KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Romney’s Comments Point To Entitlements’ Role As Big Part Of ‘Budget Paralysis;’ Kristof Says Candidate Inflated ‘Underlying Truth’

The Washington Post: Romney's Chance to Challenge The Welfare State
Stigmatizing almost everyone with a federal benefit is not just bad politics. It's the worst sort of social stereotyping. But beyond (GOP presidential candidate Mitt) Romney's bluster lies a genuine problem. The fact that roughly half of Americans receive some government payment to which they feel morally entitled is a big part of our budget paralysis. It's an inconvenient fact, but it’s still a fact. ... In 2011, Social Security had 49.6 million recipients and Medicare 45.6 million, most of them overlapping. There were 5.2 million Americans with unemployment compensation and 3.2 million with veterans' benefits. An estimated 107.2 million people received "means-tested" benefits available to those with low incomes. Medicaid had 80.5 million beneficiaries, food stamps 48.3 million and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) 23.1 million (Robert J. Samuelson, 9/19). 

The Wall Street Journal: Time For An Intervention
As for those workers who don't pay any income taxes, they pay payroll taxes—Social Security and Medicare. They want to rise in the world and make more money. They'd like to file a 1040 because that will mean they got a raise or a better job. They too are potential Romney voters, because they're suffering under the no-growth economy. So: Romney's theory of the case is all wrong. His understanding of the political topography is wrong. And his tone is fatalistic. ... That's too small and pinched and narrow. That's not how Republicans emerge victorious (Peggy Noonan, 9/18). 

The New York Times: It Takes One To Know One
Romney is a smart man and, his friends say, a pragmatist rather than an ideologue, so what possessed him to say these things? There’s an underlying truth there — we do have a problem with entitlements and with freeloaders — and he inflated it beyond recognition. Perhaps he has passed so much time in a Republican primary bubble, hearing moans about the parasitic 47 percent, that he didn’t appreciate how obtuse and arrogant such comments appear (Nicholas Kristof, 9/19).

The Hill: Republicans' Premium Support Long Game
Medicare's future — thanks to the Affordable Care Act — is promising. The law extends the life of the trust fund, improves prescription drug coverage and eliminates copayments for critical preventive services. And the Affordable Care Act also takes important steps to change how Medicare and the rest of our health system pay for care — moving the system from one that rewards volume of care to one that rewards quality of care. More still needs to be done to lower overall healthcare costs, but the Affordable Care Act set the groundwork for future reform. But even though Medicare is heading in the right direction, it faces an enormous threat from Republicans who want to turn the program into a voucher system (Maura Calsyn, 9/19).

Journal of the American Medical Association: To Serve Patients Better and Lower Costs of Care, Respect End-Of-Life Wishes
The election debate has focused on warring narratives about whose approach to reforming Medicare is more harmful, as Democrats and Republicans promote competing solutions to lower Medicare spending. But outside of Washington, there is general agreement on one way to serve patients better and lower the costs of care: respect patients' end-of-life wishes (Dr. Mark D. Smith, 9/19).

The New York Times: Happy (Un)constitution(al) Day
The Affordable Care Act decision marked the first time the Supreme Court had ever invalidated any law enacted under the Congressional spending power. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in dissent, called the decision all the more "unsettling" because the case for constitutionality appeared, to her and Justice Sonia Sotomayor, so simple. What, exactly, was the problem with the bargain Congress attempted to strike with the states? Did it simply go too far and threaten too much? If so, when considering the next case, how far would be too far? How close a connection must there be between the desired behavior — honor the Constitution — and the threat — lose your federal money? (Linda Greenhouse, 9/19).

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