KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Political Impact Of Ryan Plan; Would VA Health System Work For All?; Calif. Insurance Rates

The New York Times: Rep. Ryan's Dubious Sales Pitch
Representative Paul Ryan is rebutting critics of his plan to turn Medicare into a "premium support" program, pointing to two existing programs that he says prove his approach would be better for beneficiaries. Don't believe it. The two programs he cites as prototypes - the insurance program for members of Congress and the Medicare prescription drug program - differ in critical respects from his proposal to sharply limit federal spending. The losers will be the beneficiaries who have to pay more (5/29).

The Washington Post: How The GOP Could Rescue Medicare Reform
So all Republican arguments in favor of Medicare reform ultimately depend on the success of one argument: that the status quo is not an option. This contention has the virtue of being correct. ... The Republican push for entitlement reform will be creative, flexible and persistent - or it will fail (Michael Gerson, 5/30).

The Baltimore Sun: Jonah Goldberg: A Political Rubicon For The GOP: Win Or Die
The recent special election in the 26th Congressional District of New York was a political Rubicon. … It's difficult to exaggerate the gloating and glee from Democrats about their triumph. Their takeaway: Democrats can win if they demonize the Ryan plan and run ads (or allow third-party groups to run them) showing old ladies being flung from cliffs like Spartan infants (Jonah Goldberg, 5/30).

The New York Times: Medicare and the "Disaffected" Vote
I agree with the conservatives who are arguing that Republicans need to forge ahead on Medicare reform, because they'll be demagogued on the issue no matter what they do. But forging ahead on entitlements doesn't require defending every detail of the Ryan budget, or fighting the next election on exactly the same lines that the NY-26 race was fought on. That's a battle I don't think conservatives can win (Ross Douthat, 5/28).

Bloomberg: On Medicare It's Ryan Plan Versus Bureaucrats
If your reform plan is weighed against an impossible dream of keeping Medicare exactly as it is regardless of affordability, voters are going to prefer the impossible dream. If it's compared to the real alternative, you just might make it. Tell the voters: If someone is going to decide how to spend your health-care dollars, shouldn't it be you? (Ramest Pannuru, 5/31).

The Miami Herald: Fiddling While Medicare Goes Bankrupt
Democrats scored a political victory last Tuesday by winning a special election in a Republican congressional bastion in upstate New York where Medicare was the main issue. They should enjoy it while they can because this momentary triumph will turn to ashes if they think they can win next year's national elections on the slogan that they did nothing to stop the soaring cost of Medicare (5/28).

The Fiscal Times: Medicare: Nickel and Diming the Middle Class
Thanks to a Republican president and Congress, I'll pay $1,130 more than the standard premium for doctors' services covered by Medicare this year. But Democrats are responsible for the $372 surcharge on my Medicare prescription drug plan. ... A little research revealed they were pushed through in 2003 and 2010 respectively, when opposite parties were in power (Dan Morgan, 5/27).

The Boston Globe: Health Care Law Puts Seniors At Risk
Proponents tout IPAB as health-care reform's solution to rising costs. It isn't. A real solution would spell out proposed changes so that seniors understand them and have a chance to make their voices heard, especially through members of Congress voting on reforms (Robert Couglin, 5/31).

Des Moines Register: VA Offers Lessons For U.S. Health Care
On May 9, the Des Moines Register ran an editorial titled "We Can't Afford a Piecemeal Health System," and I would certainly agree that the health care system in this country is fragmented, costly and very difficult for patients to navigate. But then, in a rationale that is truly difficult to comprehend, you conclude that the way to improve our national health care system is to dismantle the VA health care system.  ... The Veterans Health Administration is not a parallel system to the rest of the U.S. health care system. It is a specialized but complementary health care resource that is designed to meet the distinctive health care needs of veterans (Donald C. Cooper, 5/29).

Des Moines Register: Why Don't We Expand VA Health System?
On the opposite page, Donald Cooper, director of VA Central Iowa Health Care System, ... suggests that Americans should learn from the VA. It certainly does have a record of providing good care. ... And he got us thinking: Maybe the VA shouldn't be dismantled. Maybe it should be available to everyone. What if the VA's hospitals and clinics became THE health care system in this country? After all, a single system would make more sense than the hodgepodge of thousands of private and public hospitals, clinics and insurer plans (5/29).

The Denver Post: A Carrot, Not A Tax, For Boosting Health
Arizona wants to charge smokers and obese people on Medicaid $50 a year, a penalty designed to encourage people to adopt healthier habits. There has been a lot of controversy about the proposal, which boils down to this: Is a sin tax fair? While we acknowledge that health care typically costs more for people who are overweight and smoke cigarettes, we think a better approach would be to incentivize good behavior on the front end rather than punish risky behavior on the back end (5/30).

Los Angeles Times: A Lid On Health Insurance Rate Increases
Opponents of a bill that would allow state regulators to reject unreasonable increases in health insurance premiums are stepping up their attacks on the measure, contending that it would push premiums even higher and make health care less available. These arguments are a smokescreen, and lawmakers shouldn't lose sight of the need to give consumers of health insurance the same protection they have in auto and homeowners' policies (5/31).

The Boston Globe: Caesarean Births: Why So Many At Some Hospitals?
A Department of Public Health report released earlier this month found sharply varying rates of caesarean births at Massachusetts hospitals among first-time mothers with low-risk pregnancies. State health officials need to find out the reason for the variation. ... [U]nnecessary caesareans should be viewed by the entire medical community for what they are: health risks that also happen to cost a lot of extra money (5/30).

Los Angeles Times: Elderly Mother Takes Issue With Daughter's Doctorly Caution
A doctor upsets her 86-year-old mother after questioning the need for certain screening and personally confronts a long-running issue: Everyone deserves the best health care, but it's difficult deciding what that is (Dr. Pamela M. Davis, 5/30).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Paging All Nurses
Losing 21 full-time nurse positions in Milwaukee Public Schools next year is a major concern, but the gap could be closed by forging stronger partnerships between schools and hospitals. ... School nurses do more than dispense Band-Aids and aspirin; in Milwaukee, they are in a position to lead health education initiatives around healthy eating, substance abuse, exercises and safe sex (5/30). 

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