KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Sen. Portman’s Rx For Deficit Talks; Gerson Says Obama Needs To Give Boehner Political Cover To Make A Deal

The Wall Street Journal: A Truly Balanced Approach To The Deficit
Washington needs to pursue structural reforms in the country's important but unsustainable entitlement programs and in an inefficient, outdated tax code. By doing so, lawmakers can responsibly avoid the immediate cliff while addressing the long-term fiscal crisis and spurring job creation (Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, 12/10). 

The Washington Post: Obama Must Learn To Negotiate
There is a political problem at the heart of the budget debate. If Democrats get what they want — tax-rate increases on the wealthy — they can crow about it in public. If Republicans get what they want — structural reductions in entitlement spending — they are unable to crow. Their motivation is fiscal and ideological, not political. Despite Rep. Paul Ryan's best efforts, entitlement reform is not yet a popular, bottom-up political movement. It won't happen unless the president leads — providing cover for the political class to move together (Michael Gerson, 12/10). 

Politico Pro: Medicare Reform Should Focus On Quality, Sustainability
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s recent op-ed presents an argument that deserves more attention in Washington: Health care budget savings can be achieved without making drastic, arbitrary cuts to Medicare. While the senator does not provide specifics, he accurately points out that simply cutting Medicare reimbursements will not address the larger issue of slowing the growth in spending. Instead, we must consider comprehensive reform measures. With the election over, policy makers need to broaden the debate about Medicare reform and consider ideas that both reduce costs and make structural changes that improve health outcomes for beneficiaries. Successful reform requires policymakers to embrace initiatives that help improve the overall quality of care but also ensure the sustainability of the Medicare program that millions of Americans rely on (Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Kenneth Thorpe, 12/10).

The Boston Globe: Cutting Health Care Costs: A Test Of Nerves
A new Medicare-cost-cutting effort that will pay neurologists less for some procedures has the whole profession up in arms, but that doesn't mean the new policy is wrong. Similar disagreements are likely to occur with some frequency over the next few years, as the Affordable Care Act goes forward and Medicare officials — necessarily — focus more and more on curbing health care costs (12/10).

Kansas City Star: Expand Medicaid, Save Lives
Officials in Missouri and Kansas and other states are busy crunching numbers to determine whether expanding Medicaid limits to comply with the Affordable Care Act makes sense. So far the answer is yes. The expenses states would incur by making Medicaid available to adults with incomes up to 133 percent of the poverty level would be offset by savings elsewhere in the budgets and by a hefty economic lift as millions of federal dollars pour in to build clinics, purchase equipment and hire medical workers. A study released earlier this year provides another compelling reason for states to bring more people under their Medicaid umbrellas: It would keep people alive (12/10).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Colorado Must Expand Access To Dental Care
It is becoming more difficult for Coloradans to get oral health care. Last Thursday, legislators who attended the Hot Issues in Health Care conference in Colorado Springs, sponsored by the Colorado Health Institute, got a sneak preview of new Colorado Trust report on oral health. Based on findings from the 2011 Colorado Health Access Survey (CHAS), the report, "A Growing Problem: Oral Health Coverage, Access and Usage in Colorado," said there are now more than 2 million Coloradans without dental insurance -- an increase of 17 percent since the 2009 baseline survey. The survey also found that having dental insurance makes a significant difference in whether Coloradans seek dental care, which means that fewer Coloradans are getting the dental care they need (Sara Schmitt, 12/10).

Medpage Today: The Tragedy That Is Medical Economics
Today, I come back to where I started 11 weeks ago – namely the tragedy of medical economics in this country. And I would apply that word "tragedy" in at least two ways. The first tragedy is that we are headed for fiscal disaster in this country because of health care costs. We now spend twice as much per person on health care as the average per person cost of all developed countries. ... But lost in this economic tragedy is the even more important human tragedy. Because healthcare costs are soaring (I believe last year's somewhat lower costs were primarily due to the recession) 40 to 50 million Americans have no health insurance largely because they or their employer can't afford it (Dr. Timothy Johnson, 12/10).

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