KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Reps. On Medicare Politics, Policies, Community Pharmacies; Reflections On AIDS

Detroit Free Press: Consider Medicare A Force For Health Care Solutions
The [Ryan] privatization proposal overlooks the fact that when it comes to rising health costs, Medicare is part of the solution, not the problem. ... Together with health care reform, Medicare can be the driver of innovation due to its sheer market share. Medicare covers more than 46 million Americans, nearly one person in every six. ... The health reform law we passed last year harnesses this power by giving Medicare even more tools to innovate, while putting patients at the center of treatment (Rep. Sander Levin, 6/5).

The Tennessean: Medicare Must Change, And GOP's Plan Will Work
The real choice we face is simple: unelected bureaucrats restricting benefits and choice for seniors or a plan which includes more choices, better quality and a sustainable Medicare for future generations. Our Republican budget is the only proposal that saves Medicare from extinction (Rep. Diane Black, 6/3). 

The New York Times: Vouchercare Is Not Medicare 
Canadian Medicare, then, looks sustainable; why can't we do the same thing here? Well, you know the answer in the case of the Republicans: They don't want to make Medicare sustainable, they want to destroy it under the guise of saving it. So in voting for the House budget plan, Republicans voted to end Medicare. Saying that isn't demagoguery, it's just pointing out the truth (Paul Krugman, 6/5). 

Los Angeles Times: Death Ceiling Do Or Die
Republicans are right that Washington's long-term fiscal problems cannot be fixed without addressing the spiraling growth in healthcare costs. But it's quixotic at best to think that congressional leaders could overhaul Medicare and Medicaid in a few weeks of closed-door meetings (6/6). 

The Washington Post: Why We Must End Medicare 'As We Know It'
It's Ryan's radicalism vs. President Obama's tinkering. Which is realistic and which is wishful thinking? This important debate should rise above cheap political rhetoric. Burdened by runaway spending, Medicare "as we know it" is going to end. The only questions are when and on whose terms (Robert J. Samuelson, 6/5).

Los Angeles Times: A Moral Alternative For Curing Medicare's Ills 
One of the basic flaws of Ryan's plan is that he folds Medicare's long-term fiscal problem into the near-term problem of the federal deficit. ... Medicare's ills are entwined with our national system of healthcare - how it's used and how it's distributed. You're not going to make a dent in the problem unless you change the underlying system. Ryan's approach doesn't lay a finger on that system, except to magnify its inefficiencies and expense (Michael Hiltzik, 6/5). 

San Francisco Chronicle: Corroded Clockwork
Like corroded clockwork, the Republicans once again find themselves in the middle of a public relations disaster the size of Jupiter's largest moon, Ganymede. Specifically, their plan to reform Medicare ... In an attempt to preempt these anticipated attacks, Republicans are demagoguing Democrats for demagoguing them with "Mediscare" tactics. From the same people who accused Obama of creating death panels last year (Will Durst, 6/4). 

Roll Call: McMorris Rodgers And Weiner: Local Pharmacies Play Essential Role In Care
From Walla Walla to Brooklyn, and everywhere in between, community pharmacies are a bedrock of medical professionalism and the most accessible health care providers. Pharmacists are also among today's most trusted professionals in America, according to Gallup. That combination of accessibility and patient confidence puts local pharmacists in an ideal position to help address some of our country's most pressing health care needs (Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Anthony Weiner, 6/6).

Kaiser Health News: ACO Debacle Exposes Obamacare's Fatal Conceit
When purchasing health care, the government should do what it can to improve quality while reducing costs. But this latest debacle once again demonstrates that for all its immense purchasing power, Medicare is paradoxically powerless to do so. Why? Because greater efficiency necessarily means that low-quality/high-cost providers will get less money, and those providers all hire lobbyists to protect their Medicare subsidies (Michael Cannon, 6/3). 

The Wall Street Journal: Liberal Washington State Tries To Kiss Medicaid Goodbye
Medicaid has plunged Washington state into fiscal crisis. This fact was recognized by legislators from both sides of the aisle during a contentious special session that concluded last week. ... The block-grant concept was remarkably nonpartisan: The bill, requiring the state to apply to the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for a waiver that would replace its current Medicaid program with a block grant, passed with unanimous support. On Tuesday, Gov. Christine Gregoire, previously an opponent of block grants, signed the bill. Now the waiver request will go to HHS (Nansen Malin, 6/4). 

Des Moines Register: It's Now Time For Significant Change In U.S. Health Care 
A person may call my office to discover that their health "insurance" does not cover mental health or they have such a high deductible they can't afford to see me. In both cases my office may refer the person to a clinic with a sliding scale, to the same place where I might refer someone who had no insurance at all. The provision of health care in the U.S. is neither a system nor is it "insurance" of health. What we have is an increasingly broken and costly disconnected patchwork of private insurance plans (Dr. David E. Drake, 6/3). 

The Wall Street Journal: Feds To Biotech Firms: Shut Up
A federal judge sentenced the former head of a biotech company to six months of home confinement this spring and fined him $20,000. His offense? Issuing a single press release about a drug. ... The advance of medical practice will suffer if Washington can decide the standards for medical decision-making and control the flow of scientific information (Dr. Scott Gottlieb, 6/6). 

The Sacramento Bee: State Needs Protection From Health Rate Hikes
Right now in California, health insurance companies have a green light to raise health insurance premiums as much and as often as they want, and state regulators are powerless to stop them. In passing Assembly Bill 52 on Thursday, California's Assembly took a substantial step forward to protect consumers from egregious health insurance rate hikes. ... I have reintroduced the Health Insurance Rate Review Act of 2011 to close this loophole at the federal level (Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 6/4).  

San Francisco Chronicle: Cut Kids' Health Care, Make Deficits Grow
In the name of curtailing deficits, politicians across the country are hacking away at programs that aim to make children healthier. ... Like clockwork, this has set off the now-standard ideological debate over values, with liberals arguing that it's immoral to deny health care to today's kids and conservatives countering that it's even more immoral to saddle the next generation with debt. But as highlighted by a new National Bureau of Economic Research report, both sides are ignoring the most important nonideological fact: Any so-called "deficit reduction" plan that cuts child health programs is almost certain to increase deficits (David Sirota, 6/3). 

The Kansas City Star: Missouri's Rejection Of Insurance 'Exchanges' Makes No Sense
The Affordable Care Act calls for the exchanges to come on line in 2014. States can either design their own or wait for the federal government to design one for them. Missouri doesn't take well to having Washington tell it what to do. … Missouri's legislative leaders face the tough job of convincing (Sen. Jane Cunningham, a Republican from Chesterfield,) and others to set aside their ideological biases and allow an insurance exchange that works for the state. Either that, or learn to like whatever Washington comes up with (6/4).  

Des Moines Register: More Iowa Nurses With Higher Degrees Needed For Future
A national shortage of nursing faculty is a major bottleneck to training more nurses at all levels of preparation. Schools of nursing and practice partners need to work together to allow experienced clinicians to function as clinical instructors. Schools of nursing also need to create seamless transitions for nurses who want to obtain advanced degrees. Partnerships between community colleges and four-year colleges/universities could create shared curriculums for the BSN (Rita A. Frantz, 6/5). 
 
Detroit Free Press: In The End, Progress On Care For The Dying
Jack Kevorkian started a discussion that is not done but -- sometimes despite his antics, not because of them -- ultimately led to many improvements in end-of-life care. ... Out of that tumult came somewhat better guidelines on the use of painkillers for the terminally ill, a better understanding and increased use of hospice care, and campaigns to make sure everyone knew about and signed directives for their care if they were unable to make their own medical decisions (6/4). 

Kaiser Health News: Thirty Years Of AIDS (Guest Opinion) 
Every effort must be made to efficiently apply existing resources so that proven interventions are delivered in the most cost-effective manner. In addition, public-sector, commercial and philanthropic commitments to HIV/AIDS research and implementation of proven findings must be sustained and strengthened (Dr. Anthony Fauci and Gregory Folkers, 6/3). 

CNN: AIDS Brings Out Best, Worst In Us 
[A] man in his 40s with HIV and cirrhosis from hepatitis C, is having medical care withdrawn after massive intestinal bleeding from liver failure. After relocating from up North, he had significant difficulties getting back on HIV medications because of the challenges associated with losing his job-related health insurance and trying to get on the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) (Dr. Vincent Marconi, 6/6).

The New York Times: The Death Sentence That Defined My Life
I haven't died on schedule. Most people don't think death has a schedule, at least a knowable one. But if you were infected early in the AIDS epidemic, you thought otherwise. At 61, I have now lived half my life with AIDS, my constant companion and distant cousin, the inseparable identity I won't let define me, the everyday fact and special circumstance that bent the arc of my life in every way (Mark Trautwein, 6/4). 

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.