Viewpoints: The Health Law At Work In Calif.; ‘Prescription’ For Social Security Disability Insurance
A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.
Los Angeles Times:
Obamacare Works In California. Here's Why.
Early reports that 2016 health insurance premiums would increase in double digits brought out the usual cadre of critics to claim — once again — that Obamacare is not financially sustainable. These proposed premiums were neither finalized nor did they reflect the full picture of rates in most states. We now have the full picture in California, where we are proving that health insurance exchanges can keep prices in check. Residents who enroll through Covered California, our statewide exchange, will see only modest 4% increases in 2016. Those selecting the lowest-priced plans actually will save 4.5%. (Peter V. Lee and James C.Robinson, 7/27)
The Washington Post:
A Wise Prescription For Social Security Disability Insurance
By this time next year, a crucial federal safety-net program could be out of cash, or almost out of cash. We refer to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which paid benefits to 9 million disabled workers (and 2 million of their dependents) in 2014, at a total annual cost of $141 billion. There’s no mystery why this has happened: Growth in beneficiaries has outstripped the accumulation of payroll taxes in the Social Security trust fund dedicated to disability benefits. There’s also no doubt about what will happen if Congress fails to act: a sudden 19 percent benefit cut, possibly right in the middle of the 2016 election campaign. (7/27)
Los Angeles Times:
Firms Should Stop Pretending That High-Profile Mergers Will Benefit Consumers
It makes you wonder: Has there ever been a high-profile merger that's resulted in lower prices or higher quality for consumers? In the wake of several big deals in recent days, I put that question to dozens of business professors, economists and lawyers specializing in mergers and antitrust issues. These are people who study and track this sort of thing for a living. Not one was able to cite a single big-ticket merger that irrefutably benefited consumers in a long-term, demonstrable way. Not one. ... On Monday, Israel's Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, a leading maker of generic drugs, said it's buying Allergan's generic drug unit. Meanwhile, health insurer Anthem is buying rival Cigna, creating the country's biggest health-insurance company. (David Lazarus, 7/28)
The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire:
Who’s Right On Health Care Cost Projections?
The sustainability of the U.S. fiscal outlook depends on the path of health costs, particularly Medicare, the health insurance program for the elderly and disabled. If health costs continue to rise more rapidly than gross domestic product, then Medicare will be increasingly unaffordable. The recent slowdown in Medicare spending has been touted as evidence that the health cost curve has finally “bent” and that the Medicare financing problem can be managed with modest changes in policy. (Louise Sheiner, 7/27)
The Charlotte Observer:
Happy 50th To The Medicare Program
What do these recent news stories in the Observer have in common? An insurance agent connives to sell Affordable Care Act policies to homeless people by encouraging them to report inflated incomes. His clients/victims discover they can’t afford their deductibles nor can they any longer receive medications or other services earmarked for the uninsured. Health care advocates across the state call on Governor McCrory to develop a plan for Medicaid expansion, noting that hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians would benefit significantly, at little cost to the state. A benefit concert is held to pay mounting medical bills for an artist severely injured when struck by a car. (Jessica Schorr Saxe, 7/27)
The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Pharma Distorts Facts To Keep Medicare From Negotiating Drug Prices
In 1967, Richard S. Harris wrote a four-part series for The New Yorker, describing how Medicare came to be enacted. The leading opponent of that legislation was the American Medical Association. The AMA's central argument against this valuable piece of legislation was its contention that government-supported health care would pave the way to the horror of socialized medicine. The principal spokesman for the AMA’s fear-mongering claptrap was a Hollywood B-movie actor and TV pitchman named Ronald Reagen. According to one of the lawmakers who spoke to Harris, the way it turned out was that, "the docs just cried socialism once too often and after a while, people stopped believing them." (Daniel Hoffman, 7/27)
How Disability Law Went Nuts: Column
Good intentions are no excuse for perpetual legal chaos. The Americans with Disabilities Act promised a bright new era of equality and freedom. Instead, it has spawned endless lawsuits and absurd federal decrees while harming some of the people it sought to relieve. The 1990 ADA defined disability as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities” — a far broader definition that what previously prevailed in the statute book. In 2008, Congress vastly expanded that definition to include people with diabetes, depression, heart disease, or cancer, as well as people who have significant troubles standing, lifting, bending, reading, concentrating, thinking and communicating. (James Bovard, 7/27)
Why Can’t Washington Build A Website?
The American taxpayer is paying $80 billion per year for federal information technology. But if you ask anyone who’s applied for veterans healthcare, or searched for a job on USAjobs.gov, or tried to explore small business resources on BusinessUSA.gov, you’ll wonder where that $80 billion went. They’re encountering websites that are confusing, complicated, and not mobile-friendly. Modernizing government isn’t sexy, but is incredibly important — especially given the pressure of budgets and the rapid evolution of consumer-facing technology. As a country, we risk falling behind. (Nick Sinai and Matt Lira, 7/27)
The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire:
A Little-Noticed Win In Global HIV Treatment
Many Americans are skeptical about foreign aid because they believe a large share of U.S. assistance is lost to corruption. When it comes to global health, as the chart above shows, 83% of Americans say corruption and misuse of funds is a barrier to improving health in developing nations, and 43% say it is the most important barrier. Corruption is a problem. World Bank President Jim Kim has called it “public enemy number one.” So it was of no small consequence when UNAIDS announced this month that the global goal adopted in 2011 of getting 15 million people on HIV antiretroviral treatment by the end of 2015 had been met nine months early. (Drew Altman, 7/27)
The New York Times:
What I Learned At The Weed Dispensary
In the past year I’ve talked to dozens of these patients in states where medical marijuana is legal, as well as in Colorado, Washington and Oregon, which allow recreational use. Many people with serious illnesses turn to medical marijuana because they’re not getting the careful, comprehensive treatment they need for symptoms like pain or nausea or anxiety. That was certainly true for Robin, whose physicians didn’t seem to have the time or the skills to help her. As a palliative care physician, every day I see firsthand the suffering my patients have experienced, and the lengths to which they’ve gone to manage their symptoms and control their lives. (David Caserett, 7/28)