KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: If Not CLASS, Then What?; House GOP Abortion Bill; MLK’s Legacy In Health Care

USA Today: Editorial: Long-Term Care Plan Dies, But Problem Survives 
Less than 3% of Americans have private long-term care policies. As Baby Boomers age, the problem will only get worse, which was a driving force behind a provision in the new health reform law that would have created a long-term care insurance program called the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act. The law mandated that the CLASS program be sound and self-financing for 75 years, but Obama administration officials couldn't figure out how to make the numbers work. Last week, the administration gave up trying, at least for now, and suspended the program. Despite squawking from CLASS Act backers, that was the correct call (10/19).

USA Today: Opposing View: HHS Decision Shows No CLASS
The Obama administration blundered when it abandoned the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act, the national voluntary long-term care insurance program included in the 2010 health reform law. CLASS would have been the first step down an important road — moving the financing of long-term care services in the United States away from the welfare-like Medicaid program to a self-funded insurance system (Howard Gleckman, 10/19).

The Fiscal Times: The CLASS Flunked – Now What?
HHS may have clothed its response in typical bureaucratese, but the fact is that the explosive growth of our aging populations in this country is going to require a fresh and out-of-the-box approach to elder care, not the "same old, same old." The sheer costs and the isolating, labor-intensive nature of traditional long-term care are simply out of whack with the realities of aging in America (Michael Hodin, 10/19).

Des Moines Register: U.S.'s Long-Term Care Problem Remains
A little known provision in the health insurance reform law is getting a lot of attention now — because it's not being implemented as scheduled. Last week the Obama administration pulled the plug on a program known as CLASS. ... That news has some people cheering. Those opposed to the health reform law revel in the demise of any part of it. Some private long-term care insurers feared people would choose government coverage instead of their plans. But there is nothing to cheer about. What is our nation's strategy now to cover the growing expense of long-term care? Congress needs to answer that question — now (10/19).

McClatchy/Chicago Tribune: CLASS Dismissed: Killing An Unaffordable New Entitlement
The picture keeps getting darker for the Obama administration's health care reform program. ... Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, abandoning a new program to provide long-term care for the elderly, announced, "I do not see a viable path forward." That may sound like a sensible admission, and it is. But the administration's decision to scrap the effort is still a couple of years late. This is not a problem that emerged only recently, as a consequence of unforeseen developments. On the contrary, it was obvious all along (10/19).

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Washington Lets A Health Crisis Continue
The CLASS (Community Living Assistance Services and Support) Act was supposed to help patients like Mrs. T get the care they need at home. It was a voluntary insurance program for coverage of community living services and support: making a house wheelchair-accessible, hiring a home caregiver to assist with basic tasks, and the like. The problem that led to last week's decision was that the program couldn't be made to pay for itself. But that doesn't mean we don't need such a program (Dr. Kalpana Narayan, 10/20).

The New York Times: Playing Politics With Women's Lives
House Republicans approved an egregious measure last week that would shrink access to abortion to the point of endangering women's lives (10/19).

McClatchy: Eliminate Old Rules That Stifle New Growth
The president ordered every federal agency to review existing regulations and to modify, streamline, or repeal those that were redundant or overly burdensome. ... At the Department of Health and Human Services, that process is already leading to some significant changes. This week, our department proposed new rules for the hospitals that participate in Medicare to make it easier for doctors, nurses, and other hospital care providers to work together to deliver the best care (HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, 10/19).

The Seattle Times: Repeating Martin Luther King Jr.'s Call For Health-Care Equity
With the official unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the national mall this past weekend, many are taking time to honor the life and legacy of this great champion of dignity, freedom and justice…. America simply cannot reconcile the differences that divide us without also reconciling the inequality and injustice that's embedded so deeply in the health and health care of our people …. Regardless of one's own health and insurance status, we are all affected by poor-quality, high-cost care and a health system that treats people differently (Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, 10/18).

The Wall Street Journal: The GOP And RomneyCare
After seven debates and many more missed opportunities, the other GOP candidates finally pressed Mitt Romney on his Massachusetts health-care record in a serious way on Tuesday night. Let's extend the scrutiny and try to sort the substance from the merely polemical, because the policy stakes are large, especially if Republicans win in 2012 (10/20).

McClatchy/Minneapolis Star Tribune: Bachmann's Latest Reality-Check Failure
The Minnesota congresswoman's misleading attack came at this week's Republican presidential debate. She and her fellow candidates wallowed in the usual budgetary hypocrisy -- arguing that government spending is unsustainable while decrying or ignoring fixes to Medicare. ... In a rational world, politicians would not be able to say these two things without being laughed out of the room: 1) Medicare costs are out of control, and 2) Changes to wring savings from this program will be painless (10/19).

McClatchy/Kansas City Star: Don't Hide Health Care Facts From The Public
The entire U.S. health care system needs more transparency to best serve consumers. Until patients have easier access to information about costs and outcomes, important levers for controlling medical expenses will remain frustratingly out of reach. That's why it is so disturbing that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service has shut down an online database of vital statistical information on the malpractice and disciplinary histories of doctors (10/19).

Los Angeles Times: Taking Healthcare Costs Into Our Own Hands
While Democrats and Republicans tussle over whether to repeal the federal healthcare reform law, employers and individual consumers have to make choices about how to cope with the ever-increasing cost of health insurance and medical care. The Bay Area Council, an influential trade group for more than 275 large employers in Northern California, offered some guidance on that front this week, urging businesses to promote a more affordable, higher-quality healthcare system. The new federal law will help on that front, the council argues in its "Roadmap to a High-Value Health System," but there is much for employers, insurers and healthcare providers to do as well (10/20).

Denver Post: Seniors Are Not Just Numbers In The Budget
The supercommittee, a 12-member committee that has been charged with cutting more than $1.5 trillion from the federal budget over 10 years, is considering proposals behind closed doors that would shift more health care costs onto seniors and cut their Social Security checks. Instead of focusing on cutting waste and closing tax loopholes, the committee is treating seniors as though we are just another budget line item (Jean Nofles, 10/20).

WBUR’s CommonHealth blog: Guest Post: Why Health Reform Holds No Fear For One Pediatrician
I remember the bad old days. By which I mean, I remember the 1990s era of "capitation" and all its ills — the rigid HMO spending limits that made money come between patients and their physicians. But I'm not scared that they're coming back. ... But I welcome the impending era of global fees. If the concept of the Medical Home is incorporated — with its family-centered care incentives and rewards for innovations that save families money and time as well as improving quality — it could work (Dr. Lester Hartman, 10/19).

San Francisco Chronicle: Don't Legalize Marijuana In The Name Of Medicine
The California Medical Association called for marijuana legalization last weekend…. Sadly, though, such a view is shortsighted and poses a major risk to public health…. Legalization, as proposed by the CMA, would only increase marijuana use even further. The solution to these problems is found in allowing the scientific process to play out, not letting marijuana legalization politics win the day (John Redman, 10/20).

The Seattle Times: Swedish-Providence Merger Limits Women's Access To Safe Abortions
Swedish Medical Center recently announced that it is merging with Providence Health Services, a Catholic organization…. Because this news caused an outcry from women's-rights groups, Swedish announced it will fund a Planned Parenthood clinic in the Nordstrom Tower attached to Swedish Medical Center. This political response does not solve the medical issues caused by the merger. Women's health care in Washington will be worse as a result (Deborah Oyer, 10/19).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Why Tinker?  State's Sex Ed Program Is Working
Wisconsin's Healthy Youth Act is working. The act, which encourages a comprehensive approach to sex education in the state's schools, has helped to reduce teen pregnancies, and we see no reason to change it. Legislators should quash an effort to do just that in the state Senate (10/19).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Let School Districts Decide For Themselves
There are misconceptions about the human growth and development legislation currently before the state Legislature. Let me be clear: Senate Bill 237 would not repeal the Healthy Youth Act or require abstinence-only education. SB 237, the Strong Communities/Healthy Kids Act, does create public policy that promotes the development of healthy kids by eliminating government mandates and putting important curriculum decisions into the hands of school districts (state Sen. Mary Lazich, 10/19).

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