Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report Feature Highlights Recent Blog Entries
"Blog Watch" offers readers a roundup of health policy-related blog posts.
Bloggers are tentatively reacting to a report and blog post released by the Congressional Budget Office that summarizes the agency's approach to estimating the cost of any health overhaul bills. At issue is how CBO will count different stipulations of legislation -- like an individual mandate or a public plan -- and whether their conclusions will result in a heftier price tag. Douglas Elmendorf explained on the Director's Blog:
"In CBO's view, the key consideration is whether a proposal would be making health insurance an essentially governmental program, tightly controlled by the federal government with little choice available to those who offer and buy health insurance -- or whether the system would provide significant flexibility in terms of the types, prices, and number of private-sector sellers of insurance available to people. The former -- a governmental program -- belongs in the federal budget (including all premiums paid by individuals and firms to private insurers), but the latter -- a largely private-sector system -- does not."
Janet Adamy of the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire notes that the report doesn't address the cost estimates of the scenarios. Alan Katz on his Health Care Reform Blog concludes, "the message is clear: the looser government's hand grips the new health care system the smaller its budgetary impact."
Liberal bloggers had a variety of reactions -- some found the report too vague, while others saw it as good news. The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn says, "you may need a Talmudic scholar to figure out what those implications are." Cohn continues, "Other passages in the briefing are [similarly] vexing and, for what it's worth, the reactions I've gotten from insiders familiar with the report have ranged from sighs of relief to statements not suitable for a family blog."
Ezra Klein agrees the report lacks specificity, but says, "Even so, I'm cheered by the simple existence of this ruling. The fact that CBO is explaining its thinking before legislation arrives [is] yet more evidence that CBO appears, insofar as it can, to be trying to help out on health reform. ... That's an important change from past years."
Boston Health News' Tinker Ready hosts the latest edition of Health Wonk Review, a biweekly compendium of more than two dozen health policy, infrastructure, insurance, technology and managed care bloggers. A different participant's blog hosts each issue;
- Jacob Goldstein of the Wall Street Journal's Health Blog reports that the Supreme Court will hear Merck's appeal to a ruling over whether the pharmaceutical company misled shareholders on the safety data of the arthritis drug Vioxx;
Huffington Post's Sam Stein reports that Sen. Max Baucus' (D-Mont.) chief of staff said Baucus is "fighting tooth and nail to include [a public plan option] in any final deal";
- The National Journal's Marilyn Werber Serafini solicits her experts' opinions: "When it comes to forming a winning message for health care reform, how should Democrats and Republicans in Congress (and President Obama) talk about it, and what should they absolutely stay away from? What messages will go over well with the public, and what could kill health reform?" Responders include Drew Altman, Karen Davis, C. Eugene Steuerle, Uwe Reinhardt, John Goodman and David Kendall;
- Uwe Reinhardt on the New York Times' Economix looks at the origin of employer-sponsored health insurance in the U.S.;
- Michael Miller of the Health Policy and Communications blog looks at a new National Journal "Insider's Poll" that asks experts, "What is your view of including a new public insurance plan in health care reform?"
- James Capretta of Diagnosis says the Patients' Choice Act "has been well-received among conservatives ... for good reason," although he disagrees with some liberal bloggers that the plan's structure is a sign that a Democratic plan's passage is "more likely";
Bob Laszewski, referring to a New Yorker article by Atul Gawande on controlling health costs that profiles a Texas town, concludes, "When we have a health care bill that starts to change things in McAllen, Texas, then it will be worthy of the label, health care reform";
- Ray Ranthum on John Goodman's Health Policy Blog says the Senate Finance Committee "has proposed new changes to health savings accounts that could make them less attractive in the future."