KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Kaiser Health News Original Stories

Political Cartoon: 'Grandparent-Proof'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Grandparent-Proof'" by Roy Delgado.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

COLLATERAL DAMAGE

Finger-pointing war.
Generics backlog battle.
Patients lives at risk.

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Campaign 2016

At Debate, Republican Health Care Claims Ring False

"The insurance companies are getting rich on Obamacare," Donald Trump said, while insurers say they are struggling under the Affordable Care Act. The Associated Press looks at this and other claims made by the candidates. Meanwhile, Ohio Gov. John Kasich may not tout his anti-abortion bona fides, but he has shuttered half of his state's clinics. And Hillary Clinton labels Marco Rubio's attacks on her abortion position as "pathetic."

The Associated Press: Fact Check: Skewed GOP Claims On Taxes, Health Insurance
Viewers of the latest Republican presidential debate didn't get a straight story from the candidates on U.S. taxes vs. the world, the state of the health insurance marketplace under "Obamacare" or what might happen if that law is taken away. ... "We will adopt commonsense reforms, No. 1, we'll allow people to purchase health insurance across state lines," [Ted Cruz said]. Allowing the interstate sale of health insurance policies is not a new idea, and not the straightforward solution that it may sound. This long-standing Republican proposal has previously run into opposition from regulators in many states. State insurance and consumer protection regulators say such an approach could trigger a "race to the bottom," allowing skimpy out-of-state policies to undercut benefits that individual states require. (2/6)

Reuters: Rubio Comes Under Heavy Fire At Republican Presidential Debate
Rising Republican contender Marco Rubio came under heavy attack in a presidential debate on Saturday from rivals who accused him of being too inexperienced for the White House and walking away from an immigration reform plan he championed. In a fiery debate three days ahead of Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump also battled with rival Jeb Bush over the use of eminent domain to seize private property and called for a compassionate approach to those who might lose their health insurance if Republicans repealed Obamacare. (2/6)

Politico: On Abortion, Kasich Is No Moderate
John Kasich is hoping for a candidacy-saving showing in New Hampshire on Tuesday by positioning himself as a pragmatic GOP budget-balancer, more moderate than his rivals. But on abortion, the Ohio governor is anything but moderate, signing a slew of restrictive laws that have closed nearly half his state’s clinics. During months of campaigning, Kasich has scarcely talked about that record, however, even though abortion is an issue that drives many Republican primary voters. “He’s the classic under-commit, over-perform guy,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List. “Certainly on this issue, it’s hard to find a governor or anyone who has a better record.” (Haberkorn, 2/5)

CBS News: Hillary Clinton: Rubio's Abortion Attacks "Pathetic"
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said Sunday that Marco Rubio's attacks on her beliefs about abortion are "pathetic." Rubio, the Florida senator and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, said during Saturday night's GOP debate that Democrats are the "extremists" on abortion and that Clinton supports the procedure "even on the due date of that unborn child." (Kaplan, 2/7)

In other 2016 election news, emails reveal Hillary Clinton closely followed the Affordable Care Act when it was moving through Congress and Bernie Sanders pushes back against claims that his plans are too radical —

The New York Times: Hillary Clinton Lobbied On Health Care As Secretary Of State, Emails Show
On Christmas Eve in 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was awake before dawn to personally monitor a critical moment in the nation’s history. But Mrs. Clinton, the country’s top diplomat, was not observing a covert operation in the Middle East or tracking pivotal negotiations with a foreign power. Her television was tuned to C-Span, and she was watching the Senate vote on President Obama’s landmark health care law. Emails released last week by the State Department that were found on Mrs. Clinton’s private server show that she was keenly interested in the administration’s push to win passage of the health care law. (Herszenhorn, 2/5)

The Washington Post: At N.H. Rally, Sanders Says His Ideas Aren’t As ‘Radical’ As Clinton Camp Suggests
Appearing at a boisterous rally here, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Saturday repeatedly pushed back against claims that his agenda is too ambitious and that he lacks the chops to be commander in chief. ...Turning to his plan to move to a single-payer, “Medicare for all” health-care system, Sanders was equally dismissive of concerns that Clinton has raised about a new congressional battle that would be necessary to replace the Affordable Care Act championed by President Obama. “For the benefit of my critics, let me say it as loudly and clearly as I can: Health care is a right, not a privilege,” Sanders said, noting that 29 million Americans remain without health insurance. (Wagner, 2/7)

The Associated Press: Sanders Campaign Plans Clash With Political Realities
Bernie Sanders promises voters a "political revolution" that will fundamentally remake the American economy and its education and health care systems. Often left unsaid by Sanders, but increasingly at the center of Hillary Clinton's arguments against her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, is that the political reality of achieving such goals is likely to be a whole lot more complicated. ... Clinton's advisers often point out how difficult it was for President Barack Obama to convince a Democratic-led Congress to support the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Sanders' plan — called "Medicare for All" — would go significantly further by establishing a national health care system run entirely by the government. (2/7)

And The New York Times looks at Sanders' response to reports of trouble at the VA —

The New York Times: Faith In Agency Clouded Bernie Sanders’s V.A. Response
There were reports of secret waiting lists to hide long delays in care. Whistle-blowers said as many as 40 veterans had died waiting for appointments. And Congress was demanding answers. Despite mounting evidence of trouble at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Senator Bernie Sanders, then the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, initially regarded the complaints as overblown, and as a play by conservatives to weaken one of the country’s largest social welfare institutions. (Eder and Philipps, 2/6)

Health Law Issues And Implementation

Burwell Touts Enrollment Gains, Expects More Progress On Medicaid Expansion

In a meeting with reporters, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services says her agency's efforts to get 4 million new customers into the health law's insurance exchanges were a success.

USA Today: Medicaid Across U.S. A Matter Of When, Not If, Says Federal Health Chief
The 4 million new people who signed up for insurance on the federal HealthCare.gov exchange for 2016 are one of several signs the open enrollment period that ended Sunday was a success, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said Friday. As further evidence of the administration's successes, Burwell also pointed to her continued discussions with states considering expanding Medicaid to all of those earning too little to get subsidized ACA plans. (O'Donnell, 2/6)

Kaiser Health News: Burwell Says ‘Beat Goes On’ As HHS Seeks To Expand Health Law’s Influence
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell on Friday hailed the health law’s 2016 enrollment gains and said the department was already beginning to gear up for the next enrollment period. In addition to the health law, Burwell’s agency is juggling many other priorities these days, including coordinating her agency’s response to the emerging threat of the Zika virus, President Barack Obama’s “Moonshot on Cancer” initiative and the growing epidemic of opioid abuse. “The beat goes on,” she said during a briefing with reporters at HHS headquarters. (Carey, 2/5)

The Hill: HHS Head: Immigration Reform Would Help Reach Universal Health Coverage
Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell says immigration reform would help achieve universal health coverage. Asked about the further steps needed to achieve universal coverage, with roughly 30 million people remaining uninsured, Burwell told a roundtable of reporters Friday that immigration reform is one step, along with continued growth in ObamaCare’s marketplaces and Medicaid expansion. (Sullivan, 2/5)

New Study Finds Delay In Considering Medicaid Expansion Could Be Costly For Idaho

An actuarial study examines how the financial case for expanding the health law's program for low-income residents has changed as federal financial support declines slightly. Also, Medicaid expansion news from Alabama and Utah.

Twin Falls (Idaho) Times-News: Idaho’s Wait Erodes Projected Savings From Expanding Medicaid
Beyond the arguments for enacting fair, compassionate public policy, the financial case for expanding Medicaid in Idaho has been lower costs. In late 2014, an actuarial firm hired by the state put the 10-year savings of expansion to state and local governments at $173.4 million. But in the firm’s latest projections, issued last month, those projected savings have evaporated, and what were savings are now costs: $186.9 million. The dramatic $360 million swing comes largely due to the state thus far forgoing expansion and missing out on the early years of the program, which promised the largest savings. (Dentzer, 2/7)

Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser: Medicaid Expansion Missing From Bentley's Proposals
Gov. Robert Bentley brought many proposals to improve health care access at the State of the State Tuesday. But one program seemed conspicuous by its absence. Despite a recent recommendation from one of his task forces to put it in place, Bentley did not mention Medicaid expansion in the hourlong speech. The governor in an interview Monday appeared to rule out expansion in the short-term without shutting the door on it. Bentley said for now, he wanted to complete the implementation of Regional Care Organizations (RCOs). The RCOs aim to shift Medicaid delivery from a fee-for-service model to one that allocates money based on health care outcomes. The hope is that the move will encourage more preventive care and less hospital use, slowing the growth of costs in the program. (Lyman, 2/6)

Salt Lake Tribune: Physician-Lawmaker Introduces ‘Healthy Utah’ Style Medicaid-Expansion Bill
A doctor in the House is recommending that legislators adopt a form of Medicaid expansion that closely mirrors the "Healthy Utah" plan previously proposed by Gov. Gary Herbert and passed by the Senate — but blocked in the House. Rep. Raymond Ward, R-Bountiful, a family physician, introduced HB302 on Friday as his prescription of how to expand Medicaid. ... He said he would pay for it through "an assessment on the hospitals for $25 million, and a tax on e-cigarettes at the same rates as other cigarettes." He said that tax makes sense because "it's all nicotine, and it's all addicting." Ward said he borrows some ideas from plans that other House members pushed, but which also failed. (Davidson, 2/5)

Administration News

FDA Targets Stem Cell Clinics Offering Pricey, But Unproven, Treatments

The clinics have largely avoided regulation because they use stem cells from their patients' own bodies. Critics call the therapies dangerous quackery. In other Food and Drug Administration news, the Los Angeles Times looks at why it took so long for the FDA to warn the public about the dirty scopes that caused dozens of patients to get sick.

Los Angeles Times: Why It Took Years For The FDA To Warn About Infections Tied To Medical Scopes
An outbreak at a Pennsylvania hospital in late 2012 should have been an early warning that a reusable medical scope was spreading deadly infections and nearly impossible to disinfect. But staff at the federal Food and Drug Administration lost the report, one of multiple missteps that allowed doctors and hospitals to continue using the scope for three more years even as dozens of patients were sickened. The missing paperwork, revealed in a recent Senate inquiry, underscores the serious shortcomings in the antiquated national database used to monitor the safety of medical devices, which even the FDA has long admitted is flawed. (Peterson, 2/8)

Marketplace

How The 'Instant Gratification Generation' Could Help Revolutionize Health Care

As millennials become a larger percentage of the health care consumer base, everything could change from how doctors see patients to how much costs play into medical decisions.

USA Today/Reno (Nev.) Gazette-Journal: Here's How Millennials Could Change Health Care
With a presidential election fast approaching, healthcare is an issue that’s getting plenty of traction on both sides of the political aisle. ... Amid all the debate, however, one group could prove to be the wild card. As more millennials interact with the healthcare system, the industry will find itself facing a more sophisticated and demanding group that won’t stand for its inefficiencies with the same begrudging acceptance of previous generations, said Kathy Hempstead, director of insurance coverage for the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation. (Hidalgo, 2/7)

High Deductibles May Be Dissuading Consumers From Seeking Care

Although the theory behind deductibles is that if patients have more skin in the game they'll spend less by shopping around, researchers are finding that they are just cutting back on getting care at all. In other news, narrower networks are causing families to lose access to therapists and providers for autism treatment.

Kaiser Health News: Narrow Marketplace Plans In Texas Pose Problems For Autistic Children
When Jennifer Nechetsky Maupin’s son was diagnosed with autism in May 2014, she and her husband quickly started looking into early intervention therapies for him. Their employers’ insurance plans offered limited coverage, so for 2015 the Houston family purchased an individual plan for their son on the marketplace set up by the federal health law. Because Texas mandates that individual plans must cover applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy, other parents of autistic children have made a similar choice. But many of those families are facing difficulties finding adequate coverage in 2016. (Harrington, 2/8)

Lupin's Diabetes Drug Sales Leads Company To Meet Profit Estimates

Also in the news, the health and safety device maker Halma buys a company known for making sensors in an effort to expand its U.S. footprint.

Reuters: Lupin Expects Diabetes Drug Sales To Lift Q4 Profit
Lupin Ltd, India's third-largest drugmaker, reported a quarterly profit that met estimates as strong sales in its local market help offset weakness in the United States, and the company said it expects fourth-quarter earnings to improve. (Siddiqui, 2/5)

Reuters: Halma Buys Healthcare Sensors Maker CenTrak For About $140M
Halma Plc, a health and safety device maker, said it had bought CenTrak Inc, a privately owned maker of sensors, for about $140 million (95.9 million pounds), expanding its footprint in the U.S. healthcare market. Newtown, Pennsylvania-based CenTrak's technology allows for real-time monitoring of patient, staff, medical equipment, and hygiene compliance and temperature conditions. (2/5)

Pharmaceuticals

In Midst Of Furor Over High Drug Prices, Pharma Industry Aims To Flip Script With New Ads

Many of the ads, aimed at lawmakers and other influencers, feature patients who have been helped by new medicines, and company scientists working on drug development.

The Wall Street Journal: Drug Industry Launches Ad Campaign Aimed At Lawmakers
The pharmaceutical industry, under fire this election season for rising drug prices, is ramping up a new advertising campaign designed to improve its reputation with lawmakers as it lobbies against any effort to rein in prescription costs. The sector’s largest trade group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, says it intends to spend several million dollars this year, and 10% more than in 2015, on digital, radio and print ads that emphasize the industry’s role in developing new drugs and advancing medical science. (Walker, 2/7)

Women’s Health

Amicus Brief Urges High Court To Learn From History Of Laws Written To Protect Women

Professors from around the U.S. filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the upcoming arguments over a Texas abortion law, saying that any regulation written by men that claims to protect women deserves extra scrutiny. On the other side of the case, briefs will flood the Supreme Court this week from women who have regretted their abortions.

The Washington Post: Laws Written By Men To Protect Women Deserve Scrutiny, Supreme Court Told
History holds a lesson for the Supreme Court, the brief warns: Be skeptical of laws protecting women that are written by men. The nation’s past is littered with such statutes, say the historians who filed the friend-of-the-court brief, and the motives were suspect. The brief is filed by professors from across the country in the court’s upcoming abortion case, Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt. It urges the justices to examine the intent of Texas legislators who say they approved new restrictions on abortion providers as health safeguards for the women undergoing the procedure. (Barnes, 2/7)

USA Today: Abortion Opponents Urge Supreme Court To Uphold Texas Law
Opponents of abortion took their turn this week telling the Supreme Court how to rule on the biggest abortion case the justices have considered in a generation. Just as professional women, including more than 100 lawyers, flooded the court last month with personal stories of their abortions and subsequent achievements in life, women who regret their abortions and relatives of some who died following procedures urged the justices to see things their way. (Wolf, 2/5)

Public Health And Education

Experts Alarmed By Severity Of Malformations In Babies Affected By Zika Virus

As concerns about birth defects linked to Zika increase, medical analysis is intensifying. In other Zika news, U.S. health experts warn about jumping to conclusions on how the virus is transmitted, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would be willing to consider a quarantine on people coming home from Brazil after the Olympics.

Reuters: Doctors Puzzle Over Severity Of Defects In Some Brazilian Babies
Experts on microcephaly, the birth defect that has sparked alarm in the current Zika virus outbreak, say they are struck by the severity of a small number of cases they have reviewed from Brazil. Consultations among doctors in Brazil and the United States have increased in the last two weeks, and some of the leading authorities on the condition are finding patterns of unusual devastation in scans of the newborns' malformed brains. (Berkrot and Boadle, 2/8)

NPR: Zika May Not Spread In Saliva Or Urine, Health Officials Say
U.S. health experts cautioned Friday that the apparent discovery of the Zika virus in saliva and urine from people in Brazil does not necessarily mean the virus can be spread by more casual contact with infected people, such as through kissing. "I think we need to be careful that don't we jump to any conclusions about transmissibility," Anthony Fauci, who leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said. (Stein, 2/5)

The Washington Post: CDC’S Advice On Zika: You May Need To Consider Avoiding Sex
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued detailed recommendations Friday for preventing the sexual transmission of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, including the suggestion that men who have traveled to Zika-affected areas consider abstaining from sex with their pregnant partner for the duration of the pregnancy. ... Mosquitoes remain the primary way Zika is spread, and preventing bites is the best way to avoid infection. But the CDC said it was issuing the interim recommendations to stop sexual transmission, however rare, because of concerns over Zika's potential link to birth defects. (Sun, 2/5)

State Watch

New York Bans Insurers From Covering 'Gay Conversion' Therapy For Minors

Gov. Andrew Cuomo also announced that the state's Medicaid will not cover the treatment for residents of any age, calling the practice "fundamentally flawed."

The New York Times: Cuomo Moves Against Therapy That Claims To Make Gay Children Straight
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York on Saturday announced a series of measures intended to eliminate so-called conversion therapy, a practice that claims the ability to reverse same-sex attraction in some people but that has been widely discredited by scientists. Mr. Cuomo’s plan relies on economic incentives. Insurers in New York, for instance, will now be prohibited from covering the cost of such therapy for anyone under 18. That action would be combined with a new regulation from the State Health Department that would prohibit the use of Medicaid to pay for conversion therapy. (McKinley, 2/6)

The Wall Street Journal: New York Restricts Funding for ‘Gay Conversion’ Therapy
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is restricting funding for so-called conversion therapy, which seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation through psychological treatment. Under new regulations, announced by Mr. Cuomo over the weekend, the state will bar insurers from covering conversion therapy for minors and will ban Medicaid coverage of the therapy for residents of all ages. Mental-health centers licensed, funded or operated by the state’s Office of Mental Health will be prohibited from providing conversion therapy to residents under 18. Those that fund the treatment will put their license and/or funding at risk. (Ramey, 2/7)

Reuters: New York Bans Insurance Coverage Of LGBT 'Conversion Therapy'
New York state will bar health insurance coverage of therapy aimed at changing the sexual or gender orientation of young people, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Saturday, decrying the practice as "misguided" and "intolerant." Top U.S. health officials have long discredited so-called "conversion therapy," saying attempts to change lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth are unethical and often harmful. (Kearney, 2/6)

State Highlights: Maryland's Debate Over Drug War; Ohio Pediatricians Face Tough Choice; GW's 'Tomb Of Unknown Cadavers'

New outlets report on health care developments in Maryland, Ohio, D.C., Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

The Washington Post: Maryland Lawmaker Calls For State To Exit Drug War, Focus On Treatment
Maryland Del. Dan K. Morhaim (D-Baltimore County) on Friday proposed four bills that would radically change the state’s approach to dealing with drug problems, in part by removing criminal penalties for low-level possession and adding emphasis on addiction treatment. One measure would create “safe spaces” for drug use, with facilities that provide sterile injection equipment, medical care and connections to social services. (Hicks, 2/5)

The Washington Post: At George Washington U. Medical School, A Tomb Of Unknown Cadavers
George Washington University has stopped accepting donated bodies at its medical school because it lost track of the identities of as many as 50 cadavers, making it impossible to return remains to families as promised. The university had operated a “willed body donor program” for people who opted to donate their bodies to the medical school. The school uses between 30 and 40 cadavers for classroom instruction each year, and the university maintains a list of hundreds who have arranged to donate their bodies. (Zauzmer and Layton, 2/6)

Reuters: Fourth Patient Linked To Mold Outbreak At Pittsburgh Hospital Dies
A Pennsylvania man, who sued the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center over a deadly, mold-linked infection he and other organ transplant patients contracted at the facility, has died. UPMC on Sunday confirmed the death of Che DuVall, 70, and extended its sympathies to his family. DuVall, who had a lung transplant, is the fourth transplant patient at the hospital system who contracted infection and died. (2/7)

The Connecticut Mirror: Trying For A Breath Of Fresh Air In Treating Asthma
Asthma strikes Connecticut residents at higher rates than residents of the nation overall, affecting 11.3 percent of children and 9.2 percent of adults in the state. It led to nearly 1,000 hospitalizations among children and more than 3,100 among adults last fiscal year. And, although experts don’t know why, it’s becoming more common. Can Connecticut make headway in changing the course of the disease, making it something that patients can routinely control in the community rather than something that often brings people to the hospital in crisis? (Levin Becker, 2/8)

Editorials And Opinions

Viewpoints: Is Sanders' Single-Payer Plan The Cure All?; The Problem With Deductibles

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

The Washington Post: The False Charms Of Bernie Sanders’s Single-Payer Plan
Could Bernie Sanders’s “Medicare for all” proposal — national health insurance — be as good as he says? It’s doubtful. ... To hear Sanders tell it, his single-payer plan (the government pays for most health care) would cure these ailments. Everyone would have coverage. People would go to doctors, hospitals and clinics as needed. There would be no deductibles or copayments to discourage them. Workers would not be locked into jobs they dislike because they fear losing employer-provided insurance. ... It sounds too good to be true, because it is. (Robert J. Samuelson, 2/7)

The New York Times' Upshot: The Big Problem With High Health Care Deductibles
When Bernie Sanders released his long-awaited health care plan last month, it was light on the details. But it did include one major, crowd-pleasing promise: Under his Medicare-for-all proposal, no American would ever have to pay a deductible or co-payment to receive health care again. Deductibles and other forms of cost-sharing have been creeping up in the United States since the late 1990s. A typical employer health plan now asks an individual to pay more than $1,000 out of pocket before coverage kicks in for most services. The most popular plans on the Affordable Care Act exchanges require customers to pay several times as much. Even Medicare charges deductibles. (Margot Sanger-Katz, 2/5)

Des Moines Register: A 2016 Prescription For Health Care Reform
In the campaign season thus far personalities have overshadowed policy positions in both media coverage and personal discussions of the candidates. New data on the costs of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, suggest this is one policy debate that deserves more detailed answers from the men and women who would be president. (Genevieve Wood, 2/7)

The New York Times: Give Up Your Data to Cure Disease
How far would you go to protect your health records? Your privacy matters, of course, but consider this: Mass data can inform medicine like nothing else and save countless lives, including, perhaps, your own. Over the past several years, using some $30 billion in federal stimulus money, doctors and hospitals have been installing electronic health record systems. More than 80 percent of office-based doctors, including me, use some form of E.H.R. These systems are supposed to make things better by giving people easier access to their medical information and avoiding the duplication of tests and potentially fatal errors. Yet neither doctors nor patients are happy. (David B. Agus, 2/6)

Los Angeles Times: Patients Need To Know About Doctor Malpractice
When the California Medical Board puts doctors on probation for drug use, negligence, sexual harassment or other violations, it requires them to inform the hospitals where they practice and their malpractice insurers. Yet they are not required to inform the people most likely to be harmed if their misdeeds or mistakes continue — patients. (2/6)

Des Moines Register: Wellcare's Acts Don't Deserve Constituitional Protection
You have to hand it to the folks at Wellcare: They’ve got brass. The company was recently stripped of its role as one of four managed care companies poised to take over the administration of Iowa’s $4.2 billion Medicaid program. The state ultimately terminated Wellcare's contract to handle the work partly because of improper communications company representatives had with Gov. Terry Branstad’s staff in the midst of a “blackout period.” During that time, bids from Wellcare and its competitors were being reviewed and communications with state agencies were restricted. (2/7)

Concord Monitor: Fixes Needed On Medicaid Expansion Bill
After decades of delay and failed efforts, the United States is now making real progress reducing the rolls of the uninsured and moving toward the goal of universal health care. Credit goes to the Affordable Care Act, and especially to states like New Hampshire, which saw the wisdom of accepting federal funds to expand Medicaid and insure far more of the poor. On the federal level, every Republican presidential candidate is pledged to repeal the act known as Obamacare. Most offer nebulous replacement measures that typically include health savings accounts and increased competition by insurers. Ignore them as they wander around in their free-market fantasy land. None of their Reaganomics-era proposals did or would lower health care costs and increase access. (2/7)

Louisville Courier-Journal: State’s Health Gains Are Real, Worth Defending
Last week, the Foundation for Healthy Kentucky released a quarterly update of its ongoing evaluation of the impact of Affordable Care Act in Kentucky. The data are compelling evidence that healthcare reform is working, and that we are beginning to overcome the barriers to good health that have held us back for generations. (Emily Whelan Parento, 2/5)

The New York Times: End The Tampon Tax
Though necessities like food and medical supplies are exempt from sales taxes in most states, all but a few tax sanitary pads and tampons. Now efforts are building to repeal this so-called “tampon tax” and help ensure that those who need these products can afford them. The issue gained national attention after two members of the California State Assembly, Cristina Garcia and Ling Ling Chang, introduced a bill in January to make tampons and pads exempt from sales taxes in their state. Prescription drugs, most groceries and medical equipment like walkers are already exempt. (2/8)

The New York Times: The Zika Virus And Brazilian Women’s Right To Choose
Brazil is in a state of crisis. Since October, there have been more than 4,000 suspected cases of babies born with a neurological syndrome associated with the Zika virus. The Health Ministry has suggested that women avoid pregnancy until the epidemic has passed or more is known about it. I am a Brazilian woman. My friends who are planning to have children soon are worried about Zika. But they don’t need to be too concerned. In our well-to-do neighborhood in Brasília, the capital, there has not been a single case of a baby with the birth defects associated with the Zika epidemic. As far as I know, not one woman here has even been infected by the virus. (Debora Diniz, 2/8)

Bloomberg: The Economic Cost Of Zika Virus
People are scrambling as the scary, mosquito-borne virus Zika winds its way through 26 (and counting) countries and territories in the Americas. The commotion is understandable: The virus may be linked to an alarming spike in microcephaly, a birth defect, in Brazil, and a neurological disorder elsewhere, and there's nothing like the prospect of a generation maimed to trigger panic. (Mac Margolis, 2/5)