Viewpoints: Progress Toward A 'Grand Bargain'; States' 'Rare Chance' To Expand Medicaid

Los Angeles Times: Closer To Obama's 'Grand Bargain'
Obama has acknowledged that the federal budget is on an unsustainable path. ... The president has set the right contours for a deal, and some of the specific proposals — including higher Medicare premiums for high-income seniors and those with generous Medigap policies, as well as a more aggressive effort to move providers to more efficient payment systems — are welcome (4/11).

The Washington Post: It's The GOP's Turn To Be Serious With The Budget
Most of all, what's required of politicians as the baby boomers age is difficult. We use a shorthand: Republicans want entitlement reform; Democrats want higher taxes. But, really, neither of them wants either of those. Polls show that voters like deficit reduction in theory but don't favor the policies needed to bring it about: tax hikes and a scaling-back of promised retirement and health benefits. President Obama's proposed budget has taken a big step toward acknowledging reality. No, it's not big enough (4/11).

Los Angeles Times: The Fights Obama Picks Over Medicare
The budget that President Obama released Wednesday doesn't include the sort of headline-grabbing initiatives that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) included in his proposal for fiscal 2014, such as a dramatic overhaul of the tax code and a transformation of Medicaid into block grants. But it offers a few ideas on Medicare that, while not as cage-rattling as Ryan's plan, would still bring important changes to the program. Make that, important but unpopular changes (Jon Healey, 4/11).

Politico: States’ Rare Chance To Expand Medicaid
A proposal unveiled by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam late last month leverages federal funds to purchase private coverage for new Medicaid eligibles in the state’s health insurance exchange. ... Governors have a very real opportunity — and a rare one at that — to advocate for some of the program reforms they want to see in Medicaid while simultaneously expanding coverage to millions of Americans. Similarly, if the Obama administration wants to entice more states into broadening coverage, it needs to accept that premium assistance will continue to be a growing segment of the Medicaid program (Dr. Bill Frist, 4/11).

The Medicare NewsGroup: A Look At Who Gets Hurt By The Sequester
In one sense, the sequestration has given politicians convenient political cover for direct provider cuts because the reductions are across-the-board. ... If beneficiaries start to be turned away from health care providers in large numbers, the political calculus will change. What is not clear is whether that will happen, or if Congress will derail the locomotive powered by the powerful engine of the sequester (John Wasik, 4/11).

National Journal: The Upside Of Obama's Tobacco Tax Hike
Under his new budget plan, President Obama would use $78 billion from new tobacco taxes to fund early-childhood education. ... It also turns out that the tax hike could do even more good than Obama’s budget gives it credit for. ... The [CBO] itself said doubling the tax hike, as Obama nearly would, would yield twice the estimated health effects (Niraj Chokshi, 4/11).

The New York Times' Economix Blog: The Governance Of Nonprofit Hospitals
Is there anything like this transparency and public accountability in the nonprofit sector? Indeed, who actually owns these entities? To whom do they render account for the sizable real resources and finances under their control? And what benefits do they deliver in return for the exemption from income taxation they enjoy? ... I find it puzzling that nonprofit entities have been so reluctant to post their Form 990s on their Web sites, given that the form is available through Guidestar anyhow. What is there to hide? (Uwe E. Reinhardt, 4/12).

Los Angeles Times: CVS Customers Say Unauthorized Prescription Refills Still Occur
Federal and state authorities launched investigations into unauthorized refills after I wrote columns about how CVS and other drugstores were routinely signing up customers for automatic refills without their approval. CVS, for its part, blamed the practice on rogue drugstore managers and insisted that the company's official policy was that customers are always asked before being enrolled in ReadyFill, the chain's refill program (David Lazarus, 4/11).

The New York Times: Brain Disease And The NFL
More than 4,000 retired players are suing the National Football League for failing to protect players from chronic risks of head injuries routinely inflicted in professional football games — and then willfully concealing those risks from players. In a brief summarizing the players' position, lawyers say that serious head injuries "cause neurocognitive decline, permanent mental disability, and even death" (4/11).

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