Viewpoints: Medicare Mudslinging, 'Pound-Foolish' Doc Fix And Unrealistic Death Attitudes

The Washington Post: Our Unrealistic Attitudes About Death, Through A Doctor's Eyes
For all its technological sophistication and hefty price tag, modern medicine may be doing more to complicate the end of life than to prolong or improve it. ... When families talk about letting their loved ones die "naturally," they often mean "in their sleep" — not from a treatable illness such as a stroke, cancer or an infection. ... While it's easy to empathize with these family members' wishes, what they don't appreciate is that very few elderly patients are lucky enough to die in their sleep (Dr. Craig Bowron, 2/1).

Los Angeles Times: Mixing Medicare And Mudslinging
It's going to be a campaign issue, but the problem with that is that a heated, polarized election race isn't the best forum to debate complex, competing proposals for bringing down health care costs (Doyle McManus, 2/19).

Los Angeles Times: Payroll Tax Cut Undermines Social Security’s Security
The accepted response to the economic deal reached in Congress last week, extending the Social Security payroll tax holiday and unemployment insurance and maintaining reimbursement levels for Medicare doctors, is huzzah! Finally Congress got something important done with a minimum of brinkmanship and posturing, and more than a few minutes before the deadline. A threat to the embryonic economic recovery was averted, and the extensions even pushed any subsequent fracas over the same issues to the end of this year, safely past the presidential election (Michael Hiltzik, 2/19).

The Washington Post: Ideological Hypocrites
Why do they criticize "entitlements" and "big government" while promising today's senior citizens — an important part of the conservative base — never, ever to cut their Medicare or Social Security? Why do they claim that they want government out of the marketplace while not only rejecting cuts in defense but also lauding large defense contracts that are an enormous intrusion in the operation of the "free market"? (E.J. Dionne Jr., 2/19).

The Fiscal Times: Health Care: A Penny-Wise, Pound Foolish Doc-Fix 
Would you sell your home's storm doors to pay for this winter's heating bills? That's what Congress did Friday to pay for part of a 10-month "doc fix." ... "We're robbing from the one place in the Affordable Care Act where we can really do something about prevention," lamented Kenneth Thorpe, director of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease and a professor at Emory University (Merrill Goozner, 2/17).

iWatch News: ANALYSIS: Taking The Initiative In A Struggle Against Excessive Rate Increases
The biggest applause line Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) got at a gathering of Democratic Party activists last week came when she endorsed a ballot initiative to give the California Insurance Commissioner power to reject excessive health insurance rate increases. Consumer advocates there decided to go the ballot initiative route after the insurance industry's friends in the legislature blocked a bill last year that would do the same thing (Wendell Potter, 2/20).

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Shortage Of Nurses In Philadelphia Schools Costs Everyone
Yet, since the summer, the Department of Public Welfare has removed 25,000 city children from the medical assistance rolls, kids whose family incomes are believed to still fall within the qualifying guidelines. For these now-uninsured children - and every other child who attends the city public schools - the district's layoff of 47 school nurses means that the children's health and educational prospects have taken a step backward. The result - predicted a school nurse who barely escaped losing her job - will be "more chaos" added to an already overburdened system of no-fee health services that acts as a safety net (Sid Holmes, 2/21).

USA Today: Prescription Drugs Deaths Demand Attention
While Xanax and similar drugs are less notorious than narcotic painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin, they're addictive, widely prescribed and, combined with alcohol, can be just as dangerous. They cause 373,000 overdoses a year, almost as many as the narcotic painkillers. Collectively, the two classes of drugs kill about 70 people a day, according to estimates by the Prescription Monitoring Program Center of Excellence at Brandeis University (2/20).

Politico Pro: Nursing Homes Can't Take More Cuts
Medicare funding for nursing homes is scheduled to be reduced by more than $125 billion over the next decade. At the same time, Medicaid has restricted or frozen reimbursements in 29 states in the fiscal year that just ended. These state budget shortfalls make it likely this trend will continue. If further reductions in Medicare are imposed — like those recommended by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission — it will be difficult for facilities to continue using Medicare to help make up for the underpayment of Medicaid for long-stay patients (Vincent Mor and Gail Wilensky, 2/21).

Des Moines Register: Lawmakers Are Right To Intervene
In the summer of 2010, this state opened a new "high risk pool" to provide health insurance to Americans with health problems. It was created by the federal health reform law and funded with $35 million from Washington. As the editorial page has reported, Iowa's program has enrolled hundreds fewer people than projected. It has spent a higher percentage of its money on administration than most other states. And it is one of the few states prohibiting “third parties” from paying premiums for enrollees (2/19).

Denver Post: Why Obamacare Is Good For America
Decisions about our health care are too personal and important to be left to insurance companies. The Affordable Care Act, dubbed Obamacare, is putting all of us back in the driver's seat when it comes to our own health care. While full implementation of reform is being phased in over several years, health care reform has already helped hundreds of thousands of Coloradans access the health care they need (Dede de Percin, 2/19).

Denver Post: Why Obamacare Works: Four Reasons
Now that Obamacare is making preventive care available with no co-pays or cost-sharing, Coloradans can get advice they need to stay healthy and the screenings they need to halt a serious disease at an early, more treatable, and more affordable stage. Preventive care has given me the opportunity to live a long and full life; I urge every insured Coloradan to take advantage of this key benefit so you can, too (Kathy Leinz, David Taft, Sonji Wilkes and Chris Crigler, 2/19).

Houston Chronicle: Remaking Medicaid's Complicated, and Important
At this early, confusing stage, it's not clear yet how many regional partnerships there will be, or which counties will belong to which partnership - much less what rules each region will play by. And yes, that stuff matters. In the short term, we need to make sure of three things. … That counties forge regional partnerships that make sense. … That counties (and to a lesser extent, other local-government health care entities, such as medical schools) ante up their share of the money needed to pull down the enormous federal match. … That hospital districts, hospitals and other health-related entities in each region share the sandbox nicely.

The Dallas Morning News: You Might Not Choose Parkland But It's Still Your Problem
Wealthy, poor, homed or homeless, no one in America deserves such horrific basic care. For another, if you own property in Dallas County, you're paying for it. Shouldn’t you expect more? And your safety cushion of choice might disappear at your most critical moment of need (2/20).

Modern Healthcare: Health Care's Waffle House
Health policy in this country lacks direction because of a shortage of decisive leadership in both the public and private health care sectors. The past few weeks have witnessed an unprecedented amount of waffling on important health care topics that only feeds the belief that if you just shout loud enough, the object of your ire will back off their position rather than stand firm. The fact that this is an election year only makes things worse (Burda, 2/18).

Boston Globe: Big Savings For Small Business In New, Innovative Health Plans
For years now, small businesses have complained about the big annual premium increases they faced for health insurance. Two years ago, state policymakers agreed to let small companies form purchasing cooperatives to bargain for better rates. Now that experiment is paying off. New health plans announced last week will allow members of the first such cooperative to save at least 20 percent, and in some instances double that, on premiums. Those small businesses have every reason to be pleased, but they should share some of the new savings with their employees (2/19).

Kansas City Star: Give Raises To KC Police For Joining Health Plan
Members of Kansas City's police force are paying extremely close attention to proposed changes in their health insurance. But they also need to do the math when it comes to the possibility of getting pay raises in 2012. … That’s a strong reason the Board of Police Commissioners next Tuesday should approve a unified health insurance program. That would give the department enough money to hand out raises of $1,000 or more a year to most officers and civilian employees (2/20).

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