KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Mich. Gov. Says Medicaid Expansion Would Save Money, Lives

Detroit Free Press: Expanding Medicaid Saves Taxpayers Of Michigan Money -- And Lives
The people of Michigan elected the members of the state Senate to be leaders, not vacationers. Unfortunately, the Senate forgot that Thursday and adjourned for its summer vacation. It left Lansing without voting on a bill that would provide health care coverage to nearly half a million working Michiganders. Ensuring access to affordable, quality health care is one of the most significant challenges facing Michigan. The Healthy Michigan plan developed over the past several months is a plan that addresses many of the state’s needs and reflects the state’s values (Gov. Rick Snyder, 6/23).

Tampa Bay Tribune: Expanded Medicaid Makes Economic Sense
Leadership matters. In Arizona, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer set aside her opposition to health care reform, called the legislature into special session and forced it to approve Medicaid expansion. In Florida, Republican Gov. Rick Scott had a similar epiphany but hardly lobbied Republican lawmakers who refused to expand Medicaid. Now that he has signed into law or vetoed most legislation, Scott should refocus on the most important issue facing Florida and demand action. There are moral and medical arguments for expanding Medicaid in Florida (6/21). 

Politico: Cure For Affordable Medical Devices
For years, Medicare has been paying sky-high prices for basic equipment like wheelchairs and walkers based on outdated and overpriced payment rates. ... These inflated Medicare payment rates also helped fuel the rampant proliferation fraud, waste and abuse of durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics and supplies — or DMEPOS — benefit. In 2011, as required by law, CMS implemented a DMEPOS competitive bidding program to bring prices for certain medical equipment and supplies in line with the current market, ... The program has saved more than $400 million in its first two years of operation in only nine areas of the country. ... And yet the industry continues to insist that this program will harm beneficiaries and prevent them from getting needed equipment and supplies (Jonathan Blum, 6/23). 

The Wall Street Journal: Why The VA Is Buried In Disability Claims 
[N]early 900,000 disability claims are backlogged or sitting in the processing queue. Veterans wait, on average, 273 days for their claims to be processed. ... By categorizing minor conditions as disabilities, the process threatens to become a kind of stealthy welfare system, where those with minor conditions might feather their nests at the expense of both taxpayers and truly disabled veterans trapped behind them in a line that stretches over the horizon. This also harms the veterans who are being told the lie that they are "disabled" and being paid to believe it (Lt. Col. Daniel Gade, 6/23).

The New York Times: Profiting From Pain
The use of narcotic painkillers, or opioids, has boomed over the past decade .... In the short run, treating a patient with an opioid like OxyContin, which costs about $6,000 a year, is less expensive than putting a patient through a pain-treatment program that emphasizes physical therapy and behavior modification. But over time, such programs, which run from $15,000 to $25,000, might yield far lower costs (Barry Meier, 6/22).

Boston Globe: A Strong Leader Needed For Top U.S. Doctor
On June 12, Dr. Regina Benjamin announced that she would be stepping down as surgeon general. She is certainly an inspiring figure. … Obesity was the central target of her efforts; whether organizing walks or visiting schools during lunchtime, she took a stand against what may be the defining health issue of our time. Upon the announcement of Benjamin’s resignation, influential voices like Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the American Public Health Association praised her service. However, in many important ways, she did not fulfill the job. She avoided the spotlight and concentrated on the agreeable issues of diet and exercise (Nathaniel Morris, 6/24).

Los Angeles Times: Hoag's Underhanded Abortion Ban
In a most underhanded and insidious way, women's reproductive health rights in California were dealt a significant blow last month. That was when the availability of elective abortions at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, one of Orange County's elite medical centers, was abruptly ended. The ban on abortions was imposed by Hoag administrators effective May 1, shortly after the hospital entered a corporate partnership with St. Joseph Health System, a Roman Catholic chain with five hospitals in Orange County (Michael Hiltzik, 6/21).

Sacramento Bee: Nevada Hospital Reviews Look Like A Whitewash
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the agencies that should be overseeing mental health care are whitewashing Nevada's practice of busing its mentally ill patients to all corners of the continental United States. It's easier that way. Sandoval hired experts to conduct what he claimed was an independent investigation of Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital and use of Greyhound buses to transport patients to other states. Not surprisingly, the consultants last month praised the care provided by Rawson-Neal and said busing patients to their home states "is a kindness to them and to their families" (6/24).

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