KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Questions Obama, Romney Not Likely To Answer In Debates; Disturbing News On Tests For Ovarian Cancer

The New York Times: False Promises On Ovarian Cancer
New evidence that women are more likely to be harmed than helped by screening tests for ovarian cancer is disturbing. The tests do nothing to prevent healthy women from dying from the usually fatal disease. Yet they often lead doctors to perform needless surgeries that cause serious complications in many patients (9/11). 

The Washington Post: Some Debate Questions For Obama And Romney
President Obama, you have denounced Gov. Romney’s Medicare plan for putting too much risk on seniors. But isn’t the idea of providing subsidies, adjusted for health status and income, to let individuals purchase insurance on well-regulated exchanges just like Obamacare — except with a public option in the form of letting seniors buy into traditional Medicare? Instead, you have said you will fix Medicare by reducing health-care costs overall. How? ... Gov. Romney, a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine projects that Medicare costs will grow 1.2 percentage points more slowly than private insurance over the next decade. If so, how would shifting seniors to private insurance save money (Ruth Marcus, 9/11)?

San Jose Mercury News: Romney Obfuscates On Health Care Plans
When Mitt Romney said last weekend that he would keep health care reform's requirement that insurers cover pre-existing conditions, he left people scratching their heads. Hasn't he called Obamacare a disaster and pledged to repeal all of it? He has and, according to his staff, he still does. ... Even if Romney had had a sudden change of heart, what he said made no sense. Keeping the pre-existing coverage requirement while repealing the individual mandate to buy insurance, which Romney clearly would do, is impossible. Premiums for people who did choose to buy insurance would skyrocket (9/11).

The Wall Street Journal: The Day Health Insurance Died
Angela Braly lost the hang of the CEO's performance art. Shareholders like their surprises on the upside. She kept delivering downside surprises. Two weeks ago, amid a clamor from investors, she stepped down as chief of America's biggest private health insurer, WellPoint. But Mrs. Braly should be remembered for another long-running act of futility—trying to explain to Washington how insurance works (Holman W. Jenkins Jr., 9/11).

Bloomberg: How Much Health Care Spending Is Wasted? Lots.
The evidence thus suggests that in both Medicare and in private-insurance markets, higher costs are not associated with better quality. That underscores the opportunity identified by the Institute of Medicine: By reducing the very high costs that are not generating better quality, the U.S. could reduce total spending without diminishing the quality of care people receive…. As I have said before, the next decade is crucial. The U.S. can either move more aggressively to change the information that providers have and boost their incentives to give better care, or waste another decade and trillions more in excess health-care costs (Peter Orszag, 9/11).

The Boston Globe: The Cheesecake Factory Isn't Health Care's Answer
In their drive to cut costs and produce better patient outcomes, American health care policy makers and administrators are embracing a variety of work re-organization schemes borrowed from other industries. Some boast of their "Toyota lean" approach to health care delivery. Others have looked to Disney World for new ideas. The newest business model being touted is the chain restaurant The Cheesecake Factory. (Suzanne Gordon, 9/11)

Roll Call: CMS' Proposed Cuts Threaten Patients
In today's fiscal environment, health care providers are accustomed to reimbursement cuts to a great many services. We don't like them, but we've come to expect them, and we've all learned to do more with less. When policymakers are tasked with encouraging better outcomes and greater efficiency in the system, we expect decision-makers in Washington, D.C., to take well-informed actions based on quality data and in a manner that puts patients first. It doesn't always happen that way. To the collective shock of cancer care providers nationwide, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently proposed a cut of 15 percent to freestanding radiation therapy providers (Christopher M. Rose, 9/12).

Bloomberg: Ban Calories, Not Ounces, To Regulate Sugary Beverages
The health issue is sugar and calories. We should look at the total calories in the bottle, not the number of fluid ounces.  My alternative proposal would be to limit or tax drinks with more than some total amount of calories from sugar (Barry Nalebuff, 9/11).

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