KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Health Law’s ‘Implausible’ Foundations; 4 Needed Health Reforms; Sunlight On Drugmaker Payments To Doctors

The Wall Street Journal: ObamaCare's Broken Promises
As the federal government moves forward to implement President Obama's Affordable Care Act, the Department of Health and Human Services is slated to spend millions of dollars promoting the unpopular legislation. In the face of this publicity blitz, it is worth remembering that the law was originally sold largely on four grounds—all of which have become increasingly implausible (Daniel P. Kessler, 1/31).

Politico: Checking The Vitals Of Health Reform
Real reform means replacing the Sustainable Growth Rate payment formula and transitioning Medicare away from fee-for-service toward value-based payment. After all, if Medicare, the largest payer, continues to reimburse most providers for quantity not quality, there is little hope that federal accountable care initiatives or private-sector innovators can successfully tame cost growth. Real reform means harnessing competition to drive down prices for drugs, medical equipment and other services. ... Real reform means engaging consumers in their own health and health care choices. ... Finally, real reform looks beyond federal programs to scrutinize increasingly uncompetitive private-sector hospital markets (David Durenberger, 1/31).

Los Angeles Times: In The Dark On Doctor Perks
Though few patients realize it, many doctors receive thousands of dollars from pharmaceutical companies for each patient enrolled in an experimental drug trial. The medication might be the best thing for the patient's condition. The doctor's motives might be pure. But patients should be able to find out about such payments so they can discuss them with their doctors and decide for themselves whether the doctor's participation in an experiment might compromise his medical advice (2/1).

The New York Times' Economix Blog: Measuring The 'Quality' Of Health Care
It is, to be sure, challenging to measure the quality of any human-service sectors, be it health care, education, the administration of the law or even corporate management. That is why anecdotes and word of mouth remain important signals that attract or repel individuals from particular products or institutions (Uwe E.Reinhardt, 2/1). 

The Washington Post: The Sequester We Need
The Post reports that the odds are increasing — perhaps to the point of near certainty — that the so-called "sequester" will take effect March 1. ... With hindsight, the sequester's failure to compel consensus seems understandable. For Republicans, the sequester guarantees spending reductions — even if many abhor the defense cuts — and avoids tax increases. Democrats may dislike the domestic cuts, but they also know that the biggest social programs are off the table — Social Security, Medicaid and most of Medicare (Medicare is subject to a 2 percent cut, but all of that would come from lower payment rates to doctors, hospitals and other providers) (Robert J. Samuelson, 1/31).

Politico: Most Liberals Still Oppose Benefit Cuts
Reading POLITICO's recent coverage of the budget debate, you’d think that nearly all liberals support Social Security and Medicare benefit cuts. In reality, liberal groups that support benefit cuts, such as the chained Consumer Price Index, are in the minority (Nancy J. Altman and Eric Kingson, 1/31).

The New York Times: Treatment, Not Jail, For The Mentally Ill
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has started an important new corrections initiative focused on mentally ill offenders, who make up about a third of the city’s jail population and are more likely than other prisoners to resume criminal behavior once they are freed. The aim is to give the courts up-to-date information about a defendant’s record and mental health status so that a judge can decide whether the defendant should be sent to a treatment program instead of jail (1/31).

HealthyCal: Is The ACA The Road To Semi-Single Payer
The Wall Street Journal has an interesting, and important, story on how some unions that supported the Affordable Care Act are now wary about how it will affect them once it is fully implemented. At issue is whether workers who get their health care through unions will be eligible for the same subsidies that are available for lower-income people who will get their insurance through the new health exchanges, or Covered California here (Weintraub, 1/31).

Fox News: Plan B Vending Machines: Irresponsible And Just Crazy
I am shocked that a vending machine selling Plan B is available at Shippensburg University's health center.  And one of the main reasons of placing it there? Because a survey of the student body found that many of them thought it would be good to have. People tend to forget that this is a medication, and therefore, it should be treated with the same respect that all medications deserve.  With Plan B, there needs to be proper indication, timing and the ability by the consumer to ask a pharmacist any questions regarding its safety. Putting a couple of dollars into a machine and receiving this medication so easily is unethical and crazy to me (Dr. Manny Alvarez, 1/30).

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