KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: May 17, 2011

Today's headlines reflect news about the debt-ceiling limit and ongoing budget talks as well as the GOP's emerging Medicare rift.

Kaiser Health News: Minnesota GOP Between A Rock And A Hard Place On Health Exchange Options
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, in collaboration with The Washington Post, Guy Gugliotta writes: "Minnesota state Rep. Steve Gottwalt, a three-term Republican with 10 years experience in the health care industry, is no fan of last year's health care law -- or its requirement that states set up insurance exchanges. But as chairman of the Health and Human Services Reform Committee, he decided he needed to weigh in on the exchange. Unfortunately, from his standpoint, all the choices are bad" (Gugliotta, 5/16).

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Decline In Autopsies May Obscure Understanding Of Disease
In her latest Kaiser Health News consumer column, Michelle Andrews writes: "Television crime shows have helped popularize autopsies, but in reality these postmortem exams are becoming rarer every year. Today, hospitals perform autopsies on only about 5 percent of patients who die, down from roughly 50 percent in the 1960s. That's unfortunate, say experts, because details about the cause of death can be illuminating for both families and hospitals, even if they don't turn up an undiagnosed ailment or other new information about the cause of death" (Andrews, 5/17).

Kaiser Health News Guest Opinion: Sit Down, Mitt, You're Not Helping
In his latest Kaiser Health News column, Michael Cannon writes: "Mitt Romney's reversals on abortion, gay marriage, gun control, campaign finance and immigration leave one with the impression that when Mitt Romney is with you, he's with you. At least until he leaves the room. Romney's latest trick is to make his stunning reversal on government-run health care look like a non-reversal. It's not working" (5/16).

The New York Times: As The Federal Government Hits Its Debt Limit, Lawmakers Spar Over Solution
The focus of budget attention was in Mr. Obama's hometown, Chicago, where Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin defended the House Republican budget he wrote, and its Medicare proposals in particular, in a speech to the Chicago Economic Club (Calmes and Hulse, 5/16).

Politico: Budget Cuts Hit Poor The Hardest
Indeed, a proposed $139.2 billion cap for the annual labor, health and education bill is about $19 billion less than the eight-year average for the same discretionary spending under former President George W. Bush - when measured in current dollars. It comes closest, in fact, to a bill negotiated in late 2000 by the man who's the White House budget director again, Jack Lew. The Back to the Future scenario is important to the current debt ceiling debate on two counts (Rogers, 5/17).

The Wall Street Journal: Medicare Revamp Exposes Divisions Within The GOP
Newt Gingrich's dismissal of the House Republican plan to overhaul Medicare provoked a rebuttal from the proposal's author, Rep. Paul Ryan, highlighting a split in the party over how hard to push a priority for the House GOP majority (Bendavid and Weisman, 5/17).

The Washington Post: Ryan Defends Medicare Overhaul, Argues That GOP  Plan Would Grow Economy
The architect of the GOP's controversial Medicare overhaul delivered a forceful defense of the plan here Monday, saying it would empower seniors and accusing President Obama of having a "shared-scarcity mentality" that promotes "bureaucratically rationed health care" (Rucker, 5/16).

Los Angeles Times: Paul Ryan Defends Medicare Plan After Criticism By Newt Gingrich
Rep. Paul D. Ryan fervently defended his plan to radically rework Medicare after it came under fire in surprising fashion from fellow Republican Newt Gingrich. Gingrich became the first GOP presidential candidate to openly rip the proposal after the plan - which would convert Medicare into a private insurance program as part of a House blueprint to tame federal spending - drew heavy criticism and polls showed it to be unpopular (Oliphant, 5/16).

The Washington Post: Gingrich, Fresh Off Declaring Presidential Candidacy, Begins Swing Through Iowa
The former House speaker instead found himself on the defensive about comments he made a day earlier on NBC's "Meet the Press," where he criticized a Republican proposal to partly privatize Medicare and defended a central tenet of the Democratic health-care law that passed last year: that people must bear more of the cost of their own medical care. The comments unleashed a torrent of criticism from conservatives and forced Gingrich to explain his position (Gardner, 5/16).

Politico: House GOP Fires Back At Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich's scathing criticism of Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) budget has House Republicans peeved, with several lawmakers saying Gingrich is taking cheap shots at his fellow Republicans without putting out a Medicare plan himself. A chorus of boos, critical emails and outright dismissals came Monday after Gingrich claimed that the Republican plan to reform Medicare was "right-wing social engineering" (Sherman, 5/16).

Politico: Rep. Paul Ryan: Health Reform Hurting Economy
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan framed health care costs and the president's health law as key drivers of the nation's economic and fiscal problems Monday, while warning that the president's plan could lead to waiting lists for today's seniors (Haberkorn, 5/16).

The Wall Street Journal: Next Panel Reviewing Health Law Holds Two GOP Judges
After facing a favorable panel of judges during its first appeals-court defense of the federal health-care law, the Obama administration will face two judges appointed by Republican presidents during the next major case on the law's constitutionality. The Cincinnati-based Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will consider the law on June 1, and the three-judge panel hearing the case includes a high-profile appointee of George W. Bush and a long-tenured trial judge appointed by Ronald Reagan. A court official said the panel was chosen at random (Kendall, 5/16).

The Associated Press: Gingrich: Alzheimer's Research Would Save Money
Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich on Monday said Alzheimer's disease is on pace to cost the government some $20 trillion over the next four decades and said boosting federal research money would be a wise investment (Elliott, 5/16).

The Associated Press: How To Squire Budget Cuts, Need For Aging Research
A disease standoff may be brewing: How can Alzheimer's research receive more scarce dollars without cutting from areas like heart disease or cancer? In one of the stark realities of the budget crisis, scientists' chances of winning research dollars from the National Institutes of Health for any condition have dipped to a new low (Neergaard, 5/16).

Los Angeles Times: Governor's Budget Revision Includes Changes In Mental Hospitals
A new state department would be formed to manage California's violence-plagued mental hospitals under a proposal in the governor's Monday budget revision. The push to create a Department of State Hospitals - and eventually do away with the Department of Mental Health, which now oversees the facilities - comes as lawmakers and employee unions press for changes to address increasing patient assaults on fellow patients and staff (Romney, 5/17).

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