KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Debate On Budget Options: Ryan Offer Is ‘Cruel'; Obama Unwilling To Take Risks Necessary For Grand Bargain

The Washington Post: Paul Ryan's Cruelly Radical Vision
It's a cruel budget. To finance his largess to the very well-off, Ryan would — through steep Medicaid cuts and the repeal of Obamacare — leave an additional 40 million to 50 million poor or moderate-income Americans without health insurance, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (E.J. Dionne Jr., 3/13).

The Washington Post: Republicans Go After Obamacare. Again.
Here in Washington, though, it is as if tea party activists are still marching on the Capitol. On Wednesday, Senate Republicans supported legislation proposed by the freshman Cruz to defund Obamacare — the 35th attempt, give or take, to abolish the program. This one failed, like all the others. ... Cruz got all Senate Republicans to support his amendment, which he justified on the flimsy rationale that Obamacare (much of which is yet to be implemented) is responsible for the economy's slow growth — ignoring the housing collapse, the financial crisis and the deepest recession in generations (Dana Milbank, 3/13).

Fox News: A Conservative Economist Explains Why Ryan's Budget Plan Is All Wrong For The GOP
Ryan proposes offering seniors the choice of a subsidy to buy private insurance or continuing in the existing Medicare system, and giving the states block grants to manage Medicaid. ... Conservatives believe seniors could shop for health insurance, as they do for groceries, to drive down prices. The states, freed from excessive federal oversight, could similarly drive down costs. That's absolute fantasy. Seniors would confront large insurance companies armed with too little information, and limited choices or monopolies when they purchase drugs and hospital care. That's not a fair fight--like individuals with bows and arrows vs. B-52s (Peter Morici, 3/14).

The Weekly Standard: Obama's PR Stunt
The main reason there will be no grand bargain: The president will not take the political risks necessary to address an issue that he doesn’t regard as urgent. His party opposes reforming entitlements. He apparently views Republican plans to address long-term debt as attempts to “gut” these programs. A grand bargain was never a possibility without entitlement reform. Why would the president challenge his party’s liberal base, a constituency his advisers believe is the key to winning back Congress in 2014, in order to implement policies he opposes to address an issue he doesn’t regard as urgent? The simple answer: He won’t (Stephen F. Hayes, 3/13).

National Review: Ryan’s New Vision
Besides the repeal of Obamacare, the most controversial aspect of Ryan’s proposal will be his Medicare reforms. They will be controversial not because the policy itself is remarkably austere — it is in fact very mild — but because Democrats know from long experience that they can have a great deal of success frightening old people and their economically illiterate base with the specter of helpless grandmothers having their Medicare benefits snatched away. In reality, Ryan’s plan will affect nobody over 55 years old, and it will not necessarily affect anybody else, either: Ryan’s plan is to offer “premium support” — converting traditional Medicare benefits into a subsidy for buying health-care coverage in the private marketplace — as an option for those seniors who prefer it. The other option is Medicare. (3/13).

Bloomberg: A Model Medicare Program
We certainly need to slow the growth of health-care costs, especially for Medicare. Fortunately, the program has an in-house model for how to do this: Part D, the Medicare drug benefit passed in 2003. Part D gets high marks for controlling costs, protecting the elderly and driving the right kinds of health-care innovations. There is also much in the program that both the right and left can praise. Conservatives like Part D because private plans bargain with drug companies over prices and then compete with one another for senior citizens' business. Lower premiums attract more enrollees, leading to more profits for insurers and lower costs for taxpayers. Competition and consumer choice help keep costs down (Paul Howard, 3/13).

Reuters: Budgeting For Mistrust
Paul Ryan unveiled the House Republican budget this week with an ominous yet familiar warning: "America's national debt is over $16 trillion." Having stated the problem, he then offered a solution, one which differed only marginally from what he’s offered the past two years. Namely: restrain government healthcare spending on Medicare and Medicaid, reform the individual tax code, close loopholes, lower corporate taxes, and promote natural gas and energy independence. ... The strongest part of Ryan’s unveiling is not the specifics, which may not be very strong at all, but the unimpeachable critique of the White House and congressional Democrats for not offering their own blueprint and budget for the future (Zachary Karabell, 3/13).

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