Viewpoints: 'Entitlement meltdown;' improving Medicare Advantage; 'sloppy work habits' at CDC

The Wall Street Journal: Heading Off The Entitlement Meltdown
Each day, 10,000 baby boomers retire and begin receiving Medicare and Social Security benefits. And while five workers supported the benefits of each retiree in 1960, there will be only two workers funding each retiree by 2030. Those who dismiss long-term budget projections should re-read the last paragraph. The retirement of 77 million baby boomers into Social Security and Medicare is not a theoretical projection. Demography is destiny (Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, 7/21). 

The New York Times' The Upshot: Medicare Advantage Is Not Efficient, But Here's How It Can Be
Medicare Advantage plans -; private plans that serve as alternatives to the traditional, public program -; have been growing in popularity. One reason is that they offer additional benefits beyond those available in the traditional program but often at no additional cost to beneficiaries. This is a great deal for beneficiaries, but a bad one for taxpayers, who have to cover the extra cost. If the program were reorganized to more closely resemble the Affordable Care Act's exchanges, it could still provide good value to consumers at a lower cost to taxpayers (Austin Frakt, 7/21). 

The New York Times Magazine: What The Hobby Lobby Ruling Means For America
Last month, as you've probably heard, a closely divided Supreme Court ruled that corporations with religious owners cannot be required to pay for insurance coverage of contraception. The so-called Hobby Lobby decision, named for the chain of craft stores that brought the case, has been both praised and condemned for expanding religious rights and constraining Obamacare. But beneath the political implications, the ruling has significant economic undertones. It expands the right of corporations to be treated like people, part of a trend that may be contributing to the rise of economic inequality (Binyamin Appelbaum, 7/22). 

Los Angeles Times: A CDC Safety Net Full Of Holes
The recent safety lapses at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention might have been chalked up to the sloppy work habits of a few employees, easily resolved, if it weren't for the revelation last week that there has in fact been a systemic problem with laboratory safety for a number of years. These problems, involving dangerous pathogens, have been uncovered both at CDC laboratories and at other laboratories around the country that are overseen by the CDC. The problems could easily have endangered human lives (7/21). 

Bloomberg: How Civil-Rights Law Could Overturn Hobby Lobby
Employers who single out contraceptives as undeserving of coverage don't only violate ethical expectations of gender equality. They also violate federal anti-discrimination law. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of sex, including enacting policies that, while gender-neutral on their face, disproportionately hurt either men or women. ... The Hobby Lobby decision did not address Title VII simply because the court wasn't asked to. ... Nonetheless, the justices should have considered the anti-discrimination law on the books. By ignoring the discriminatory aspects of the denials, the Hobby Lobby majority was able to argue that the government's interest in protecting contraceptive access could not sustain the Religious Freedom Restoration Act challenge mounted by the objecting corporations (Alexandra Brodsky and Elizabeth Deutsch, 7/21).

Charlotte Observer: Tackling Medicaid In North Carolina
We don't know if Gov. Pat McCrory was sincere or not when he said last week that he's open to expanding Medicaid once a plan is in place to fix its unpredictable cost problems. But it was good to hear. ... A recent (Raleigh) News & Observer series showed that parts of the N.C. Medicaid program work. Costs per person have decreased as spending nationally has gone up. More providers in the state, compared with the national rate, are willing to participate. And services are better, especially preventive care, than in many other states. An overhaul that throws out all that good to fix the bad is wrongheaded. We hope lawmakers can reach agreement on a plan that doesn't do that. We also hope they, like McCrory, will keep the door open – or rather open it again – on expansion (7/20).

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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