KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Obama Must Tell Allies That Entitlements Can’t Be Excluded From Fiscal Deal; Medical Device Tax Will Thwart Innovation

The Washington Post: Entitlement Reform Must Be On The Table
As bipartisan negotiations over avoiding the "fiscal cliff" draw nearer, many of President Obama's core Democratic supporters are urging him to fix the debt through defense cuts and tax increases rather than by tackling Social Security, Medicare and other federal entitlement programs. It's a reprise of progressive resistance to the entitlement trims Mr. Obama contemplated during the abortive debt-reduction negotiations with House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) last year. This time, though, the Democratic base is claiming vindication in the just-completed election. ... Any serious debt-reduction plan has to include revenue and defense cuts. But no serious one can exclude entitlements (11/14).

The Wall Street Journal: Stage Set For Next Act In Fiscal Drama
The plot is similar too: Mr. Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress want to raise tax rates on those with annual incomes over $250,000. Republicans don't. Everyone says they want to restrain the growth of spending on government benefit programs, but Republicans want a whole lot more of that than Democrats. The last performance ended poorly. The summer 2011 standoff over the federal debt ceiling frightened markets, business and consumers. It concluded with a pact that put off a resolution until this year's sequel. So, what is different? (David Wessel, 11/14).

The Denver Post: Time Has Come For Health Exchanges
The court has decided. The elections are over. It is time for the states that have been putting off action on establishing health insurance exchanges to get in gear. The Obama administration's announcement last week that states would get more time to decide whether they'll create their own exchanges gives states a little breathing room. But not much (11/14).

Politico: Medical Device Tax Would Thwart Innovation
Unfortunately, in fewer than 60 days, a new medical device tax will hit this innovative industry, and it threatens patient care and U.S. jobs. This onerous policy -- which is expected to cost more than $30 billion -- is already having a real-world, everyday impact on our health care system and our economy. Even though it doesn't take effect until Jan. 1, medical technology companies are already announcing job cuts and canceling plans to build plants to pay for the tax. Others are trimming budgets in important areas like research and development. Put simply, this is a tax on innovation, and it is going to hurt American workers and patients most (Dan Moore, Greg Sorensen and Timothy M. Ring, 11/14).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: GOP Legislators Go Rogue Over Federal Health Care Law
Nine Republicans would like to take us back -- way back -- to 1832. ... They agreed with a tea party-aligned group, the Campaign for Liberty, that they support "nullification" of the Affordable Care Act - and "authorize state and local law enforcement to arrest federal officials attempting to implement the unconstitutional health care scheme known as Obamacare." ... States may not nullify federal laws -- and certainly may not arrest federal agents charged with enforcement of those laws. No matter how much this retrograde gang may wish it wasn't so, Obamacare is the law of the land (11/14).

Los Angeles Times: The Prescription Drug Toll
If one doctor's prescriptions might be connected to the unnecessary deaths of multiple patients over several years, the state should be asking questions. Times reporters Scott Glover and Lisa Girion analyzed 3,733 prescription drug-related deaths in four Southern California counties, revealing that just 71 doctors -- one-tenth of 1 percent in those counties -- had written prescriptions in 17 percent of such fatalities over six years. One doctor profiled in the stories published Sunday had prescribed medications for 16 patients who subsequently overdosed, according to coroner's reports (11/15).

Politico: Rx For Compounding Pharmacies
Since the deadly outbreak of fungal meningitis that has resulted in the worst public health disaster in recent history, the public has asked the question: How could this have happened? Most patients who receive a drug in their doctor's office or from their neighborhood pharmacy assume it has received the Food and Drug Administration's stamp of approval for safety and effectiveness. That was not the case for drugs manufactured at the New England Compounding Center, which masqueraded as a pharmacy to avoid more stringent regulation. Contaminated vials of injectable steroids from NECC have resulted in the loss of 32 innocent lives and illness of more than 438 people in 19 states. This deadly outbreak also has exposed a regulatory black hole in the world of pharmacology -- a hole created by years of patchwork federal law and woefully limited state regulation (Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., 11/14).

The Sacramento Bee: The State Worker: Retiree Health Care Still A Long-Term Problem For California
The sound of backslapping between Gov. Jerry Brown and union leaders who helped put his tax initiative over the top last week could soon turn to teeth-gnashing and bargaining-table-pounding as the administration takes on a touchy subject: retiree health care. The state estimates its long-term retiree medical commitments stand at $62 billion, and it has put virtually nothing aside to pay those obligations (Jon Ortiz, 11/15).

The Dallas Morning News: Counties Can Expand Health Care
We would hope the governor wouldn't block big counties like ours if they can finance an expansion of Medicaid on their own and with Washington's help. The purpose would be to take care of people within their counties, in a way that makes sense economically. As it is now, local tax rolls are burdened when uninsured residents show up in emergency rooms. The Legislature would have to give Texas counties that kind of flexibility in next year's session, and the governor must approve the concept (11/14).

Detroit Free Press: Renew Healthy Funding For Diabetes Research
Few things ignite passion in a family more than a child's diagnosis with a serious disease. I know that soon after my son Albert was first diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes (T1D) 16 years ago, my husband and I asked ourselves how we could help. We soon joined the many families across Michigan and throughout the U.S. who are doing all they can to advance research for better treatments, prevention and -- ultimately -- a cure for T1D. We knew little about T1D when Albert was diagnosed. We quickly learned that there is nothing one can do to prevent T1D, and at present nothing one can do to get rid of it. Its onset has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. Instead, both genetic factors and environmental triggers seem to be involved (Cynthia Ford, 11/15).

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