KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Fixes To Medicare Should Improve Seniors’ Access To Care; Lifestyle Changes Could Help Fix Budget

The Philadelphia Inquirer: The Right Way To Fix Medicare
Medicare, which according to a new assessment will go bankrupt by 2024, is in dire need of reform. But there are right ways and wrong ways to go about it. The right reform would save money while giving seniors better access to care. ... The hard truth is that that's impossible. Both Republicans and Democrats recognize the need for change. Unfortunately, their proposals have come up short (Douglas Schoen, 4/25).

Fortune/CNN Money: We're Having The Wrong Debate About Rising Health Care Costs
If Americans behaved just a little differently, our health care costs could settle down to a sustainable growth rate that matches the economy's growth, or could even fall further. ... Unfortunately, instead of talking about it, we're focused on how to apportion our rising health care costs. That's a tragic missed opportunity. We need to reframe the debate: not how to share health care's economic burden, but how to seize the enormous opportunity to reduce it (Geoff Colvin, 4/25). 

Politico: Paradox: Dems Protect Seniors Who Back GOP
Why are America's senior citizens such staunch Republicans? Even drastic GOP plans to change Social Security and Medicare guarantees, led by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's budget reforms, don't seem to drive older voters away. ... Whether we admit it or not, modern generational divisions are deep and real, and older voters today stand squarely with Republicans. The GOP does promise to preserve generous government benefits for today's seniors — but talks about denying them to tomorrow's (Mike Males, 4/24).

Los Angeles Times: Cut Social Security And Medicare? Sure, After The Last Boomer Is Dead
OK, so Social Security is going to be in trouble in, oh, 2033. And Medicare? Uh oh, 2024. Hmmm. Let's see. That's close but probably OK on Social Security; not so good on Medicare (especially with my -- how to put this? -- non-vegan lifestyle). What? You weren't thinking the same thing? Tell me you didn't read The Times' article Tuesday and then do the math, trying to figure out if the two safety-net programs will be around long enough for you? (Paul Whitefield, 424).

Mercury News: Coordinated Care Key To Saving Health Care For Seniors
Rising health care costs and the downturn in the economy have meant disaster for California's seniors, resulting in huge budget cuts to health care programs that serve our vulnerable population. ... (Gov. Jerry Brown's) plan represents an opportunity for California to deliver more care for the dollar through better coordinated, more effective care. However, we believe his plan must be improved upon by investing in the tools seniors need to proactively manage our health and maintaining our choices when it comes to directing our care (Gary Passmore, 4/24).

The Wall Street Journal: Why We Have Gone To Court Against The Obama Mandate
We are presidents of three private, evangelical colleges throughout the country. ... We provide jobs to many hundreds of citizens and provide their families generous health insurance. But the Obama administration has passed a rule that will penalize our colleges with faith-based fines merely because we center our beliefs about the sanctity of human life on the Bible, not on the demands of federal bureaucrats. The administration's mandate that religious employers provide coverage of abortion-inducing drugs for their faculty, staff, and students is a bridge too far in America (William Armstrong, Ken Smith and Joe Aguillard, 4/23).

Journal of the American Medical Association: New Physicians, The Affordable Care Act, And The Changing Practice of Medicine
Several key features of the law designed to improve the access to and quality of the US health care system could also improve the quality of life and job satisfaction for physicians. First, the ACA will expand insurance coverage to more than 30 million currently uninsured US residents. Furthermore, all US residents with health insurance will have guaranteed coverage of essential health benefits, as opposed to the past of patchwork coverage with numerous exclusions and high rates of underinsurance. Together, these provisions offer physicians the opportunity to improve health care for vulnerable populations, reduce long-standing racial and ethnic disparities in health, and practice medicine without worrying about whether patients will be able to pay for needed care (Dr. Benjamin D. Sommers and Dr. Andrew B. Bindman, 4/25).

Journal of the American Medical Association: Sharing Clinical Data Electronically
The vision of complete patient information available across care delivery settings is compelling and central to a high-functioning health care system. However, the vision is deceptively simple: there are enormous challenges to enabling clinical data to flow across organizations. These challenges are substantially greater than those associated with transitioning physicians and hospitals to electronic health records (Julia Adler-Milstein and Dr. Ashish Jha, 4/25).

WBUR's CommonHealth blog: Can You Hear Me Now? Why Isn't My Hearing Aid Covered?
I took the hearing test on a whim at a health fair, pretty confident that as a healthy 35-year-old, I would pass with flying colors. Not so. I failed, miserably. ... Like me, most people are surprised to learn that hearing aids are not routinely covered under most private insurance plans or traditional Medicare. ... It is deeply troubling that something so critical to overall health is not routinely covered by insurance (Ellen Berlin, 4/24).

Related KHN story: Say What? Most Insurance Covers Little Of The Cost Of Hearing Aids (Andrews, 4/9).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Sexual Assault A Reminder Of Continuing Problems
Two things need to come out of the April 4 sexual assault at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex: a thorough investigation and public explanation of how this incident was allowed to happen and a renewed urgency in changing the way the county delivers mental health care. To be sure, significant steps have been taken on the latter, but progress has still been too slow, especially for the most vulnerable and neediest patients at the complex (4/25).

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