KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: NY Times On High-Risk Pools; GOP On Medicaid ‘Flexibility;’ Health Workers’ Rights

The New York Times: The Skirmish Over High-Risk Pools
As part of the new health care reform, the federal government and 27 state governments are establishing temporary high-risk pools to offer coverage for people with pre-existing conditions until the law takes full effect in 2014. The effort has gotten off to a slow start, and Republican critics have, predictably, seized on that as "proof" that the government will be incapable of managing the much more complex changes lying ahead. ... The Department of Health and Human Services made sensible changes late last year. ... There should be no question that full reform is the best long-term solution to the problem of covering our sickest citizens (2/15). 

The Seattle Times: Congress Must Provide States More Medicaid Flexibility
Unless states are provided more flexibility over Medicaid spending they will be forced to either opt out of the program or eliminate state-only health-care priorities. A better strategy would be for Congress to transform the current categorically restricted Medicaid program, which is dictated by D.C. priorities, into an indexed block-grant program that would allow each state to design a comprehensive state-based health-care system that meets the unique needs and priorities of its citizens while protecting the most vulnerable (Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Jason Mercier, 2/15). 

Kaiser Health News Answering The Obama Budget Critics
Would I like the change to be less gradual? Would I like to know, with more certainty, the cuts will actually work? Sure. But the conservative alternatives don't offer better guarantees. In fact, the promises they make are far more illusory (Jonathan Cohn, 2/15).

The Washington Post: Are Conservatives Endangering The High Court?
Less than a month after President Obama signed the health-care reform into law, Justice Stephen Breyer predicted that the legislation would one day make it to the high court. Now that four federal judges have ruled on the matter, it appears that Breyer was right, and he may be weighing in, along with his colleagues, sooner than expected. What's at stake is not just the law itself or the fate of the tens of millions who wait for its benefits, but the very legitimacy of the court (Katrina vanden Heuvel, 2/15).

Kaiser Health News: A Slippery Slope To Defunding The Health Law 
A key provision of the health law that will provide 19 million consumers with tax credits to help afford their health insurance has been raided once. Now, Republicans are planning to raid it again (Timothy Jost, 2/15). 

The Sacramento Bee: Prevention Is One Health Issue We Can All Agree Upon
You'd think, from hearing all the noise in the news, that we can't agree on anything in this country, especially when it comes to taking care of our health. But two recent surveys suggest that isn't true. According to a new Public Policy Institute of California poll, 83 percent of Californians agree that the current health care system needs improvement. … There's also agreement our health care system should focus on prevention, instead of being just an ever-more expensive "sick care" system (Robert Ross, 2/16). 

Chicago Sun-Times: S. Side Trauma Care Ignored Long Enough
When 18-year-old Damian Turner was killed in a drive-by shooting last August, paramedics did not take him to the University of Chicago Medical Center, four blocks away. Instead, they had no choice but to drive Turner nine long miles to the nearest Level 1 trauma center, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he later died. Would Turner have survived had he been taken to the U. of C. - and had that hospital been equipped to handle his injuries? Nobody can say. But one thing is clear: it's an outrage that Turner had to be transported so far to get the proper level of care (2/15). 

The Washington Post: Workers Toppled A Dictator In Egypt, But Might Be Silenced In Wisconsin 
Last Friday, Scott Walker, Wisconsin's new Republican governor, proposed taking away most collective bargaining rights of public employees. Under his legislation, which has moved so swiftly through the newly Republican state legislature that it might come to a vote Thursday, the unions representing teachers, sanitation workers, doctors and nurses at public hospitals, and a host of other public employees, would lose the right to bargain over health coverage, pensions and other benefits (Harold Meyerson, 2/16).

WBUR's CommonHealth blog: Health Care Workers Make Their Case On Payment Reform
When upcoming payment reform legislation changes how hospitals and other providers get paid by insurers and the state, it is going to have a profound impact on the floors of the medical facilities where the work of healing and caring for patients actually gets done ... our jobs are literally where reform and reality come together (Veronica Turner, 2/15).

MinnPost: This Social Service Program Saves Money -- And People 
[FUSE is] a program that moves long-term homeless persons off the streets and into permanent, affordable housing. These are folks who had made it a habit of ending up not only in homeless shelters but also in pricier overnight accommodations: jail, detox centers and medical facilities. Because of its successful track record, the program is expanding this year. About 90 percent of participants are men, with 86 percent African American. All have problems of mental illness, chemical dependency or both and are on probation in the criminal justice system (Cynthia Boyd, 2/15).

The Seattle Times: Holy Smoke! What Gets Into These Nanny-State Lawmakers?
Now comes House Bill 1246, sponsored by Rep. Eileen Cody, D-Seattle, chairwoman of the progressively named House Health and Wellness Care Committee. Cody's bill would ban the sale of flavored pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco and cigars except on tribal lands... The public-health people will not stop at kids. The anti-flavored-tobacco bill is an attempt to make 30-year-olds, 50-year-olds, and even Hinkle's 81-year-old father-in-law live by a rule designed for 14-year-olds. In the nanny state, you never come of age (Bruce Ramsey, 2/15). 

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