Viewpoints: Keeping Guns Away From Dangerous People Is About To Get Much Tougher; Time To Level Playing Field For Medicare
Opinion writers weigh in on these and other health topics.
America’s Gun Problem Is About To Go 3-D
Many U.S. states have been making progress against gun violence, passing laws that make it harder for the most dangerous people to get hold of firearms. Those gains are in jeopardy thanks to new technology and Washington’s failure to grapple with its implications. Last month the State Department quietly settled a lawsuit brought by a gun entrepreneur who promotes the private manufacture of untraceable firearms. Cody Wilson, the founder of Defense Distributed, had been barred from publishing online computer files that can be used with a 3-D printer to create firearms. The State Department had imposed the ban using its export-control powers. The settlement allows Wilson to go ahead. (7/30)
Medicare’s Anniversary Is The Right Time To Demand A Level Playing Field With Private Plans
The administration’s apparent bias toward Medicare Advantage is not merely a Washington insiders’ issue. It directly impacts the health care of seniors. Part of the problem is that Medicare Advantage attracts younger and healthier enrollees, leaving older and sicker patients in traditional Medicare. If left unchecked, this trend will drive up the costs of traditional Medicare and further strain the system’s finances. Indeed, the new “goodies” that Medicare Advantage can now offer tend to intensify this disparity — as they are more enticing to younger seniors and less important for older ones. (Max Richtman, 7/30)
The Health Care Surge: Why It's A Rising Issue With Democrats In The 2018 Midterms
In recent elections, Republicans have effectively used health care and anti-Affordable Care Act sentiment to rally their base. Now, the repeal effort has made the ACA more popular and given Democrats a weapon to use to motivate their base and reach out to independents. Between the lines: The importance of health care as a national priority is sometimes overstated — but our recent polling shows it really could be a decisive issue in the midterms. That's because it has been surging as an issue for Democrats, and in an election many see as a referendum on President Trump, it may now be as important a factor as Trump is. By the numbers: The surprising number from our tracking polls: 33% of Democrats pick health care as the top factor in their vote in the upcoming elections, while 30% pick Trump. For the general public, 25% pick health care, about the same percentage as pick Trump (26%). (Drew Altman, 7/31)
Las Vegas Review-Journal:
Surprise: ‘Free’ Health Care Would Cost Trillions
An aide to Mahatma Gandhi once famously observed, “It costs a lot of money to keep this man in poverty.” Likewise, it would take a lot of cash to pay for all of Bernie Sanders’ “free” stuff. On Monday, the Mercatus Center at George Washington University released a study concluding the Vermont socialist’s “Medicare for all” proposal — a government takeover of the nation’s health care system — would cost $32.6 trillion over 10 years, requiring astronomical tax hikes. To put this into perspective, the entire federal budget for fiscal 2019 will be $4.407 trillion. Sen. Sanders responded typically for those who don’t have the facts on their side: He shot the messenger. In particular, he attacked the Mercatus Center because it receives some money from … trigger warning! … the nefarious Koch brothers, those dastardly, rich libertarians who promote dangerous ideas such as the value of free markets. (7/30)
The Washington Post:
Families Destroyed? Children Orphaned? If Only We Had A Congress!
When the head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection appeared at a Washington forum the other day to discuss his agency — which was instrumental in the Trump administration’s family separation debacle — the toughest moments he faced came from hecklers, one of whom shouted, “You’re orphaning children! You’re kidnapping children!” Setting aside those interruptions, Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan fielded one gentle question after another, never challenged to explain CBP’s role in what a federal judge has characterized as a breakdown in coordination among government agencies that has left hundreds of migrant children stripped from their parents. (7/30)
Hospital Mergers Or Acquisitions May Cause Short-Term Patient Safety Issues
“Better patient care” is the reason hospital and health systems usually give when they merge or acquire one another. Our research suggests that mergers and affiliations might, paradoxically, increase the risk of harm to patients in the short run. Improving the safety of patient care is possible during mergers and affiliations, but requires intentional efforts. What happens after a merger or acquisition matters keenly to patients, and tens of millions of them are affected by such deals each year. There have been more than 100 hospital or health system mergers and acquisitions each year since 2014, with a high of 115 in 2017, and that pace is likely to continue. No part of the country has been spared. (Susan Haas, William Berry and Mark Reynolds, 7/31)
It's Time To Provide Benefits To Vietnam Navy Veterans
After a seven-year struggle, Navy veterans are on the cusp of getting exposure for those who served in the bays, harbors and estuarine waters of the Republic of Vietnam. Despite a unanimous vote in the House of Representatives, some naysayers have come forward to launch a last ditch attack this bill. First a real estate agent in Phoenix objected to the small increase in veterans home loan guarantee fees used to offset the new benefits. Then Anthony Principi, the former VA Secretary, who implemented the decision to strip the Navy veterans of their benefits, published an op-ed claiming that the bill was not supported by science.Under the Pay as You Go Act, any new benefit must be scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and offset by a reduction elsewhere in the budget. CBO has scored the Blue Water Navy bill at $894 million over ten years. The House agreed to a small increase in loan guarantee fees to pay for the benefits. (John B. Wells, 7/30)
The Washington Post:
A Winning Theme For Democrats? Kids.
Democrats have been casting about for a winning theme this November. Here’s one suggestion: Kids. After all, despite once declaring themselves the party of family values, Republican politicians have more recently ceded this territory. The GOP is now the party of state-sanctioned child abuse, of taking health care away from poor children, of leaving young immigrant “dreamers” in legal limbo. It is GOP policy, and GOP policy alone, that has ripped thousands of immigrant children from their parents and locked them in cages, where they cannot be held or comforted when they cry. (Catherine Rampell, 7/30)
Des Moines Register:
Republican Tax Cuts Share Blame For Iowa Nursing Home Sale
Events in Washington can seem remote. But the devastating impact of last year’s Trump-GOP tax cuts — supported by our Republican Congressman, Rod Blum — can be felt just a few miles north of downtown Waterloo, at the Country View nursing home. After 150 years of direct service to the community by Black Hawk County, Country View is being sold to a Chicago-area private company, an unsettling prospect for both residents and staff. A big reason for the sale is insufficient funding from Medicaid, the federal-state public health program for low-income and disabled people. This problem has been further exacerbated by Republican actions to privatize the management of Medicaid in Iowa, a move that has been an absolute disaster for both patients and providers. Medicaid and its sister program, Medicare — which primarily serves the elderly — both turn 53 years old this week. But thanks to the Trump-GOP tax cuts, the only birthday presents they can look forward to this year are severe budget cuts. (Chris Schwartz, 7/30)