KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Preserving Medicaid; Drug Risks, Headlines; Health Law Flaw

The New York Times: Preserving Health Coverage For The Poor
The poor and disabled people who rely on Medicaid to pay their medical bills could be in grave jeopardy in this sour I've-got-mine political climate. Older Americans, a potent voting bloc, have made clear that they won't stand for serious changes in Medicare. Medicaid, however, provides health insurance for the most vulnerable, who have far less political clout (7/5).

Roll Call: 'Dual-Eligibles' Require New Ideas, Not Cuts
The public attention to negotiations between Congress and the White House over budget cuts has focused primarily on cuts in discretionary domestic programs, Medicare and Social Security. Almost lost in the shuffle has been Medicaid - in part because both parties and both branches have agreed that large cuts in Medicaid are needed and assumed that cuts that hit the poor are less politically dangerous than cuts that hit the middle class or elderly. That assumption is dead wrong. The single largest component of Medicaid is long-term care for the elderly, followed by care for the seriously disabled. And the biggest chunk of all is care for what are called the "dual-eligibles," those who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid (Norman Ornstein, 7/6).

The New York Times: Antitax Extremism In Minnesota
The governor proposed more than $2 billion in cuts but refused to slash billions more from education, health care and public safety programs. The Legislature also wanted new abortion restrictions and a voter ID law that Mr. Dayton had already vetoed. When he said no, lawmakers allowed the fiscal year to end without a budget, and state government officially shut on July 1 (7/5).

The Wall Street Journal: Beware The Risks Of Generic Drugs
Several pharmaceutical industry experts in China privately indicate that up to 25 percent of ingredients purchased in China by Western companies come from unknown sources. This is very worrying, because if any of these chemicals were substandard, the products made with them could fail to help patients recover from their illnesses, or even could be lethal (Roger Bate, 7/6).

USA Today: New Cancer Drugs Often Get Flashy Headlines
In the face of unsustainable health care costs, our society needs to ask the hard question of whether we can afford such drugs with marginal benefits. The disproportionate media attention given to new drugs doesn't help. Such coverage can sway patients toward expensive treatment - especially cancer sufferers who see new drugs as new hope - while making it challenging for doctors who want to practice cost-effective medicine (Dr. Kevin Pho, 7/5).

Arizona Republic: Congress, Candidates Don't Seem To Get It
Congress and presidential candidates can natter on all they like about "death panels" and about which political party is more irresponsible about the rising cost of health care. Here in reality land, we know all about the nexus of cost and health-care coverage (7/5).

The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal: Flaw In Health Care Law Needs To Be Addressed
Critics fearing a socialist government takeover of health care, still accuse supporters of trying to get one over on the American public. But really, what was and is at play is a disconnect between the useful and damaging roles of bureaucratic oversight. Matching up the will of new legislation to the fine print of existing and competing policy is often the fate of human error. Obviously this rule was crafted to control costs until affordable health care exchanges are up and running by 2014. If Congress is concerned about limiting the costs of this reform it needs to consider an immutable law of health coverage: Costs rise with the delay of care (7/5).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: A Teen's View: Medical Device Approval Process
I have become aware of a little-known crisis in health care -- the sometimes draconian regulation of the medical device industry. Every year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration receives documents called 510(k)s seeking approval of medical devices. A 510(k) is filed by a company if it plans to market a device deemed to be "substantially equivalent" to one that's already been approved. The idea is to not require the industry to invest valuable time and effort essentially reproving the safety and effectiveness of a product already in the marketplace. Smart science means not reproving what is known. Instead, the FDA should be asking companies about issues of safety and effectiveness not already resolved (Drew Page, 7/4).

Arizona Republic: Romney Health-Care Option Deserves Look
The main obstacle between Mitt Romney and the Republican nomination for president is the similarity between the health-care plan he enacted while governor of Massachusetts and that of President Barack Obama. "Obamacare" has, of course, inflamed the Republican base. Romney is widely perceived to be compromised on what the right believes should be a central component in the case against Obama's re-election. Perhaps he is. But Romney's explanation and rationale deserve a better audience than they are getting. As governor, Romney tackled the issue of universal health coverage in his state (Robert Robb, 7/5).

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