KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: N.Y. Health Exchange Stalemate; Dick Cheney’s Heart; Vaccine Debate Refuses To Die

The Washington Post: Why We're In The Budgetary Soup
Just in case you hadn't noticed, no one has elected Grover Norquist to anything. Still, he looms as a major obstacle to Congress reaching a deficit-reduction agreement needed to raise the federal debt ceiling. … what's revealing about Norquist's passionate advocacy [against taxes]  is that it virtually ignores the main causes of bigger government: Social Security and Medicare. Championing smaller government without coming to grips with these gigantic programs is like playing basketball without a ball. It's make-believe (Robert J. Samuelson, 7/10). 

Minneapolis Star Tribune: An Alarming Drop In Job Health Benefits
A controversial McKinsey & Co. survey -- which the consulting firm has now backed away from -- set off a firestorm in June by indicating that up to 30 percent of employers may drop medical coverage when the federal health reform law takes full effect three years from now. Critics of the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) pounced on this as further evidence for repeal. But their hasty conclusions conveniently ignore reality. The percentage of people with employer-provided health insurance -- the backbone of the U.S. health care system -- has been dropping for at least a decade. ... much more has to be done to end the health insurance death spiral. People without insurance still get care, but these uncompensated care costs are shifted in part onto private premiums, making fewer people able to afford insurance (7/8).

The Wall Street Journal: Why Medicare Patients See The Doctor Too Much
Almost all discussions about Medicare reform ignore one key factor: Medicare utilization is roughly 50% higher than private health-insurance utilization, even after adjusting for age and medical conditions. ... Medicare needs to be totally revamped. The benefits package needs to be rationalized so seniors can tell what their financial exposure is and choose from private-sector, high-deductible options, including a Health Savings Account plan. Seniors need to benefit financially from good choices (Merrill Matthews and Mark Litow, 7/11).

The New York Times: Dropping The Ball On Health Exchanges
In the frenzied final days of New York's legislative session, an important health care measure fell by the wayside. The Republican-led State Senate failed to pass a bill to establish a health insurance exchange where individuals and small businesses would be able to buy coverage starting in 2014. An identical bill had already passed the Democratic-led Assembly (7/10). 

Minneapolis Star Tribune: When Shutdown Ends, Will Lawmakers Mend Fences?
The shutdown will end one day. (Cue the "Casablanca" fog.) Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon -- and Minnesotans will have to live with its consequences for the rest of their lives.  ... will DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and the Republican legislative majorities be able to come out of their respective foxholes and together take on the challenges of an aging and diversifying population and global economic competition? (Lori Sturdevant, 7/9).

Des Moines Register: Avastin News Is Troubling, But Don't Blame The FDA
The FDA is not trying to ration health care or rob sick people of hope. In fact, the agency allowed Avastin to be fast-tracked in 2008 so patients could get earlier access to it while research into the drug continued. Studies were completed. They showed a small, temporary effect in slowing tumor growth, but patients faced life-threatening side effects (7/10).

The Wall Street Journal: The Story Of Dick Cheney's Heart
Mr. Cheney, who rarely grants interviews, is reflecting on his own medical history. ... But in a word, he owes his life to American medical innovation. ... Most economists agree that the spread of (technology) accounts for most of the climb in U.S. health-care costs-and if it has bought a lot in extending and improving lives, much of it has been financed on the taxpayer's nickel. Heart disease accounts for about a third of what Medicare spends merely on hospitals, not counting drugs or other charges. One larger question now is whether entitlements can be restrained without retarding future health-care innovation, which usually occurs at the margins and compounds over time (Joseph Rago, 7/9). 

The Baltimore Sun: Misinformation About Vaccine Risks Is Making Us Less Safe
Last month, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reported the first case of measles in the state since 2009. This development demonstrates that even Maryland, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the U.S., is not immune to a larger trend facing the nation. ... Some of the fear of vaccination is driven by disease-driven litigation tied to junk science. ... In a viral age, the persistence and prevalence of vaccine misinformation among the public may take some time to correct. However, regaining the health protection afforded by effective vaccination programs will take longer 
(Dr. Sandeep Rao, 7/11). 

The Baltimore Sun: We Don't Know Enough About Childhood Vaccines
The topics of vaccines and vaccine safety spark emotional outbursts at scientific meetings and family dinner tables alike. But many of these debates are remarkably fact-free. Surprisingly few people - not just concerned parents but also doctors, policymakers and even immunization experts - can answer this seemingly simple question: How many immunizations does the federal government recommend for every child during the first two years of life? (Margaret Dunkle, 7/11). 

CNN: Regenerative Medicine's Promising Future
Regenerative medicine therapies are already helping small groups of patients through clinical trials; and scientists around the world are working both to expand the applications of these therapies and to bring them into more widespread use. The effort to harness the body's natural healing powers has been called a new frontier in medicine because it offers the promise to actually cure, rather than just treat, disease (Dr. Anthony Atala, 7/10). 

The Miami Herald: No Dearth Of Girth In Florida
Face it, Florida, we're fat. Sure, we're in good - and expanding - company, but our condition is nothing to be proud of. In the state of Florida, obesity increased by 80 percent in the past 15 years, according to a new national survey. ... Given the wealth of sunshine and open space that South Florida provides pretty much year-round, there are few excuses to keep kids - and their parents - holed up in the house (7/10).

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