KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: NY Times Deconstructs Health Rulings; Issa On Law & Deficit; Veterans’ Care Needs Boost

Politico Pro: Opinion: Health Care Law Will Deepen Deficit
At a time when the nation's credit has been downgraded for the first time and our country is struggling to finance and reform existing entitlement programs, Obamacare's creation of new entitlements increases dependency on government and pushes our country deeper into a fiscal crisis of Greek proportion. As Congress and the president seek bipartisan ground to address the national debt, we must remember that the first step out of a hole is to stop digging (Rep. Darrell Issa, 8/22).

The New York Times: Will Health Care Reform Survive the Courts?
The legal battle over the constitutionality of the health care reform law will determine how far government can go in helping to improve people's lives. Ultimately, the Supreme Court will have to decide this question. Until then, the pileup of lower federal court rulings — responding to some of the more than two dozen lawsuits filed against the law — is confusing and sharply divided, especially on the requirement that individuals buy or obtain health insurance or pay a penalty. ... Health care spending now accounts for 16 percent of the national economy, yet 50 million Americans are uninsured. How strange if Congress were disempowered in this critical arena. We hope the court will show judicial restraint and let elected political leaders determine what health care reform should be (Philip M. Boffey, 8/20).

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Health Care Reform Rulings Aren’t As Simple As A Sound Bite
When the justices get to it, the heart of the matter won't be whether this extensive overhaul of health insurance was the best way to bring order to a chaotic system, whether the politics of getting it passed were palatable or even whether the changes will ultimately have the intended effect. ... Despite the partisan line-drawing that has dogged debate about the law, it's not clear that the constitutional answers fit neatly on a political divide (8/21).

ABC: Our 'New Normal' Wounded Health Care System
Given the return on investment from today's relatively modest government funding of health care research, increased funding to advance medical science is a crucial step toward economic recovery. ... It could also finally offer all Americans a real hope in finally holding down or reducing medical costs overall (Stephen Brozak and Henry Bassman, 8/22).

The New York Times: More Excuses And Delays From The VA
It has been more than three months since a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit accused the Department of Veterans Affairs of "unchecked incompetence" and unconscionable delays in caring for veterans with mental health problems. Instead of working with the plaintiffs to address the court's concerns, the V.A. is appealing the ruling. ... These court delays are adding insult to those injuries. This cannot continue (8/21).

The Seattle Times: Provide Resources To Address Army Suicides
The U.S. Army should continue pressing for answers, but more importantly solutions, for why its suicide rate has nearly doubled during a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.  ... More mental-health resources, and better coordination of them by the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs, is needed to support soldiers and their families (8/19).

Los Angeles Times: An E-Ripoff Of The US
Scores of reports over the last decade catalog completely implausible Medicare and Medicaid claims paid, apparently without a hiccup, for patients who were dead, imprisoned or previously deported from the country and forbidden to return. ... What makes these health care programs so vulnerable to fake billings and at such a scale? It's not so much the health care policy itself, nor the program design; the vulnerability stems from the payment mechanism the government has chosen to use. (Malcolm Sparrow, 8/21).

The Chicago Tribune: What's Charitable Care?
The Illinois Department of Revenue took away the property-tax exemption enjoyed by the three not-for-profit health centers ... At Provena, 302 of 110,000 patients got free or reduced-rate care through the hospital's charity program in 2002, when the hospital applied for its tax-exemption. ... Hospitals need clear standards for how much charity care is expected in return for a tax break. ... Lawmakers need to set a standard that's flexible so it doesn't push financially stressed hospitals over the brink with a tax bill. A shuttered hospital doesn't provide care for anyone (8/22).

San Francisco Chronicle: How Medicare Curbs Will Affect Prescription Drugs
Mounting deficits pose a real threat to the U.S. economy, and modernizing Medicare will be an important element in addressing this challenge. However, one of the key elements in Obamacare's Medicare modernization, the Independent Payment Advisory Board, serves as an egregious example of how careless assumptions and wishful thinking lead to harmful policy. The board will harm Medicare, and limit beneficiaries' access to lifesaving prescription drugs (John Graham, 8/19).

(Minneapolis-St. Paul) Pioneer Press: Did Health Law Bring Economic Doldrums? 
Private-sector job creation stopped improving almost as soon as Congress passed the act. ... The health-care measure raises business costs and makes planning for the future more difficult. It should be expected to slow hiring (James Sherk, 8/20).

(Minneapolis-St. Paul) Star Tribune: Keep Eye On Health Care Experiment
About 115,000 of the sickest and most vulnerable patients who are currently in a state-administered plan will now be automatically enrolled in privately run managed-care plans next year, unless they choose to opt out. ... Reports done elsewhere vary on cost savings from shifting this population into managed care. Minnesota is entrusting many of its most vulnerable citizens to the state's respected health plans. Scheduling a checkup to see how the plans and the patients are doing is entirely reasonable (8/20).

Des Moines Register: Brace Yourself For Rate Increases
So far this year, insurers have asked the state to approve increases averaging 30 percent on 18 policies. The state approved increases that averaged 15 percent. Why are rates increasing? Long-term care policies are relatively new, with the first ones sold in the 1970s. Insurance companies inaccurately projected future expenses. Now that people are living longer and filing claims for care, insurance companies are increasing premiums on others to pay those expenses (8/21).

The Arizona Republic: Project Aims To Help Those With Mental Illness
This is the reality for many of the more than 14,000 individuals challenged with severe mental illness in Maricopa County who are receiving services from the public health-care system. Worried that their doctor won't understand their symptoms — plus the possibility of stares from fellow patients in the waiting area — many of these individuals avoid the primary-care exam room. … Acutely concerned about these unacceptable health disparities, we have partnered on an important new health care initiative (Richard Clarke, Betsey Bayless, Ron Smith, Amy Henning, Christy Dye and M. Tomás León, 8/22).

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