KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Selling Obamacare In Arizona; ‘Hassle-Free’ Marketplace; Seeking The ‘Grand Bargain’

Arizona Republic: Actually, You Like Obamacare. Just Ask Brewer
You may not admit it, but you are a fan of Obamacare and Gov. Jan Brewer knows it. The Republicans who run the Arizona legislature don’t like Obamacare. And the Republicans who control the U.S. House of Representatives don’t like it. But you do. You may deny it. You may not even know it. But you do. And that will help the governor get her Medicaid expansion plan through the legislature (EJ Montini, 6/6).

Los Angeles Times: Health Insurance: Can It Be Made Simple?
The success of the 2010 federal health care law depends in part on more uninsured Americans obtaining coverage. So it's crucial that when the uninsured try to sign up for policies, they don't get a bureaucratic runaround or wind up in phone-tree hell. Yet that's what may happen in California. It's up to state lawmakers and the Brown administration to make sure that counties and Covered California, the state's new insurance-buying exchange, can provide hassle-free customer service (6/7).

The Washington Post: We Still Need A Grand Bargain
When the Great Recession hit in December 2007, the United States' publicly held debt amounted to less than 40 percent of gross domestic product -- well within the normal range since World War II, when the figure temporarily, and necessarily, soared above 100 percent. Consequently, the federal government was well-positioned to fight the plunging growth rate by spending more and taxing less; it had ample "fiscal space" (6/9).

The Washington Post: Trust Funds Are Least Of Social Security, Medicare Problems
The just-released annual trustees' reports for Social Security and Medicare are supposed to keep the public well informed about these popular programs. In reality, they do just the opposite: They confuse and mislead. Worse, they allow politicians to duck the hard issues surrounding both programs. What we ought to be debating is how much spending on retirees will dominate government. Instead, we focus on the actuarial soundness of the trust funds, a baffling subject (Robert J. Samuelson, 6/9).

The New York Times: The Culprit Behind High U.S. Health Care Prices
Alas, in their self-appointed role as purchasing agents in health care, American employers have arguably become the sloppiest purchasers of health care anywhere in the world. The chaotic price system for health care is one manifestation of that sloppiness. For more than half a century, employers have passively paid just about every health care bill that has been put before them, with few questions asked. And all along they have been party to a deal to keep the chaotic price system they helped create opaque from the public and even from their own employees (Uwe E. Reinhardt, 6/7).

The New York Times: The Weird World of Colonoscopy Costs
Colonoscopies are one of three standard ways to screen for colorectal cancer. So it is disturbing to learn that the cost of this routine procedure, performed on more than 10 million Americans each year, differs radically from state to state and even within the same metropolitan area. ... Under the reform law, insurers have to pay for preventive services like colonoscopies without cost-sharing. But, in most cases, giving patients more information could help. ... High costs are no guarantee of high quality (6/8).

Roll Call: Mindful Of Previous Defeat, Cantor Pushes To Increase Pediatric Research
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and his staff are working behind the scenes to avoid another embarrassment this month when they bring to the floor a bill that would increase funding for pediatric research. The measure is part of the Virginia Republican’s agenda to soften the Republican image. But it is running up against the same hardline conservatives who forced leaders in April to pull from the House floor a bill (HR 1549) that would have reprioritized funding within President Barack Obama’s health care law (Newhauser, 6/7).

The New York Times: Governor Cuomo Fights For Women
Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, who coaxed legislators into allowing same-sex marriage two years ago, has challenged them to broaden and strengthen the rights of women, including abortion rights. Should he persuade the Legislature to go along, he would stand in striking contrast to Republican governors across the country who are doing just the opposite (6/9). 

The Miami Herald: Toughing Out Mental Illness Not An Option
I cannot write this the way I want. Doing so would invade the privacy of too many people. But I can’t be silent, either. Last week, you see, President Obama spoke before a conference of mental health advocates at the White House. It is necessary, he said, to remove the stigma of mental illness and make sure"people aren't suffering in silence," that they know they are not alone, but are supported by the rest of us as they face this challenge. It would seem a plain vanilla thing to say. But in this endless era of smash mouth politics, nothing is plain vanilla anymore (Leonard Pitts Jr., 6/10).

The Washington Post: D.C. Taxpayers On The Hook For $43 Million In Unpaid Health Bills
Thompson was also the sole owner of D.C. Chartered Health Plan, a business that had been the city's dominant Medicaid provider, serving more than 100,000 low-income residents. It's fair to say that the city's health care system has been compromised by the collapse of D.C. Chartered, which was forced into receivership last fall after auditors found financial irregularities and low funding reserves. A small army of local health care providers have been saddled with unpaid claims (Colbert I. King, 6/7). 

Medpage Today: Face Up To Front Office Challenges
Your front office staff are the face of your practice -- an expression of your practice's philosophy, attitude, and values. So it should be a top priority to hire and retain top-quality people to fill such roles as receptionists, phone operators, medical secretaries, and transcriptionists. But it can be a challenge to keep these people and keep their morale high because these positions often include high levels of stress for low pay. So try something different, right from the start: Pay more for the right candidate. If you pay someone more than they think they're worth, they'll work up to that level. If you pay people less, they'll work down to that level (Rosemarie Nelson, 6/8).

Boston Globe: A Fingerprint Does Not Contain Your Genetic Code
The power of genetic information has shaped virtually every aspect of medicine. On one hand, we have learned about diseases and treatments that are now defined by patients' genomes. Certain genes can predict colorectal cancer with near certainty and, in women, the BRCA mutations, famously discussed by Angelina Jolie, can denote a greater than 80 percent risk of developing breast cancer. We can screen newborns for dozens of genetic diseases and immediately know which diets to avoid giving them or which medications to begin early. Physicians are using genetic markers to better tailor therapies to individual patients. We are certainly entering a new era (Nathaniel Morris, 6/10).

Forbes: Why We Should Be Spending More On Pricey Cancer Drugs
Here's a heretical statement: We don't spend enough on high-priced cancer drugs. In recent months, there have been provocative editorials by leading academic cancer doctors arguing that the price of many new cancer drugs is too high. But what if the high price of new drugs is a reflection of the value that these medicines bring to not only individual patients, but also our health care system? Doctors can reject the early data available at the time of initial FDA approval of a particular drug (Scott Gottlieb, 6/10).

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