Inside Opinion

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Tag: health care


When high-tech medicine costs more, it should deliver

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

A recent Time magazine article on the cost of health care points out that while the United States spends twice as much on health care per capita as most other developed countries, we have the same or worse outcomes. One reason is that we don’t understand what we’re buying, writes Steven Brill in “Bitter Pill: Why medical bills are killing us.”

Take this scenario, for instance. Facing surgery, you have a choice between two procedures: One has been done for years with a certain level of success while the other uses a high-tech robotic system and has much the same success rate.

The main difference, which consumers with good health insurance might never be aware of: The latter procedure can cost at least $2,000 more. Read more »


What will Romney and the president talk about over lunch? Here’s a suggestion

This came in late in the afternoon – way past our deadline for the Thursday print edition.

I’d sure like to be a fly on the wall listening in to the lunch conversation between President Obama and Mitt Romney. I’m guessing it’ll be a little awkward. Anyway, writer Matt Miller has an idea for what they should talk about.

By Matt Miller
Special to The Washington Post

I don’t know whether Emily Post has any tips for breaking the ice over lunch with your just-vanquished foe. But I have just the thing if President Barack Obama was serious about asking Mitt Romney to “work together to move this country forward.”

Romney was once a world-class management consultant with a legendary appetite for “the data.” His private-equity success was due partly to his knack for identifying and purging inefficiencies from bloated, underperforming enterprises. It’s time, therefore, to set him loose (analytically speaking) on the mother of all domestic challenges: America’s radically inefficient health-care system. Read more »


Food stamps: No SNAP for buying sugary soda pop

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Should “nutrition assistance” money – food stamps – be used to buy items that have no nutritional value whatsoever and often make people sick?

We’re talking chips, cookies, sugary sodas and other junk food associated with Americans’ disturbingly high rates of obesity, diabetes and other conditions that help kill people and drive health costs higher.

Those conditions are more prevalent among the low-income – and they’re the ones who use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). That program (formerly called food stamps) provides funding assistance through cards that look like regular credit cards.

Increasingly, health experts and some lawmakers are saying that SNAP money should have some strings attached – like no junk food. Read more »


Tobacco use: Too expensive for U.S. health care

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

The Franciscan Health System – an empire of hospitals and medical clinics in Pierce and King counties – is about to take the big step from a no-smoking policy to a no-smoker policy.

To a nicotine addict seeking a job at, say, St. Joseph in Tacoma or St. Clare in Lakewood, it will be brutal. Although the rule won’t be applied retroactively to current employees, Franciscan will effectively be hanging out a “smokers need not apply” sign as of March 1.

Franciscan is far from alone. Some other large companies, such as Alaska Airlines, have had no-smoker policies in place for years. But health care organizations in particular have recently been moving to ban smoking – on or off the job – among their employees.

This is less a cause for celebration or criticism than it is a simple inevitability. Like many smokers themselves, America can no longer afford cigarettes.

The U.S. Centers of Disease Control has estimated that tobacco creates a $193 billion-a-year drag on the U.S. economy. It pegged the cost of treating nicotine-driven diseases at roughly $96 billion. Another $97 million resulted from lost productivity – absenteeism, impaired workplace performance, etc.
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Health mandates need a hard look from lawmakers

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

It shouldn’t need pointing out, but this is hardly the time for lawmakers to be squeezing another benefit into health plans that hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians already can’t afford.

State Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, has the best of intentions. He proposes to require all state-regulated health policies to cover smoking-cessation treatment, including at least two cessation courses a year and coverage for over-the-counter and prescription drugs.

The idea is to curb the enormous health care costs that tobacco inflicts on society and help the smokers themselves escape an addiction that often leads to horrifying diseases and death.

The problem is doing it in the midst of the worst economic distress in generations.

As mandates go, this is one of the better proposals out there. But it’s part of a much larger context: Washington already mandates more treatments for more classes of people by more kinds of professionals than the vast majority of states.

Mandates always mean that people who would never use particular benefits – the services of naturopaths, midwives or massage therapists, for example – are required to help pay for others’ use of those benefits.
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In store for state: Pain, pain and more pain

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Gov. Chris Gregoire had to perform an agonizing arithmetic to come up with a budget for the next biennium.

After the recession and the voters knocked a $4.6 billion breach between revenues and existing services, there was no way to balance the budget without hurting hundreds of thousands of people.

Cut health insurance for the poor, and people will die. Cut crucial education programs, and some children will forfeit their futures. Cut prison funding too far, and predators will go free. Cut food programs, and kids will go to bed hungry.


Read more »


An income tax to throw good money after bad

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Initiative 1098 is the most slickly packaged measure on the November ballot.

It would enact a new income tax on wealthier Washingtonians – 5 percent on individuals earning more than $200,000 a year or couples earning more than $400,000. If the idea of soaking the rich doesn’t quite close the deal, the initiative throws in two other sweeteners: a 20 percent cut in the state property tax and a higher exemption from the state business and occupation tax.

The latter two provisions allow its supporters to tout I-1098 as a tax cut. Which it is – except for the fact that it raises four times as much in taxes as it cuts.

In fact, the “middle class tax relief” it would deliver to homeowners would be barely perceptible: Because the state’s share of property taxes is small, a reduction of 20 percent would translate into savings of about 4 percent.

Clear away the clutter, and I-1098 is an attempt to create a tiered income tax without benefit of an amendment to the Washington Constitution. The state supreme court has forbidden that in the past; the initiative’s sponsors are hoping today’s justices will have different ideas when I-1098 inevitably hits the courts.

The measure has several strikes against it: It may be illegal; it would target wealth-creation in the middle of a recession, and it would enact an income tax with no constitutional limits or corresponding constitutional caps on other state taxes.
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The U.S. Senate wraps a Christmas gift for the uninsured

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

It’s fitting that the U.S. Senate is poised to approve historic health care legislation during Christmas week. Like a big present under the tree, the package looks gorgeous, promises to run up the Visa card and conceals things known to only a few.

But shaking the box tells you quite a bit. The immense bill would extend coverage to most Americans now uninsured, require all individuals to carry medical insurance (subsidized as necessary), and prohibit insurance companies from refusing to sell coverage to the sick or dropping them after they get sick.

This is good, as far as it goes. In a humane society, access to health care is a moral imperative. Americans should not die because their wallets can’t get past a biopsy at the front desk.

And the law must demand that individuals carry coverage. The logic follows mandatory auto insurance: If you don’t insure yourself, you are effectively planning to dump your expenses on someone else. Those who think this violates their rights ought to pledge in advance not to accept care from a doctor or hospital unless they pay full freight. Any takers on that bargain?
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