KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: The Evolution Of Medicare; Generic Drugs And Patient Safety; New Food Labels

The New York Times' Economix: How The Medical Establishment Got The Treasury's Keys
About half a century ago, organized medicine and the hospital industry in this country struck a deal with Congress that in retrospect seems as audacious as it seems incredible: Congress was asked to surrender to these industries the keys to the United States Treasury. In return, the industries would allow Congress to pass a 1965 amendment to the Social Security Act .... We have come to know it as Medicare (Uwe E. Reinhardt, 2/28). 

The New York Times: Driving Down Childhood Obesity
There are glimmers of good news in the struggle to control obesity, one of the greatest health risks confronting the United States and other affluent nations. The latest federal report shows a significant reduction in the obesity rate among children ages 2 to 5, a vulnerable period when obesity patterns are often locked in for a lifetime. It is only a modest step in the right direction for a small slice of the population, but it suggests that further gains may be possible with a determined effort (2/27). 

Los Angeles Times: Generic Drug Industry Needs To Stand Up For Patient Safety
The Generic Pharmaceutical Assn. says a proposed federal regulation that would allow makers of generic drugs to inform people about all known health risks would create "dangerous confusion" and have "harmful consequences for patients." And why would that be? (David Lazarus, 2/27). 

Los Angeles Times: From The FDA, A Mixed Bag Of Food Labels
The U.S. Food and Drug administration broke new ground in consumer protection when it required, more than 20 years ago, the now-familiar nutrition labels on virtually every bit of packaged food. Now, the labels are being revamped — in ways that have both benefits and downsides (2/28). 

Salt Lake Tribune: Refusing Medicaid Expansion Is A Dreadful Idea
Gov. Gary Herbert's proposed "Healthy Utah" alternative to the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion is a dog's dinner of denial, pipe dreams, contempt for the poor and lack of candor with the taxpayers of his state. It's still better than the alternative proposed by the leadership of the Utah House, which ignored federal money altogether and pretended to do some good with a fraction of the funds, siphoned from other state needs. Herbert's plan would be better if there was a snowball’s chance that the federal government would grant the waivers needed for what is, in fact, an ideologically extreme plan (2/27).

Raleigh News & Observer: With New Medicaid Plan, Time To Expand
Toss another revolutionary idea from the administration of Gov. Pat McCrory into the dust bin. After proclaiming the state's Medicaid system "broken," McCrory and his embattled secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Aldona Wos, dangerously flirted with turning the federal-state health care plan for the poor, elderly and disabled over to managed care organizations. ... McCrory could now take a really significant step and support expansion of Medicaid. If he and GOP leaders in the General Assembly did that, it would answer critics who say they are unbending ideologues (2/27).

The Richmond Times-Dispatch: Yes: Expand Medicaid Coverage In Virginia
The catch is that for this expansion of coverage to occur, our legislative leaders must agree to accept the federal funds that will finance it. Federal dollars will pay for 100 percent of the cost of expanded eligibility from 2014 to 2016; 95 percent from 2017 to 2020; and 90 percent in 2021 and thereafter. In other words, starting in 2017, Virginia must pick up just 5 percent of the cost, and 10 percent starting in 2021. This expense has emerged as a major political stumbling block. Yet if Virginia continues to balk at expansion, it will be a Catch-22: Fewer people will get insurance through Medicaid, the state will lose out on significant state budget savings and Virginia will get less federal funding for hospitals that treat the uninsured (Rick Mayes, 2/28).

The Richmond Times-Dispatch: Marketplace Virginia Is Bad Policy
What are they so afraid of? That is the question that each and every resident of the commonwealth should be asking their elected officials on the topic of Medicaid expansion or, as some now like to call it, Marketplace Virginia. If Medicaid expansion really is the best policy for the future of health care in Virginia, then why are its strongest supporters running from it? Why, if Medicaid expansion will save lives, create jobs and make Virginia flush with cash, won't its in-state architects just call Medicaid expansion by its name? (Sean Lansing, 2/28).

The Richmond Times-Dispatch: More About The Person, Less About The Dollar
Eunice Haigler of Fredericksburg is blind in one eye and lacks peripheral vision in the other as a result of a brain tumor that pressed too long on her optic nerve. She needs eyeglasses and has nearly exhausted the medication required to keep the part of the tumor that couldn't be surgically removed from growing. She's also about to run out of the prescription medicines that regulate her thyroid and blood pressure and provide the cortisone her body no longer produces on its own. Haigler, 63, lost her Medicaid coverage in December after taking on a one-day-a-week job at a day care center needed to supplement her disability income and put food on her table, she said. For her, Medicaid expansion is more than a political football to be tossed around in Richmond to score points against Obamacare (Michael Paul Williams, 2/28).

The Richmond Times-Dispatch: Medicaid Waivers -- State Has Neglected Access, Services For The Disabled
As a man living with cerebral palsy, I know how difficult it is to reach my potential. A neurological disorder caused by oxygen deprivation at birth, cerebral palsy affects my speech, hearing and fine motor skills. I've had to battle to win simple accommodations such as a laptop for completing written assignments during my school years, or for equal consideration in employment. Through perseverance and a proactive support network, I met these challenges: I learned in a mainstream classroom, attended UNC-Chapel Hill and found gainful employment advocating public policy as an associate director at the Virginia Catholic Conference. But for people whose intellectual and physical disabilities prevent them from performing basic tasks unaided, the battle continues (Michael Lewis, 2/28).

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