Viewpoints: How Much Power Should The AMA Have To Set Medicare Prices?; GOP's 'Disastrous' March To Defund Health Law

The New York Times: Don't Give Up On Health Care Cost Control
S.G.R. More than 99 percent of Americans have no idea what these three letters stand for. And yet they are extremely valuable: worth about $140 billion. This week, a House committee will finally take up the issue. The S.G.R., or the Sustainable Growth Rate formula, was enacted as part of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 to restrain the inevitable increase in Medicare's annual spending on physician services. ... Nice idea in theory. Never worked out in practice (Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel and Topher Spiro, 7/29). 

USA Today: When Doctors Set Their Own Pay: Our View
Some of the most important players in setting the rates that Medicare and private insurers pay doctors are — surprise — doctors themselves. And — no surprise — certain procedures end up costing more than they should. ... The time has come to either supervise the AMA committee's work more aggressively or have Medicare do the work itself (7/29). 

USA Today: AMA: Medicare Gains From Physicians' Advice
The success of Medicare depends on accurately assessing the impact of constant advances in science and technology on patient care. There is simply no substitute for physicians' clinical expertise when gauging how much work and resources go into one medical service compared with another. No one knows more about what is involved in providing services to Medicare patients than the physicians who care for them (Dr. Ardis Dee Hoven, 7/29). 

Bloomberg: Who Should Set Medicare Prices?
[H]ere’s what I didn't see the outraged critics explain: what should replace the American Medical Association committee. If we take the power of the doctors away, who will set prices, and how? ... We’ve spent the 50 years since [Medicare] was founded complaining that providers were charging too much and implementing reforms that didn’t fix that fundamental problem, as the Official Blog Spouse has extensively documented. That’s no reason not to try again, of course. But we probably shouldn’t expect too much in the way of fixes (Megan McArdle, 7/29).

The New York Times' Economix blog: The Question Of Taxing Employer-Provided Health Insurance
The exclusion for employer-provided health insurance is far and away the largest tax expenditure. In part this is because it, like all such exclusions, reduces payroll taxes as well as income taxes; it is as if the worker never received the income it represents, although employers may deduct the cost of health insurance as a business expense. In contrast to exclusions, individuals' tax deductions, exemptions and credits reduce only income taxes (Bruce Bartlett, 7/30). 

Los Angeles Times: No, Howard Dean, Obamacare Doesn't Ration Medicare
Republicans have said hyperbolic things about the 2010 healthcare law's Independent Payment Advisory Board so many times -- e.g., former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's declaration that it's a "death panel" -- that I've gotten inured to it. Nevertheless, it was a little startling to see some of the same facts-be-damned assertions coming from a liberal Democrat on the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal. Former Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean took to the Journal on Monday to attack the IPAB with the same blatant mischaracterizations that have been the hallmarks of the GOP attacks (Jon Healey, 7/29).

The Washington Post's Post Partisan: Ignoring The Obamacare Spin
To the extent it matters to voters — and very few people will ever vote on just one issue, health care included — there's no election where Obamacare could make a difference for over a year. What will matter is what actual, real consumers find when they think about signing up for health insurance. If those eligible for the exchanges like what they see (and if the interface works, and if they find out about the availability of the marketplaces in the first place), then they're going to buy insurance, and the system will work pretty well. If not, not (Jonathan Bernstein, 7/29). 

Baltimore Sun: GOP's Obamacare Obsession Is Starting To Look Like Political Suicide
Many present-day Republicans seem bent on making "Backward, Christian Soldiers" their marching song in their relentless determination to "repeal and replace Obamacare," even to the point of repeating their lemming-like plunge over the cliff of another government shutdown. More than 60 of them in the House and about a dozen in the Senate have signed letters by conservative GOP Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina pledging to vote to defund President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, despite some party warnings of likely political suicide (Jules Witcover, 7/29).

Bloomberg: Drop The Disastrous Plan To Defund Obamacare
One possible outcome of this debate is that the Republican House passes a government-funding bill that doesn’t include money for Obamacare, but then gives in to the Democratic Senate on the issue. At that point the conservative groups that are pushing for defunding will say Republican leaders have again betrayed them, and get back to the vital work of raising donations off that idea. That won’t be the happiest of endgames for Republicans, but it would still be better than a shutdown or default that failed to achieve their goals ... The repeal of Obamacare is a worthy and potentially popular cause, but it won’t be accomplished through sheer willpower (Ramesh Ponnuru, 7/26).

The Washington Post: A Setback On Polio
Only a few months ago, there was great optimism that polio was on the verge of eradication. The world saw only 223 cases in 2012, the lowest level in history, and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, an umbrella group, unveiled a major strategy to wipe out the disease over the next five years. Those hopes now seem clouded by a poliovirus outbreak in Somalia and Kenya. This year, there have been 81 cases in these two countries, more than the 59 cases in the three countries where polio remains endemic: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria (7/29).

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