KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: N.Y. Gun Law Could Pose Problems For Health Professionals; ‘Jarring Discrepancy’ Between Medical Costs And Premium Increases; State Officials Wage Battle Against Health Law

The New York Times: New York Leads On Gun Control
The broad gun control bill approved Tuesday by the New York Legislature substantially strengthens the state’s gun control laws. ... Some sections of the law, however, were not fully vetted in the rush. One provision asks health care professionals — physicians, psychologists, registered nurses or licensed clinical social workers — to report to local health care officials when they have reason to believe that patients could harm themselves or others. ... The provision would seem to raise significant legal questions (1/15).

The Wall Street Journal: Hickenlooper's Gun Control
Gun control has been the exclusive political fixation of President Obama's Washington after Newtown, so perhaps readers will be surprised to learn that some states are being more constructive. One of them is Colorado, where Governor John Hickenlooper is promoting an innovative overhaul of his state's mental health-care system (1/15).

The New York Times: Behind Double-Digit Premium Increases
National health care spending has been rising at an unusually low rate for three consecutive years. Yet health insurance companies in some states with lax regulations are requesting and winning double-digit premium increases for some customers. That jarring discrepancy suggests that both the federal government and the states need more power to reject premium increases that can't be justified (1/15).

Los Angeles Times: For Democrats, Unity And Its Pitfalls
Medicare already accounts for about 15% of federal spending (not counting interest), and the Congressional Budget Office projects that the cost will nearly double in 10 years if no changes are made. Bringing federal spending under control without touching Medicare simply isn't practical. But it's a prospect that chills many Democrats because defending Medicare and Social Security benefits is the clearest unifying doctrine their party has, just as resisting tax increases is for Republicans. So though Obama may agree in theory about the need for cuts, deciding what to cut is certain to be divisive (Doyle McManus, 1/16).

The Wall Street Journal: How To Save The Federal Safety Nets
The fiscal cliff has been averted, preventing immediate economic calamity. But for long-term economic growth, we must get serious about entitlement reform and government spending. … The math on debt is clear: Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security consume 42% of the federal budget and are projected to account for half of the budget by 2020. Addressing debt and deficits means tackling the projected spending growth without undermining the retirement security that Americans rely on (Gary W. Loveman, 1/15). 

The New Republic: In Georgia, A Blueprint For Battling Obamacare
Sharon Cooper is not a national political figure. She is a state legislator in Georgia, one I happened to encounter at a recent event in Atlanta. But Cooper is also an archetype of Obamacare's newest adversary: the state official fighting health care reform on the ground. These officials can't stop the new law from taking effect. The Supreme Court and the presidential election settled that. But they can interfere with its implementation, potentially denying insurance to millions of poor people across the South and the interior West. To accomplish that, they're wielding some specious arguments (Jonathan Cohn, 1/14).

The Washington Post: The Troubling State Of America's Health
America is dangerous to your health. A recent international commission reported that U.S. men rank last in life expectancy for the 17 industrial nations in the study; U.S. women rank next to last. When it comes to health, the United States is exceptional — exceptionally bad (Katrina vanden Heuvel, 1/15).

The Washington Post: The United States Needs To See The Doctor
Part of the answer is Darwinian: Those Americans who have been less able to access reliable medical care, maintain good diets and live in neighborhoods that are not prey to gun violence have disproportionately died off before age 80. That isn't natural selection but social selection — the survival of the economically fittest in a nation that rations longevity by wealth (Harold Meyerson, 1/15).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Covering All Colorado Kids Is Within Reach
In December the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services once again recognized Colorado as a national leader in providing health coverage for kids. For the third year in a row, Colorado was awarded a bonus payment for efforts to make public coverage programs—Medicaid and CHP+—work better for Colorado kids and families. The national recognition is nice—and the accompanying $43 million payment to the state certainly doesn't hurt—but it isn't a reason to rest on our laurels and call the job done. We still have about 120,000 uninsured kids in our state. But the momentum is in our favor. Covering all Colorado kids is within reach, if we're willing to invest the resources—time, money and political capital—to do it (Cody Belzley, 1/15).

Kansas City Star: Great News On KC Police Pensions, Health Insurance Plan
Some very positive developments for Kansas City taxpayers could occur Wednesday at City Hall. First, city officials at a private meeting hope to broker peace with the Fraternal Order of Police over health care coverage. The FOP filed a lawsuit last year after the police board agreed with City Manager Troy Schulte, that the police should be part of the city's health care plan to save money for taxpayers. The FOP didn't want to change from the current police-directed plan. But on Wednesday, the FOP could agree to drop that lawsuit in exchange, partly, for getting some past raises they have long wanted. In the long run, this should save money for the public, with a larger and healthier group having access to city health insurance plans (Yael Abouhalkah, 1/15).

Boston Globe: State Retiree Health System Needs Major Reforms
One of the biggest fiscal challenges for cities and towns is the cost of health care benefits for retirees. The reform package proposed by Governor Patrick last week would curb some of the most egregious giveaways in the current system, which is out of whack with benefits for most private-sector retirees. It's a significant step forward, but it also includes some concessions to state unions that would tie the hands of municipal governments. The Legislature should embrace the governor's plan, and then improve it (1/16).

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