KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Shutdown Commentaries: The Man Who Championed The Strategy; ‘Opening Salvo In A Generational War;’ Lack Of Funding Hurts Public Health Efforts

The Wall Street Journal: Michael Needham: The Strategist Behind The Shutdown
'I really believe we are in a great position right now," says Michael Needham, the 31-year-old president of Heritage Action, the lobbying arm of the nation's largest conservative think tank. By "we" he means the Republican Party and the conservative movement; their "great position" refers to the potential to win the political battle over the government shutdown. Though Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is the public face of the high-risk strategy to "defund" ObamaCare, the masterminds behind it are a new generation of young conservatives, chief among them Mr. Needham. From a tactical view, the strategy has been deployed with precision. In August, only Mr. Cruz and a band of renegade tea-party Republicans in the House favored this approach, and the media collectively scoffed. But by September, House Republicans couldn't pass a budget without attaching the defunding rider that has grounded much of government (Stephen Moore, 10/11).

Los Angeles Times: Obamacare: Don't Trust Anyone Over 60? 
But the idea of closing down the government, and even threatening to precipitate a global credit crisis, over the healthcare law has been widely written off as myopia on the part of the live-free-or-die crowd. We're not so sure. Focusing on Obamacare in general, and mandatory coverage in particular, could prove a plausible strategy for broadening the anti-Obama coalition to include voters in their 20s and 30s by bringing attention to what economists call the "cross-subsidy" inherent in any insurance system based on mandatory coverage. And, with hindsight, it may yet be seen as the opening salvo in a generational war, one fed by the reality that older Americans are a rapidly growing burden on younger workers, who can ill afford it (Robert Hahn and Peter Passell, 10/14).

The Wall Street Journal: The Best Budget Outcome: Tax Reform
But guess what? Republicans don't want to fight over the old-age retirement programs either. A secret of the tea party is that it's largely made up of Medicare and Social Security recipients who revile ObamaCare—and food stamps, and Medicaid and other means-tested programs—as giveaways to the poor that threaten to crowd out funding for their programs of universal "earned" entitlements (Holman W. Jenkins Jr., 10/11). 

Los Angeles Times: For The GOP, Rightward Ho!
The Republican Party is at war with itself. It's divided over how best to shrink the federal budget and how to undo President Obama's healthcare law. It hasn't been notably successful at either, which helps explain why the GOP's standing in the eyes of most voters has plummeted to depths not seen in three decades of modern polling. None of this was planned, of course; parties don't flirt with political suicide on purpose. But it wasn't accidental either. Behind the GOP crackup over the government shutdown lies a much bigger battle for control of the party (Doyle McManus, 10/13).

The New York Times: Rolling The Dice On Food-Borne Illnesses
The government shutdown has caused staff reductions at two important federal health agencies, increasing the risk of serious harm to American consumers from food-borne illnesses. The two agencies — the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — have decided to focus their remaining resources on imminent threats. But they have shut down very important work that allows them to spot potentially serious problems in advance and take steps to head them off. The longer Congressional Republicans allow the shutdown to continue, the greater the danger of harm (10/11). 

Bloomberg: What If A Flu Breaks Out When CDC Can’t Track It
As director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the last government shutdown, in 1995-1996, I can attest to the very real potential for unnecessary pain, suffering and death when the work of public-health officials is curtailed. As a consequence of the current shutdown, the CDC has been required to furlough two-thirds of its staff, leaving only 4,000 people to conduct vital public-health responsibilities. This translates into reduced protection for Americans (Dr. David Satcher, 10/13).

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