KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: IPAB Debate; Medicare Flap Continues; WSJ On VT Single Payer

Politico: Why I Don't Back Paul Ryan's Medicare Plan
While I applaud Ryan for getting the conversation started, I cannot support his specific plan - and therefore will vote "no" on his budget. Why can't I go along with the Ryan Medicare plan? First, I fear that as health inflation rises, the cost of private plans will outgrow the government premium support- and the elderly will be forced to pay ever higher deductibles and co-pays. … Second, Medicare has already taken significant cuts to help pay for Obama's health care plan (Sen. Scott Brown, 5/23). 

The Wall Street Journal: Republicans And Mediscare 
Entitlement reform is the hardest challenge in politics, which is one reason we oppose all new entitlements. But Republicans now tempted to retreat at the first smell of cordite need to understand that they are taking even larger political and policy risks than Mr. Ryan is. The Medicare status quo of even two years ago, much less 20, is irretrievably gone, and anyone pining for its return is merely making President Obama's vision of government-run health care inevitable (5/23).

The Hill: Next Steps On Medicare Reform Now
While there is broad agreement that we can no longer afford a delay in addressing the quality and cost challenges facing Medicare and our health system, differences on views about the solution run deep. ... Congress might not be able to enact comprehensive legislation on Medicare's cost and quality issues now. Yet Congress can make meaningful progress in reforming Medicare's physician payment system to encourage innovation by providers and better choices by consumers. The way Medicare pays physicians and health professionals is the linchpin for real reform because of the importance of physician decisions in overall healthcare quality and cost (Mark McClellan, 5/20).

The Washington Post: Real World Making Health-Care Reforms
Health care, it seems, is the political issue that won't go away, all the more so because Republicans still can't seem to figure out what they really stand for. While the politicians continue with their posturing and hair-splitting, however, the rest of the world is actually making some progress by improving quality and slowing the growth in health-care spending (Steven Pearlstein, 5/21). 

USA Today: Our View: Medicare Board Does The Dirty Job Congress Won't
Buried in the hundreds of pages of the new health reform law is an obscure new panel known as "IPAB." No, this is not a nifty new product from Apple. It's a cost-control effort called the Independent Payment Advisory Board. Critics, mostly Republicans and a handful of Democrats, say the board is so awful that they're trying to kill it before its members are even appointed. ... the biggest problem with the board isn't that it's too powerful. The problem is it's not powerful enough. The board can't propose cutting benefits or raising taxes or premiums, even if that makes more sense than cutting payments to providers (5/22).  

USA Today: Opposing View: Repeal Medicare Board
We all agree that Medicare costs must be contained and that the payment system is flawed and needs to be replaced. But simply cutting reimbursements is not the answer. IPAB brings unpredictability and uncertainty to providers and has the potential for stifling innovation and collaboration. The threat of reduced payments is the least imaginative option and most unlikely to result in the kind of heath care we know seniors and all Americans deserve (Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz, D-Pa., 5/22). 

The Baltimore Sun: To Protect Doctors, Patients, Rein In Medicare Panel
The federal health care reform law establishes a new body, called the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), responsible for enforcing the annual spending cap in Medicare. … Maryland has a history and tradition as a leader in health care. Our state also has a history and tradition of promoting access to medical care and of preserving and protecting the doctor-patient relationship. Maryland needs to continue the tradition and take a leadership role to reform the IPAB, making the changes necessary to sustain the Medicare program while guaranteeing patients' continued access to treatment (Gene M. Ransom III, 5/23). 

Related, earlier story from KHN: The IPAB: How Will It Change Medicare?  (Vaida, 5/8).

Denver Post: Guest Commentary: The GOP Plan Is A Non-Starter 
[P]roposals to privatize Medicare - like Rep. Paul Ryan's - have been met with such fierce opposition, because it was revealed in the national media that privatization meant much higher out-of-pocket costs for seniors. National polls have shown strong general support for maintaining Medicare or even increasing funding for it. ... Conservatives say privatization is the only way to save money. The truth is there are several other ways to strengthen Medicare, but there has been a false debate in the nation regarding the rising costs of Medicare (Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., 5/21).

Denver Post: Guest Commentary: An Overhaul Will Save Medicare
The escalating political debate about the future of Medicare reveals a fear of change coupled with the growing recognition that change is essential to sustain the program for the future. Medicare is facing $38 trillion in red ink. ... But without a serious course adjustment, the program faces a steep and inevitable decline. Medicare will become a third-rate, price-controlled program that rations a lower-quality of care through waiting lines and other restrictions. (Grace-Marie Turner, 5/21).

CNN: Gingrich Wrong To Back Down From GOP Critics
If Newt Gingrich was planning to send GOP voters a message that he's a different kind of politician who won't just say anything to get elected, he did a horrible job this week of driving that point home. After making a so-called verbal gaffe on NBC's "Meet the Press" on May 15 regarding radical changes to Medicare, as proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, Gingrich was on the defensive, apologizing, backtracking and groveling to any Republican or conservative radio show host who would take his call. Instead of trying to blame the media for twisting his words, Gingrich should man up and defend his assessment of the Ryan proposal (Roland S. Martin, 5/21).

The Wall Street Journal: Vermont Gives The 'Public Option' A Clinical Trial
In America's courtrooms, ObamaCare is on trial. A majority of states have filed lawsuits arguing that its mandate requiring individuals to purchase health insurance is unconstitutional. But in Vermont, ObamaCare is about to get a trial of a different sort-a clinical one. This coming Thursday, Gov. Peter Shumlin will sign a bill doing what President Obama and his allies have hoped to do all along: sell a public insurance option alongside competing private insurance as a first step toward a single-payer, government-run system (Gratzer, 5/21).  

The New York Times: When Treatment Is Also Prevention
The discovery of a near-perfect way to halt sexual transmission of the AIDS virus has the potential to change the way international agencies and nations cope with the epidemic. But that can only happen if troubling issues of cost and practicality can be surmounted (5/22). 

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