue into the bank accounts of Iowa hospitals that frequently are swallowing the cost of treating people who are not uninsured (12/11).

The Denver Post: Alabama Forges Ahead With Research On Benefits, Costs Of Medicaid Expansion
Okay, so not only is Colorado so far behind Alabama in football that we barely play the same game, now it turns out we’re also behind the Sweet Home state in Medicaid research. University of Alabama-Birmingham researchers have carefully tallied uphow many people will join Medicaid under the proposed federal expansion, what it will cost Alabama to administer given the feds’ offer of a 100 percent underwriting, and what the state would get back in new tax money and economic development (Booth, 12/11).

Kansas City Star: Removing Shame From Mental Illness
In the days since Jovan Belcher’s murder-suicide, the tragedy has been framed as a controversy about gun control. What about the issue of getting help before it's too late? I recently returned to Kansas City after living in California for 10 years. In Los Angeles, I was surprised to see how open people were about their mental health. People chatted about how great their therapist was as if they were recommending their favorite restaurant. Friends would debate and discuss their favorite medications for anxiety and depression. In contrast, during my upbringing here, depression and mental illness were rarely discussed. As a child I recall repeatedly going to visit my grandfather in the hospital's locked-down psych ward. I was told he was "sick" or "sad" (Jenni Simcoe, 12/11).

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