KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: ‘Saving’ Medicare; Dole On Innovative Vets’ Care; Texas ‘Death Panel’ On HIV?

The Washington Post: The End Of Progressive Government?
(Rep. Paul) Ryan's plan reportedly will include steep Medicaid cuts, disguised as a proposal to turn the program into a "block grant" to the states. The net effect would be to leave even more Americans to the mercies of the private insurance market. In deference to the GOP's success in turning last year's health care law into "Obamacare," let's call this proposal Ryancare - and let's make sure we look carefully at its impact on the elderly and the disabled, the main beneficiaries of Medicaid (E.J. Dionne, 4/4).

Kaiser Health News: Ryan Budget: A Huge Opportunity To Improve Health Care 
[T]the budget should restrain Medicare spending by giving enrollees fixed vouchers they can use to purchase any private health plan of their choice. Poor and sick enrollees should get larger vouchers, but the average voucher amount should grow only at the overall rate of inflation. Because vouchers enable seniors to keep the savings, they will do what ObamaCare won't: reduce the wasteful spending that permeates Medicare (Michael F. Cannon, 4/4).

The Fiscal Times: Medicare in a Fiscal Crisis Congress Cannot Ignore
Traditional Medicare is a mirage that cannot remain as it is today as program costs continue to spiral out of control and 40 million baby boomers nearly double the size of the program. Premium support does not mean the end of Medicare. Premium support accepts the fact that resources available to Medicare are not limitless, and it provides beneficiaries with realistic and sustainable health plan options. It also is a wake-up call to the health industry (Joseph Antos, 4/1).

Politico: VA Holds Lessons For Health Care
In today's difficult economic climate, the Obama administration and congressional leaders are searching for ways to make the government more affordable and efficient. ... Decision makers would do well to study the health care delivery system of the Department of Veterans Affairs. To meet the challenges of the nation's largest integrated health system, VA has developed strategic public-private partnerships that are crucial to its mission. ... VA is now considered 10 years to 15 years ahead of the private health care system when it comes to technology (Bob Dole, 4/4).

Chicago Tribune: The Great Republican Bait-and-Switch 
[Indiana Rep. Mike Pence] is leading the GOP fight to defund Planned Parenthood in the name of budget cutting and "sanctity of life." Now, forget about the fact that no federal money goes toward abortions, and Planned Parenthood's government auditors can prove it. ... the one thing that really kills Pence's entire argument is this: For every dollar spent on family planning, nearly $4 are saved down the line in Medicaid costs. A dollar spent now saves $4 later. $1. $4. What was that about "fiscal responsibility," Rep. Pence?  (Megan Crepeau, 4/4).

Des Moines Register: Guest Column: Mitt Romney Should Stop Running From His Big Achievement
Romney should be proud of his role in the passage of health reform in Massachusetts. Today, 98 percent of Massachusetts residents are insured, public support for the law is high, and it served as the model for landmark federal legislation that stands a good chance of solving an important national problem. And yet Romney does not sound proud (Robert Restuccia 4/1).

Star Tribune: Nonprofit Health Insurers Feel The Heat
Minnesota's nonprofit health insurers are one of the state's most powerful lobbies. ... [Gov. Mark Dayton] recently unveiled reforms aimed at the insurers, which are paid by the state to manage health programs that provide medical care to more than 500,000 poor, disabled and elderly Minnesotans. ... The recent profitability of these contracts, combined with the state budget deficit, means (former Minnesota Hospital Association attorney David) Feinwachs could not have picked a better time to push to open the health plans' books and figure out if the state is paying them too much (Jill Burcum, 4/3).

The Arizona Republic: State Is Erasing Its Deficit Honestly
Today we can say - for the first time in a decade - that Arizona's budget is structurally balanced without relying on any gimmicks, accounting tricks or borrowing. At the state Capitol on Friday, the Legislature passed an honest and responsible budget that effectively erases the state's looming billion-dollar-plus deficit and puts us on a path to recovery in an honest way. ... Our budget also manages to protect education and public safety while making lasting reforms to our unsustainable Medicaid entitlement programs (Kirk Adams, 4/4).

McClatchy/The Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Texas Lawmakers' Vote Creates A 'Death Panel' For HIV Patients
The Texas Legislature is considering yet another way to avoid raising even one more precious penny of tax money. A state Senate subcommittee on Medicaid spending is offering its own final solution: Let people die. Our very own death panel voted last week against adding $23 million in lifesaving medications for poor Texans with HIV, essentially turning away the 2,000 new patients who will need help in the next two years (Bud Kennedy, 4/3).

Star Tribune: Vaccines Work - That Is, If We'll Let Them
The recent cases of measles in Minneapolis vividly bring to light what many of us have long feared; that infant and childhood immunization rates are not at a level that will adequately protect our community from serious diseases that can easily be prevented. ... We need to continue to address the social conditions that affect immunizations and other health issues: homelessness and dislocation of families, lack of access to health care and health insurance, and cultural barriers to understanding health information. ... The more we can do upstream with prevention, the less we will have to pay for downstream in health care (Edward Ehlinger, 4/3).

The Baltimore Sun: Feds Should Reveal Secret Health Data To Fight Fraud
On a computer network based in Woodlawn, on huge encrypted hard drives, are patient records containing evidence of the estimated $50 billion that fraudsters and abusers drain from the federal Medicare program every year. But pressure from doctors has kept the data under guard for three decades. The Journal and the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission are mining the information in long-overdue attempts to shed light on abuse (Jay Hancock, 4/3).

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