KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Sen. Alexander Proposes A Medicaid-School Funding Swap; Doctors’ Voices Missing In Abortion Debates

The Wall Street Journal: Time For A Medicaid-Education Grand Swap
When I was governor of Tennessee in the early 1980s, I traveled to meet with President Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office and offer that Grand Swap: Medicaid for K-12 education. The federal government would take over 100% of Medicaid, the federal health-care program mainly for low-income Americans, and states would assume all responsibility for the nation's 100,000 public schools. Reagan liked the idea, but it went nowhere (Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., 5/15).

USA Today: Where Are The Doctors?
But there is now an unprecedented and sweeping legal assault on women's reproductive rights. New legislation is being introduced, and sometimes passed, in state after state that would roll back access to abortion and contraception, mainly by intruding on the relationship between doctor and patient (Marcia Angell and Michael Greene, 5/15).

Los Angeles Times: It's Time To Serve Up Some Big Incentives To Curb Obesity
To combat the alarming obesity rate, the Institute of Medicine says the U.S. needs to overhaul everything from farm policies to zoning laws. Clearly, doing nothing isn't an option. At the risk of being criticized (and I know I will be) for advocating draconian measures, I think it's time that food and drink received the same level of regulatory oversight as tobacco and alcohol (David Lazarus, 5/14).

The New York Times: When Competitive Bidding Hurts Patients
Last month, the Obama administration announced that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would make much greater use of competitive bidding to buy medical equipment for Medicare patients. Because of Medicare's size and position in the health care market, it is likely that this policy will be quickly adopted by Medicaid and private insurers. On the face of it, competitive bidding sounds like a very good idea. ... But as a doctor working with patients on the ground, I have doubts (Dr. Dennis Rosen, 5/15).

Los Angeles Times: Brown's Bloody Budget
Gov. Jerry Brown's May budget revision leaves blood all over the Capitol walls. The era when California governors could make their cuts with a scalpel ended before Brown took office, so he does his trimming with a chain saw. The results are cuts in Medi-Cal payments to hospitals and nursing homes, cuts to those who care for the disabled, cuts to state courts and cuts in hours and pay for state employees. So far schools have been largely spared from this grisly exercise, but that will probably change in November if voters fail to approve a tax-hike initiative (5/15).

Boston Globe: On Health Care, State Doesn't Know Best
Which brings us to the "Health Care Quality Improvement and Cost Reduction Act of 2012," a 178-page bill introduced in the Massachusetts House this month amid jaunty predictions of cheaper insurance premiums for Bay State families and tens of billions of dollars in medical savings over the next 15 years. An even longer bill — 235 pages — has been introduced in the state Senate. These bills aren't written in Latin and they don't impose the death penalty, but their core principle is not much different from Diocletian's: The state knows best (Jeff Jacoby, 5/16). 

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Health Care Losing To Politics
Burnishing his political credentials among the Republican right wing may be the only logical explanation for Gov. Christie's blocking the creation of state health-insurance exchanges, which would aid not only the 1.3 million New Jerseyans without coverage, but also small businesses and people who don't have enough medical insurance. Choosing politics over policy, Christie has caved to party extremists who were calling the exchanges "Christiecare." The term served as a loosely veiled threat to a potential running mate for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney (5/16).

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Medicare Cheaters Are Soaking The Taxpayers
The bottom line is that Medicare and taxpayers are frequently charged for products and services that were never delivered. Stuck in the middle are elderly people who are intimidated into giving up personal information or enticed by deals that are too good to be true. If you or a loved one is covered by Medicare or Medicaid, you can prevent fraud by safeguarding personal beneficiary information just as you would your credit card information. A stolen Medicare number is like a stolen credit card number, except taxpayers are stuck with the fraudulent charges (Rebecca Nurick, 5/16).

Politico: In Budget Debate, 'Past Is Prologue'
[House Republicans are] pretending that the debt-limit crisis they brought about last August, and the subsequent bipartisan deal that kept us from going over the precipice, just never happened. But history matters. The bipartisan Budget Control Act that Republicans agreed to in the wake of their manufactured crisis is now the law of the land. In addition to nearly $1 trillion in budget cuts, this law includes automatic cuts, or sequestration, designed to cut half from defense spending and half from nondefense programs like Medicare, Head Start and other investments in families and communities (Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., 5/15).

Politico: GOP Is The Real Party Of American Women
For the past few months, the Democrats have been accusing Republicans of waging a "war on women" as if some honest disagreements between the parties — over matters like how an "Obamacare" mandate should affect religious institutions or the proper scope of federal law on tribal land — constitute a deliberate GOP campaign to take away women's rights. Nothing could be further from the truth, and Republican women have been at the forefront exposing these myths (Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Rep. Sandy Adams, et. al., 5/15).

The Dallas Morning News: Promoting The Business Of Cancer Research
The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas has perhaps been praised as much for the responsible way it hands out public funds as for its ambitious mission…. It was therefore a surprise when Dr. Alfred Gilman, the top scientific officer at the institute and the architect of the peer-review system, resigned last week in protest over recent funding decisions…. At issue is a $20 million grant given to a joint project between Rice University and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. The one-year award, according to Gilman, was given after a cursory examination and based on a "non-scientific description of a plan to conduct early-stage, pre-clinical drug discovery"…. The lesson here is that promoting business, while a core and expanding mission of the institute, needs to be done in the most transparent manner possible (5/15).

Denver Post: A British Expatriate Weighs In On The Affordable Health Care Act
I had lived all my life in the United Kingdom, and took the National Health Care system for granted. ... I then discovered that no such things existed in this country. ... Yes, we had very good medical insurance through my husband's company, but that could be taken away from us at somebody's whim. ... When ACA became law it felt like a great victory for everyone. ... Isn't it time for us to put aside these divisions and work together to make this country a caring, prosperous society that helps people who are not living the American Dream? (Lesley Jackson, 5/16).

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