KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Kaiser Health News Original Stories

Medicare

Medicare At 50: Some Promises Fulfilled But Program Still Faces Challenges

News outlets mark the half-century anniversary of the federal program that provides health insurance for older Americans.

Los Angeles Times: How Medicare Fulfilled A President's Half-Century-Old Promise
Half a century after President Lyndon Johnson signed legislation creating Medicare and Medicaid with a pledge that seniors no longer would “be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine,” the promise has been largely fulfilled. The two entitlements – one for the elderly and one for low-income Americans - have kept generations of seniors in their homes and extended life-saving insurance protections to poor children and families. The share of uninsured seniors, which was 48% in 1962, is now less than 2%. (Levey, 7/29)

McClatchy: Medicare And Medicaid Face Growing Pains At Age 50
Fifty years ago on Thursday, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation establishing the Medicare program to provide health coverage for seniors and the Medicaid program to cover the poor. But it was former President Harry S. Truman who, in Johnson’s words, “planted the seeds of compassion” that laid the groundwork for both federal programs. (Pugh, 7/29)

Health Law Issues And Implementation

Health Law's Co-Ops Tinged In Red Ink, Govt. Audit Finds

The Associated Press reports that a new government audit finds these health insurance co-ops in many cases have failed to reach sign-up goals. And in Arizona, another hurdle for Medicaid expansion.

The Associated Press: APNewsBreak: Gov't Finds Health Law Co-Ops Awash In Red Ink
Democrats fed up with the health insurance industry used President Barack Obama's overhaul to create nonprofit co-ops that would compete against entrenched corporations. Taxpayers put up $2.4 billion in loans to get the co-ops going. But a government audit out Thursday finds that co-ops are awash in red ink and many have fallen short of sign-up goals. (7/30)

The Associated Press: Lawyers Prepare To Argue Over Arizona Medicaid Plan
Lawyers will argue over the constitutionality of Arizona's hospital "bed tax" Thursday in a case that could determine whether 350,000 residents remain covered under the state's Medicaid expansion. The case hinges on whether the assessment is a tax that should have been passed by a 2/3 vote in the state Legislature or a fee that can be passed by a majority vote. (Christie, 7/29)

Capitol Hill Watch

GOP Senators Tout Measure To Defund Planned Parenthood, Expect Vote Before August Recess

Republican women lawmakers are taking point position in this legislative effort. But news outlets also note the tricky politics in play -- for Democrats, and for presidential candidates including Hillary Clinton -- as well as the high stakes that could threaten to shut down the government.

The Wall Street Journal: Senate Republicans Tout Bill To Cut Federal Funds To Planned Parenthood
Antiabortion Republican senators touted a bill Wednesday that would cut government funds to Planned Parenthood, intensifying the furor over a hidden-camera video depicting technicians at a Planned Parenthood facility gathering fetal tissue for use in research. The bill, which the Senate is expected to vote on before members disperse for the August recess, would bar federal funds for Planned Parenthood, which reported federal and state grants and reimbursements of around $528.4 million last year for providing services such as contraception, breast exams and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. (Stanley-Becker and Radnofsky, 7/29)

CBS News: Can Congress Defund Planned Parenthood?
Senate Republicans unveiled a bill Wednesday that aims to block any federal dollars from reaching Planned Parenthood. The legislation is a response to a series of undercover videos produced by anti-abortion activists who claim the organization is selling fetal tissue to researchers. (Planned Parenthood says the costs are only related to handling of the tissue donations, and it has done nothing wrong.) (Kaplan, 7/30)

The Washington Post: Meet The Three GOP Women Leading The Charge To Defund Planned Parenthood
Either way, there's a renewed push in Congress to take away some or all of the $500 million in federal funds that goes to Planned Parenthood -- none of which, we should note, is legally allowed to pay for abortions. GOP leaders are smartly letting women in Congress lead the way. Male lawmakers dominate both the party's congressional contingent and the two bills introduced this week to defund the organizaton, but anti-abortion-rights advocates are hoping these three Republican women become the movement's faces. (Phillips, 7/30)

The Hill: Sen. Susan Collins Likely To Vote No On Defunding Planned Parenthood
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) on Wednesday said she is likely to oppose a bill backed by Senate Republican leaders that would defund Planned Parenthood. “The problem is, in my state and many others, Planned Parenthood is the primary provider of women's health services in certain parts of my state, and as I understand the amendment, and again I'm still reviewing it, it immediately defunds Planned Parenthood,” Collins said. “So I don't know how you would ensure that all of the patients of Planned Parenthood could be absorbed by alternative care providers.” (Sullivan, 7/29)

Politico: How Planned Parenthood Could Shut Down The Government
Calling next week’s Senate roll call to defund Planned Parenthood a “legislative show vote,” GOP firebrand Ted Cruz said Republicans should do everything they can to eliminate federal money for the group — even if it means a government shutdown fight this fall. He’s not alone. On Wednesday afternoon, 18 House Republicans told leadership that they “cannot and will not support any funding resolution … that contains any funding for Planned Parenthood.” Meanwhile, GOP social conservatives like Sens. James Lankford of Oklahoma and Jeff Sessions of Alabama said they’d consider supporting an effort to attach a spending rider that would eliminate Planned Parenthood’s $528 million in annual government funding to must-pass spending legislation this fall. (Everett, 7/29)

St. Louis Public Radio: Sen. Blunt Joins Effort To Defund Planned Parenthood
Senate Republicans plan to vote on legislation next week stripping nearly $540 million from Planned Parenthood following the release of undercover videos that appear to show organization officials talking casually about selling fetal tissue and organs. Those videos, released by an anti-abortion group, have outraged abortion opponents and ignited a swift response on Capitol Hill. U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., is one of at least 20 sponsors of the defunding legislation; and Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, led a group of House members in calling for congressional hearings into Planned Parenthood’s activities. (Howard, 7/29)

The Washington Post: For Democrats, There’s No Right Answer On Planned Parenthood
The surprise of today's Republican press conference on Planned Parenthood came when one of the freshman class's stars praised Hillary Clinton. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa.) described how undercover videos had found the family planning group's executives coldly discussing the sale of fetal body parts, and said that even Democrats were recoiling. "The American people, Republicans and Democrats alike, are horrified by the utter lack of compassion showed by Planned Parenthood for these women and their babies," said Ernst. "In fact, now, Hillary Clinton is calling these Planned Parenthood images disturbing, and I agree.” (Weigel, 7/29)

NPR: Planned Parenthood Controversy Proves Complicated For Democrats
The latest in a series of undercover sting videos features a woman who says she worked for a company that harvested organs from fetuses aborted at Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood leaders say the videos are heavily edited and that they're not making money from facilitating fetal tissue donation for medical research. But the controversy over the videos is becoming a campaign issue — for both Democrats and Republicans. (McCammon, 7/29)

Politico: Clinton’s Planned Parenthood Ties Run Deep
Hillary Clinton is friends with Planned Parenthood’s president and took a rare pause from her duties as secretary of state to keynote a Planned Parenthood gala, while her family foundation has worked with the group to promote birth control. So when Planned Parenthood found itself in the middle of a major scandal last week when anti-abortion activists released graphic undercover videos of executives discussing the alleged sale of aborted fetal tissue, Clinton’s support for the group was not so much a choice as a foregone conclusion — Planned Parenthood’s problem was Clinton’s problem, too. (Karni and Palmer, 7/30)

News outlets also explore the science, ethics and politics of fetal tissue research -

The Associated Press: Planned Parenthood Seeks Fed Study Of Fetal Tissue Research
Under fire for its role in providing fetal tissue for research, Planned Parenthood asked the government's top health scientists Wednesday to convene a panel of independent experts to study the issues surrounding the little-known branch of medicine. Planned Parenthood's request to the National Institutes of Health came as Senate Republicans pressed their fight to bar the organization from receiving federal aid. Likely opposition from at least one GOP senator highlighted the long odds the GOP will face in a Senate showdown vote expected early next week. (Fram, 7/29)

The Sacramento Bee: Undercover Video Turns Lens On Fetal Tissue Research
The recent attacks on Planned Parenthood have highlighted the “ic” factor of procuring and delivering fetal materials, causing many to question the morality of the practice. But in the medical community, few would argue against their curative potential. A growing body of studies over the last two decades, has made stem cells, particularly those from fetal tissue, an appealing resource for researchers and pharmaceutical companies alike. (Caiola, 7/29)

The Hill: Planned Parenthood Shuts Down Website After Second Hack
Planned Parenthood shut down its website Wednesday after it was hit by a second cyberattack within one week. Officials confirmed Wednesday evening that the group was hit by a “denial of service attack” — a tactic that sends massive amounts of traffic to a site at one time to shut it down. (Ferris, 7/29)

House OKs Bill To Make It Easier To Fire VA Employees

The measure is part of lawmakers' ongoing frustration about the slow pace of change at the agency, which bill backers say hasn't responded quickly enough to the scandal over long waits for veterans seeking medical care. It faces a White House veto threat.

The Washington Post: House Approves Cutting Workplace Protections For VA Workers
The House voted Wednesday to cut workplace protections for Department of Veterans Affairs employees and extend their probationary period, making it easier to fire new staffers. The “VA Accountability Act of 2015” was approved with a 256 – 170 vote, largely, though not strictly, along party lines, despite a White House veto threat. (Davidson, 7/29)

The Associated Press: House Passes Bill Facilitating The Firing Of VA Employees
The House on Wednesday approved a bill making it easier to fire or demote hundreds of thousands of employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs, as lawmakers expressed continued frustration at the slow pace of change at the beleaguered agency. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., said the VA hasn’t moved quickly enough to respond to a scandal over long waits for veterans seeking medical care and falsified records by VA employees to cover up the delays. (7/29)

In other news related to the Department of Veterans Affairs -

Los Angeles Times: Congress Poised To Avert Highway Fund Shutdown, For Now
As part of the deal, Congress was also tacking on a provision to help the Department of Veterans Affairs avoid closing healthcare clinics amid its own budget shortfall. The agency will be able to tap $3 billion over the next two months to cover rising costs associated with providing veterans faster health services in order to avoid long wait times. (Mascaro, 7/29)

And members of Congress will leave some hard tasks behind as they disperse for the August break -

The New York Times: Nearing Recess, House And Senate Put Off Difficult Battles Until Fall
Congress will slide toward its August recess this week by doing what every high school student dreams of: putting off the hardest projects until later. ... In many ways, the last few months have been quite productive under Republican control, particularly when viewed through the lens of sheer expectations. ... After years of patches, lawmakers finally established a new formula for paying doctors under Medicare. ... Mr. Boehner, who has grown grudgingly accustomed to the chaff tossed up by the right, has found ways to work with just enough Democrats to lead the way on things like fixes to the Medicare payment system and some funding measures. (Steinhauer, 7/29)

Veterans' Health Care

Pentagon's $4.3B Electronic Health Records Contract Awarded To Leidos, Cerner And Accenture Team

The work will include overhauling the Pentagon’s health records for about 9.5 million active military and veteran beneficiaries at about 1,000 sites worldwide. The contract starts at 10 years but could extend to 18 years and $9 billion.

The Washington Post: Cerner Wins $4.3 Billion DoD Contract To Overhaul Electronic Health Records
The award to the Leidos Partnership for Defense Health — which includes Cerner, an electronic-health-records manager; Accenture Federal; and Leidos, a government contractor based in Reston, Va. — was considered an upset among industry experts. Many had predicted that the bid anchored by Epic Systems, considered a titan in the medical-records field, would land the contract. (Brittain, 7/29)

McClatchy: Cerner Is Part Of Team That Wins Huge Contract To Revamp Military's Health Records
Cerner Corp. is part of a team of health information companies that has snagged a coveted multibillion-dollar contract to overhaul the U.S. military’s electronic health records, the Pentagon announced Wednesday. The victory is a win for Cerner, Kansas City’s fastest-growing large company and one of the top health information technology firms in the country. Cerner partnered with defense technology contractor Leidos, Accenture Federal Services and Intermountain Healthcare in the bid for the $4.3 billion, 10-year defense contract. The Leidos-led team beat out two other partnerships, one of them including Cerner’s major rival, Epic, a Wisconsin-based health IT firm that also is a leading provider of electronic health records technology. (Rosen and Wise, 7/29)

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Government Contract For Electronic Health Records Goes To Epic Competitor
Epic Systems Corp. and IBM Corp. on Wednesday lost their combined bid for a contract initially worth $4.3 billion from the Department of Defense for a new system for electronic health records. A team consisting of Cerner Corp. — Verona-based Epic's largest competitor — along with Leidos Inc., a military information technology contractor, and Accenture Federal Services was awarded the contract. (Boulton, 7/29)

Marketplace

Anthem's 2Q Earnings Beat Expectations

The health insurer also raised its 2015 net-income forecast. Meanwhile, Humana, which has agreed to be acquired by Aetna, reported better-than-expected profits, too.

USA Today: Anthem Q2 Income Rises 18%, Beats Estimates
Health insurance provider Anthem said Wednesday its second quarter net income rose 18% to $859.1 million as health care costs and medical enrollment by new members surged. After adjusting for some items, earnings per share totaled $3.10, beating analysts’ estimate of $2.74. (Yu, 7/29)

The Wall Street Journal: Anthem Results Top Expectations
The company said it now expects medical enrollment to grow by 750,000 to 950,000 this year, up 50,000 from its previous range. Anthem has benefited from enrollment growth and improved medical cost performance lately. In the latest quarter, medical enrollment grew 3.4% from a year earlier to about 38.5 million as of June 30. Enrollment in its commercial and specialty business edged up 0.8% from a year earlier to 29.8 million members, while members in its government business grew 13.1% to 8.8 million. (Dulaney and Wilde Mathews, 7/29)

The Associated Press: Insurer Anthem Hikes 2015 Forecast, 2Q Earnings Climb
Anthem has pumped up its 2015 forecast again after earnings jumped more than 17 percent in its most recent quarter, helped by a surge in government money. The Blue Cross-Blue Shield carrier now expects 2015 adjusted earnings to top $10 per share, which is up from an upgraded forecast in April to greater than $9.90 per share. (7/29)

In the background -

State Watch

In Fla., Gov. Scott Orders Inspections Of Planned Parenthood Offices

News outlets also detail regional reactions -- such as a Houston protest -- to the ongoing controversy surrounding covert videos released about the organization's fetal tissue research initiatives.

The Associated Press: Gov. Scott Orders Inspections Of Planned Parenthoods
Florida Gov. Rick Scott ordered state health officials to inspect Planned Parenthood offices that perform abortions, saying he is troubled by videos describing the organization’s procedures for providing tissue from aborted fetuses for research. The Republican governor said Wednesday the state will take quick legal and regulatory action if any of the 16 facilities in Florida are found in violation of the law. (Kennedy, 7/29)

The Houston Sun-Times: Texas Pro-Life Advocates Rally Against Planned Parenthood In Houston
Pro-life advocates gathered at the “Women Betrayed Rally” in Houston to condemn Planned Parenthood after two controversial videos surfaced. The Houston protest was part of a nationwide movement demanding an end to federal funding of Planned Parenthood in light of two videos purporting that Planned Parenthood sells fetal body parts. The “Women Betrayed” rallies took place across 65 cities and an estimated 12,000 people participated nationwide. (Fowler, 7/29)

State Highlights: In Calif., Families Of Mentally Ill Defendants Sue State For Long Hospitalization Delays; Conn. Scrambles To Fend Off Strikes At Unionized Nursing Homes

Health care stories are reported from California, Connecticut, Kansas, New York, Illinois and North Carolina.

Los Angeles Times: Families Accuse State Of Failing To Hospitalize Mentally Ill Defendants
Several family members of accused criminals who were held in jail after being ruled incompetent to stand trial are suing the state of California over lengthy delays in placing the defendants in state hospital beds. Felony defendants who a judge deems incompetent because of mental illness or developmental disabilities are supposed to go to a state hospital for treatment and training until they can understand the charges against them and help an attorney prepare a defense. (Sewell, 7/29)

The Associated Press: Connecticut Hoping To Stave Off Possible Nursing Home Strike
Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's administration has been working in recent weeks to come up with a new state funding arrangement that could help fend off possible strikes at unionized nursing homes across the state. Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes said state officials have been meeting privately with union officials to find a way of fairly distributing $26 million in additional state and federal funds, in each of the next two years, to both union- and non-union homes. (Haigh, 7/29)

The Kansas Health Institute News Service: Kansas Won't Apply For Federal Mental Health Grant
Kansas officials have decided against participating in the Excellence in Mental Health Act, a federal initiative that could have generated millions of dollars for behavioral health programs throughout the state. Instead, according to Angela de Rocha, a spokesperson for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, KDADS and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment would prefer to “build upon the flexibility and innovative possibilities of KanCare” to work with community mental health centers and managed care organizations “to build capacity and improve outcomes in the behavioral health system.” (Ranney, 7/29)

USA Today: NYC Investigates Legionnaire's Outbreak
New York City's Department of Health is investigating an outbreak in the Bronx of deadly Legionairre's disease, city officials said Wednesday. Since July 10, there have been 31 cases reported and two people have died from the ailment, caused by a bacteria known as Legionella, according to the city's Department of Health. Legionella often is traced to plumbing systems. (Eversley, 7/29)

The Chicago Tribune: Convicted Hospital CEO Sentenced To 4-Plus Years In Prison
A federal judge sentenced former Sacred Heart Hospital owner Edward Novak to 4 1/2 years in prison Wednesday for a massive kickback scheme the judge said callously treated elderly and impoverished patients like "commodities to be bought." "People have a right to expect that decisions about their health care are going to be based on need and not on whether there is money to be made," U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly said in imposing the prison sentence, fining Novak $770,000 and ordering him to pay a whopping $10.4 million in forfeiture. (Meisner, 7/29)

The New York Times: A Psychologist As Warden? Jail And Mental Illness Intersect In Chicago
Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia, who runs the sprawling Cook County Jail here, has an indelible childhood memory of police officers pounding on the aluminum walls of the family’s double-wide trailer home in North Carolina, rifling through cupboards and drawers, and arresting her father on charges of selling marijuana. Dr. Jones Tapia, then 8, had to call her mother home from work. (Williams, 7/30)

North Carolina Health News: Cancer Deaths Continue Downward Trend In NC, US
New numbers compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show deaths from cancer are dropping around the South, along with the rest of the United States. For decades, cancer death rates climbed slowly until about 1990, when the trend started to turn around. Since that time, deaths from cancer have steadily decreased. Ruth Petersen, who leads cancer prevention efforts for the Department of Health and Human Services said the decrease is the result of a complicated group effort. (Hoban, 7/30)

Weekend Reading

Longer Looks: Insurance Mergers, Breakfast and Organ Donations

Each week, KHN's Shefali Luthra finds interesting reads from around the Web.

Vox: Will Massive Mergers Make Health Insurance As Bad As Cable?
The health insurance industry is consolidating — and fast. Anthem struck a deal Friday to acquire Cigna, creating the country's largest health insurance plan. And less than a month ago Aetna announced plans to acquire Humana. If the Department of Justice approves the mergers, the big five health insurers in the United States would shrink to just three. Taken together, these three companies will cover around 132 million Americans — about half the population under 65. (Sarah Kliff, 7/24)

The Atlantic: Breakfast With Zeke
It's not every morning a renowned bioethicist asks you if you’d prefer to sit indoors or out, or freshens your water glass. But that’s what happens when Zeke Emanuel decides to cook breakfast at a pop-up restaurant in Washington D.C. for four days over two weekends. (Corby Kummer, 7/26)

The New York Times: 10 Things I'd Tell My Former Medicated Self
Tell everyone close to you that you’re tapering off your meds. Tell them that if they think you seem down, they should speak up; you won’t get defensive. Yes, you’ve been defensive in the past. You used to think depression meant you were weak, or at least, you interpreted expressions of concern as accusations of weakness. But it’s time to change. (Diana Spechler, 7/27)

The Atlantic: One Head, Two Brains
In 1939, a group of 10 people between the ages of 10 and 43, all with epilepsy, traveled to the University of Rochester Medical Center, where they would become the first people to undergo a radical new surgery. The patients were there because they all struggled with violent and uncontrollable seizures. The procedure they were about to have was untested on humans, but they were desperate—none of the standard drug therapies for seizures had worked. (Emily Esfahani Smith, 7/27)

Vox: How Anti-Vaxxers Have Scared The Media Away From Covering Vaccine Side Effects
Vaccines are one of the single greatest contributors to public health of the past century. And in recent years, whenever anti-vaccine groups or cranks have tried to cast doubt on this fact, the country's best health journalists have sprung into to action, working to present the facts and essentially debunk anti-vaccine pseudoscience. Vaccines, after all, are overwhelmingly safe. And people should know that. But what happens when credible scientists discover real drawbacks to certain vaccines? How do we report on that responsibly — without giving ammunition to deniers? (Julia Belluz, 7/27)

Pacific Standard: Why We Should Think Twice About Giving Genetic Tests To Our Kids
Should you have your kids genetically tested? This is not a question that most parents consider—yet. However, as genetic testing becomes more common, due to the development of genetically guided, personalized health care and the growing popularity of inexpensive direct-to-consumer genetic testing services, we're nearing a point when nearly everyone will take a genetic test at some time in their lives. (Michael White, 7/23)

Aeon: Dead Enough
A massive stroke from a ruptured artery in his brain and fallen into a persistent, then permanent, coma. Now imagine that before the stroke our hypothetical patient had expressed a wish to donate his organs after his death. If neurologists could determine that the patient had no chance of recovery, then would that patient really be harmed if transplant surgeons removed life-support, such as ventilators and feeding tubes, and took his organs, instead of waiting for death by natural means? (Walter Glannon, 7/27)

St. Louis Public Radio: Caring About Health In Face Of Toxic Stress
There are a few things we know about health care that are true for everyone. For one thing, it's expensive. It's a nearly $3 trillion industry in the U.S. Also, it's not easy to do well. Mortality rates and hospital admission rates for preventable diseases are higher in the U.S. than other Western countries. So, given that treating people is already a challenging task, imagine the extra challenge that comes from treating people who are experience toxic stress — the stress that comes from constant exposure to poor housing conditions, lack of quality food or exposure to violence. (Neuman, 7/27)

Los Angeles Times: On The Record: Special Agent Glenn Ferry Fights Medicare Fraud
Glenn Ferry has busted pastors, organized crime figures and fake nurses in nearly three decades fighting Medicare fraud. He's special agent in charge of the Los Angeles regional office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' inspector general. His territory spans Southern California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii. (Chad Terhune, 7/23)

Editorials And Opinions

Viewpoints: More On Medicare's 50th Anniversary; Contemplating Health Spending's Trajectory; Planned Parenthood Responds

A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.

USA Today: Republicans Need To Get Over Stubborn Opposition To Helping Poor
Many called it socialized medicine. A rising Republican warned that we’d "spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.” Donald Trump talking about Obamacare in 2015? No, Ronald Reagan urging Congress to vote against the creation of Medicare. This week marks 50 years since the passage of Medicare. If addressing inequality is a real priority for Republicans officials — particularly those in the South — they should take a cue from history, embrace the health law, and expand Medicaid. (Sherrod Brown and Tim Kaine, 7/30)

The Wall Street Journal: Medicare At 50: Hello, Mid-Life Crisis
July 30 marks 50 years since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law. The only birthday gift this middle-age government program merits is a reality check. Health insurance for senior citizens was part of LBJ’s expansion of the welfare state, all in the service of establishing a “Great Society.” Yet many beneficiaries today are struggling to secure access to high-quality care. Future beneficiaries, meanwhile, are forking over billions of dollars today to keep a program afloat that may be bankrupt when they retire—unless fundamental reforms are enacted. (Sally C. Pipes, 7/29)

The New York Times' Opinionator: Building A Khan Academy For Health Care
Doctors don’t like to talk about death, and they often avoid doing so. Most physicians — including me — never studied palliative care in medical school and were rarely trained in how to communicate with patients. By the time I finished residency in 2002, I had to show competency in running Code Blues, inserting arterial lines and performing lumbar punctures, but not a single senior physician had to certify that I could actually talk with patients. (Angelo Volandes, 7/29)

The Associated Press: Some Vermont Consumers Oppose Health Insurance Rate Hikes
Loren Mandell Wood of Burlington came into the world 11 days ago at an "out-of-pocket maximum" cost of as much as $5,100. On Wednesday, he did not appear prepared to pull that money out of his pocket. And his mom, who testified at a state hearing on health insurance rates, said the family surely couldn't either. "Our monthly premiums are $465 per person. That includes Loren, who's not yet contributing financially to our household," Bekah Mandell told the Green Mountain Care Board amid laughter in the room. "That means we pay a total of $1,395 a month in premiums alone. That's before we get to the copays and before we get to the deductibles. That's significantly more than our mortgage, and frankly it's significantly more than we can afford." (Dave Gram, 7/29)

The New York Times: The Propaganda Campaign To Misrepresent Planned Parenthood
The Center for Medical Progress, a group apparently created to produce undercover videos targeting Planned Parenthood, released its third such video on Tuesday. The video makes the same allegation as the first two: that Planned Parenthood is engaged in the illegal sale of “baby body parts.” It does not prove this allegation any more than the first two videos did (the bulk of the new video focuses on a woman who once worked for the tissue supplier StemExpress). What it does show, yet again, is how committed Planned Parenthood’s opponents are to paint it as something other than what it is: a nonprofit that provides many health services, including but not remotely close to mainly abortions. (Anna North, 7/29)

The Washington Post: Planned Parenthood President: These Extremist Videos Are Nothing Short Of An Attack On Women
Planned Parenthood has been a trusted nonprofit provider of women’s health care for nearly a century. Each year, 2.7 million people come to our health centers for high-quality, nonjudgmental, compassionate care. Since our very beginning, our health centers, providers and patients have come under outrageous attacks, political and otherwise. These attacks are not about us. They are about the ability of women across the country to access health care. Period. (Cecile Richards, 7/29)

The Wall Street Journal: Planned Parenthood’s Harvest
Democrats have been picking fight after fight in the culture wars, believing they have the upper hand with socially liberal younger votes. But that assumption is now being tested in the wake of videos of Planned Parenthood doctors blithely discussing the harvesting of fetal body parts. (7/27)

The New York Times: The Case For Fetal-Cell Research
We first acquired the stem cells from the red receptacles of a local hospital’s labor and delivery ward, delivered to our lab at the University of Southern California. I would reach into the large medical waste containers and pull out the tree-like branches of the placenta, discarded after a baby had been born. Squeezing the umbilical cord that had so recently been attached to new life, the blood, laden with stem cells, would come dripping out. (Nathalia Holt, 7/30)

The Chicago Tribune: It's Morally Suspect For Wheaton College To Cut Student's Insurance
Cutting off health insurance to college students is more morally suspect than the contraceptives at the root of the decision. Wheaton College, which opposes Obamacare's contraception mandate, announced it will stop providing health insurance to students altogether when the current plan expires at the end of this week, rather than fund base coverage for birth control. (Heidi Stevens, 7/29)

The Washington Post's Volokh Conspiracy: Court Upholds Florida Law Restricting Doctor-Patient Speech About Guns
Yesterday, the 11th Circuit handed down a substantially revised opinion in Wollschlaeger v. Governor, the Florida “Docs vs. Glocks” case. (I’d been following the controversy for quite a while, but didn’t have a chance to blog about the earlier opinion, which was handed down a year ago.) The court upheld the law, which limits doctors’ speech to their patients about the patients’ gun ownership. But I think the court is mistaken, and the law should have been held to violate the First Amendment. I share many people’s skepticism about much of the “public health” anti-gun advocacy; but I think this is no basis for suppressing doctors’ speech this way. (Eugene Volokh, 7/29)

Bloomberg: The Inadequate Search For A Cure To Alzheimer's
The fight against Alzheimer's disease tallied a small victory last week, when two new drugs were found that possibly slow its relentless attack on brain cells. But the search for a cure isn't moving nearly quickly enough. Alzheimer's kills about 100,000 Americans every year and undermines the final years of life for some 5 million more. Forgetfulness and disorientation are the first symptoms, soon followed by trouble communicating, cooking and getting dressed. By the end, victims are often unable to recognize friends and family, eat or walk on their own, or understand anything happening around them. (7/29)