KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Waiting For the Super Committee; TV Coverage Of Supreme Court’s Health Law Session

The Wall Street Journal: The Sequester Option
Congress's bipartisan super committee is heading toward its November 23 deadline with no deal in sight to cut $1.2 trillion from the deficit over 10 years. So it's time to think seriously about the consequences of the default alternative, which would be a $1.2 trillion "sequester," or automatic spending cut, starting in 2013. It's hardly the nightmare of Washington dread (11/18).

The Wall Street Journal: The Budget Sequester's Silver Lining
The resulting empowerment of a new Republican Congress and president would be profound. Rather than having to first adopt a budget, delaying real action until the summer or fall of 2013, a new Republican Congress could de-fund ObamaCare immediately and begin to reform entitlements for a year during which they could adopt a budget and use reconciliation to make these and other reforms permanent with a simple majority vote. In his effort to put off the difficult decisions of governing until after the election, President Obama has made it possible for a new Republican Congress and a new Republican president, not tied to the mistakes of the past, to begin the repeal of ObamaCare and restore fiscal sanity the moment the new president's hand comes off the Bible on Jan. 20, 2013 (Phil Gramm and Mike Solon, 11/18).

Reuters: 5 Questions About The GOP's Plan To Privatize Medicare
The Congressional Super Committee negotiations are coming down to the wire, and Republicans are demanding that Medicare privatization be included in any final budget deal. The news comes on the heels of GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney's recent call for creation of a "premium support" option that would let seniors choose between traditional fee-for-service Medicare or a defined amount of money that they could use to shop for a private plan in a federally-sponsored Medicare exchange marketplace (Mark Miller, 11/17).

The Fiscal Times: Why Didn't Obama Explain The Deficit Disaster?
When asked, it turns out that people believe the bulk of government spending is, in fact, essential. ... [In 2011, Pew asked] about which of these programs is biggest: Medicare, education, scientific research, or interest on the debt. Only 29 percent of people correctly guessed Medicare, with 36 percent saying it is interest on the debt, which is less than half of what Medicare spends. ... Given these misperceptions, it's not surprising that people consistently oppose cutting popular programs like Social Security and Medicare or raising taxes to deal with the deficit (Bruce Bartlett, 11/18). 

Roll Call: Meaningful Change in Medicare Requires Tackling Fraud First
The Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction has been tasked with a budgetary conundrum of Brobdingnagian proportions — reaching consensus on at least $1.2 trillion in federal spending cuts by year’s end, or subjecting millions of Americans to automatic across-the-board cuts to essential health and social service programs. Despite the frenzied environment and strong appetite to cut, slash and hack away spending to remedy the federal deficit, doing so conjures up that time worn, but apt, analogy of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Cutting will do nothing to address the real problem (Gary A. Puckrein, 11/17). 

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Tone Down Reform Rhetoric
With congressional approval ratings at an all-time low, I would hope that we could see a 2012 Congress that would tone down the health care rhetoric and look at what is best for the nation rather than special interests. Because I am a Republican elected official, I know more than most about how outrageous the discourse became over the past two or three years (Jack Bernard, 11/17).

Detroit Free Press: Justices Won't Put An End To Health Care Debate
The Supreme Court will do nothing of the sort, of course. For one thing, the legal question that the court will tuck into this spring -- whether Congress exceeded its constitutional authority last year when it voted to require Americans to buy health insurance -- is a narrow one that justices could answer without disturbing (or even addressing) other provisions of the Affordable Care Act. For another thing, even a unanimous ruling upholding the health insurance mandate would be unlikely to convince most conservatives that the mandate is a good idea. Whichever Republicans remain in the hunt for their party's presidential nomination next June will likely redouble their opposition to President Barack Obama's signature legislative achievement, no matter what justices do (Brian Dickerson, 11/17).

The New York Times: Exceptional Court Coverage
C-Span asked Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. this week to let the network televise the upcoming Supreme Court arguments in the case challenging the health care law. The justices have not permitted TV cameras in their courtroom, but this landmark case, which will affect every American, should surely be an exception to that rule (11/17).

The Washington Post: How We Can Save Millions Of Lives
Ten million people — many of them young and most of them poor — will die around the world this year from diseases for which safe, effective and affordable treatments exist. In Haiti, these are known as "stupid deaths." What's more, inadequate health services predominate precisely where the burden of disease is heaviest, keeping a billion souls from leading full lives in good health (Paul Farmer, 11/17).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Patient-Centered Model Ideal
We believe there is a need to put in place legislation that focuses on a patient-centered model that lowers costs while improving health outcomes. Successful health reform must not be a top-down federal approach, but one that allows states and individuals to devise health care models that work for them (Nancy Desmond and Vincent Frakes, 11/17).

Houston Chronicle: New Hope For The Tiniest Texans
There is no single answer to the problem of premature birth. But Texas has taken the initiative to implement proven strategies and set a bold public goal of an 8 percent reduction by 2014. We applaud these important steps toward giving more babies in Texas a healthy start in life (Jennifer L. Howse and Charleta Guillory, 11/17).

The Dallas Morning News: Troubling Signs In Nursing Homes
The signs are troubling. For more than a decade, federal investigators have warned about weaknesses in the inspection process. The significant decline in the proportion of homes flagged in recent years, a trend nationwide, points to inconsistencies in inspections and a troubling tendency to minimize problems when they are uncovered (11/17).

Politico: Biotech Tax Credit Heal Economy
If we want the United States to continue to be a leader in biomedical breakthroughs and to bring these discoveries to market, we have to support research and development of these new products here at home. Almost twice as many companies applied for the tax credit as could be granted (Rep. Allyson Schwartz, 11/17).

Arizona Republic: Health-Exchange Critics Make Sucker Bet
The administration of Gov. Jan Brewer is in the process of setting up an exchange for Arizona. Some conservative legislators and organizations are accusing Brewer of ideological treason for helping to erect Obamacare's critical infrastructure. But that's the bile talking. Setting up a state-administered exchange is the best and most prudent course of action for the people of Arizona (Robert Robb, 11/18).

Des Moines Register: This Conservative Is Unapologetic, And Energetic
What [Bachmann] most wants to cut: the health reform law signed by President Barack Obama. ... The marketplace, she said, is the answer on health care. Of course, that hasn't worked so well the past few decades, as evidenced by the millions of uninsured Americans and skyrocketing health costs. But unlike some other members of her party, Bachmann wouldn't concede even one thing in "ObamaCare" worth keeping. That means no protections from insurance company abuses or pre-existing conditions. The uninsured can turn to the states’ high-risk pools, she said (11/17).

Boston Globe: Something Has To Give
The last time Tufts Medical Center appeared in this space, the downtown Boston hospital was locked in very public and confrontational contract negotiations. Administrators warned the hospital’s financial well-being was on the line. Now Tufts is back, in the middle of another hard-nosed negotiation said to be crucial to the hospital's financial stability. The hospital even took out newspaper ads making its case in unusually public fashion (Steven Syre, 11/18).

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