Viewpoints: Sen. Hatch's prescription for safeguarding entitlements; Medicare crackdown on CVS drug program; JFK's mental health vision failing

Politico: 5 Entitlement Reforms For Better Fiscal Course
American families are used to working with dollar amounts starting with hundreds and thousands. But the fiscal situation of our country requires us to act in terms of billions and trillions. ... Unfortunately, waiting until the last minute to stop a crisis has become standard operating procedure in Washington. But that isn't how we should be tackling our debt or safeguarding Medicare and Medicaid (Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, 2/4).

USA Today: Benefit Programs Shouldn't Be Cut: Opposing View
We must reject efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare in the name of debt reduction. A recent national poll shows that most Americans, across party lines, reject benefit cuts in Social Security and Medicare to reduce the deficit. Older Americans paid for their benefits with each paycheck, and they are owed the benefits they paid for (Hank Johnson, 2/4).

USA Today: Automatic Spending Cuts Just Dumb And Dumber: Our View
In a little less than a month, assuming that Congress is not overtaken by a sudden case of sanity, automatic spending cuts totaling $1 trillion over nine years will go into effect. ... The sequestration would take money from the one-third of federal spending that funds core government functions such as national defense, law enforcement and education. That might be OK if it also tackled the real problem: the benefit programs -; such as Social Security and Medicare -; that account for three-fifths of spending and are exploding in cost. It doesn't (2/4).

The New York Times: A Convenient Morality
Last week, the Obama administration proposed a further tweak to its rules about insurance coverage of contraception, trying to quiet religious organizations' complaints that the edict tramples on their beliefs. Roman Catholic officials have been especially vociferous. Their moral conviction, they insist, cannot be slave to secular convention. Except, that is, when it works to their advantage (Frank Bruni, 2/4).

The Washington Post: Obama's New Contraception Rules Try To Fool Catholics
The Obama administration's latest revision of its contraceptive policy was welcomed by some religious people as a breakthrough, even a "miracle." Upon reflection, it seems less like the parting of the Red Sea than a parlor trick (Michael Gerson, 2/4).

Los Angeles Times: CVS's Medicare Drug Program Causing Headaches For Enrollees
The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in a letter to CVS' SilverScript subsidiary that its inability to process prescriptions correctly "poses a serious threat to the health and safety of Medicare beneficiaries." The federal agency blamed the problems on "widespread data system failures" that have "created disruptions in tens of thousands of Medicare beneficiaries' access to prescription medications" (David Lazarus, 2/5). 

The Wall Street Journal: Fifty Years Of Failing America's Mentally Ill
On Feb. 5, 1963, 50 years ago this week, President John F. Kennedy addressed Congress on "Mental Illness and Mental Retardation." He proposed a new program under which the federal government would fund community mental-health centers, or CMHCs, to take the place of state mental hospitals. As Kennedy envisioned it, "reliance on the cold mercy of custodial isolations will be supplanted by the open warmth of community concern and capability" (E. Fuller Torrey, 2/4). 

The Wall Street Journal: The GOP's ObamaCare Flippers
As D-Day looms for ObamaCare, one big question is how many states will sign up for its Medicaid expansion. The recent and spectacular flip-flop of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is a case study in the political pressure and fiscal gimmicks designed to get states to succumb. It's also a study in the arcane and perverse ObamaCare incentives that are intended to gather ever more health-care spending under federal control (2/4).

Philadelphia Inquirer: Makes Us Sick
In his budget address Tuesday, Gov. Corbett is expected to highlight plans for corralling the staggering costs of state-employee pension obligations. In many ways, the pensions paid to some workers -- particularly lawmakers -- is a story of privilege and plenty. Lawmakers can collect their full pensions, averaging $35,000 a year, at age 50. (State employees wait until age 60, and theirs average $23,000 a year.) These numbers are important to remember when looking at the flip side: the millions of families in the state who make far less in salaries than state employees make in pensions. That's why we're more interested in whether Corbett will finally decide to expand Medicaid -- a key part of the Affordable Care Act (2/5).

The Hill: Time To Help States Make Lemonade On Issue Of Long-Term Care?
The enactment of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 averted the so-called fiscal cliff, but it also repealed the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act that was intended to create a public mechanism to help people pay for long-term services and supports if they become disabled. ... Meanwhile, the private long-term-care-insurance industry has imploded (Lee Goldberg, 2/4).

Boston Globe: Hospital Fees Shouldn't Apply For Treatments In Doctors' Offices
When health care providers send out confounding medical bills thick with mysterious fees, it's stressful to patients, and it illustrates a troubling lack of transparency within the health care system. Consider the case of local patient Robert Reed, who had three pre-cancerous spots treated with liquid nitrogen at a suburban dermatologist's office last year -; and was billed not just for the doctor's visit, but for $1,525 in operating room and hospital charges. Reed's case, profiled in a recent Globe article, isn't unusual. Amid widespread confusion about who's paying whom and for what, it's easy for costs to keep on going up. That's why it's important for medical bills to reflect the true price of the procedure -; and avoid any add-ons that seem designed simply to take advantage of arcane insurance rules (2/5).

The New York Times: Feeding A Disease With Fake Drugs
More than eight million people get sick with tuberculosis every year, according to the World Health Organization. In 2011, 1.4 million died from it, making it the world's deadliest infectious disease after AIDS. Thanks to billions of dollars spent on diagnosis and treatment over the past decade, deaths and infections are slowly declining. Yet a disturbing phenomenon has emerged that could not only reverse any gains we've made, but also encourage the spread of a newly resistant form of the disease (Roger Bate, 2/5).

The Wall Street Journal: Those Misleading World Health Rankings
The federally chartered Institute of Medicine issued a comprehensive report last month on the state of American health. Saying that "Other high-income countries outrank the United States on most measures of health," the report concluded that the U.S. "is among the wealthiest nations in the world, but it is far from the healthiest." ... But the institute's report doesn't tell the whole story. Its key measurements aren't directly related to the quality of American health care (Sally C. Pipes, 2/4). 

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Diabetes Prevention Program 'A Potent Weapon'
The fallout from the obesity epidemic sweeping Colorado and the nation includes an alarming rise in diabetes. If trends continue, one in three Americans will have type 2 diabetes by 2050, costing the nation trillions in health care and leaving those with diabetes a lifetime of serious health problems. Estimates show that one in three adult Coloradans have pre-diabetes, meaning their blood sugar levels are high, but not high enough to diagnose type 2 diabetes. Without lifestyle changes to improve their health, those with pre-diabetes are likely to develop type 2 diabetes within six years (Dr. Chris Urbina, 2/4).

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.Net.
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