KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Obama Fighting Back; Putting A Price On Compassion; Questions For GOP Candidates

The New York Times: Embracing His Inner 'Obamacare'
As part of his newfound assertiveness, President Obama is using the term "Obamacare," the Republicans' sneering dismissal of the Democratic health care reforms. We are skeptical that he will be able to turn it into a term of approbation. But it is heartening to see him finally out there defending his pioneering policy with no apologies and an uncharacteristic feistiness (10/7).

Forbes: Health Care Questions I'd Ask Each Candidate At The Bloomberg-Washington Post Republican Presidential Debate
There have been some good and bad moments at the Republican Presidential debates so far. But, when it comes to health policy, both the moderators and the candidates have mostly disappointed. So, in advance of the Bloomberg Television / Washington Post debate on Tuesday, October 11 at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, I thought I might don my bowtie and post the questions that I would ask each candidate, if I were sitting at the moderator's table (Avik Roy, 10/7).

Modern Healthcare: Every Industry for Itself 
[R]aising the Medicare eligibility age ... would counter a century of efforts to expand health coverage in this country, a goal that many people in the industry claimed they supported. Insurers have never stampeded to write policies for older Americans (that's why we have Medicare). Even if the Supreme Court upholds the tepid reform law—don't bet on it—seniors would have a hard time obtaining affordable coverage (Neil McLaughlin, 10/10). 

Kansas City Star: Medicare's Rigid Rules Stifle Innovation
Most people who look at our health care system agree that the fee-for-service model in Medicare is a major cause of chronically rising health care costs. ... Letting individuals choose their own Medicare policies would transform that program and the health care system as a whole. Insurance companies would have to offer recipients reasonably priced premiums. To do that, they would push providers to boost efficiency and cost effectiveness (E. Thomas McClanahan, 10/8).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Feds Fumble On Law Aimed At Doctors
Inexcusable federal foot-dragging is delaying the rollout of the Physician Payments Sunshine Act -- a landmark law outing doctors' often lucrative financial ties to industry. Less than three months before drug and medical device manufacturers are slated to start complying with the law, it's become clear that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has not made this important accountability measure an agency priority (10/10).

The Seattle Times: A Passion For Family Medicine
When Rich Kovar was about to graduate from medical school, the dean called him in with a question.
"Rich, you're such a good student, and smart," the dean said, "why do you want to be a family doctor?"…. The dean's question says a lot about health care in the United States. Sometimes the focus of health care is on diseases, or money, or prestige, but there are some, Kovar, among them, who believe it works best when it is about people (Jerry Large, 10/9).

The Seattle Times: Health Care: A New Civil-Rights Movement 
What's the billing code for easing an old man's grief, or a healing connection? What's the billing code for holding someone's hand as they lie dying because they have no relatives or visitors? ... What's it worth to you not to die alone or be heard rather than given a pill? ... Maybe it's time to look at our most fundamental premises in health care by following the money (Kathleen Bartholomew, 10/7).

Lexington (Ky.) News Leader: Proposed Health Care Tax A Burden
The [Health Insurance Tax], one of the largest taxes in the health care law, will dramatically increase the cost of health insurance plans for small-business owners and will impede their ability to hire more of our unemployed family members and neighbors. Advocates of health care reform will tell you that this is a tax on the large insurance companies, but the reality is that this tax that will be handed down to struggling families across our state (Janey Moores, 10/8). 

Des Moines Register: Being a Lawmaker: It's the Best Part-Time Job In Iowa
[M]embers of the Iowa Legislature are considered part-time workers, even though they dedicate many hours to the job of public service. Yet all 150 of them are granted access to state benefit plans for health, dental, long-term disability and life insurance. Compare that to the benefits offered to other part-time workers in the private sector in Iowa. According to a survey of Iowa employers by David P. Lind & Associates, a Clive benefits consultant, only 18.5 percent of part-time employees can buy health and dental insurance through their jobs (10/9).

Des Moines Register: Membership Has Its Privileges
It's hypocritical for lawmakers who were griping this year about state employees having benefits that are too generous to turn around and accept those same benefits themselves. They tried to change the state's collective bargaining law. In the process they demonized the prison guards, maintenance workers and other employees for being paid too much and for having benefits that were too expensive (10/9).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: The Hit For State Workers
Six months after Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislators required state workers to pay more for health care and pensions, what are those changes costing those workers? Depending on their pay, between $2,828 and $8,428 more a year, according to a recent Legislative Fiscal Bureau report (Steven Walters, 10/8).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Mental Illness Not A Crime
State and local officials must find a way to reallocate toward real treatment some of the money that's now spent by counties to keep the mentally ill behind bars. That will likely only happen when taxpayers push state lawmakers to further ramp up mental health treatment programs. Counties should then see savings as jail populations thin out (10/7).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Education Can Remove Stigma
We must invest in good mental health services through investments in communities. ... It is not a crime to have a mental illness, and it is our responsibility as human beings to help those less fortunate than us. Treatment, not jail, is the appropriate response to mental illness (Ellyn Jeager, 10/7).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Initiatives Make Recovery Possible
The AJC's recent articles on mental illness and our jails have been fair and accurate. To be effective in solving the problem, we need to intervene long before an individual is arrested. Those already in jail must be helped in comprehensive ways that break the cycle of relapse (Dr. Frank Shelp, 10/7).

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