KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

More Opinions: Berwick, DeParle, Rep. Pitts And Others On Health Costs; Public Health Transparency Guidelines

Politico: U.S. Health Care Systems Fails To Deliver
Unfortunately, there are too many examples that show how our system can fail to meet patients' needs. These problems are not a reflection on the many doctors, nurses and other professionals who work tirelessly to deliver the highest quality care they can. Instead, they reflect a delivery system that's not always designed with the patient in mind. Improving care and lowering costs are at the heart of the Affordable Care Act. As a pediatrician, as a patient and now as administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, I have seen our health care system both at its best and at its worst (Dr. Donald Berwick, 7/31).

Politico: Health Law Boosts Care, Lowers Cost 
[T]here's a big difference between President Barack Obama's plan to lower costs and the Republican plan, which doesn't control costs, ends Medicare as we know it and passes on the costs to seniors. The Republican plan would simply arbitrarily cap Medicare's payments for health care through vouchers for newly eligible seniors, forcing them to each pay an average of $6,400 extra, per year, for health care. … Affordable insurance exchanges will give small businesses the same competitive choices and purchasing clout that large businesses enjoy (Nancy-Ann Deparle, 7/31).

Politico: Health Care Reform's Poor Prognosis
Over the past six months, the House Energy and Commerce Committee has been conducting a thorough appraisal of health care reform, and it looks as if the country has been sold a lemon. Throughout the health care debate, President Barack Obama promised that Americans could keep their current health care plan if they liked it. More than 1,400 waivers later, we have found out that simply is not the case. ... The committee is moving forward to repeal the law and replace it with common-sense solutions that actually lower the costs of health care so more Americans can access quality, affordable care. The best way to drive down prices is to encourage national competition of health care (Rep. Joe Pitts, 7/31).

Forbes: The Bottom Line Is That Medicare Must Be Cut
Healthcare expenses related to Medicare and Medicaid have to be reduced. If they are, then there will be ample scope to increase spending for defense, education, law enforcement, transportation, infrastructure and energy concludes the 100-year review of USA Inc. by a group of financial experts headed by Paul Volcker, Michael Bloomberg and George Schultz. Rising entitlement income for more than 35% of the population is up 7 times over 5 decades ... the debt we have taken to pay for Medicare is strangling our economy and threatening our comparative financial situation. Without resolution of these climbing costs the rest of the world is bound to abandon our securities and our currency (Robert Lenzner, 7/31).  

The Boston Globe: Health Costs: Pick The Low-Hanging Fruit
Due to a loophole in the Affordable Care Act, some middle-class people who have retired early will be eligible for Medicaid benefits designed for the very poor. This means they'll get health care almost for free. According to the Congressional Budget Office, fixing this problem would save $13 billion between 2014 and 2021 and wouldn't add to the ranks of the uninsured. Congress should act quickly to do so (7/31). 

Houston Chronicle: Let's Bring Transparency To Medical Imaging 
[An] important area of health care reform is being completely ignored by our state - relating to the use of advanced diagnostic imaging services such as MRIs, PET scans and CT scans. Costs for these services have skyrocketed nationwide in recent years, and Texas is no exception. Enacting basic provisions for imaging services, which many other states have already implemented, would not only lead to health care efficiencies and cost savings but would also help reduce unnecessary scans (Dr. Sidney Roberts, 7/31). 

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Benefits Outweigh Birth Control Costs
An influential medical panel has recommended a wise but controversial use of the nation's limited health care dollars: making birth control available without a health insurance copay. ... Republicans' targeting of Planned Parenthood has already crippled a key women's health program that provided access to low-cost birth control in rural areas. Cuts or spending caps are likely for Medicaid ... If these programs must shrink, then the nation also needs a compassionate, responsible policy like that recommended by the IOM (7/31).

(Madison) Capital Times: Medicaid Makes Meaningful Life Possible For Me
Fortunately, Medicaid gives me the missing piece I need to make my life work. An aide comes twice a day to help get me into and out of my wheelchair. This doesn't just make a difference in my life: It makes the life I have possible (Anna Liebenow, 8/1).

Los Angeles Times: Health Officials, Speak Up
In a public health emergency, journalists want details about when, where and how a death occurred to make their stories more complete and satisfy the public's curiosity. ... Decisions on what information to release can make or break the public's trust in health authorities, at a time when trust is critical if people are to follow public health advice. Our organization of healthcare journalists wanted to come up with a solution that would both keep the public informed and respect patient privacy. So we teamed up with the Assn. of State and Territorial Health Officials and the National Assn. of County and City Health Officials ... The end result was a set of voluntary guidelines affirming that health officials should withhold information only where there is a clearly justified reason to do so (Felice J. Freyer and Charles Ornstein, 8/1). 

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Medicare, An Effective Program, Turns 46
Surprisingly, Medicare was born out of bitter controversy in 1965. It was condemned by some as "socialized medicine," a threat to basic freedoms. As a physician, I'm embarrassed to say organized medicine was among its key opponents. It all seems silly today. Since its inception, Medicare has afforded hundreds of millions of Americans access to high-quality health care. It has reduced poverty among seniors and improved the financial security of their families (Dr. Ann Settgast, 7/30).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Fast-Track Reform Of Services For Disabled
An object lesson for would-be reformers of state government's Big Hurt -- health care spending for the chronically ill and disabled -- was administered this year. ... the state budget was balanced with one-time measures that all but guarantee more red ink in 2013. If reform of long-term care is still a work in progress when the 2013 Legislature convenes, another round of system-depleting, life-diminishing cuts could be in the offing (7/29).

Des Moines Register: The Reality For Iowa: We Need Better Care For Our Mentally Ill
Much of the conversation leading up to the health reform law revolved around people with illnesses like cancer or diabetes. Everyone recognizes that when such illnesses are untreated, it leads to more serious and costly problems later. It contributes to early deaths. But the same is true for those who are not getting treatment for their mental health problems. ... Iowa ranks near the bottom of the nation for the number of psychiatric beds and psychiatrists per capita (7/30). 

San Francisco Chronicle: Time To Close Loophole In S.F. Health Care Law
Under this law, businesses with more than 20 employees must make minimum health expenditures on behalf of their workers. Most provide their employees with health insurance or pay into the city's Healthy San Francisco program. However, a growing number of businesses have found a way to circumvent the spirit of the law by using health reimbursement accounts (Ken Jacobs, 8/1).

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