KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Obama Budget Doesn’t Address ‘Heart Of Our Debt Crisis;’ Attention Deficit Crisis; Insurer Sings A Different Song When Consumer Owes It Money

Politico: Obama Budget Likely To Play Same Old Song
The U.S. has huge budget challenges. And for the first time in years, we will have three budget proposals to carefully consider -- instead of speeches and talking points. Thus, the House, the Senate and the White House will all have plans on paper from which one could hope a serious grand bargain on the debt might emerge. For that to happen, the president's budget will have to be chock-full of detailed and serious entitlement reform proposals, tax reform specifics and mechanisms to enforce an agreement to keep the debt on a declining trajectory. Unfortunately, the administration's pre-release spin notwithstanding, that is too far a break from history to bet on. Instead, look for a spending-heavy, gimmick-laden budget proposal that never balances and refuses to get to the heart of our debt crisis (Douglas Holtz-Eakin, 4/9).

Tampa Bay Times: For A Responsible Budget, Both Sides Must Give
Finding a solution to America's deficit and budget impasse will take compromise on all sides. Neither tax increases nor budget cuts alone can solve the nation's fiscal problems. ... Under the plan, Obama bucks his own party and takes a big step toward meeting Republican demands on entitlement cuts to Medicare and Social Security. In exchange, he's proposing higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans. The president would cut about $400 billion from health care programs and $200 billion from domestic areas. The cutbacks to health care would be targeted largely to providers and pharmaceutical companies, though the president's plan does increase Medicare coverage costs for higher-income beneficiaries (4/9).

Los Angeles Times: Can Obama Sell 'Chained CPI'?
President Obama won't release his proposed budget for 2014 until Wednesday, but liberals and AARP have been howling all week about something they expect to be in it. What has our president done to provoke such outrage among his supporters? He's chained CPI (Doyle McManus, 4/10).

Bloomberg: Chained CPI's Diminishing Returns for U.S. Budget
The measure, called the chained consumer price index, would lower the annual payment increases for Social Security beneficiaries, saving the government money as it lowers the future monthly income of retirees and disabled Americans. The change would also raise revenue over time because it would cause more taxpayers to wind up in higher marginal brackets. What neither side seems to have noticed, however, is that the difference between the chained CPI and the standard CPI has been diminishing. That means the impact of switching indexes may not be as great as many assume. The change may still be a good idea, but it probably won’t matter as much as expected (Peter Orszag, 4/7). 

National Journal: GOP Health Experts Agree: Don't Count On 'Obamacare' To Fail
Is the Obama administration totally bungling implementation of its signature universal health care law? Is the law destined to collapse of its own weight? Or is that wishful conservative thinking? The administration gets some surprising backup from top health officials from two Republican administrations. Gail Wilensky and Tom Scully, who ran the Medicare and Medicaid programs in the early 1990s and in the 2000s, respectively, separately told National Journal Daily that the Obama White House is doing better than they expected in putting the complex law into place (Jill Lawrence, 4/8).

The New York Times: Worry Over Attention Deficit Cases
It is hard not to be concerned about the large number of children who have been given a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a condition that impairs the ability to focus on a task or to control impulses. A new analysis of government data found that almost one in five boys of high school age in the United States and 11 percent of school-age children over all had been reported to have the disorder at some point in their lives. The troubling question is whether they had or still have A.D.H.D. that actually needs treatment with potent drugs (4/9).

Los Angeles Times: 3 Million Californians Could Receive Health Insurance Subsidies
Some Republicans still cling to the hope that they'll be able to repeal Obamacare someday, but a report released Wednesday by Families USA shows why it may be even harder for them to do so after Jan. 1. The report estimates that nearly 3 million Californians could be eligible for generous insurance subsidies under the 2010 healthcare reform law, starting next year. Anyone with an income between one and four times the federal poverty line -- in other words, between $23,550 and $94,200 for a family of four -- could receive a tax credit that reduces monthly premiums dramatically (Jon Healey, 4/9).

Los Angeles Times: Blue Shield Quick To Demand Action From Policyholder Over Its Mistake
Health insurers don't exactly enjoy a reputation for timely payouts when people submit claims. They've been known to make policyholders jump through all sorts of hoops before coming across with a little cash. But when you owe them money, that's another story (David Lazarus, 4/9).

Des Moines Register: Judge's 'Morning After' Ruling Is The Right One
A federal judge in New York has done what President Barack Obama’s administration refused to do: help young women prevent unplanned pregnancies. U.S. District Judge Edward Korman ordered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to make Plan B emergency contraception, also known as the "morning after pill," available without a prescription to women and girls of all ages within 30 days. The judge’s ruling rights the wrong-headed action taken in 2011 by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius when she blocked over-the-counter availability of Plan B. Rather than appealing the ruling, the Obama administration should let the judge’s order stand (4/9). 

Des Moines Register: Please Drop This Political Fight, Governor
For a lot of low-income people, Medicaid, the government-funded health care program, is a lifeline. To Gov. Terry Branstad, it's one big political headache. ... if the federal government and Iowa Legislature approve his request to substitute his own plan, how does he rationalize to Iowa taxpayers that it will cost them more, yet provide less coverage to fewer people? One approach to the pickle he’s in is to slip his inferior plan quietly into the Iowa House on a Thursday afternoon when most lawmakers have gone home for the weekend, and then leave the country soon after, with little comment. Branstad chose that one (Rekha Basu, 4/9).

Des Moines Register: Health Bill Also Needs Governor's Attention
Legislative leaders of both parties have not ruled out a special session if needed to resolve the Medicaid issue before nearly 70,000 IowaCare recipients lose their coverage on Dec. 31. Whether this debate happens now or later, it’s going to take more than drive-by leadership from the governor to resolve (Kathie Obradovich, 4/9).

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