KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Who Should Fear Changes To Medicare; Ryan Not A ‘Serious, Honest Conservative’

San Jose Mercury: Young Are Ones With Reason To Fear Medicare, Not The Elderly
For those of us who like to believe that human beings are rational, trying to explain what happens in politics is a challenge. For example, that segment of the population that has the least to fear from a reform of Medicare or Social Security is the most fearful -- namely, those already receiving Medicare or Social Security benefits (Thomas Sowell, 8/30).

Politico: Democrats Must Handle Paul Ryan Gift With Care
Consider the plight of scores of House and Senate Democratic candidates and officeholders now campaigning for their lives in November. They're mostly running in purple regions, often against a tea partier who occasionally questions the president's birth certificate. Yet polls remain tight as a tic. Then suddenly, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is added to the ticket — along with his detailed budget. Momentum starts to build. The Medicare charge that was getting yawns seems to have a bit of a bounce. To top it off, Ryan is displaying some buyer's remorse about his own plan — waxing poetic in his convention address over how Medicare was "there for my mom" and that "it is a promise … we will honor." But for Democrats, is running against the Ryan budget enough? (Jon Cowan and Jim Kessler, 8/30).

The New York Times: The Medicare Killers
Paul Ryan’s speech Wednesday night may have accomplished one good thing: It finally may have dispelled the myth that he is a Serious, Honest Conservative. Indeed, Mr. Ryan’s brazen dishonesty left even his critics breathless. ... But Mr. Ryan's big lie — and, yes, it deserves that designation — was his claim that "a Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare." Actually, it would kill the program (Paul Krugman, 8/30).

McClatchy Newspapers: The Republican Plan Will Destroy Medicare, Not Save It
This week, the Republican Convention officially adopted Congressman Paul Ryan's plan for "premium support" for future Medicare beneficiaries, that is, the government would give each senior a fixed sum to buy private insurance, instead of paying directly for comprehensive health services. During the Vietnam War, an Army officer once explained "we destroyed the village to save it." That strategy did not work in Vietnam, and it will not work for Medicare. But a village can be rebuilt. A universal health-care system, once dismantled, with the healthy allowed to separate from the sick, may be irreparable (Caroline Poplin, 8/30).

The Washington Post: Romney And Ryan, Running Against Themselves
In another example, Ryan criticized Obama's plan to cut $700 billion from the growth of Medicare. Ryan's own plan also calls for $700 billion in cuts, though with different details. Why not acknowledge this? Everyone knows it — unless Ryan believes that his audience isn't up to speed — so why not set the record straight? Why not say, "Look, I want to cut $700 billion too, but there are ways to do this without hurting people. Here’s how." It's as though he wants no one to remember "that guy." Now he's this guy, the one who wants to protect Medicare (Kathleen Parker, 8/30).

Politico: More Than Lies About Rape
Voices from across the political spectrum condemned the Missouri Senate candidate for Senate, Todd Akin, for his recent offensive and scientifically inaccurate reasoning to deny rape survivors’ access to abortion. Akin said women’s bodies "shut down" and prevent them from becoming pregnant from "legitimate rape" – a term loaded with skepticism and derision toward survivors of sexual violence. It is reassuring to see Akin’s remarks thoroughly rejected. This groundswell of disapproval, however, stands in stark contrast to a broader casual acceptance of falsehoods in matters of reproductive health care. Many of those now calling for Akin to abandon his Senate bid have promoted outright lies in the service of an anti-abortion agenda (Meghan Rhoad, 8/31).

The Wall Street Journal: Akin's Collateral Damage
Uh oh. It's never a good sign when a conservative group starts running anti-Obama ads in a supposedly safe red state. Which is why the Susan B. Anthony List's $150,000 TV ad buy in Missouri this week should be disconcerting to Republicans. Missouri has become ground zero in the culture wars thanks to GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin's egregious remarks about "legitimate rape." Democrats have gorged on the fodder, causing Mr. Akin's poll numbers to plummet by nearly 20 points over the past week. But the bigger concern here, which the List seems to share, is that Mr. Akin could drag down Mitt Romney (Allysia Finley, 9/30).

JAMA: The Tax Treatment Of Health Insurance: Obama vs Romney
Outside of elite health policy circles, the tax treatment of health insurance receives less attention than it deserves. It is therefore worth considering how the 2 presidential candidates view this important issue. First a few facts. Contributions toward health insurance premiums paid directly by employers are not subject to payroll, federal, or state income taxes. For most workers—close to 80% of those with employer-based coverage—the contributions they make toward their premiums (the amounts they see deducted from their paychecks) also avoid all taxation (Austin Frakt, 8/30).

New England Journal of Medicine: What Business Are We In? The Emergence Of Health As The Business Of Health Care
On January 19, 2012, after 131 years of operation, the Eastman Kodak Company filed for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. bankruptcy court. ... Central among (the explanations for the failure) was that Kodak was late to recognize that it was not in the film and camera business: it was in the imaging business. With the advent of digital imaging, Kodak was outpaced by other companies that could better achieve consumer goals. ... The analogous situation in health care is that whereas doctors and hospitals focus on producing health care, what people really want is health. Health care is just a means to that end. — and an increasingly expensive one (Drs. David A. Asch and Kevin G. Volpp, 8/29).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.