KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Planned Parenthood Funding; Governors And Medicaid; Lessons From Wisconsin

The Washington Post: Public Employees Must Help Rein In Unaffordable Pension And Benefits Costs
[I]n 14 states, taxpayers pick up 100 percent of the premium tab for retirees, who often collect benefits for a decade or more before going on Medicare. This is not only unfair to taxpayers, for whom free health care is usually a remote dream. It also encourages overconsumption of medical goods and services, thus raising the cost for everyone. If you want to bend the curve on health-care costs, trimming unjustifiable benefits for public-sector workers and retirees is one place to start (2/21).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Game Time Is Over
Government workers should pay more toward their benefits. (Gov. Scott) Walker's proposal to boost public-worker contributions for pension and health insurance is reasonable. ... But Walker's proposal goes too far (2/21).

The Wall Street Journal: Cuomo's Medicaid Warning
Medicaid isn't in trouble because it is badly run, though of course it is. The problem is that it has become so vast and is meant to fill so many political demands that no one can truly control it. Given the Obama Administration's rigidity, this is not the best reform moment, but unlike his predecessors, Mr. Cuomo seems to recognize that these liabilities can't be repaired at the margins. The real test will be if he starts to do the politically difficult work of scaling Medicaid down (2/22).

Star Tribune: A Checkup For Managed Care
It's also time for a checkup for the contracts between Minnesota's health plans and our state. After all, we spend almost $3.3 billion each year for more than 524,000 people enrolled in managed care plans through Medical Assistance -- Minnesota's Medicaid program -- and MinnesotaCare. ... We should be able to generate a readily understandable record of the dollars spent and outcomes achieved by health plans funded by our tax dollars (Lucinda Jesson, 2/20). 

Kaiser Health News: All Governors Should Just Say No To ObamaCare
It is the height of fiscal irresponsibility to be making new spending commitments (1) when the federal deficit is $1.5 trillion and state budget deficits are a cumulative $175 billion, (2) when those new commitments create a framework for a massive new entitlement program, and (3) when that new spending comes under the auspices of a law that has been invalidated by one federal court and may be invalidated by the nation's highest court (Michael F. Cannon, 2/22).

San Francisco Chronicle: Odious Vote By Republicans
In the face of high unemployment and a skyrocketing federal deficit, Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to undermine women's health choices last week. ... (Rep. Jackie) Speier's speech should have reminded her colleagues that their decisions really affect women's health, and that abortion is not an abstraction for millions of people -- it's a difficult and personal decision. But it seems that the House wasn't interested in hearing her story -- or the stories of millions of American women (2/21). 

Los Angeles Times: Congress Versus Planned Parenthood: Game On?
To tweak a line of President Ronald Reagan's, "There they go again." The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has voted to eliminate $317 million in federal funding for Planned Parenthood, not a nickel of which can or is spent on abortions, in spite of some of the political points that are scored by inferring that (2/18). 

The Dallas Morning News: Abortion Bill Is Unwarranted State Intrusion On Woman's Right To Choose
The Texas Legislature is on a fast track to consider new abortion regulations that would put the state directly between doctors and their female patients. ... A sonogram would be required within two hours of the planned abortion, during which the doctor would take the patient on a virtual tour of the fetus's anatomy. ... None of these measures empower women with information or options that they would not otherwise have if the law were not enacted. The effect of this law is to punish women by making this experience even more agonizing than it already is (2/21). 

Newsweek: Who Rules America? Retired People.
No one wants to strip needy seniors of essential benefits; but Social Security and Medicare have become, for many relatively healthy and economically secure Americans, middle-class welfare. As a society, we need to re-define what's in the public interest and what's not. That's the job of our political leaders (Robert Samuelson, 2/20). 

Los Angeles Times: The Nest-Egg Myth
The saving of Social Security and Medicare for the boomer generation - and generations to follow - will require nothing less than a reworking of the intergenerational contract on which these programs were based. We now have a system (regardless of the ultimate fate of the decidedly modest healthcare reform law in the courts) in which people under 65 spend ever-increasing sums on private health insurance and only the old enjoy government-financed care. At the height of the debate in 2009, a national poll showed that two-thirds of Americans over 65 opposed universal healthcare - except for themselves (Susan Jacoby, 2/20). 

The New York Times: Money Won't Buy You Health Insurance
This isn't the story of a poor family with a mother who has a dreadful disease that bankrupts them, or with a child who has to go without vital medicines. Unlike many others, my family can afford medical care, with or without insurance. Instead, this is a story about how broken the market for health insurance is, even for those who are healthy and who are willing and able to pay for it . ... The truth is that individual health insurance is not easy to get (Donna Dubinsky, 2/19).

Los Angeles Times: As Her Health Insurance Rate Climbs, Disabled Woman's Income Can't Keep Up
You can understand why Health Net is raising Paula Homan's monthly insurance rate by 37%, to $1,090 from $795. She just turned 60 and, statistically speaking, will be more prone to needing costly medical treatment. ... But Homan's story ... illustrates why we have to do a better job spreading healthcare costs across the entire spectrum of the population (David Lazarus, 2/22). 

San Jose Mercury News: Health Insurance Window Closing For California Kids
Congress and California stepped up to the plate in a big way last year for children with pre-existing health conditions. Parents who don't qualify for Healthy Families or Medi-Cal must now do their part. They have until March 1 to sign up their children for health insurance programs before the open enrollment period closes. It would be a travesty for parents to ignore this golden opportunity so many fought so hard to achieve. Failure to sign up means parents can't take advantage of any insurance price break until their child's next birthday (2/20). 

The Sacramento Bee: Fighting Childhood Obesity Worth The Toil
The immediate and long-term costs of childhood obesity, for individual kids and for society, deserve more attention from families, nonprofits and, yes, even government. Sacramento City Councilman Kevin McCarty is making it a personal crusade. That's welcome; the fight needs a local champion. ... he wants to explore a local tax on sodas to help pay for school physical fitness and city recreation programs, which he points out have been decimated by three years of budget cuts (2/22).

Star Tribune: A Cigarette In All But Its Name
Tobacco companies are doing an end run around Minnesota laws by wrapping cigarettes in brown paper and calling them "little cigars.'' ... Making these products' price more equal to cigarettes will help deter smokers and prevent high health care costs in years to come. This is a critical public health priority that will help hold down future costs of private medical insurance premiums and public programs such as Medicare and Medicaid -- the two big, expensive, government-run health care programs for the elderly and the poor (2/21).

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