KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Longer Looks: States Creating Health Compacts; IPAB Under Fire

Every week, reporter Jessica Marcy selects interesting reading from around the Web.

National Journal: States Come Together To Create Health Care Compact
In late April, Colorado and Oklahoma became the latest states to vote on whether to join an interstate agreement with like-minded legislatures to put health care decisions more firmly into the hands of state governments. Last month, Georgia became the first state to sign the health care compact into law. Similar measures are being considered in at least 10 other states. Interstate compacts have long existed in America, often addressing regional issues like state borders, waterways, and interstate transportation systems. ... Whether the states would actually be able to act on these compacts will be up to Congress and the Health and Human Services Department. The health law requires states to prove their alternative health care system would provide the same quality care to the same amount of people for a similar price (Althea Fung, 5/3).

Hospitals & Health Networks: The Four Americas
In my travels to 33 states since health care reform passed last March, I have been struck by the substantial variation in the enthusiasm for and energy behind health reform. In almost all major markets there are leading health systems preparing for a new health care future that models the principles of reform. But in many states, this view of change is not shared by governors, elected officials or hospital administrators, or by the population at large. This is particularly true of progress being made toward health insurance exchanges ... Along with my colleagues at Harris Interactive and the Harvard School of Public Health, we developed a crude segmentation of states into what we term the Four Americas. They are the "active implementers," the "passive-aggressive implementers," the "place-on-hold" states and the "send-back" states (Ian Morrison, 5/3).

The Weekly Standard: The Real Mediscare
Since the introduction of Rep. Paul Ryan's budget, backed by the House GOP, Democrats have been heavily engaged in "Mediscare" tactics. "Put simply, it ends Medicare as we know it," said President Obama, attacking Ryan's plan. Any honest assessment of our fiscal health, however, would conclude that "Medicare as we know it" is unsustainable. ... Ryan's Medicare proposal shares some of the market-based aspects of Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage and the popular Medicare Advantage program, which allows Americans to get Medicare coverage through private insurance. That might be one reason why, according to the latest Gallup poll, Ryan's budget is polling better than the president's among seniors (Mark Hemingway, 5/9).

National Review: IPAB Under Fire 
They shouldn't get too comfortable, however, because Democrats may soon be forced to weigh in on President Obama's alternative to Ryan's reforms, namely the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a 15-member panel of "experts" that would be tasked with "improving" Medicare by "finding savings" in the program - which many fear is simply code for rationing (remember "death panels?") (Andrew Stiles, 5/3).

Mother Jones: The GOP's Stealth Plan To Redefine Rape
They're doing it again: After jettisoning controversial legislative language narrowing the definition of rape for the purposes of abortion law, House Republicans are attempting a backdoor maneuver to ensure that solely victims of "forcible rape" are eligible for federal funding if they seek abortions. In February, Republicans drew widespread condemnation for their "forcible rape" proposal, which legal experts said would have excluded statutory rape victims and others from obtaining abortions through Medicaid. … abortion foes have been fighting the rape and incest exceptions for years, and this was just another attempt to narrow them. In the case of H.R. 3, they first tried a frontal assault. That failed. This is their sneak attack (Nick Baumann, 5/3).

Governing: Cities' Access to Fresh Food Worsens
The problem isn't just about inconvenience. A number of studies have shown that people living in communities without a supermarket suffer disproportionately from obesity and other related health issues. ... To counter the disadvantages, health advocacy groups have been developing state-financed initiatives to attract supermarkets to underserved neighborhoods. The most notable success so far is the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative, which started in 2004  ... Funding for a $35 million federal program called the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, however, could be in trouble. Congress is looking at ways to reduce the budget deficit, and has threatened to cut the program, which also mirrors Pennsylvania's effort (Tod Newcombe, May 2011).

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