Today's OpEds: The Challenge Of Medicare Spending; Two Views Of Massachussets; Regulating Premiums

Assessing Health Reform's Impact On Four Key Groups Of Americans Health Affairs
Health reform can be assessed from the perspective of four groups that collectively include most Americans. For those who are now in Medicaid or who are uninsured, reform will be a major gain. For those who obtain health insurance in the individual and small-group markets, reform should bring improvements. For those who have health insurance from midsize- and large-group insurers, reform will bring little change. Finally, for Medicare beneficiaries, reform promises to bring positive change. However, financing future health spending overall, and Medicare spending in particular, poses a formidable challenge (Joseph Newhouse, 7/22).

Walking The Tightrope Of Health Insurance Reform Between 2010 and 2014 The New England Journal of Medicine
In the aftermath of the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama and his administration are walking a policy tightrope: they must implement meaningful reforms in the transition to a stable insurance market without unduly disrupting existing insurance arrangements by means of excessive increases in premiums or declines in coverage (Christopher Jennings and Katherine Hayes, 7/21).

Massachusetts Shows Federal Reform Headed For Trouble Kaiser Health News
If Massachusetts is a harbinger – and all evidence indicates it is – the new federal health overhaul legislation is headed for serious trouble. Massachusetts and the federal government built their reform efforts using similar architectural plans – strict regulation of health insurance, mandates on individuals and businesses, expensive new taxpayer-funded subsidies and a major expansion of Medicaid – and both share a central structural flaw in failing to address rising health costs (Grace-Marie Turner, 7/22).

Dispatch from Massachusetts: The Individual Mandate Is Working Kaiser Health News
In Massachusetts, the individual mandate requiring state residents to buy health insurance is working. Yet, a similar requirement remains among the more controversial elements of the new national health reform law. Opponents of the mandate resent being required to purchase a product they may not want. Proponents claim that the mandate is necessary to prevent an unraveling of the broader set of reforms in the law. But will it work? It is in Massachusetts, and that should give reform advocates some confidence (Austin Frakt, 7/22).

Truth and Consequences — Insurance-Premium Rate Regulation and the ACA The New England Journal of Medicine
Over the past decade, the largest health insurance companies have seen a disproportionate increase in profits of 250%, or 10 times the rate of inflation. During the past year alone, there has been a double-digit increase in health insurance premiums. In response to such increases, the new health care reform law ... requires the secretary of health and human services, along with individual states, to establish a process for the annual review of unreasonable increases in health insurance premiums. … However, it is unclear whether such a national definition will actually prevent unreasonable insurance rate hikes (Ann Mills, Carolyn Engelhard, and Patricia Tereskerz, 7/21).

Ending the Stigma of War-Related Stress The Wall Street Journal
Recently the federal government moved to make disability benefits more accessible to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It's a welcome step, but it does not go far enough. The government should actively encourage private hospitals and other nonprofits to partner with the Veterans Administration (VA) in efforts to destigmatize this disorder, and to make adequate care more widely available in every community across the country (Robert Morgenthau, 7/21).

The Values In Washington State's Budget The Seattle Times
The continuing effects of the recession, by some estimates, will leave us about $3 billion short of funding state services like education, environmental protection and health care over the next biennium. … As advocates for some of our long-standing shared priorities, such as caring for children and seniors, we hope that during this process, policymakers will be guided by our state's values — that we will protect priorities like education, health care and looking out for those struggling in this economy (Paola Maranan and Ingrid McDonald, 7/21).

Health Care Dollars Should Be Spent Based On Patient's Needs The Newark (Ohio) Advocate
Little Braden Byersdorfer lingers at the hospital even though doctors cleared him to go home in April, and his parents, Amanda and Adam Byersdorfer of Ames, desperately want him home. Their employer-provided health insurance won't pay for in-home care, though his parents say it would cost a fraction of hospitalization. … These blanket limitations on health care coverage should be reconsidered -- no matter who sets them. To deny this family the chance to be a family makes no sense -- for them, for taxpayers, for the government or the privately insured. Decisions on how to spend precious health care dollars should be compassionate, practical and responsive to an individual patient's needs (Rekha Basu, 7/22).

Obama's Frightening Choice For Medicare Czar [Sutter, Calif.] Appeal Democrat
We're calling him Dr. Ration. Others are calling him the Rationing Czar or the Rationer in Chief. He is Dr. Don Berwick, whom President Barack Obama appointed as the administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs the huge Medicare and Medicaid government health programs (7/22).

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