KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Medicaid Expansion Spreading; ‘GOP’s Woman Problem’

The New York Times: Endless Assault On Health Care Reform
The latest jerry-built effort to destroy health care reform could be defeated in the full federal appeals court in the District of Columbia. In July, a three-judge panel of that court — taking a ridiculously crabbed view of a section in the law — ruled 2-to-1 that tax-credit subsidies are allowed only for those buying insurance on a health exchange "established by the state." Therefore, it said, no subsidies for people in 36 states where the federal government set up the exchange because the states refused to do so. There is no evidence that Congress intended to make this distinction, which defies the law's central purpose (8/30).

The Washington Post: Playing Politics With Health Care
We would congratulate Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R), if it were seemly to commend public officials for doing the obvious. On Thursday, Mr. Corbett finalized a bargain with federal officials to expand Medicaid, the state-federal program that provides health-care coverage to low-income Americans, in Pennsylvania. Five hundred thousand needy Pennsylvanians stand to get care at almost no price to the state. Reform may even be revenue positive. It should not have taken this long (8/31).

The Washington Post: When Robert Bork Called Congress Suing The President A 'Monstrosity'
Before leaving for its August recess, the Republican-led House of Representatives voted to sue President Obama over his failure to fully implement a provision of the Affordable Care Act. Some Democrats have characterized this legal action as unprecedented, frivolous and even outrageous. But it brings back a lot of memories for me, some of which may be uncomfortable for my fellow Democrats and some of which ought to give pause to conservative Republicans rushing to support the lawsuit. In the 1980s, the tables were turned (Michael D. Barnes, 8/29).

The Wall Street Journal: Morning After In America
On Wednesday the Congressional Budget Office updated its fiscal and economic outlook for the next decade, and to adapt Ronald Reagan for a new era, the report could be called the Morning After in America. ... Entitlements will cruise on autopilot by 4% this year, despite an historically low increase of 2% in Medicare that could be temporary. The major budget driver now is Medicaid, which will surge by 15% on ObamaCare's expansion of that program. The figure would be still higher had not 23 states opted out to protect the integrity of their own budgets. Some 85 cents of every increased dollar of spending over the next 10 years will flow to entitlements, mainly health care (8/29).

Politico: The GOP's Woman Problem
The GOP's autopsy, trainings and memos made one thing very clear: The party does not understand that its problem with female voters has nothing to do with presentation, rhetoric or outreach. The problem is, and has always been, Republican policies. Policies that prevent us from moving closer to equal pay for women, policies that would make it more difficult for women to exercise their right to vote, policies that would allow insurance companies to discriminate against women and policies that would allow politicians and employers to get involved in medical decisions that belong between a woman and her doctor (Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., 8/31).

The New York Times' Upshot blog: What Happens When Health Plans Compete
As a candidate in 2008, President Obama promised that health reform would reduce family premiums by up to $2,500, equivalent today to about a 15 percent reduction from the 2013 level. Though Mr. Obama might have been including the effects of premium subsidies in his calculation, a key premise of the Affordable Care Act is that competition among health insurers will drive premiums downward. So it’s worth asking: How much savings can additional competition produce? (Austin Frakt, 9/1).

The New York Times: The Medicare Miracle
For years, pundits and politicians have insisted that guaranteed health care is an impossible dream, even though every other advanced country has it. Covering the uninsured was supposed to be unaffordable; Medicare as we know it was supposed to be unsustainable. But it turns out that incremental steps to improve incentives and reduce costs can achieve a lot, and covering the uninsured isn’t hard at all. When it comes to ensuring that Americans have access to health care, the message of the data is simple: Yes, we can (Paul Krugman, 8/31).

The New York Times: Ways To Reduce The Kidney Shortage
While some argue that the way to reduce the growing shortage is to pay living donors for kidneys, either in cash or government benefits, there are many ways to increase the supply without paying for human organs, which is prohibited by the 1984 National Organ Transplant Act and generally opposed by the World Health Organization (9/1).

The Wall Street Journal: Why Doctors Are Sick of Their Profession
All too often these days, I find myself fidgeting by the doorway to my exam room, trying to conclude an office visit with one of my patients. When I look at my career at midlife, I realize that in many ways I have become the kind of doctor I never thought I'd be: impatient, occasionally indifferent, at times dismissive or paternalistic. Many of my colleagues are similarly struggling with the loss of their professional ideals (Dr. Sandeep Jauhar, 8/29).

Los Angeles Times: Fines Alone Won't Fix 'Patient Dumping' Of Homeless
Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer announced on Wednesday that his office had reached an agreement with Glendale Adventist Medical Center over allegations that the respected hospital had improperly discharged a homeless patient to the streets of skid row. ... Feuer is to be commended for his efforts to thwart a vile practice .... But if it's challenging for outreach agencies to find the right services and housing for the homeless, it's just as daunting, if not more so, for hospitals required to do it as a condition for discharging homeless patients (8/31).

The Wall Street Journal: Heading Off A Bigger Ebola Catastrophe
[T]he Obama administration has stressed that the disease is highly unlikely to spread inside America. Given international travel, we will certainly see cases diagnosed here, and perhaps even experience some isolated clusters of disease. For now, though, the administration's assurances are generally correct: Health-care workers in the U.S. and other advanced Western nations maintain infection controls that can curtail the spread of non-airborne diseases like Ebola. Yet our ability to prevent an epidemic here doesn't reduce our obligations abroad (Dr. Scott Gottlieb and Tevi Troy, 9/1).

The Washington Post: The Lessons Of The Ebola Outbreak Suggest A Larger, Faster Response Is Needed
West African nations, with fragile health-care systems and weak governments, had no experience in fighting the disease. Panic, suspicion and fear have overrun public health concerns. The lesson is that health authorities and governments need to pay attention to the attitudes of everyone, not just the infected. To calm the affected regions in the months ahead will require delivery of massive humanitarian aid to the living above and beyond the medical supplies required to treat the sick (9/1).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.