KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Urgency Has Slipped Away For ‘Grand Bargain’; The Need To Scrutinize Drug Competition; Restore Funding To ‘Meals On Wheels’

Los Angeles Times: Congress Kicks The Can
It may seem paradoxical that Congress was willing to tackle a grand bargain when the deficit problem looked big and insoluble — but quickly lost interest as soon as the problem became more manageable. … But the reason isn't really mysterious. A grand bargain would have required both sides to swallow unpalatable compromises. It would have required Democrats to agree to cuts in future spending on Medicare and Social Security. Likewise, it would have required Republicans to accept increases in tax revenue (Doyle McManus, 6/19).

The New York Times: Economix: Health Spending: Watching For A Rebound
Every new report about the American health care economy seems to confirm the same pattern: spending is rising at the slowest pace in decades. In 2013, health spending will grow less than 4 percent for the fourth time in five years and shrink as a share of the economy, according to the number crunchers at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In February, the Congressional Budget Office forecast that spending on Medicare and Medicaid over the coming decade would be $382 billion less than it had predicted last August. The new numbers have provided an unexpected dose of optimism to the debate about squaring a budget deficit that is expected to widen sharply as the baby-boom generation enters retirement (Eduardo Porter, 6/19).

The New York Times: Our Genes, Their Secrets
The Supreme Court's unanimous ruling last Thursday, barring patents on human genes, was a wise and balanced decision that clears away a major barrier to innovation in the areas of biotechnology, drug development and medical diagnostics. But the decision is just a first step toward finding the right balance between protecting legitimate intellectual property and securing an open future for personalized medicine (Eleonore Pauwels, 6/18).

The New York Times: Proper Scrutiny For Drug Settlements
The Federal Trade Commission has been battling for years to end a devious tactic used by some drug companies to pay competitors to delay putting cheaper generic versions of their brand-name drugs on the market. The tactic, known as pay-for-delay or reverse payments, results in higher costs for consumers. On Monday, the Supreme Court, in a 5-to-3 decision, gave the trade commission a partial victory that will allow it to bring antitrust charges against pay-for-delay practices that lower courts had deemed legal, provided the deal did not keep a generic off the market beyond the patent life of the brand-name drug. The commission estimates that such agreements cost Americans $3.5 billion a year in higher drug prices (6/18). 

Politico: Keep Meals On Wheels Going
In America today, while the wealthiest people are doing phenomenally well, poverty among seniors is increasing and nearly half of all seniors are now unable to afford their basic living expenses, according to a recent study from the Economic Policy Institute. ... Despite the success of the Older Americans Act in keeping seniors healthy, independent and out of hospitals and nursing homes, this vitally important program has been inadequately funded for years. Today, only a small percentage of seniors who need the services provided by the Older Americans Act are able to receive them. From one end of the country to the other, there are waiting lists for the Meals on Wheels program. Only 9 percent of seniors eligible for home-delivered meals are getting them (Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., 6/18).

The Wall Street Journal: The Young Won't Buy ObamaCare
(Supreme Court Justice Samuel) Alito pointed out that young, healthy adults today spend an average of $854 a year on health care. ObamaCare would require them to buy insurance policies expected to cost roughly $5,800. The law, then, isn't just asking them to pay for "the services that they are going to consume," he added. "The mandate is forcing these people to provide a huge subsidy to the insurance companies . . . to subsidize services that will be received by somebody else." Since he puts it that way, why would they sign up for ObamaCare, especially since the alleged penalties will be negligible and likely unenforced? (Holman W. Jenkins Jr. 6/18).

Bangor Daily News: LePage Fails To Surprise On Medicaid Expansion
In unsurprising fashion, Gov. Paul LePage on Monday vetoed legislation to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. We didn't expect him to be open to the idea of extending health insurance to tens of thousands of Maine's poorest. ... We didn't expect rational arguments from LePage. He has not demonstrated thoughtful ideas on the issue since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Medicaid expansion optional under the federal health reform law. But we do expect more from GOP lawmakers who interact more closely with Maine residents and were elected, in many cases, with more support than LePage. Their constituents need them to gather their political courage and vote to override LePage's veto (6/18).

Baltimore Sun: Countdown To Obamacare
The countdown has started. In about 100 days, starting Oct. 1, millions of families across the nation will have an opportunity to enroll in health coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. The full benefits of the law will be most apparent and available to residents of Maryland. This is because Maryland, thanks to its more active role in implementing the historic health reform law, is expected to be one of the model states for the rest of the nation. As a result, Maryland will demonstrate the vast potential benefits of the ACA. Here are some other things about the law to watch for, as we approach and pass the Oct. 1 milestone (Ron Pollack, 6/18).

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