KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Contraceptive Debate May Hinge On ‘Conscience Of A Corporation;’ Rep. Cantor’s Insights On Medicare; Sebelius And Holder On Fraud

Houston Chronicle: Fighting Health Care Fraud Pays Dividends
Today, our departments released a report showing that the Obama Administration's historic efforts to go after criminals who steal from Medicare and Medicaid are paying off, especially in hotspots like Houston. The report shows that last year, we recovered a record $4.2 billion from those who prey on our health care system. In total, our efforts returned $14.9 billion over the last four years, more than double what was returned in the previous four years (U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, 2/11).

The New York Times: The Conscience Of A Corporation
David Green, who built a family picture-framing business into a 42-state chain of arts and crafts stores, prides himself on being the model of a conscientious Christian capitalist. His 525 Hobby Lobby stores forsake Sunday profits to give employees their biblical day of rest. … And the company’s in-house health insurance does not cover morning-after contraceptives ... This has put Hobby Lobby at the leading edge of a legal battle that poses the intriguing question: Can a corporation have a conscience? And if so, is it protected by the First Amendment (Bill Keller, 2/10).

Los Angeles Times: Catholic Bishops Won't Take 'Mostly Yes' For An Answer 
[Cardinal] Dolan's statement reiterated that the Roman Catholic Church is equally adamant that nonreligious employers should be free to ignore the mandate. ... But do the bishops really believe that owners of hardware stores and coffee shops have a right to opt out of Obamacare -- or other laws -- because of their personal religious convictions? (Michael McGough, 2/8).

The Washington Post: Mr. Cantor Looks For Middle Ground 
[Medicare's] structure, [House Majority Leader Eric Cantor] noted, is still rooted in the standard Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan of 1965, with an "arbitrary division" between insurance for hospital services and for doctor services. Each side has its own premium, deductible and co-pay rules, which creates expensive complexity, sometimes inadequate protection against catastrophic costs and powerful incentives to seek supplemental "Medigap" insurance. Mr. Cantor suggested unifying the program and revising the cost-sharing rules to create "reasonable and predictable" out-of-pocket expenses (2/8).

The New York Times: The Ignorance Caucus 
Mr. Cantor's support for medical research is curiously limited. He's all for developing new treatments, but he and his colleagues have adamantly opposed "comparative effectiveness research," which seeks to determine how well such treatments work. What they fear, of course, is that the people running Medicare and other government programs might use the results of such research to determine what they're willing to pay for. Instead, they want to turn Medicare into a voucher system and let individuals make decisions about treatment (Paul Krugman, 2/10).

Philadelphia Inquirer: A Costly Rebuff To Medicaid
One in six Pennsylvanians lacks health insurance. ... The Affordable Care Act would make 631,000 more Pennsylvanians eligible for Medicaid coverage next year. ... Last week, Gov. Corbett called it "financially unsustainable for the taxpayers," and strongly suggested he was saying no to Medicaid expansion. He is the first governor of a blue state to reject the coverage for now. He is brutally wrong to do so (Karen Heller, 2/10).

The Washington Post: Virginia Can't Afford Not To Embrace Obamacare
Gov. Bob McDonnell and some fellow Republicans in the legislature are considering blocking one of the (health overhaul's) key reforms: extending Medicaid, the federal health insurance program for the working poor. That would be a costly mistake, for two reasons. First, it would mean a missed opportunity to help hundreds of thousands of Virginians struggling to make ends meet (Robert McCartney, 2/9). 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Medicaid Expansion Is A Wise Investment For Wisconsin
Many people think of Medicaid or BadgerCare as programs that provide health care coverage to the poor, but few know that Wisconsin is home to an estimated 170,000 uninsured, many of whom are working adults who do not qualify for Medicaid even though they have little income. These include people ages 50 to 64 who have lost their jobs or are struggling to find work. They are not yet eligible for Medicare and have paid into the system all their lives. As aging adults they are facing the onset of health conditions that, if left untreated, will inevitably increase their need for and use of health and long-term care (Lisa Pugh and Helen Marks Dicks, 2/10).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Obamacare's 'Giveaway' Is Anything But Free
If a deal sounds too good to be true it usually is. That's a maxim that Gov. Scott Walker and Wisconsin legislators should keep in mind as they wrestle with the question of whether to expand the state's Medicaid program in conjunction with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. ... The expansion would also make childless single men, a notoriously high-cost group, eligible for Medicaid for the first time in every state. ... there is little evidence to suggest that expanding Medicaid will significantly reduce the cost of uncompensated care (Michael Tanner, 2/10).

The Wall Street Journal: Ben Carson For President
(M)ake time to watch the video of Dr. Ben Carson speaking to the White House prayer breakfast this week. ... Not surprisingly, a practicing physician has un-PC thoughts on health care: "Here's my solution: When a person is born, give him a birth certificate, an electronic medical record, and a health savings account to which money can be contributed—pretax—from the time you're born 'til the time you die. ... Instead of sending all this money to some bureaucracy, let's put it in their HSAs. Now they have some control over their own health care. And very quickly they're going to learn how to be responsible" (2/8).

The New York Times: What A Company Knew About Its Metal Hips
All-metal hip replacements have failed at a high rate and harmed many patients in recent years. Now there is evidence that a major manufacturer was aware of a serious problem with one of its models yet failed to alert patients or doctors and continued to market it aggressively (2/10). 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: What We Need To Do To Fight HIV
The latest statistics show the incidence of HIV among gay men in Wisconsin was higher in 2011 than when the disease peaked in 1987. The category with the highest infection rate: young black men who have sex with men who may not identify themselves as gay. Of the 400 new cases of HIV reported in the state every year, nearly 31% fall within that vulnerable and very hard-to-reach category. We need action -- now -- to deal with this growing problem (James E. Causey, 2/8).

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