KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Ryan Plan’s ‘Fiscal Cliff;’ Does The FDA Have An App For That?

Roll Call: What Happens If We Go Off The Fiscal Cliff?
Here, we know the game plan from House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.): Run on the Ryan budget, win it all, hold on until after the inauguration, and in the meantime, plan "the mother of all reconciliation bills" to negate the defense sequester, double down on discretionary domestic budget cuts, make permanent the Bush tax cuts, enact a new tax cut on top of them, reducing the top rate to 25 percent, and do as much to turn Medicaid into a sharply reduced block grant to the states and create a premium support system for Medicare as revised reconciliation rules will allow. What that plan would do to the fragile economy, to the safety net and to the long-term deficit and debt situation, is, or should be, a giant question now and through the election campaign (Norman Ornstein, 5/30).

The Wall Street Journal: Georgetown's Political Exorcism
Last week, some 43 plaintiffs, including Catholic University and the University of Notre Dame filed 12 lawsuits challenging the mandate on grounds that it compromised their religious freedom. Georgetown, the nation's oldest Catholic university, instead found itself on the receiving end of a different lawsuit altogether. "Exorcist" author William Peter Blatty has filed a canon lawsuit to have the school sanctioned for fraternizing with Catholics' declared legal nemesis in the abortion mandate fight (Collin Levy, 5/29).

The Wall Street Journal: There's A Medical App For That – Or Not
Even the most ideologically opposed politicians agree: Health care is choking on paperwork, and medicine is prone to errors of handwriting, lost information and guesswork. That's why the promotion of health information technology is one of the only demilitarized zones in Washington. ... Despite such broad political support—plus that of health insurers, providers, drug companies and patient groups—the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unfortunately has rushed in to play bureaucratic spoiler just as this new engine of innovation was leaving the station (Dr. Scott Gottlieb and J.D. Kleinke, 5/29).

Boston Globe: Less Hospital Power Could Mean Lower Health Care Prices In Mass.
Perhaps the most vexing challenge the Massachusetts Legislature confronts as it seeks to lower health care costs is the disproportionate market power that certain hospital networks, including Partners HealthCare System, enjoy by virtue of their prestige, power, and customer appeal. ... There is, however, a market-based fix that could go a long way toward restoring equal bargaining power between such networks and insurers: Force all hospitals in a network to negotiate their fees separately. Thus, Partners wouldn’t have so much negotiating power when it comes to leveraging higher prices for its suburban affiliates (5/30).

Boston Globe: A Fiscal Forecast For Massachusetts
The bad news is that sometime over the next five years, the state will once again face an escalating structural deficit in that the projected growth in revenues at current tax rates will be insufficient to maintain existing state programs. This is the result of two trends: health care cost inflation plus state tax cuts implemented during past administrations. By next year, health care spending by the Commonwealth will account for 41 percent of state budgetary spending, up from 23 percent in 2000 (Barry Bluestone, 5/30).

Houston Chronicle: Good Nutrition Is Nonpartisan
Along with the rest of the nation, Texas faces the increasingly pressing dilemma of how best to deal with our unhealthy eating habits and their dire consequences -- fast-rising obesity, diabetes and medical costs…. But legislators are optimistic about achieving results in the next session. Human Services chair Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, told the committees they will need to take action, because "there are going to be some fairly immediate consequences." … More power to them. Let's hope it's catching (5/29).

KQED: Misperceived And Misunderstood
Mental health is not part of most traditional holistic and naturalistic concepts in Asian cultures. Mental health is truly a foreign concept for many Asians. … We can increase Asian Pacific Americans' psychological mindedness through programs that are linguistically and culturally competent (Dr. Jorge Wong, 5/30).

Chicago Sun-Times: Pension Reform May Quell Quinn's Summer Plans
Practically overnight — or at least over the Memorial Day weekend — Quinn switched from endorsing a pension reform plan that fell entirely on current state workers to one that allows them to share the pain with those who are already retired. Under the proposal advanced by House Speaker Michael Madigan, both current and future retirees would be forced to forego the annual 3 percent cost of living increases to which they are now entitled — or give up their rights to health care benefits (Mark Brown, 5/30).

Kansas City Star: Translational Medicine: From Research To Effective Cures
It currently takes a new discovery an average of 13 years to make it to market. Ninety-five percent of discoveries never even get that far, and those that do carry an extraordinary cost — averaging more than $1 billion. The process that takes a drug from discovery to demonstrating that it works in the clinic is known as translational research. Because of the immense challenges, now is the time we should engage our best minds, from different areas of expertise, in figuring out how to do it better (Lesa Mitchell, 5/29).

Baltimore Sun: Markets Are Less Competitive Than You Think, And Government Is Not Always Monopolistic
As our so-called "laboratories" of democracy, the state governments also provide competition or, at the very least, exert upward innovative pressure on Washington. To pick just one very salient example, the health care individual mandate that is the cornerstone of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act was partially modeled — to Mitt Romney's great chagrin — on the health insurance mandate that then-Governor Romney enacted in Massachusetts (Thomas F. Schaller, 5/29).

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