KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Super Committee’s Secrecy; Alternatives To CLASS; Solving The Drug Shortage

The New York Times: In Defense Of The Back-Room Deal
The Congressional "super committee" charged with finding $1.5 trillion in debt savings through 2021 is under growing attack from both the left and the right for carrying out most of its work in secret. … History reveals the importance of extensive private talks for members of a bipartisan group to get to know one another and pursue compromises (Jordan Tama, 10/18). 

The New York Times: It Didn't Add Up
The Obama administration was wise to suspend a long-term care insurance program that was part of its health care reform package. The program, which was to be financed by the premiums paid by enrollees, seemed unlikely to remain financially solvent in coming decades. ... The decision shows a welcome flexibility by the White House that bodes well for carrying out all provisions of the reform law (10/18).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Editorial: Precious Few Ideas On Long-Term Care
An editorial writer's exchange this week with Sen. Mitch McConnell's office illustrates the glaring problem with Republicans' glee over the early demise of the CLASS Act, a long-term care insurance program and high-profile part of 2010's landmark health reform law. ... For all of its flaws, the CLASS Act was at least a serious attempt to get people to take responsibility for long-term care costs instead of expecting the government to pick up the tab. If this program won't work, what will? Answering that question has to be a national priority (10/18).

Roll Call: CLASS Act Failure Leaves Problem To Be Solved
The failure of the CLASS Act ... was predicted by some and denied by many. But it should come as no shock to anybody closely following the issue. The numbers simply were not going to add up. ... Conservatives who said, "I told you so" and were right are cheering and jeering now. But at some point they, and everyone else, need to confront the larger societal problem. In fact, we will end up confronting a major part of it, like it or not, sooner rather than later. That is because long-term care is the single largest component of Medicaid, making up nearly a third of its costs (Norman Ornstein, 10/19). 

USA Today: Editorial: A Shortage Of Drugs In A Free Market?
So how could patients go wanting for common drugs in America in 2011? Theories abound. The Food and Drug Administration has found quality problems at some plants, forcing temporary closures. Some raw materials are scarce. And no company can turn on a dime to make these drugs. ... Still, nearly everyone involved is avoiding the most obvious explanation: that something is preventing the free market, which usually works to alleviate shortages, from working here. ... That's not happening, in part, because of a provision in a 2003 Medicare drug law that limits price increases for drugs sold to hospitals and doctors (rather than directly to patients) and reimbursed by Medicare and private insurers (10/18).

USA Today: Another View: Drug Supply Chain Members Must Work Together
Make no mistake. The current shortage of medically necessary drugs is a crisis for patients in need of treatment and a complex problem for health care providers and the suppliers of these critical medicines. But dramatically reducing drug shortages is not out of reach. The solution is attainable provided that all members of the drug supply chain — manufacturers, regulators, distributors and purchasers — work together to achieve a positive outcome (Ralph G. Neas, 10/18).

San Francisco Chronicle: House GOP's Shameful Attack On Reproductive Rights
Among the budget targets of House Republicans, one stands out as especially unfair and dangerous. It's an effort to cut $300 million in family planning services such as birth control and contraceptive assistance to poor women. ... It's a shameful attack on women's reproductive rights, family planning and sound public policy (10/18).

WBUR's CommonHealth blog: My Father's End-Of-Life Treatment: Not What He Had In Mind
Both my parents had made it clear to their children from early in their middle age that they did not want "heroic" measures adopted if they were incapacitated by accident or grim diagnosis.  ... In the four weeks prior to his death, my father lived under the care of five different institutions in two states. Only the last place, the hospice, appeared willing or able to provide care and comfort to a man who was obviously at the end of his life. Each facility admitted its failure to address my father's needs by moving him on; each transition increased his stress and suffering (Sarah A. Stephens, 10/18).

San Francisco Chronicle: Kamala Harries Needs To Speak Up On Medicinal Pot
As the Obama administration escalates its threats to crack down on California's medical marijuana dispensaries, two voices have been conspicuously silent: state Attorney General Kamala Harris and Gov. Jerry Brown, her predecessor. Is she going to vigorously defend the dispensaries if the feds attempt to shut them down?  (10/19).

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