Good morning! Here's the news:
As President Obama travels to talk to Americans about debt reduction, a poll shows that Americans disfavor cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, but favor increasing taxes on the wealthy. Meanwhile, the GOP has decided to send only two representatives to meet with VP Biden to negotiate a debt reduction plan, Eric Cantor and John Kyl. The White House had requested 8 total GOPers -- 4 from the House and 4 from the Senate. And they're sending policy guys, not budget crunchers. Dems haven't done much better, sending only 4 instead of 8, and also sending their policy guys. Doesn't appear to be off to a very good start. However, some say this is the right way to start towards a bipartisan solution.
The Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board -- which President Obama believes can help stem Medicare costs -- will make recommendations about things that can be cut, and their cuts will take effect unless Congress blocks them. This idea is considered "rationing" by some. Others feel it usurps Congress's role. If I have a choice between a voucher that will pay for some of my insurance premium or a slightly thinner Medicare as we know it, I'll stick with traditional Medicare any day. I suspect the criticism has to do with things like a proposal to reduce Medicare acute hospital payments by 0.5%. Too many members of Congress have too many ties to industry.
The Department of Health and Human Services says it will hold itself accountable for health care disparities among racial and ethnic minorities. This is hugely important. Read this interview with the person responsible. And here's a piece about a meeting to address disparities that took place right here in Connecticut.
Some members of Congress want broker commissions reclassified. As you know, under health reform, insurers must spend 80 or 85% of premium dollars on health care, which meant brokers' commissions were part of the 20% administrative costs. But there's a bill in Congress that would shift commissions to the health care part of the balance, increasing premiums and contributing to the deficit, as explained by our esteemed friend, Tim Jost.
We've seen the down-side to doctors refusing to treat chronic pain adequately, but here's the other side of it -- the harm painkillers can do. So the federal government is getting involved to curb the use of opioids. The "drug czar" says doctors should be trained specially before prescribing these drugs. And the FDA is stepping up its oversight of pain meds, requiring manufacturers to provide educational materials. I suspect that means it will be harder for chronic pain patients to obtain relief. It's quite a quandry. There are people who are in agony and need pain meds, and people who abuse them. Where's the right balance?
And that's where I'll leave you today -- striving for balance. Have a great day. Jennifer