KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Orszag On CAP Cost-Control Proposals; High-Tech And Health Costs

Bloomberg: Smart Ways To Keep The Brake On Health-Care Costs
The [Center for American Progress] proposals thus wisely recognize that there is no single strategy to continue the recent progress in slowing the growth in health-care costs. In contrast, the Republican budget plan put forward by Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin seems based on a belief that all that’s needed is to shift risks: from Medicare to beneficiaries through a premium-support program, and from the federal government to state governments by turning Medicaid into block grants. I wouldn’t bet on these steps solving the problem. The only certain outcome from them is the shifting of risk onto state governments and individuals (Peter Orszag, 8/1).

The Washington Post: Curbing The Costs Of High-Tech Health
Advances in medical technology are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they have brought huge health gains to millions of Americans. Hip and knee replacements, heart operations, brain surgery, drugs — treating everything from high cholesterol to depression — have become routine when they were once considered exotic or unimaginable. The drawback is that these same breakthroughs have driven health spending upward, because they’re prone to misuse and overuse (Robert J. Samuelson, 8/1).

The Hill: Need For Affordable Care Cuts Across Party Lines
The United States currently has an expensive, uncoordinated and inefficient healthcare system. By 2020, healthcare spending will make up one-fifth of our national economy. Excessive and wasteful healthcare spending fuels our nation's exploding federal debt and imposes unsustainable burdens on our federal and state governments, employers, individuals and their families. This is a grave threat to our nation's future health, economic viability and ability to compete in an increasingly competitive global marketplace (Tom Daschle and Bill Frist, 8/1).

JAMA: The Perverse Effects Of Corporate 'Speech' On The Health Reform Debate
Corporations are spending millions of dollars on ads attacking President Obama’s health care reform. Now that the Supreme Court has upheld the ACA, the next wave of political opposition is directed toward its repeal — by building up a groundswell of public opinion and removing from office elected officials who supported it. Political opposition to existing law and policy is well within the bounds of a liberal democracy that prizes the freedom of expression. But what makes this new wave of attack ads so perverse is that voters have no way of knowing who is behind the attacks (Lawrence O. Gostin, 8/1).

Market Watch: US View Of Health Care At Odds With Europe
Although it was pure coincidence, the timing could not have been better. A day after his visit to the U.K., Mitt Romney, opponent of health care reform (including, apparently, reforms even devised by himself) got to witness a whole section of the Olympics opening ceremony dedicated to that bastion of socialized health care, the British National Health Service, and all without a death panel in sight (Jason O’Mahony, 8/2).

Politico: ‘Obamacare’ Burdens Poor, Middle Class With Tax
Despite promises that the president’s health reforms would lower health care costs, “Obamacare” is saddled with new taxes, mandates and regulations that will increase the cost of care for families and job creators. New requirements force Americans to purchase a health plan deemed “essential” by Congress and bureaucrats at the Department of Health and Human Services. Price controls are to be imposed nationally — despite the fact that identical requirements enacted in several states dramatically increased premiums and eliminated consumer choice (Rep. Marsha Blackburn, 8/1).

MinnPost: Important Health-Care Milestone Begins To Roll Out
This week Planned Parenthood celebrates a critical early milestone for women’s preventive health under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Specifically, the birth-control benefit that began going into effect on Wednesday will start making birth control available at no cost to millions of women, providing essential preventive care and easing the strain on Minnesota’s household budgets (Stoesz, 8/2).

Los Angeles Times: Health, Faith And Birth Control
Several Roman Catholic organizations have challenged Obama administration rules requiring religious colleges and hospitals (but not churches themselves) to offer preventive healthcare, including contraceptive coverage, with no deductibles or co-pays. Even though the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of most of the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"), the courts still have to decide whether those institutions are exempt from the contraception requirement under a federal law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (7/31).

Detroit Free Press: The Endorsement That Dares Not Speak Its Name
I've never supported its mission to outlaw abortion, but there's no denying that Right to Life runs the smartest and most politically potent grassroots organization in Michigan. By recruiting anti-abortion-rights candidates for low-profile local races and mobilizing its members to participate in primary elections that most voters sit out, RTL has built a healthy farm team and secured an outsize role in Michigan's Legislature and its congressional delegation. But RTL is most effective when it keeps its electoral druthers close to the vest (Dickerson, 8/2).

The Washington Post: The Flawed Basis Behind Fetal-Pain Abortion Laws
On Thursday, Arizona’s new abortion law will take effect, outlawing the procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy — a much earlier threshold than in any other law that has been upheld in court. Like-minded laws have been enacted in Nebraska, Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Oklahoma, Georgia and Louisiana, and a bill similarly limiting abortion in the District drew support Tuesday from a majority of the U.S. House, but not from enough members to pass (I. Glenn Cohen, 8/1).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: State Aims To Build A Better Medicaid
Called Reform 2020, it's a request for the feds to grant Minnesota the requisite authority to pursue an ambitious redesign of Medicaid, the $8 billion-a-year, state-federal health care program also called Medical Assistance. The effort deserves Minnesotans' notice and good wishes as it heads to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for approval…. The result is a map for the remainder of this decade for making Medicaid dollars stretch farther and serve elderly, needy and disabled people better (8/2).

The Washington Post: Kaine Embraces Bankrupt Entitlements
It’s a massive wealth transfer program from which there is no escape. But even with the fixes Tim Kaine urges — “like allowing for the negotiation of prescription drug prices — a measure that could save as much as $24 billion every year” — it will still go bust, and possibly as soon as 2014. Making the program solvent, then, will require more drastic action. But even the middling steps urged by Rep. Paul Ryan earn Kaine’s scorn (Norman Leahy, 8/1).

Denver Post: What's The Cost Of Freedom?
What's the cost of freedom for one Colorado family? Apparently, according to the Obama administration, it's nearly $10 million per year. That's how fines will stack up for members of the Newland family who run Hercules Industries in Denver if they do not prevail in their lawsuit against President Obama's abortion pill mandate and decide to abide by their consciences instead (Jane Norton, 8/1).

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