Yesterday’s decision by Republican budget negotiators to give up on proposing a means test for Medicare premiums is the top story at the Washington Post and the top national story at the Los Angeles Times. Surprisingly, at the New York Times, this doesn’t even make the front page. The lead there is the report being released today by the State Department which sharply criticizes China for its treatment of religious groups, especially Christians. The NYT also continues ample front-page coverage of the just-discovered deaf Mexican slave labor ring. USA Today goes with “color”–coverage of the 200th anniversary celebration of the U.S. Navy’s oldest warship, the Constitution.
Yesterday’s Medicare move shows that premiums are still a political third rail. The WP says that “Gingrich, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Archer (R-Tex.) and many others feared that by tampering with Medicare premiums, they would rekindle Democratic charges that they were ‘cutting Medicare’ to pay for tax cuts.” President Clinton says he supports means testing but only if the IRS can collect the extra premium, and that’s not going to happen either. This non-decision along with two prior Medicare non-moves–not adjusting the eligibility age and not charging any co-payments for home health-care–means the current budget deal will not be the vehicle for any Medicare restructuring.
In a “Style” section piece about how conservatives have taken to turning on each other, Post media reporter Howard Kurtz reveals that “when the Wall Street Journal declared a few weeks ago that Newt Gingrich was in danger of becoming ‘inconsequential,’ the House speaker sent every member of the editorial board a letter saying he was disappointed in them.” Kurtz quotes Journal editorial writer John Fund’s reaction: “A lot of the Republicans have grown up with this liberal media culture and are suspicious of journalists, so they have an exaggerated expectation of the few allies they have. They don’t understand the distinctions. They don’t get it.” Maybe Fund doesn’t either–he recently came close to taking a job as a spokesman for the House Republicans.
How are hospitals handling the problem of delivering health care to a population that increasingly has difficulty paying for it or getting insurance to do so? Well, according to today’s front section cover story in USAT, one thing they’re doing is delivering it to more foreigners. “More precisely, well-off foreigners who are willing and able to pay top dollar for care they either can’t get at home or prefer to get in the USA.” The hospitals are making aggressive marketing and service moves in this direction. For instance, according to USAT, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota has set up a Muslim prayer room, and one Texas health care consortium last year manned a booth at the Arab Health Expo in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
The WP is carrying an AP story inside today stating that, despite initially agreeing to be questioned by Senate investigators, John Huang’s wife, Jane, has now, like him, decided to take the 5th Amendment. Also, she has invoked the spousal privilege, which protects her from being questioned about conversations with her husband.
This from the WSJ “Work Week” column: 86 percent of about 500 CEOs surveyed say the quality they value most in subordinates is loyalty. Only 6 percent say it’s integrity.