KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: David Brooks’ Praise For Ryan Plan; Medicaid Overlooked In Presidential Debate; Romney Proposal Effective For Pre-Existing Conditions

The New York Times: The Policy Verdict I
In Thursday night's debate, Vice President Joe Biden will almost certainly go after Representative Paul Ryan's Medicare plan. And why shouldn't he? It's unpopular. But I'd like to make a case for that plan. It's the best thing the Romney-Ryan campaign has going for it (David Brooks, 10/8).

The Boston Globe: Making Medicaid A Block Grant Would Curb Vital Services
Of all the federal programs discussed in last week's presidential debate, an important one got short shrift: Medicaid. And it's more pressing than many other health care issues, because so many elderly people rely on it as virtually their only source of funds for long-term care. There are stark differences in how the two candidates would approach Medicaid, the federal health program for the poor that also covers 60 percent of the Americans living in nursing homes. Mitt Romney aims at much larger savings, but would sharply reduce the number of people with health coverage (10/9). 

Forbes: Why Mitt Romney's Plan For Pre-Existing Conditions Is Better Than Obamacare's
Obamacare's approach to pre-existing conditions, in summary, may help a tiny minority with pre-existing conditions to gain coverage in the short term, but the law will drive up the cost of insurance for everyone else, leading to adverse selection and higher premiums for all. And the price of Obamacare is steep: the individual mandate; trillions in new spending and taxes; deep cuts to Medicare providers. The Romney approach is, over the mid-to-long term, the far superior one. Romney's plan liberates Americans to own their own health insurance, continuously, as opposed to remaining dependent upon their employers. In addition, his plan would reduce the cost of insurance, making it more affordable for Americans to maintain their coverage (Avik Roy, 10/9).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Romney Still Running Away From Massachusetts Plan
Romney had the right idea in Massachusetts, but the hard right turn taken by his party forced him to put that idea back on the shelf and pick from an old Republican wish list. What he's left with is a bag full of stale ideas. Obamacare is far from perfect. It expanded coverage massively without fully dealing with health care's cost beyond theoretical arguments. Nonetheless, the best approach is to salvage the Affordable Care Act -- not throw it out (10/8).

Medpage Today: Obama And Romney Ignored The Key Issue
I wasn't really surprised when Jim Lehrer did not use my suggested question on health care in last week's first presidential debate. For those who didn't read that column, or don't remember the question, here it is: How is it possible that the U.S., the richest country in the world, is the only developed country on this planet that has not figured out how to provide basic health insurance for all its citizens? However, I was truly surprised that this issue did not come up at all (Dr. Timothy Johnson, 10/8).

The New York Times: The Ups And Downs Of Electronic Medical Records
The case for electronic medical records is compelling. … Small wonder that the idea has been promoted by the Obama administration, with strong bipartisan and industry support. The government has given $6.5 billion in incentives, and hospitals and doctors have spent billions more. But as health care providers adopt electronic records, the challenges have proved daunting, with a potential for mix-ups and confusion that can be frustrating, costly and even dangerous (Milt Freudenheim, 10/8).

Los Angeles Times: CVS Customers Say Prescription Refills Weren't OKd
George Engelke manages his CVS prescriptions online. If he needs more of a medicine, he orders it. If he's going to be away from his Corona del Mar home, he tells the pharmacy where to send the shipment. He's never asked CVS to automatically refill his prescriptions. Engelke, 76, recently returned from a vacation in Montana. ... He got a call from the drugstore the other day informing him that they'd taken the liberty of sending another batch of supplies to the Montana address. "I never asked them to do that," Engelke told me (David Lazarus, 10/9). 

The Medicare NewsGroup: Why Are Medicare Advantage Premiums Dropping?
As a private offering within the larger public fee-for-service program, the Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C) program is a bit of an odd duck. Designed to give beneficiaries more insurance choices, costs have been coming down while the number of plans have been increasing. While it's too early to say if these trends will continue, it's important to dig into how Part C plans are structured and financed to understand the recent numbers in context. These cost savings may not continue and the recent news has been highly politicized (John Wasik, 10/8).

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