KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: ‘116 Billion Reasons’ For The Individual Mandate; Virginia Gov. McDonnell On HowThe Health Law Goes Wrong

The Wall Street Journal: ObamaCare's Costs Are Soaring
One year after the passage of ObamaCare, this paper published an op-ed I wrote ("ObamaCare and Carey's Heart") about how America's health-care system saved my daughter's life, and describing how implementing this law will limit innovation, lead to rationing, and lower the quality of care. Now, two years out, I would like to focus on the budgetary disaster (Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., 3/20).

The Washington Post: 116 Billion Reasons To Be For The Individual Mandate
The most compelling sentences in the Obama administration’s brief defending the constitutionality of the health-care law come early on. "As a class," the brief advises on Page 7, "the uninsured consumed $116 billion of health-care services in 2008." ... Those figures amount to a powerful refutation of the argument that the individual mandate — the requirement that individuals obtain insurance or pay a penalty — exceeds the government’s authority to regulate interstate commerce. To me, $116 billion seems like a whole lot of commerce (Ruth Marcus, 3/20).

USA Today: What Happens Without Individual Mandate
When the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments next week about the constitutionality of the 2010 health care reform law, the most controversial element the justices will consider is the imposition of a financial penalty on people who decline to buy insurance (Carter Price and Christine Eibner, 3/20).

Politico: 7 Principles Of Real Health Care Reform
The basic way that "Obamacare" seeks to expand coverage is by increasing the number of people eligible for Medicaid. This is not reform. It is just an expansion of the welfare state by the federal government, which can't afford it, largely on the backs of the states, which also can't afford it (Virginia Gov.  Bob McDonnell, 3/20).

The Wall Street Journal: Birth Control Revisited
The Obama Administration released its new birth-control mandate late Friday afternoon when few would notice, and no wonder. It's a classic. .... Under the Health and Human Services Department's "accommodation," religious organizations won't have to subsidize or sponsor contraceptive services. But their insurers will have to offer such coverage to all workers "without cost sharing" ... Insurers are banned from charging higher premiums for extra benefits, so out of what mists will the necessary dollars materialize? (3/20).

Des Moines Register: Independent Medicare Board Is Needed
Some politicians rely on voters having little knowledge and short memories. ... The truth is the board will attempt to do what the 535 elected and supposedly accountable bureaucrats in Congress have been unable to do for years: get a handle on Medicare spending (3/20).

Roll Call: IPAB—Unaccountable And A Risk To Medicare
Specialty physicians have indicated they are reconsidering participating in the Medicare program in light of the combined effect of the Independent Payment Advisory Board and sustainable growth rate cuts, which will severely threaten Medicare beneficiary access to innovative therapies and specialty care. Because health care reform failed to come up with any solution to Medicare’s reimbursement formula for physicians, doctors and patients have been subject to a series of patches and “fixes” with no real end in sight (Alex Valadka, 3/21).

Boston Globe: Santorum's Contraception Deception
On the campaign trail, Republican Rick Santorum portrays himself as an honest, straightforward candidate. But in courting conservative religious voters as a like-minded person of faith while dismissing media questions about his faith-based beliefs as irrelevant or unfair, he's trying to have things both ways (Scott Lehigh, 3/21).

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Pharma Needs Truth Tellers, Not Preferred Vendors
Pharma's current struggles with patent expirations, unethical and illegal practices, payer cost constraints, and unproductive new product development suggest the need for one basic quality among the businesses that support the industry.  People may use different terms to describe it and apply the approach in a thousand separate ways, but essentially it consists of truth telling (Daniel Hoffman, 3/20).

Denver Post: A Pound Of Cure For What Ails Colorado
With Colorado's economy still lagging in many respects, how can we as a state improve health and cut costs? Benjamin Franklin's famous quote, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," holds many of the answers. Though health care already accounts for a substantial chunk of the state's budget, results from the 2011 Colorado Health Report Card suggest we should get more bang from our health care buck in this time of harsh economic realities (Anne Warhover, 3/21).

Houston Chronicle: Legislature To Blame For Cuts In Women’s Health Program
Many of us argued during the session that the budget cuts being proposed by (Gov. Rick Perry) and others in leadership would cut off federal matching funds of $9 in federal dollars for every $1 in state money and would cause thousands of women to lose access to health care. Blaming the Obama administration for the Legislature's conscious decision, which you supported, is analogous to a bank robber blaming the customer for making deposits in the bank he robbed (State Rep. Sylvester Turner, 3/20).

Sacramento Bee: We All Have A Stake In Healthy Vaccination Rate
In San Diego in 2008, a 7-year-old boy who had not been immunized contracted measles on a trip to Switzerland and spread it to his unvaccinated siblings and then his schoolmates. Parents of many of those children had invoked a loosely written California law that permitted them to decline to have their children immunized based on their personal beliefs. As a result, the public health authorities found that 11 additional people got measles, including two infants. One had to be hospitalized. California's "personal belief" law must be tightened (3/21).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: The Case For Better Health Coverage
Cancer is not a disease where you can skip treatments. It's not a disease where survival should be determined by insurance status. And it's not a disease that should be made worse by partisan bickering. The case for better health care coverage is the case for better cancer care (Jari Johnston-Allen, 3/20).

Medscape: Doc Takes Issue With Public Views of EMR
We don't make any more money by ordering more tests. ... But does ordering more tests actually drive healthcare costs down because of earlier diagnosis, or is it just wasteful and does it drive costs up? I don't know. It may be somewhat doctor-dependent, the fact that there is more ordering of tests by doctors with [electronic medical records] (Dr. Bruce Cheson, 3/20).

Journal of the American Medical Association: Shortening Medical Training By 30%
(T)here is substantial waste in the education and training of US physicians. Years of training have been added without evidence that they enhance clinical skills or the quality of care. This waste adds to the financial burden of young physicians and increases health care costs. The average length of medical training could be reduced by about 30% without compromising physician competence or quality of care (Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel and Victor R. Fuchs, 3/21)

Journal of the American Medical Association: Assessing the Value of 'Discretionary' Clinical Care
As societal desire to bend the health care cost curve mounts, there is increasing attention to determining the appropriateness and value of clinical interventions. Procedures and other types of tests performed in settings not deemed appropriate by relevant professional societies raise concern about low value and unnecessary spending.? ... In this context, the study reported in this issue of JAMA by Liu and colleagues evaluating the provision of anesthesia care for low-risk patients undergoing colonoscopy and endoscopic procedures in the United States deserves careful consideration (Dr. Lee A. Fleisher, 3/21).

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