KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Republicans Offer ‘Nonconcessions’ In Fiscal Talks; Obama Must Lead Democrats To Entitlement Cuts

The New York Times: Still Dodging Reality On Taxes
Congressional Republicans seem to think they are being flexible on taxes simply because a few of them have grudgingly admitted that some new revenues can be part of the current fiscal negotiations. We're unimpressed. … In exchange for these nonconcessions, Republicans want vast cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and other programs that benefit the middle class and the poor (11/27). 

The Washington Post: Mr. Obama's Time To Lead On Entitlements
Democrats, meanwhile, are sounding more and more maximalist in resisting spending cuts. Many insist that Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and education — pretty much everything except the Pentagon — are untouchable. … Mr. Obama ran on a clear platform of increasing taxes on the wealthy. But he was clear on something else, too: Deficit reduction must be "balanced," including spending cuts as well as tax increases. Since 60 percent of the federal budget goes to entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, there's no way to achieve balance without slowing the rate of increase of those programs (11/27).

The Washington Post: Teetering Over The 'Fiscal Cliff' 
After the kumbaya White House meeting Friday with congressional leaders, it took until the following Monday evening for Republicans to return to the White House with an initial offer. It was, in a word, pathetic. As described to me by several sources with direct knowledge, the "bargain" was that all the Bush tax cuts would be extended. … In return for the vague promise of future revenue, the defense-spending sequester would be canceled, the age for Medicare eligibility would rise and changes would be made to the formula for calculating increases in Social Security benefits. Cuts now, revenue later. Sound familiar? (Ruth Marcus, 11/27).

The Wall Street Journal: Why $16 Trillion Only Hints At The True U.S. Debt
A decade and a half ago, both of us served on President Clinton's Bipartisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform, the forerunner to President Obama's recent National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. In 1994 we predicted that, unless something was done to control runaway entitlement spending, Medicare and Social Security would eventually go bankrupt or confront severe benefit cuts. Eighteen years later, nothing has been done. Why? (Chris Cox and Bill Archer, 11/26).

The Wall Street Journal: Lots Of Talk, Little Action On Medicare Fraud
The Obama administration could be doing far more to protect seniors who rely on the Medicare and Medicaid programs—and to protect taxpayers, whose dollars are wasted by the billions. Behind the flashy press conferences and announcements, the reality is that some administration antifraud efforts in these programs are actually losing money, while others are producing few palpable results (George LeMieux, 11/27).

The Wall Street Journal: Hope And Exchange
ObamaCare is due to land in a mere 10 months—about 300 days—and the Administration is not even close to ready, so naturally the political and media classes are attacking the Governors and state legislators who decline to help out. Mostly Republicans, they're facing a torrent of abuse in Washington and pressure from health lobbies at home. But the real story is that Democrats are reaping the GOP buy-in they earned (11/27).

The Denver Post: Paying For Health Care When You Get Older
One of the things we thought about when I finished graduate work was what was going to happen to us when we got old. My father would die within the next five years. He was a supporter of right-to-die organizations and after suffering for many years from osteoarthritis of the spine took his own life, dying peacefully at home. My mother was determined to never be in a nursing home, but spent the last three years of her life in a nursing home, dying at 103. Those 43 months cost almost $300,000 (David Steiner, 11/27).

The Boston Globe: A Free Market Will Help Fix Health Care
Neurologists are about to feel the sting of the Affordable Care Act. Beginning Jan. 1, Medicare will be paying them less for electrodiagnostic procedures used in identifying and treating a wide range of nerve and muscle disorders. ...  With a long-term unfunded liability of $38 trillion, Medicare will go broke if it isn’t fixed, and compelling providers to accept lower fees is how Obamacare proposes to fix it. Yet if government technocrats could keep health care affordable by paying doctors and hospitals predetermined fees for each service they provide, Medicare wouldn’t be going broke in the first place (Jeff Jacoby, 11/28).  

Kansas City Star: Don’t Sacrifice Public Health To Budget Shortfalls
In communities across the country, we are seeing more people change the way they care for their health by limiting tobacco use, eating healthier and becoming more physically active with the support of public health programs. ... Yet, it’s hard to believe that in a nation that holds such promise, nearly 1 million Americans are still dying every year from diseases that could be prevented. Our recent advances are being dangerously, and perhaps irrevocably, compromised by recent budget cuts to proven community-based health programs (Bert Malone, 11/27).

Kansas City Star: Savings Possible With State Medicaid Expansions
More evidence that state lawmakers should get the data before rejecting out of hand an expansion of Medicaid limits comes in a new report from the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured. ... Medicaid expansions up to the limits called for in the federal health care law will not be overly burdensome for either Missouri or Kansas, and both states may actually see savings and revenues from complying with the law (Barb Shelly, 11/27).


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