KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: GOP Dragging Heels On Payroll Tax, Doc Fix Plan; Opinions Still Heated On Contraception Rule

The New York Times: The Payroll Tax Fight
Republicans in Congress seem to have forgotten the embarrassment they suffered late last year for trying to block a payroll tax cut for millions of wage-earners. The two-month extension they reluctantly approved will run out in three weeks, yet, again, they are stalling a full-year's tax cut with extraneous issues and political ploys. ... (The two sides have also failed to agree on how to prevent a cut in Medicare payments to doctors, which could drive many of them from the program) (2/6).

Los Angeles Times: For Many, Affordable Healthcare Hinges On Supreme Court Vote
It remains anyone's guess how the Supreme Court will vote this year on whether Congress can require people to buy insurance as part of President Obama's healthcare reform law. ... With this in mind, it's helpful to remember why this is even being discussed. ... It's because of people like Sharon Scott, a 47-year-old single mom in Anaheim who pays nearly half her $24,000 annual income to her insurer, Health Net, and is unable to shop around for a cheaper policy because she has cataracts (David Lazarus, 2/6).

The Wall Street Journal: Capital Journal: Misreading Catholic Barometer Is A Political Risk
The harshly negative reaction of the church's bishops—important allies of the president's on other matters, notably immigration reform—is one thing. The bigger question is whether rank-and-file Catholics, even the majority who tend to disagree with church teaching on contraception, will view the administration's actions as a case of overreach. As a result, the administration now faces a delicate question of whether to mend fences, seek a new compromise or assume the flap will blow over without affecting broader Catholic views (Gerald F. Seib, 2/7).

Chicago Tribune: State Must Remain Out Of Matters Of The Church
More recently, on Jan. 20, the Obama administration finalized regulations that force employers, including Catholic and other religious institutions, to provide insurance that covers birth control, without deductibles or co-pays, to its employees in hospitals, charitable organizations, social-service agencies and universities. Because prescription contraceptives, sterilization and abortifacients (chemicals that effectively kill a fertilized egg) violate their teachings and consciences, Catholic and other churches have loudly objected. Some declared they wouldn't comply, setting up a major constitutional fight (Dennis Byrne, 2/7).

The Washington Post: The Poor Pay The Price For Obama's Politics
In a variety of international settings, I have seen religious groups, with support from the U.S. government, engaged in AIDS treatment, fistula repair, malaria control, and the promotion of child and maternal health. ... Much of this good work — and similar work across the country — is now threatened. If federal policies make it impossible for religious nonprofits and hospitals to work in conjunction with federal, state and local agencies in providing social services, millions of poor and vulnerable Americans — Catholic and non-Catholic, religious and nonreligious — would suffer (Michael Gerson, 2/6).

The Wall Street Journal: Obama And The 'Bitter' Clingers – Round Two
Whatever else the controversial new contraceptive mandate may have done, already it has achieved the unthinkable: Joe Biden is now as silent and reclusive as a Trappist monk. Mr. Biden, of course, occupies a historic place as our first Catholic vice president and the country's most prominent Catholic layman. Never before has he been shy about talking about his faith. So it tells you something that two weeks after the Department of Health and Human Services issued this new rule, Mr. Biden has apparently taken a vow of silence (2/7).

Bloomberg: Health Rule An Affront To Religious Groups
It would be no great hardship for someone who has decided to work at a Catholic hospital to pay for contraception out of pocket. The only reasons to mandate coverage are essentially political, such as the desire to get society to regard abortion as basic health care. Whatever else one may think of this goal, it is not a justification for coercion (Ramesh Ponnuru, 2/6).

The Wall Street Journal: Planned Parenthood's Hostages
The Susan G. Komen Foundation, an organization dedicated since 1982 to fighting, and one day curing, breast cancer, decided to extricate itself from the culture wars by discontinuing grants to Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest provider of abortions. The grants Komen had been making amounted to $650,000 last year, funding some 19 local Planned Parenthood programs that offered manual breast exams but only referrals for mammograms performed elsewhere. The reality is that Planned Parenthood—with annual revenues exceeding $1 billion—does little in the way of screening for breast cancer (Robert P. George and O. Carter Snead, 2/6).

San Jose Mercury News/McClatchy: Komen Turnabout Proves The Power Of Protest
The swift retreat of the Susan G. Komen foundation Friday from its assault on Planned Parenthood is a timely reminder of the power of protest, especially when its target and purpose are clear and its voices are not only strong but also credible (2/6).

Houston Chronicle: Medical Research Key To U.S. Health
NIH is the largest single funder of basic medical research in the U.S.; the research it supports provides the foundation of knowledge that drives innovation and improves health. But reaping the full benefits of medical discoveries can take many years, which is why a long-term, sustained investment in medical research is essential…. We all want to reduce the deficit. But let's not jeopardize the next generation of cures by cutting funding for medical research (Dr. Cary W. Coooper, 2/6).

The Dallas Morning News: The Mentally Ill Deserve Better Treatment
Through Medicaid, Washington offers a program to help people in Kajuana Mitchell's situation get better medical care. But our state must put up some of its own money to qualify for the federal initiative. So far, we haven't. We could by diverting some money from the state prison budget. In the end, that could keep people with deep mental illnesses out of our prisons.  The city of Dallas also should adopt laws that require a decent level of care for the mentally ill who live in group homes. Some houses provide good care, but Dallas has no standards for all to meet (William McKenzie, 2/6).

New Orleans Times Picayune: Spare Mental Health Services In LSU Cuts
Most mental health patients at the hospital aren't covered by Medicaid or private insurance. So there are no alternatives for them if LSU reduces its services. And many people in our region are still dealing with behavioral issues that arose after Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill. That's why mental health services are crucial here. That's why we hope Gov. Bobby Jindal and LSU System President John Lombardi will consider Mayor Landrieu's plea to work together to find other ways to address the shortfall (2/7).

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