KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

Viewpoints: Thinking About The Budget; Is Obamacare A Stepping Stone For Single Payer?

A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.

USA Today: Deficit Attention Disorder: Our View
From 2009 to 2012, the federal government ran annual deficits of at least $1 trillion, provoking outrage from politicians and fueling the rise of the Tea Party. Now that deficits have receded, few people seem to care anymore. ... Congress has been no better. Prodded by the Tea Party, Republicans forced dramatic cuts in year-to-year spending for defense and domestic programs — and then cut deals last year to significantly unwind the cuts, increase pay for doctors and extend an array of tax breaks. More important, both parties have largely ignored the part of the budget where the big money is: benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare, which run on autopilot and now account for almost two-thirds of all federal spending. ... Most of the Republicans have offered absurdly expensive tax cuts that would add trillions to the national debt over the next decade, while the Democrats are offering irresponsible plans to spend huge amounts on higher education and health care. (2/8)

USA Today: Too Soon To Worry About Deficits: Opposing View
On Tuesday, the White House will unveil its annual federal budget. In recent years, the traditional hand-wringing over budget deficits sensibly took a back seat to ensuring that spending cuts did not drag on the still-incomplete economic recovery. Now, however, pressure is building again to reduce deficits. ... There’s still little economic evidence, however, that we should start cutting spending to reduce the deficit.Only when the economy achieves a full recovery should our focus shift to the national debt. But even then, the destructive toll of inequality on lower- and middle-class income households argues that essential social insurance programs such as Social Security and Medicare should be maintained and expanded, not slashed. And the first new revenue to fund these vital programs should be progressive. The biggest problems we face remain a still-weak economy and destructive inequality, not a too-large federal budget deficit. (Hunter Blair and Josh Bivens, 2/8)

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Was Obamacare Designed To Fail?
Democratic socialist progressives, hard to know what term to use these days, unabashedly embrace single payer healthcare for the United States. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was passed by Congress with no Republican votes in 2010. It didn’t achieve single payer. However, an examination of how Obamacare has evolved might lead to the conclusion that it was designed to fail as a way to, ultimately, force a single payer system. (Howard J. Peterson and Robert I. Field, 2/9)

Modern Healthcare: Expect More Attacks On 'Socialized Medicine' If Sanders Wins In New Hampshire
In Saturday's Republican presidential debate, Ted Cruz warned of the dangers of a government-led healthcare financing system. “Socialized medicine is a disaster. It does not work. If you look at the countries that have imposed socialized medicine, that have put the government in charge of providing medicine, what inevitably happens is rationing. ...." As we know from the “death panel” controversy fueled by Sarah Palin in 2009, sounding the alarm on rationing medical care is extremely explosive in American politics and such criticism spreads quickly. While that charge was completely bogus, the problem for Sanders and other proponents of single-payer health insurance is that countries with government-run or government-organized healthcare financing systems, such as Great Britain and Canada, do limit some services that are deemed too expensive, not medically necessary, or lacking sufficient clinical evidence. (Harris Meyer, 2/8)

USA Today: Doing What We Must On Alzheimer's: Column
My 93-year-old father hasn’t known my brother or me for two years. On rare occasions, he expresses a vague inkling that I’m the guy who cooks dinner, but that’s the exception rather than the rule. Most days, Dad sees only a potentially dangerous stranger — his unknown son — approaching the home he and Mom have shared for 60 years. I hear him yell out for her, his voice thick with confusion and panic, “Ruth! Somebody’s at the door!” At first that bothered me; now it’s just normal. (Ron Marr, 2/8)

STAT: Depression Screening For Adults And Adolescents Has Benefits, But Don’t Ignore The Downsides
Depression affects millions of Americans. Many of them know it; many others don’t. In an effort to reveal — and treat — hidden depression, the United States Preventive Services Task Force has reaffirmed that doctors should screen all adults and adolescents for depression. Screening means checking a seemingly healthy person for signs of hidden disease. It is done for all sorts of ailments, from high blood pressure and osteoporosis to breast and prostate cancer. (Patrick Skerrett, 2/8)

JAMA: Immunization Policy And The Importance Of Sustainable Vaccine Pricing
As novel, increasingly expensive vaccines are developed and considered for inclusion in the childhood immunization schedule, during pregnancy, and among the elderly, issues regarding efficacy, safety, burden of disease, equity, and compatibility with existing vaccine schedules will be evaluated. ... Consensus regarding use of a specific vaccine will not be achieved easily. Vaccine costs will weigh heavily on recommendations. Efforts to constrain vaccine pricing without removing the incentive for vaccine development will be a difficult balance. Establishing a model for vaccine pricing will be an integral part of ensuring broad access to the remarkable benefits that future vaccines surely will provide. (H. Cody Meissner, 2/8)

The New York Times: When Addiction Has A White Face
When crack hit America in the mid-1980s, for African-Americans, to borrow from Ta-Nehisi Coates, civilization fell. Crack embodied instant and fatal addiction; we saw endless images of thin, ravaged bodies, always black, as though from a famined land. And always those desperate, cracked lips. Our hearts broke learning the words “crack baby.” (Ekow N. Yankah, 2/9)

Bloomberg: New Hampshire Tests Candidates On Addiction
Melissa Crews has always voted Democratic, though her husband is a staunch Republican. This year, the family split is coming to an end: Melissa is switching sides, and heroin is the principal reason. Crews is board chair at Hope for New Hampshire Recovery, a nonprofit she helped set up last year to battle the state's heroin epidemic. New Hampshire was third in the nation for overdose deaths in 2014 (the latest year for which data are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and in the top 10 for the use of illicit drugs other than marijuana. (Leonid Bershidsky, 2/9)

Des Moines Register: Culver, Democrats Defend Antiquated Medicaid System
The caucus chaos may have died down, but there is a new political circus in town. This week, Senate Democrats are teaming up with former Gov. Chet Culver. Culver is embarking on a series of anti-Medicaid modernization town halls, while Iowa Senate Democrats appear poised to pass legislation to terminate the modernization of the Iowa Medicaid system. (Jimmy Centers, 2/9)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.