KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Bowles, Simpson Renew Push For ‘Grand Bargain;’ The Debate On FDA Oversight Of Pharmacies; Kasich And Feds Work To Find Formula For Medicaid Expansion

The Washington Post: A Grand Bargain Is Still Possible. Here's How.
To be sure, some progress has been made the past two years. Policymakers have enacted about $2.7 trillion in deficit reduction, primarily through cuts in discretionary spending and higher taxes on wealthy individuals. Yet what we have achieved so far is insufficient. Nothing has been done to make our entitlement programs sustainable for future generations, make our tax code more globally competitive and pro-growth, or put our debt on a downward path. Instead, we have allowed a "sequestration" to mindlessly cut spending across the board — except in those areas that contribute the most to spending growth. But there are seeds of hope that a bipartisan agreement might be achievable (Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, 4/28).

The Washington Post: The Twilight Of Entitlement
We are passing through something more than a period of disappointing economic growth and increasing political polarization. What's happening is more powerful: the collapse of "entitlement." By this, I do not mean primarily cuts in specific government benefits, most prominently Social Security, but the demise of a broader mind-set — attitudes and beliefs — that, in one form or another, has gripped Americans since the 1960s. The breakdown of these ideas has rattled us psychologically as well as politically and economically (Robert J. Samuelson, 4/28).

USA Today: Fix 'Compounding Pharmacy' Oversight: Our View
In the aftermath of this public health disaster, Republicans and Democrats in Congress are debating two questions: Has the Food and Drug Administration failed to use its existing authority to oversee compounders such as NECC? Or does the FDA need broader powers? The answers are yes, and yes. The FDA repeatedly dropped the ball. And the agency's authority does need to be clarified and expanded (4/28).

USA Today: We're Dedicated To Patients' Health: Another View
When the tragic news of the deaths and sickness associated with products made at the New England Compounding Center came out last fall, the nation's attention appropriately focused on what went terribly wrong — and what steps to take to keep anything like it from ever happening again. Pharmacists were more concerned than anyone because our profession is dedicated to one thing: the health of the patients we serve by compounding drugs upon request from authorized prescribers, such as doctors. NECC was essentially manufacturing drugs, not compounding (David G. Miller, 4/28).

The New York Times: Another Alleged Drug Kickback Scheme
Two federal lawsuits charging a prominent drug company with making fraudulent kickbacks to promote sales of its drugs raise disturbing questions about how to control fraudulent behavior in the pharmaceutical industry, behavior that appears to be on the rise. The company is Novartis Pharmaceuticals, the American subsidiary of a Swiss-based multinational. Novartis denies any wrongdoing and vows to defend itself in court (4/27).

The New York Times: Wins And Losses In The Fight Against Tobacco
Cigarette packages are unlikely to carry graphic warning labels anytime soon as a result of separate actions by the Supreme Court and the Food and Drug Administration. That is a setback, though perhaps temporary, for the federal government's campaign to reduce the health damage caused by this highly lethal product. The silver lining is that the Supreme Court left intact most of the F.D.A.'s powers to regulate this industry (4/28).

The Wall Street Journal: Exempting Congress From ObamaCare
Congress will eventually find some way to protect itself, but its subterranean scrambling to do so exposes one of ObamaCare's greatest deceits: That if you like the insurance you have, you'll be able to keep it. Even the people who wrote the law don't believe it (4/26). 

Arizona Republic: Don't Let Deficit Preclude Arizona Medicaid Expansion
The controversy surrounding Gov. Jan Brewer's recommendation to expand health-care coverage to low-income Arizonans could leave a casual observer with the impression that she is proposing a massive public-policy change. The truth is her proposal is a relatively minor expansion of the current coverage already required by Arizona voters through the passage of Proposition 204 in 2000, and it is a modest change in Arizona's current financial relationship with the federal government (Kevin McCarthy, 4/28). 

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Don't Commit Medicaid-Assisted Suicide In Pennsylvania
Everybody and his brother, sister, mother, father and, heck, maybe even the family fido suddenly is citing this or that study in an attempt to persuade Gov. Tom Corbett to expand Pennsylvania's Medicaid program under ObamaCare. All types of multibillion-dollar economic nirvana, including jobs!, Jobs!, JOBS!, are being touted. ... Medicaid already is a failure. Expanding it — a new government intervention to cover up the lie of the last government intervention — would only make it a larger failure. State-based solutions remain the better option (Colin McNickle, 4/28). 

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Kasich, Obama Administration Hatching Clever Ideas To Win Medicaid Expansion
Gov. John Kasich's staff, working with the Obama administration, is deploying imagination and flexibility to overcome shortsighted objections from some of Kasich's fellow Republicans to Medicaid expansion in Ohio. His eye on a second term and possibly another presidential bid down the road, Kasich also needs to salvage political capital by avoiding an outright GOP rebellion on the issue. But Kasich also is right: Medicaid expansion is a win-win for Ohio (4/26). 

Tampa Bay Times: House Republicans' Medicaid Argument Ignores Logic
This week's debate on the expansion of Medicaid funds was stunning for its obfuscation, bombast and sheer nonsense. By sticking to their pretend war with the federal government, House Republicans are shamelessly snubbing minimum wage-type workers as well as endangering the financial well-being of state hospitals. Who's on board with House Republicans? (John Romano, 4/27).

The New York Times Economix: Hammurabi's Code And U.S. Health Care
According to a recent estimate, almost a third of American physicians are unwilling to accept any new patients covered by Medicaid. In New Jersey in 2011, only 40 percent of physicians accepted new Medicaid patients (see Exhibit 4). Given the insulting valuations many state Medicaid programs put upon the physicians' work, that's understandable. ... Nationwide, the fee paid physicians for an "office visit, new patient, 30 minutes" (C.P.T. Code 99203) in 2012 ranged from $29 to $165, with an average of $63.36. The minimum of $29 is probably a weighted average of the two fees for New Jersey cited earlier. There is a similarly wide range of Medicaid fees across the nation for other C.P.T. codes (Uwe E. Reinhardt, 4/26).

Los Angeles Times: Legislature Should Pull Plug On Inept Medical Board Of California
The time has come to put the Medical Board of California out of its misery. The board oversees the licensing of doctors and their discipline for misdeeds or incompetence. It also has jurisdiction over doctor-owned surgical clinics. Long ago the board acquired the reputation of being one of the least effective regulatory bodies in Sacramento. But evidence has mounted that it's worse: It's a danger to the community (Michael Hiltzik, 4/26). 

Kansas City Star: Protect Seniors From Unscrupulous Medicare Scams
Kathleen Kennedy, a Chesterfield, Mo., internist, had seen enough. Faxes sent to her office requested authorization for medical equipment and testing products her patients didn’t want or need. One patient reported badgering sales calls over several days. Medicare would have paid the bills, had she obliged. But she wasn't about to let taxpayers foot unnecessary bills. So she started writing complaints: to her U.S. senators, state officials and federal hotlines. Attached to her letters was evidence — faxes from out-of-state medical equipment providers seeking her approval (4/27).

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