Viewpoints: Republicans’ ‘Gift’ To Obama; Essential Benefits Rule A ‘Lump Of Coal’
Los Angeles Times: Dysfunction In The House
One photo snapped Wednesday on Capitol Hill captured the essence of Congress in 2011. It showed a group of senior House Republicans sitting on one side of a long table, waiting for their Senate counterparts to show up for a negotiating session the House had demanded. ... What viewers should really have seen in the photo was the Republican leadership team whose miscalculations may soon cause payroll taxes to go up — and unemployment benefits to be truncated, and payment rates to Medicare doctors slashed. That's on the verge of happening (12/22).
Denver Post: Oh, Republicans, You Shouldn't Have
Just in time for the holiday season, the House Republicans have given Barack Obama a gift. You could say it was thoughtful of them. But it was actually thoughtless— which gets us to the gift itself. By blithely rejecting an overwhelmingly bipartisan Senate bill that would have averted a $1,000 tax hike for 160 million Americans, the House Republicans reminded everyone what the world would be like if they were in charge of anything other than themselves (Mike Littwin, 12/22).
Washington Post: The Best Way To End The Payroll Tax Standoff
Just when you thought the mess in Washington couldn't get any messier comes the year-end snafu over the payroll tax, unemployment insurance and other supposedly must-do items. ... The Senate solution was not so much a solution as a whoppingly bipartisan agreement to fail to reach agreement, kicking the can down the road by a scant two months. No one should feel especially proud of that outcome. Except, that is, compared with the alternative, which is looking increasingly as though the standoff will continue and the tax reduction will expire, as will the extension of unemployment insurance. Medicare providers, meanwhile, face an unsustainable cut in reimbursements (12/21).
New York Times: Housebound For The Holidays
Good news! Congress did not shut down the government this month. It was sort of dancing around the idea, but the country has grown so inured to this kind of behavior that nobody paid any attention. Then our lawmakers moved on to a crisis over the payroll tax, unemployment compensation and Medicare. On which they totally dropped the ball (Gail Collins, 12/21).
Des Moines Register: Gingrich's Views On Judiciary Are Unconstitutional, Anti-Conservative
Putting aside the fact that his proposal would clearly violate the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers (no prominent conservative constitutional scholar has even endorsed it), Gingrich's proposal is contrary to conservative political interests in numerous ways. Look at "Obamacare." Conservatives and others filed dozens of lawsuits all over the nation asking courts to strike it down as unconstitutional. They have now succeeded in getting the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. Taking Gingrich seriously, the only way the court could avoid being activist would be to rule in President Obama's favor. That's the opposite of what conservatives want (Mark Kende, 12/21).
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: An Intriguing New Plan Could Mute Political Noise
A new bipartisan proposal to reform Medicare could be a watershed moment in a long debate over one of the nation's most vexing problems. The idea of preserving traditional fee-for-service Medicare while offering a choice to seniors has merit. The authors of this proposal -- U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who chairs the House Budget Committee, and Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat -- deserve credit for challenging their parties' orthodoxy (12/21).
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wyden Has Maneuvered Ryan To A Healthier Idea
The new Wyden-Ryan Medicare framework is the most fascinating policy and political maneuver of the year. Here's why. ... I assume Ryan will still try to play a double game -- getting the Medicare cover from Wyden that his party craves while pretending that his overall budget plans solve the problem. But the jig is up. Wyden has put Ryan in a box where he can be forced to admit that there's no way to get our long-term fiscal house in order without higher taxes as boomers age (Matt Miller, 12/21).
Politico: A Doctor's Christmas Wish List
President Obama has played Santa Claus year-round since coming into office, giving the Americans exorbitant "packages" that have time after time proven to be lumps of coal. Whether it was stimulus one or two, cap and tax or Obamacare, these programs are, in reality, Trojan horses rather than "gifts." If I could play Santa this Christmas season, I would repeal and replace Obamacare immediately with meaningful and sustainable reforms (Rep. Phil Gingrey, 12/22).
Des Moines Register: Obama Is Backtracking On Health Care
Pandering to Republicans on health reform does not serve the American people. The Obama administration should know that by now. ... The law requires plans in the exchange to provide broad categories of "essential" coverage for care, including emergency room visits and prescription drugs. The administration was expected to fill in the details. It would spell out, for example, the services, procedures and drugs that must be covered. Yet in a painfully disappointing statement, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services said she intends to turn over the responsibility to states (12/21).
iWatch News: Awards For Health Care Reform Wimpery And Obfuscation
So knowing from personal experience how beneficial lumps of coal can be at the holidays, I have decided to give out a few lumps of my own to folks whose recent actions make them deserving recipients. The first one goes to President Obama and his health care team for wimping out on one of the most important provisions of health care reform. The law specifies that starting in 2014, all private health insurance plans must cover a set of "essential benefits," ranging from doctor, hospital and prescription drug coverage to mental health and rehabilitative services (Wendell Potter, 12/22).
Forbes: Health Care Future Bright For Nurses, Stinks For Doctors
Surveys repeatedly show doctors are fed up with low reimbursement rates from Medicare and even lower from Medicaid, which have increasingly led doctors to no longer see new patients in those government-run plans. ... Even more do not accept patients with Medicaid. Then there’s the heavy-handed regulations and requirements from both government and private health insurers. ... So it’s little wonder that there are physician shortages, especially in lower-paying primary care, and those shortages are only going to get worse if ObamaCare succeeds in getting an estimated 32 million more Americans insured (Merrill Matthews, 12/21).
San Francisco Chronicle: Bay Area Groups Take Part In Medicare Test Program
This is only a test, but it's an important one…. For all their promise, ACOs have a major hill to climb. The projected $1 billion in savings from the Medicare pilot program is a drop in the bucket compared with the system's $468 billion budget for 2011 alone (Andrew S. Ross, 12/21).
Washington Post: Entitlements Vs. The Poor
(Virginia Gov. Robert F.) McDonnell proposed spending quite a bit more to shore up the state employee retirement fund and somewhat more to improve the deteriorating roads. Both increases are needed, and we applaud them. But how does the governor propose to pay for them? By slowing state contributions to Medicaid and kindergarten through 12th grade education. In other words: Children and the poor will suffer while the elderly and the middle class gain (12/21).
New York Times: Looking For A Place To Die
Hospice insurance benefits are ideally used to cover the costs of end-of-life care in patients’ homes, for up to six months, while periods of inpatient care are for the "short term." And although patients do die in inpatient hospices, part of the mission of hospice is allowing patients to remain at home instead of in a hospital; hence the turn away from inpatient care, which is costly and often intrusive. But that leaves people like this patient — more than a few days away from death, unable to be adequately cared for at home and unable to afford to pay out-of-pocket for a facility — struggling to find a place to die (Theresa Brown, 12/21).
Boston Globe: Cutting Too Much, Too Soon
Recessionary cuts in recent years have already chipped away at the lead-inspection and poisoning-prevention staff of both the state of Massachusetts and the city of Boston, with resources disappearing like flaking paint. ... Now, if a proposed $34 million federal cut to lead-poisoning prevention programs occurs, there may be only a half-dozen or so people in Boston to conduct outreach, collect data, and do case management in a city where 90 percent of homes were built before 1978, the year before lead paint was banned for residential use (12/22).