KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Ryan’s Attack On Medicaid; Time To Fix Medicare’s Doc Pay

Los Angeles Times: The Zombie Walks: Yet Another Attack On Medicaid
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., obviously is a great adherent of the adage, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." On Monday his committee released another attack on Medicaid, one of the linchpins of the Affordable Care Act and one that for some reason is especially detested by conservatives, like the majority members of Ryan's committee (Michael Hiltzik, 3/3). 

The New York Times: Mr. Ryan's Small Ideas On Poverty
To fit that broad and unsupportable argument, Mr. Ryan then goes about distorting the facts. For all of Medicaid's billions, the report says, its recipients are less healthy than people on private insurance or Medicare! Well, yes, that’s not exactly surprising because Medicaid cares for the nation's poorest residents, many of whom come from troubled backgrounds and have trouble attending to their own needs. But that's hardly a reason to turn it into a block grant and dump it on the states, as Mr. Ryan proposed in 2012. Medicaid has made millions of low-income people healthier, and its expansions have dramatically reduced infant mortality and childhood deaths (3/3).

Los Angeles Times: Paul Ryan, Anti-Poverty Sage Or Partisan Hack?
Another piece of baggage for Ryan is his stance on Medicaid, the federal health insurance program for the poor. In his budget proposals, Ryan has sought to cut Medicaid spending not by offering a more effective or efficient way to deliver healthcare but by capping the federal government's responsibility and shifting risk to the states. Those proposals seem to emanate more from a desire to cut handouts than an effort to provide a stronger hand up (Jon Healey, 3/3). 

Los Angeles Times: Fixing The Way Medicare Doctors Are Paid
Republicans and Democrats can't seem to agree on anything related to the 2010 healthcare law, but they may come together soon on a crucial fix to the nation's largest federal healthcare program, Medicare. At issue is the "sustainable growth rate," a mechanism Congress enacted in 1997 to limit Medicare costs. It hasn't; instead, it has simply threatened physicians with ever-larger and more unreasonable cuts in fees, which Congress has routinely waived. Now, the top Republicans and Democrats on three congressional committees have come up with a replacement formula; the only missing piece is a way to pay for it. Although that's a significant issue, it shouldn't stop Congress from adopting the proposal (3/3). 

The Washington Post’s The Plum Line: The Medicaid Expansion Is Bad Because It’s Obamacare
As I've noted before, the Medicaid expansion has taken on a kind of political life of its own, separate from Big Bad Obamacare. In Michigan, the expected GOP Senate candidate has come out for the expansion. In deep red Louisiana, Dem Mary Landrieu will make it a big issue when it’s debated this spring. Dems in tough red state Senate battles — Michelle Nunn in Georgia and Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky — are standing up for the expansion (Greg Sargent, 3/3). 

4 NBC Washington: Medicaid Expansion In Va.'s Fight Against History
In pushing for a large scale expansion of Medicaid eligibility, Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe isn't just up against House Republicans who are leery of supporting a key aspect of President Obama's signature health care law. He's also trying to upend the commonwealth's long tradition of resistance to public aid (Alan Suderman, 3/3).

Bloomberg: Can Lipitor Save Big Pharma?
It’s long been in the works. Pfizer Inc. has begun testing an over-the-counter version of Lipitor, the blockbuster drug that has plumped up the pharmaceutical giant’s coffers for more than a decade. You may wonder: Why go OTC? ... Insurance companies have become a lot more price-sensitive over the years. Now they tend to press for generics to be prescribed unless there is some compelling reason to take the brand name. Which means that as drugs go off patent -- which Lipitor did at the end of 2011 -- there’s quite a bit of wallet shock (Megan McArdle, 3/3).

The Washington Post: The U.S. Can't Afford To Get Complacent About Obesity
Headlines last week offered a glimmer of hope on obesity: A government study found that the obesity rate for children ages 2 to 5 dropped by about 40 percent between 2003 and 2012. That comports with another recent government report finding that, in several states, young, poor children are healthier. This is encouraging but no reason for complacency. In fact, last week’s announcement shows that obesity remains a daunting problem that demands more effort — from Americans and their government (3/3). 

WBUR: Project Louise: Three Meals A Day — Is That So Hard?
Sometimes I wonder why it’s so hard to lose weight when, really, we all know what it takes: Eat less, move more. I mean, that’s all it is, right? So why don’t we just do that and be done with it? (Louise Kennedy, 3/3).

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