KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Viewpoints: Democrats’ Hypocrisy On Suing Presidents; What’s Slowing Health Care Costs?

The Wall Street Journal: The Boehner-Bashers' Track Record
In the tiny House Rules Committee room in Congress on Wednesday, New York Democrat Louise Slaughter let roll her grievances against House Republicans' lawsuit against Barack Obama. It took a lot of coffee. The suit, which sues the president for unilaterally changing a core provision of ObamaCare, is a "political stunt," declared Ms. Slaughter. Republicans have "timed" it to "peak . . . right as the midterm elections are happening," said the ranking Rules member. ... it seems to have slipped Ms. Slaughter's mind—and the press's attention—that a mere eight years ago she was a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by congressional Democrats against George W. Bush. The year was 2006, just as Democrats were, uh, peaking in their campaign to take back the House (Kimberley A. Strassel, 7/17). 

The Washington Post's PostPartisan: On Obamacare Lawsuit, Boehner Should Listen To Justice Scalia
Dana Milbank does his usual masterful job highlighting the ridiculousness of yesterday’s House Rules Committee hearing on Speaker John Boehner’s resolution seeking authorization to sue President Obama for allegedly failing to follow the Constitution in delaying the employer mandate of the health-care law. Milbank called it "an amateur hour — or an amateur five hours." Yet, in that mess of a hearing came expert arguments against Boehner’s folly (Jonathan Capehart, 7/17). 

USA Today: With Healthcare, If We Waste Less, We Pay Less
Study after study tells us that we pay too much for health care in the United States, and we're no healthier than the people in nations that spend much less. A 2012 Institute of Medicine report on health care spending in 2009 estimated that of the $2.7 trillion national [spending] on health care that year, 30% — or $810 billion — was wasted on unnecessary services, inefficient service delivery, fraud and abuse, predatory pricing and excessive administrative costs (Mark T. Bertolini, 7/17). 

Bloomberg: Obamacare Isn't What's Slowing Costs
If health-care cost growth is slowing down because we're working a lot of inefficiency out of the system, then the slowdown is obviously a big win for everyone except health-care providers and their shareholders. This explanation is a big favorite with the Barack Obama administration, which likes to credit the Affordable Care Act and related policies for the slowdown. But health-care cost growth might be slowing down for other reasons. Innovation might be slowing down, in which case we’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that we’ll be spending less on health care in the future. The bad news is that we won’t be getting so much in the way of new treatments. Or the slowdown in cost growth might reflect broader growth trends in the economy (Megan McArdle, 7/17).

Raleigh News & Observer: Lawmakers Confused About Medicaid Reform Should Hold Off On Changes
Trying to engage in a major overhaul of a huge government program such as Medicaid is, to quote an old song, like changing a flat in a hurricane. Even many of the Republican legislators in the General Assembly who are working on Medicaid reform don’t seem to understand what it is they’re trying to do. ... But North Carolina’s Medicaid cost-per-person has declined at a time when that figure is going up nationally. And the state has a larger percentage of providers willing to serve Medicaid patients than in other states. ... For all the confusion about Medicaid reform, one thing is certain: Trying to change it at a point in the legislative short session when members are weary and ready to go home – and with a legislature dominated by Republicans who have never taken on a task as big as this one – is unwise (7/17).

The New York Times' Fixes: When Poverty Makes You Sick, A Lawyer Can Be The Cure
By early summer 2010, the temperature had already reached 100 degrees in Cincinnati. At Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, doctors were urging the families of children with asthma to use air-conditioning. One mother handed a piece of paper to her doctor: The child's room did have a window unit, and she was using it. But then the landlord responded — he apparently didn’t want to pay the electric bills. Use that air-conditioner, the letter said, and you will be evicted. A concerned doctor might have tried to call the landlord to fight the notice. Or, she might have handed the letter over to a social worker. But Cincinnati Children's had something better — it had lawyers. In 2008, the hospital and the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati set up a medical-legal partnership, the Cincinnati Child Health-Law Partnership or Child HeLP (Tina Rosenberg, 7/17). 

Journal of the American Medical Association: New Opportunities In The Changing Landscape Of Prevention
Low levels of investment in prevention research and development represent a missed opportunity to further scientific knowledge and improve population health. It results in fewer career opportunities for prevention scientists and less research output on the cost-effectiveness of disease prevention compared with new treatments and drug therapies. This lack of evidence about the effectiveness of prevention has led the CBO to question its value, with far-reaching consequences to federal funding decisions. The dominant voices within many sectors of medicine call for better treatments at the expense of greater knowledge and implementation of effective prevention and health promotion strategies (Derek Yach and Chris Calitz, 7/17).

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