KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Running Out Of Money In Old Age; GOP Favors The Pentagon Over Americans’ Health Care; Texas Senator’s Support On Abortion Stand Doesn’t Reflect American Attitudes

Los Angeles Times: A Crisis For The Very Old: They're Outliving Their Assets
Nearly half of all Americans will outlive their assets, dying with practically no money at all. Even more worrisome, that's true even among households that met the traditional standards for secure retirement income. ... The results can be measured in more than merely dollars and cents. [MIT Economist James] Poterba's paper found that this group is "disproportionately in poor health," in part because they have no resources to cover medical expenses outside Medicare. Most shocking, many of these households were considered to have entered retirement in good financial shape; they didn't count on outliving their plans (Michael Hiltzik, 7/16). 

The Washington Post: The Appalling GOP
Republicans in the House passed a 2014 budget guideline. They know the Senate won't accept it. They refuse even to enter into negotiations with the Senate to find a compromise. What does their bill do? It would deprive millions of health care with deep cuts in Medicaid and, of course, the repeal of Obamacare. It not only continues the mindless and damaging sequester cuts, but it exacts them all from domestic services – education, environmental protection, clean water, food and drug testing, head start, infant nutrition – while exempting the Pentagon (Katrina vanden Heuvel, 7/16). 

Fiscal Times: How The Doctor Cartel Sets Medical Prices
If policymakers are serious about trimming Medicare and other health care costs, they need go no further than a secretive doctors' committee called the AMA/Specialty Society Relative Value Scale Update Committee, also known as the "RUC" (pronounced "ruck"). Run by the American Medical Association, the physicians' trade group, the RUC meets three times a year in private "to develop new or relative values for revised CPT codes." CPT codes, or "current procedural terminology," are used to determine prices for specific procedures in Medicare and other medical billing. In other words, doctors are setting their own prices (John F. Wasik, 7/17).

Politico: Media Disconnect On Abortion
According to abortion advocates, Wendy Davis is a voice for America's silent pro-choice majority. The Texas state senator's recent filibuster of a bill to outlaw abortions after five months of pregnancy won her media plaudits and catapulted her from obscurity to political stardom. But the frenzy over Davis's failed quest to defeat the legislation -- which most likely ended last week when the bill passed the Texas Legislature -- is hardly proof of a national reservoir of support for late-term abortion. Rather, it is evidence of the deep disconnect between perception and reality when it comes to U.S. citizens' attitudes about the procedure (Gary Bauer, 7/16).

The Washington Post's Post Partisan: The Tricky Line Between Obamacare And The ACA
"Obamacare" is (from the Republican perspective) a socialist abomination, the government takeover of health care, a budget-buster that involves hiring thousands of IRS agents to force people to eat broccoli until death panels put them out of their misery. The Affordable Care Act? Well, over time, my guess is that it's going to be part of the status quo -- that eventually, we'll have irate conservatives with funny hats marching under signs telling the government to keep Obamacare out of the private health insurance they buy through exchanges. Oh, and don't touch their subsidies either (Jonathan Bernstein, 7/16).

Forbes: States Use Federalism To Protect Poor, Sink Obamacare's Medicaid Expansion
[Pennsylvania] Governor Tom Corbett has successfully pointed out that the debate over expansion is ultimately a debate between political expediency vs. economics and morality. The former counsels Medicaid expansion; the latter shows it to be a bad move for the state’s working poor as well as its taxpayers. The most obvious argument against Medicaid expansion is Medicaid itself (Matthew Brouillette, 7/17). 

The New Republic: Obamacare's Individual Mandate Can't Wait
Without the individual mandate, most likely, Obamacare would struggle. That's not to say it would fall apart completely: The law's tax credits, which reduce the cost of insurance for people with incomes below four times the poverty line, would entice many people to get insurance anyway. And that would probably be enough to keep the system functioning. But without the individual mandate, fewer people would sign up for insurance, which means more people would be exposed to the financial shock of illness. Insurers would seek new premium increases, beyond those necessary already, adding significantly to the government's cost of insuring each new person. The law as a whole would become less stable and effective -- which, of course, is precisely what the Republicans want (Jonathan Cohn, 7/15).

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