KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Texas’ Painful Budget Cuts; Congress ‘Should’ Attack Deficit, Medicare Costs

The Hill: No Pain, No Gain In Budget Cuts
The real problem is that liberals and conservatives alike have over the years gauged an elected official's support for the goals of a program by the money he or she has been willing to spend on it. Thus, liberals measure one's support for education, welfare and health programs by how much more one votes to fund them each year. Questions about how the money is spent or a reluctance to keep growing the program are seen as hostility toward its goal (David Keene, 3/14). 

McClatchy / Dallas Morning News: Senate's Group of Six Must Deal With Social Security
There's seldom reason to cheer when it comes to legislators getting at the root causes of our national debt, which is officially $14 trillion but is really north of $60 trillion when you factor in unfunded promises to the real drivers, Medicare and Social Security. But, lo and behold, a bipartisan group of senators is working on a plan to reduce the debt by $4 trillion over 10 years. … These senators are looking at the much harder problem of overhauling guaranteed programs like Medicare and reshaping the tax code (3/14). 

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Three Bold Actions To Control Costs In Health Care
Currently, health plan information is sent to three state agencies -- health, commerce and human services. The goal of transparency would be better served if all the data were made available on a single website and in a format that allowed for easy comparisons of actual costs. ... Competition makes organizations stronger and energizes the marketplace. Creating a Minnesota insurance exchange will increase competition. ... Payment reform and new models of care delivery, such as Accountable Care Organizations, should be on the table. Minnesota should also examine what other states are doing. There are many models at work, and it is time to consider different approaches that preserve choice for the individuals and families served (Julie Brunner, 3/14).   

Houston Chronicle: Math Test
There was a math lesson for state lawmakers to be found in Sunday's Outlook section. It was presented by Lan Bentsen, chairman of the Texas Advisory Board of the Children's Defense Fund ("Tax hike is posing as a spending cut"). Bentsen pointed out that a $7 billion cut in state expenditures to Medicaid, the means-tested federal health care program for low-income people, proposed by Texas lawmakers to help address the state budget deficit, would actually result in a $20 billion tax burden that would hit the wallets of all Texas taxpayers. ... How can this be? As Bentsen explained, half of the $20 billion hit comes because we would lose a federal match of about $10 billion as a result of the decision to cut state contributions to Medicaid? (3/14). 

The Texas Tribune: Guest Column: How About a "Pro-Life" Budget?
Last month, I voted for SB 16, the Senate version of what is commonly referred to as the sonogram bill. ... I believe that people should understand the gravity of their decisions. Unfortunately, there is no sonogram provision for the Texas budget process. ... The truth is, if we make drastic cuts to vital services, it will not be because we are broke. It will be because of a lack of regard for life. We won't be out of money - we'll be out of ideas, out of compassion (Eddie Lucio, Jr., 3/15).

Boston Herald: Gov's Turning Ambulances Into Race Cars
In the old days, when an ambulance arrived at your door, the first thing the EMT would ask would be something like: "Where does it hurt?" or "What are the symptoms?"  But we live in a Politically Correct world now, and so the Mass. Department of Public Health has issued a new directive, "Guidance on the Collection of Race and Ethnicity by Ambulance Services."  In this document, the first question to the sick person is not: "Do you want to go to the hospital?" The first question is: "Are you Hispanic/Latino/Spanish" (Howie Carr, 3/13).

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