KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Frightening Seniors; Regulating E-Cigarettes; Waiting For Black Lung Drugs

The New York Times: Fear Mongering With Medicare
The Obama administration's proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage plans — the private insurance plans that cover almost 30 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries — are fair and reasonable. As it happens, they are also mandated by law. Yet Republicans, sensing a campaign issue, are telling older and disabled Americans that the administration is "raiding Medicare Advantage to pay for Obamacare." The health insurance industry, for its part, is warning that enrollees will suffer higher premiums, lower benefits and fewer choices among doctors if the cuts go into force (3/1).

The New York Times: Arizona Did Us All A Favor
The Arizona bill [vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer], in the eyes of some, was a religious version of the Stand Your Ground law, most recently associated with Florida but used in more than 20 states. ... A more apt comparison to Arizona is to the legal movement to expand the definition of corporations as people. Lawmakers in the Grand Canyon state would have allowed businesses to use religion as a shield against secular laws they don't like. The same principle is behind the Supreme Court challenge to the birth control requirements of the new health care law. In one case, religion is an excuse for refusing service. In another, it’s a reason to oppose a package of medically recognized health care benefits. In both cases, the "sincerely held" belief, once the province of an individual citizen, now belongs to a moneymaking entity (Timothy Egan, 3/1).

The New York Times: Regulating Electronic Cigarettes
European lawmakers last week adopted strong tobacco regulations that will increase government oversight of electronic cigarettes. The rules should serve as a model for the Food and Drug Administration, which has said that it also intends to regulate the nicotine-delivery devices (3/1).

Los Angeles Times: Legal 'Standing': Obama's Executive Branch Escape Hatch
President Obama's proclaimed strategy to "bypass Congress" — most conspicuously his broad rewriting of the Affordable Care Act — has given unusual prominence to a fairly arcane legal doctrine: standing. Standing is what is preventing a potential blizzard of litigation against the president's unilateral decrees, and ironically, it's a doctrine liberal jurists have long decried (Eugene Kontorovich, 3/2).

The Wall Street Journal: The FDA's Black Lung
Government power can ruin fortunes, reputations and businesses, but at least the targets usually escape with their lives. Not so with the Food and Drug Administration, whose culture of political control is often lethal. This reality is all too familiar for the 200,000 or so Americans suffering from a terminal lung disorder as they wait, and wait, and wait for the FDA to approve a good drug that can slow the progression of their disease (3/2). 

USA Today: Obamacare Squeezes Small Businesses
The way President Obama told it in 2010, Obamacare would save small businesses money. He even predicted that businesses that provide health care would save so much — he estimated up to $3,000 per employer — that they could give their employees a raise. Another day, another broken promise (Tim Phillips, 3/1). 

The Fiscal Times: Health Care Savings To Come From Unlikely Places
Let's say that the U.S. health care industry really is embarking upon a major wave of innovation and cost cutting. Where would you expect that most of those savings occur? In hospitals? Clinics? Outpatient centers? The best bet might be in so-called "non-traditional" settings — perhaps even your local drug store. Much of the nascent movement to push health care outside of hospitals and clinics isn't being driven by the industry. It's an outgrowth of the formation of Medicare Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), an obscure part of Obamacare that seeks to reward organizations for efficiency and high-quality care (John F. Wasik, 3/2).

Bloomberg: Busted State Obamacare Sites Have A Silver Lining
If the red states had built their own exchanges, many of them would likely also suffer the same problems -- or worse ones, given that red-state governors lacked the enthusiasm of their blue-state counterparts. Naturally, this raises some questions. What if the administration’s supporters who complained about red-state intransigence had it backward? What if the mistake was allowing states to do a job that we should have left to the federal government? There are some powerful arguments in favor of this proposition. ... So should Congress have simply had the federal government build the exchanges and be done with it? Actually, no. The architecture of the law allowed for some failures. But it also enshrined two important principles for failing well: experimentation and diversification (Megan McArdle, 3/2).

Richmond Times-Dispatch: State Budget Should Not Be Held Hostage
Another indicator that events in Richmond are emulating those in Washington with greater frequency, Virginia appears poised for another budget battle that — if not resolved — threatens to shut down state government. ... The practical effect of [Gov. Terry] McAuliffe's statements is clear: Any budget that does not include a plan to fully implement Obamacare by accepting its provision to grow the rolls of those who receive health coverage through government funding is a non-starter to him (State Sen. Ryan T. McDougle, 3/23).

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