Viewpoints: Judd Gregg on revamping entitlements and taxes; John Breaux on slashing Medicare fraud; Medicaid limits on hospital stays

The Hill: Stakes Are Too High, Debt Panel Must Reform Entitlement Programs
Consider this. As of this year, every other household in America will have at least one person in it who is receiving an entitlement benefit, according to the Census Bureau. As of this year, fewer than half of the Americans who have earned income will pay income taxes on that income (former Sen. Judd Gregg, 10/31).

Roll Call: Breaux: Focus On Waste, Fraud And Abuse In Medicare
By most accounts, Medicare (2011 budget: $468 billion) will bear the brunt of the cuts. After Social Security (2011 budget: $761 billion), it's the second-largest source of domestic spending, with 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day. ... Nowhere is there a more practical and politically sensible route than taking a big bite out of the rampant waste, fraud and abuse that exists throughout the Medicare system (former Sen. John Breaux, 10/31).

USA Today: Editorial: States Are Pushing It On Medicaid Cuts
To get a sense for how desperate states are to cut Medicaid costs, think about this: Several of them are seeking federal permission to impose short, inflexible annual limits on hospital stays, no matter how sick or severely injured the patient is (10/30).

USA Today: Opposing View: States Have Little Choice But To Cut Medicaid
We recognize that Medicaid is the foundation of the nation's health care safety net, providing critical coverage for 60 million Americans at a cost of more than $400 billion in state and federal dollars this year. Medicaid directors take very seriously their obligation to be stewards of taxpayer dollars invested in the program (Matt Salo and Andy Allison, 10/230).

See related story from KHN and USA Today: States Are Limiting Medicaid Hospital Coverage In Search For Savings.

The Washington Post: How An Anti-Abortion Push To Redefine 'Person' Could Hurt Women's Rights
A question on the ballot in Mississippi next month will ask voters to decide: "Should the term 'person' be defined to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the equivalent thereof?" This issue is before voters thanks to the "personhood" movement, which says that conception is the moment that a person, and a person's legal rights, begin to exist. ... Many of the abortion-rights advocates battling these efforts point out that personhood laws would not only make abortion illegal, they could also ban IUDs, emergency contraception and other hormonal forms of birth control (Jessica Valenti, 10/28).

Reuters: Open Enrollment: Higher Pay Could Mean Higher Premiums
A survey of about 600 employers by the National Business Group on Health (NBGH) and Towers Watson shows that 23 percent of large- and mid-sized companies structure health benefit premiums based on employee pay levels. About one in five employers (22 percent) that kept healthcare costs at or below national averages the last four years used this approach. By contrast, only 10 percent of employers with the highest healthcare increases structure premiums based on pay (Lou Carlozo, 10/28).

New York Times: Addicted To Exercise?
Brain scans suggest that everything from sugar to sex lights up the brain's pleasure circuitry. These all can have neurological consequences that correspond to what we think of as addiction. For example: exercise. As a pathological runner since my days as a high school cross country athlete in Oregon, that struck a chord. Am I addicted to running? (Kristof, 10/29).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Not Enough To Just Talk About Long-Term Care
Recent news about the demise of the CLASS Act -- a first-of-its-kind voluntary national insurance program for long-term care -- is a frustrating example of the chasm that separates merely talking about the challenges we face and our ability to develop real, bipartisan solutions…. Minnesota lawmakers should take note. There are options worth pursuing in Minnesota that can help us begin the shift to greater personal responsibility -- for example, life insurance conversions that would allow individuals to convert the value of an existing life insurance policy to pay for their long-term-care needs, rather than receiving a cash benefit upon their death (Gayle Kvenvold, 10/30).

Politico: Time To End Obama's CLASS Struggle
No one was especially surprised by her declaration that CLASS is a house of cards ready to tumble. After all, when (Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen) Sebelius testified before the Senate Finance Committee in February, she had admitted that the program was "totally unsustainable." So you would think President Barack Obama would agree with his HHS secretary and scrap the program. But instead, the White House opted for confusion over clarity by signaling its opposition to repealing this provision (Sen. John Thune, 10/30).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Denying Drug A Death Sentence
That is why I am surprised there is any debate over whether to add the vaccine against meningococcal disease to the list of recommended vaccines for infants. One vaccine for children as young as 9 months old already has been found to be safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration and several others are expected soon. … A vaccine against a terrible, deadly disease should be available for every infant born in this country; not only for a privileged few (Jeri Barr, 10/28).

Houston Chronicle: True Confessions Of A Physician
OK, I'll admit it. I prescribed the z-pack. For years I have resisted…. Antibiotic resistance came on little cat feet. First there were articles in the medical literature, curiosities at the time, talking about severe infections and death caused by organisms resistant to penicillins. ... For a while, we physicians were complicit, unindicted co-conspirators with the germs. The antibiotics were just too good and too safe. ... I hope that the fight is not out of my fellow physicians and me as we battle the drug company juggernaut (who do you think is paying for those ads, by the way)? But it is a fight whose victories lie in the future and whose benefit accrues not to us (Dr. Clifford Dacso, 10/28).

Houston Chronicle: Tuberculosis Is Thriving In Texas
After a frightful outbreak, Ennis High School students infected with tuberculosis have been allowed back to school…. It is heartening to see our health system mobilized so efficiently to protect the kids at Ennis High School and throughout Texas. But we can and must do more to help those affected by this disease beyond our borders. We cannot eliminate tuberculosis as a threat in Texas unless it is controlled throughout the world (Jeffrey Starke, 10/28).

CNN: Sex Education Should Be Mandatory In All Schools
Too many parents live in denial about their children having sex, and somehow saying you'll handle the tough stuff is living in fantasy land. The city of New York should be commended for ... confronting the reality of sex in America by mandating a sex education curriculum beginning in 2012. Whether it's safe sex practices or even abstinence, all of these issues must be dealt with in an educational setting, because when we look at the teen pregnancy rates, sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, it only makes sense to have as much education as possible (Roland Martin, 10/29). 

Modern Healthcare: Collaboration Counts
As the leader of a philanthropy whose founder recognized early on the value of nurses to his own medical care and to healthcare writ large, I welcomed last year's Institute of Medicine report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, with great expectation. In the coming years, our nation's healthcare system will serve 32 million newly insured Americans as well as rapidly increasing numbers of seniors and people with chronic conditions. And it will do so in the context of changing models and settings for care delivery (Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, 10/31).

The Seattle Times: Pro | Initiative 1163 Is Common Sense Investment For Safety Of Seniors, Disabled
Last year, The Seattle Times ran an investigative series detailing systemic problems in Washington state's adult family homes, much of it caused by inadequately trained caregivers…. the situation has grown only worse. Citations for abuse and neglect in adult family homes have risen by 15 percent since then. Since many caregivers work in isolated settings with our elderly and vulnerable, the need for adequate training is even more critical. ... we support Initiative 1163. This initiative will restore common-sense protections for vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities (Eugene May and Patricia Hunter, 10/30).

The Seattle Times: Con | Initiative 1163 Not Necessary And Will Force Cuts In Care For Seniors, Disabled
There is an old saying: When you find yourself in a deep hole the first thing you need to do is stop digging. Today, the state of Washington finds itself in a massive budget hole and Initiative 1163 will just make it deeper. I-1163 must be defeated because its $80 million cost cannot be paid for without tax increases or cuts to vital senior services….. Maybe this massive new expense to state government could be justified if it were really necessary, but that simply isn't the case (Cindi Laws and Julie Ferguson, 10/30).

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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