KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Debt Ceiling & Entitlements; Pharmaceutical Dilemmas; Bishops ‘Misunderstand’ Death With Dignity

Politico: For Serious Debt, Deficit Talks
Democrats have already proposed a 3-1 formula that would allow for $3 in spending cuts for every $1 in new revenue. So we have met our Republican colleagues more than half-way in this painful process. We are even willing to discuss significant savings in Medicare and Medicaid - as long as essential benefits for seniors and the most vulnerable are preserved (Rep. William Lacy Clay, 7/7). 

Bloomberg: Three Steps Toward A Grand Bargain To Reduce The U.S. National Debt
One way to bring down the cost is to ask affluent older Americans to pay more for their health care. This strategy, known as means testing, is already used in Medicare's prescription-drug program and its coverage of doctors' services; higher-income Americans pay larger premiums and receive fewer benefits (7/8). 

The New York Times: Negotiating On A Knife's Edge
[T]he president is considering proposals to cut spending on Medicare, Medicaid and even Social Security, along with huge cuts in discretionary programs, in exchange for a wholesale revision of the tax code to remove many deductions and change many rates. He apparently thinks he can impress independent voters by appearing to rise above partisanship with a brokered deal. But as much as he may not want to recognize it, Mr. Obama lives in a hyperpartisan time (7/7). 

The Wall Street Journal: An ObamaCare Drug Preview In Germany
Germany was in many ways the birthplace of the pharmaceutical industry. But today, German policies place the industry's future progress at risk. ... Of particular concern is a new law passed last year that imposes a complex new assessment mechanism to determine the added benefit of new pharmaceutical products, which in turn is used to set prices. The situation in Germany bears close scrutiny in the U.S., as health-technology assessment processes grow in significance under the recent health-care overhaul (John C. Lechleiter, 7/8). 

The Baltimore Sun: Generic Drug Users Need Protection
In its recent decision on drug labeling, the U.S. Supreme Court prescribed a judgment that looks like bad medicine. ... the consumer's right to sue over inadequate warnings hangs on a game of chance that depends on whether his or her pharmacist filled the prescription with a brand-name drug or a generic. The buyer of a brand-name drug can sue the manufacturer for inadequate warnings; the consumer of a generic product cannot.  Given that 75 percent of prescriptions are filled with generics, the public faces odds that may be hazardous to its health (Stacey Lee, 7/7).  

The Lund Report (Oregon): U.S. Catholic Bishops Misunderstand Our Death-with-Dignity Laws
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' policy on physician-assisted suicide approved on June 16 is the latest move by Roman Catholic leaders to intervene in Americans' personal health care decisions. The eight-page policy, which the bishops passed 191-1 at their annual spring meeting in Bellevue, Wa., is full of inaccurate and misleading statements about the Death with Dignity laws in Washington and Oregon and the policy positions of the laws' supporters. It ignores 14 years of experience in Oregon and two years in Washington (Meyer, 7/7).

The Baltimore Sun: Avoid Toll Increases By Shifting Priorities
Since 2008, Maryland's spending on health (primarily driven by Medicaid) and human resources (primarily assistance to lower-income families) has increased by more than $3 billion, or 34 percent. ... For lessons in controlling costs without compromising quality, Maryland could learn some lessons from the Hoosier State (Brian Murphy, 7/6). 

Kansas City Star: Curb Wasteful Medicine
It's commendable that cardiology researchers at Kansas City's St. Luke's Hospital have led a study to see if one of the most common and lucrative heart procedures is performed unnecessarily. The answer: Oftentimes, yes. … With U.S. health care costs reaching $2.5 trillion in 2009, medical specialties are smart to come up with ways to prevent overuse. Otherwise, the government and the insurance companies will do it for them (7/7). 

The Sacramento Bee: Shame On Legislators For Refusing To Fund Critical Medical Training
As the hoo-ha dies down because the state budget was passed by its constitutional deadline, I'm left wondering at what cost. The price of the failure to fund the University of California, Riverside, School of Medicine during this most recent state budget cycle is more than a local issue … It takes seven years to train a doctor. Where will the people of this state turn for medical care as the physician shortage increases, the population ages and even those with insurance can't find a doctor to treat them? (Slavica O. Covert, 7/8).

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