KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Ryan Plan Politics; Senior Care; Health Care Consumerism

The Wall Street Journal: Mediscare Redux
Democrats spent the last week of Easter recess bashing the GOP on the Medicare reforms in the Paul Ryan budget, and Republicans tell me they are feeling the heat back home. Republicans say the ploy, dubbed "Mediscare redux," harkens back to the mid-1990s. That's when House Republicans tried to reform the health insurance program for seniors, only to see a big push back from the senior lobby. ... Anxious Republicans are now asking the House Republican leadership for talking points to counter the left's charge of "privatizing Medicare" (Stephen Moore, 4/29). 
 
The New York Times: The Ryan Plan for Medicaid
The real problem is not Medicaid. Contrary to most perceptions, it is a relatively efficient program - with low administrative costs, a high reliance on managed care and much lower payments to providers than other public and private insurance. The real problem is soaring medical costs. The Ryan plan does little to address that. The health care law, which Republicans have vowed to repeal, seeks to reform the entire system to deliver quality care at lower cost (4/30).

The New York Times: What Happens In Brooklyn When You Try To Cut Medicare
Only one Republican represents New York City in Congress, and even in his 13th Congressional District, which includes Staten Island and a small southwest corner of Brooklyn, it's a high-wire act.  ... According to one show of hands, nearly half the audience voted for [Rep. Michael] Grimm, and while they occasionally applauded, they were far quieter than the critics. None stood up to support his vote on Medicare. ... Mr. Grimm, who won election by only three percentage points in 2010 (and who lost the Brooklyn section) may find his vote makes the task quite a bit harder in 2012 (David Firestone, 5/1).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Medicare Board Remains Best Bet
The 2010 Affordable Care Act contains strong but controversial medicine for reining in Medicare's soaring costs: the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). While serious questions remain about how this board of unelected experts will work, the IPAB offers hope that the country's fiscal concerns can be balanced with the health care promises made to senior citizens. The board, which faces mounting congressional attempts to repeal it, needs to be preserved. Critics contend it usurps congressional authority or could ration care (5/1). 

The Wall Street Journal: Kathleen Spitzer
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made her political name in Kansas, though we wonder if she's getting special advice from Eliot Spitzer. Her department's latest attack, on the CEO of Forest Laboratories, is straight out of the former New York Attorney General's bullying playbook. ... CEOs are accountable for their actions, but it is simply unjust for a powerful regulator like Mrs. Sebelius to threaten a company with ruin if it doesn't dismiss a CEO who has had no formal charges or proof of wrongdoing brought against him (5/2). 

Los Angeles Times: Capitol Journal: Making A Case For Regulating Medical Insurance In California
Breathtaking premium hikes have prompted California's new insurance commissioner to sponsor a bill that would require medical insurers to get state approval before increasing rates (George Skelton, 5/2).

The Fiscal Times: GOP's Unintended Consequence: Federal Takeover of Health Care
The latest Republican effort to undermine health care reform hits the House floor next week with the law of unintended consequences clearly in play. If the bill actually became law – an unlikely event since the Democrats still control the Senate and the White House – it would promote the federal takeover of health care, something Republicans have consistently opposed on the campaign trail. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, withdraws federal financial support for state-based insurance exchanges (Merrill Goozner, 4/29). 

Georgia Health News: The Potential Of Health Care Consumerism: The Future Of Employment-Based Insurance
The future is about empowering individuals. It's about supporting and rewarding healthy behaviors regardless of plan design. It's about engaging employees, employers, medical providers, insurance carriers, and other stakeholders in a new relationship that deals with health rather than sickness and disease (Ronald Bachman, 4/29). 

CNN: Alzheimer's: Caring for Caregivers
As of January 1, 2011, the first Baby Boomer turned 65, with a fellow Boomer joining him every 8 seconds. ... 4 million Americans a year over the next 19 years will be at increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease simply due to the single most important risk factor for the disease: age. However, Alzheimer's disease doesn't just affect the patient; it challenges the entire family who must rise to the occasion and become caregivers. With 1 in 8 developing Alzheimer's at age 65 and 1 in 2 at age 85, nary a family escapes the wrath of this pernicious, mind-robbing disease (Susan Hirsch, 4/29). 

The Boston Globe: Help Patients And Doctors Discuss End-Of-Life Care
As long as doctors and patients alike find it difficult to talk about end-of-life issues, patients with terminal illnesses may be denied the kind of death they would prefer. But state and federal health officials can take concrete steps to promote this crucial conversation - and a simple two-page form that's already in use in Worcester is a case in point (4/30). 

The Miami Herald: Florida's Shameful Failure
They're locked down in violation of the law. Tied with ropes. Given tranquilizers without a doctor's order. It has happened to Florida's most vulnerable, the elderly or mentally ill, at least 1,732 times since 2002 in homes licensed by the state. Most of those homes have been slapped with a relatively small fine and nothing more. Society's most important obligation is to protect the most vulnerable among us - the elderly, infirm and children (5/1). 

Albany Times-Union: A Prescription For Quality Care
New York has until January 2014 to comply with last year's federal health reform act and put an insurance exchange in place. But it never seems too early to ask this state's leaders to not mess up a golden opportunity. This state, remember, has been lamenting for years how many uninsured citizens it has, a number that seems to stubbornly remain around 2.5 million. ... New York is now talking about creating the entity that will run the exchange, possibly a new public authority. Although the state's long history with authorities has been checkered with corruption and waste, it has also shown that such bodies are not inherently bad, if they're set up well and run professionally, openly and with their public mission in mind (5/2). 

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Members Of Philly Senior Center Ready To Fight For Its Life
The tension in the basement of the Stiffel Senior Center had been slowly rising for nearly an hour when Harry Azoff was moved to speak. He'd sat quietly through the presentation by the woman from the board, and heard her deliver the bad news about the bottom line. The 83-year-old community center, at Marshall and Porter in South Philadelphia, must close by July 31 because it's hemorrhaging money (Daniel Rubin, 5/2). 

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Removing Barriers To HIV Testing 
[M]aking HIV testing a part of routine clinical care and providing testing in unconventional settings can go a long way toward addressing the stigma associated with the virus. Encouraging everyone to be tested - as we do with other kinds of health screenings - greatly reduces the stigma. The bill passed by the Senate last week would help efforts to promote widespread HIV testing and reduce disproportionate rates of infection among African Americans, particularly in Philadelphia. We encourage the state House and the governor to follow the Senate's lead (Amy Nunn, Rev. Alyn Waller, and Luke Messac, 5/2).

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