Viewpoints: Health Care Is A Civil Right; A Medicare Strategy Based On Lenin
Philadelphia Inquirer: Reform Addresses Health Disparities
Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy is one of progress toward a better life for every American, including equal opportunity in voting, housing, education, and employment. Reflecting on his legacy also means recognizing the steps we must take to address the inequalities that persist. Many of these involve health care. Poor and minority Americans suffer from more preventable diseases on average, lower-quality care, fewer treatment options, and less health insurance coverage (Pedro Rodriguez, 1/16).
The Charlotte Observer: Next Civil Rights Frontier? It Surely Has To Be Health Care
Surely Dr. King would find the next civil rights frontier in health care, with nearly 50 million uninsured, almost 45,000 deaths annually due to lack of insurance, and more than half of all personal bankruptcies linked to illness and medical bills. While the Affordable Care Act will bring improvements, such as decreasing the ranks of the uninsured, supporting community health centers, and investing in prevention, it leaves many gaps. At least 23 million people will still be uninsured in 2019 (Jessica Schorr Saxe, 1/14).
Los Angeles Times: Attacks On Social Security, Medicare Borrow A Strategy From Lenin
About the last thing you'd ever expect is for conservatives to draw procedural lessons from the founder of the Soviet state. So it's fascinating to ponder the persistence of an attack on Social Security that was explicitly billed as a "Leninist" strategy three decades ago by analysts at the Heritage Foundation and is still in use today. This is the notion, which is part of pretty much every proposal today to "fix" Social Security and Medicare, that benefits for the retired and near-retired should be guaranteed, while those for everyone else must be cut (Michael Hiltzik, 1/13).
Forbes: The Fate Of Health Care Reform -- What To Expect In 2012 -- NEJM
States who don't apply will either have to cede control of the exchanges to the federal government or pay for the cost of implementation themselves. State governors and legislatures against the ACA, like my home state of Florida, risk turning away resources and having more of the federal government running the show. Talk about the law of unintended consequences (Dr. Carolyn McClanahan, 1/13).
Des Moines Register: Affordable Care Act Deserves To Be Affirmed
I and a dozen other Iowa lawmakers are among more than 500 state legislators nationwide who have filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the constitutionality of the national Affordable Care Act. Iowa is the best state in the nation when it comes to children's health care. Yet there are still 300,000 uninsured Iowans. Skyrocketing health insurance rates continue to hamper job creation in Iowa and make Iowa households financially insecure. Iowa's health care crisis will not be solved without a strong federal effort to increase competition, control costs, improve quality and insure every American (Iowa State Sen. Jack Hatch, 1/15).
Forbes: A SCOTUS Ordered End To Health Insurance Mandates Means Big Trouble For GOP Presidential Candidate
While it may be de rigueur for conservatives to proclaim their hatred of Obamacare in its entirety, there is no getting around the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans very much like certain elements of the law – parts that Republicans would find themselves struggling to save should the Supreme Court strike down insurance mandates and the GOP succeed in taking control of both the legislative and executive branches of government. ... Americans are most assuredly not going to happily accept the idea of a GOP dominated government snatching away the availability of health insurance at a community rated price and a return to denying coverage to those who suffer from pre-existing medical conditions (Rick Ungar, 1/16).
The Washington Post: Cutting Health-Care Spending The Old-Fashioned Way
Analysts at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) attributed the spending slowdown directly to the weak economy. The effect "occurred more quickly than ... in previous recessions," they wrote in the journal Health Affairs. One reason was a steep decline in private health insurance coverage, which dropped 10.9 million people, or 5.5 percent from 2007 to 2010 (Robert J. Samuelson, 1/16).
The Hill: Paying For The Payroll Tax Cut
The bell is about to ring for round two of the not-so-great fight over how to pay for extending the payroll tax break and extended unemployment insurance benefits. ... First, what not to do. Congress should eschew pay-fors that will make things worse for the economy, job creation and poor and middle-class households still struggling with the anemic recovery. Cuts to Medicaid or food stamps would be especially ill-advised (Jared Bernstein, 1/17).
Boston Globe: ACA Vs. ObamaCare: What's In A Name?
Like it or not, most Americans know this law as "ObamaCare" and not as the "ACA." ... As I teach all my students, politics is the way people decide who gets what, when, where, how, and why. ... Right now, the opposition rules -- though my heart is with Obama and John Conyers on this. Opponents may come to rue the day they embraced ObamaCare! (John McDonough, 1/14).
Minneapolis Star Tribune: Tackle Drug Prices And Shortages
While the causes of both (rising prescription-drug prices and shortages of cancer treatment drugs) are complex -- involving manufacturing processes, some questionable industry practices and a regulatory framework that needs updating, among others -- it's clear that action is needed. The two bipartisan bills highlighted at the forum certainly aren't a cure-all, but they both would be solid steps toward improving drug affordability and managing shortages. That's why it's alarming that both are making slow progress, with headwinds no doubt courtesy of pharmaceutical lobbyists (1/14).
The New York Times: Bargaining For A Child’s Love
Once upon a time, the story line goes, family members cared for one another naturally within households, in an organic and unplanned process. But this portrait is too rosy. If we confront what old-age support once looked like — what actually happened when care was almost fully privatized, when the old depended on their families, without the bureaucratic structures and the (under)paid caregivers we take for granted — a different picture emerges (Hendrik Hartog, 1/14).
The Wall Street Journal: A Doctor In Your Pocket
Today, we mostly wait for the body to break before we treat it. When I picture what it will be like for my two children to stay in good health as independent adults in 10 or 20 years, I see a big shift from our current model. I see them being able to monitor and adjust their health in real time with the help of smartphones, wearable gadgets—perhaps like small, invisible stickers—to track the inner workings of their cells, and virtual replicas of their bodies that they will play much like videogames, allowing them to know exactly what they can do to optimize every aspect of their health (Dr. David B. Agus, 1/14).
The Sacramento Bee: A Good List For Hospital Shoppers – 405 Chances
The organization that accredits American hospitals – the Joint Commission for the Accreditation of Hospitals – recently released its list of the country's top 405 hospitals. They represent 14 percent of the United States and each achieved at least 95 percent on their score card. None of the biggies – UCLA, Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Columbia or Stanford – is on the list, but several smaller hospitals did exceptionally well (Dr. Michael Wilkes, 1/15).
San Jose Mercury News: Have You Had The End-Of-Life Discussion?
Americans need to change the way they think about death and dying. The United States spends about $70 billion a year -- one-third of all Medicare expenditures -- on medical care for the elderly in the last months of their lives. If money for health care is going to be limited, and we know it is, then we need to think and talk about whether this is the right place to be spending so much of it. … Research already shows that elderly patients who fully engage in end-of-life discussions with their doctors and families choose less aggressive treatment. They also experience less depression and an improved quality of life for them and their families (1/16).
Houston Chronicle: Texas Can Use Federal Help On Health Care
Why secede when the federal government is paying? In order to control costs, (Gov. Rick) Perry has proposed "block grants," in which the feds would give states a certain amount of money for Medicaid. Nothing wrong with the concept, although it is unrealistic that the feds would hand over hundreds of billions of dollars to states without strings (Arthur Garson Jr. and Carolyn Long Engelhard, 1/14).
The Dallas Morning News: The Texas Health Care Albatross Of 2020
For Texas households with employer-sponsored insurance, the larger issue is how expensive health care costs will be by 2020, when, nationally, about 20 cents out of every U.S. dollar will be spent on care…. Even with employer support, expect health care costs in 2020 will be an even larger household budgetary albatross (Steve Jacob, 1/16).
Georgia Health News: What If….?
If the court rules against the constitutionality of the health reform law, part or all of that law will immediately be null and void. Insurance markets will revert back to inadequate state laws that existed before the federal law was passed in 2010. ... Does Georgia want to go back to that situation? Or is it prepared to make needed changes to improve its insurance market and lower the number of uninsured? (Ronald Bachman, 1/13).
The Seattle Times: Washington Legislature Must Resolve Legal Muddle Over Medical Marijuana
Cannabis has proven medical value, and some of the patients who want it live east of the mountains. They ought to be able to buy it…. The new bill, by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, allows nonprofit (but taxable) cannabis dispensaries by local option…. That would be a step forward on a long road (1/16).
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Hold Health Insurers Accountable For Spending
Wisconsinites work hard and deserve a fair value for their health insurance dollar. And they deserve state insurance officials who balance their interests along with those of local insurance companies. At a time when families are tightening their belts, insurance companies should be required to do the same. Federal officials are currently reviewing Wisconsin's proposal and should reject the state's attempt to maintain business as usual for low-value health insurers (DeAnn Friedholm, 1/16).
The Baltimore Sun: After Urologists Got Machine, Cancer Treatments Soared
Four years ago, doctors at Chesapeake Urology Associates started ordering the most expensive kind of prostate-cancer therapy for many more of their patients. Before 2007, the large, multi-office practice was prescribing the treatment, known as intensity modulated radiation therapy, for 12 percent of its prostate-cancer patients covered by Medicare, according to data compiled by a Georgetown University researcher. … Chesapeake Urology tripled its percentage of prescriptions for IMRT after the practice acquired its own IMRT machine in 2007 (Jay Hancock, 1/15).
San Jose Mercury News: California Needs Reasonable Controls On Health Care Premiums
California should join the majority of states across the nation, 36 of 50, that have authority to control health insurance rate hikes. A consumer group is expecting to begin collecting signatures within the next few days to put a regulatory measure on the November ballot. They should work to give California voters the opportunity to voice their opinion on how much regulation is needed over an industry raking in record profits. The best place to resolve such important statewide issues is in the Legislature. But lawmakers have taken several runs at giving California's insurance commissioner the power to limit rate hikes and failed each time, thanks to a handful of stubborn Republicans who worked to kill the bills (1/16).
The Baltimore Sun: Cohen Saved Billions, Showed Health Regulation Can Work
Hospitals gouge employers and insurance companies. Combining into powerful alliances, they raise prices almost at will, forcing carriers to pass the costs on to patients and the companies they work for. … The well-off get American medicine at its best. The uninsured and the poor get something less. …. That's pretty much how U.S. health care works. Except in Maryland. Here, thanks largely to a guy named Hal Cohen, a statewide hospital-spending budget is set and kept each year. … Urban hospitals deliver care that is just as good as — or better than — that found in the suburbs. … Best of all, hospital costs rise more slowly over the years than they do in the rest of the nation. Cohen, who died last week at 73, created a model for the rest of the country to adopt, if only the country knew it (Hancock, 1/17).