KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Kaiser Health News Original Stories

Political Cartoon: 'Made To Order?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Made To Order?'" by Edgar Argo.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


It's been fifty years...
Happy birthday Medicaid.
So many covered.

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Capitol Hill Watch

Senate To Vote Today On Planned Parenthood Federal Funding

News outlets report on today's scheduled vote, which comes in the wake of a series of secret videos taken by anti-abortion activists that raise controversial and unsettling issues about Planned Parenthood's program to collect fetal tissue for biomedical research.

Reuters: Planned Parenthood Fight Hits Congress, Wider Impact Unclear
Women's health group Planned Parenthood, under attack by anti-abortionists posting hidden-camera videos online, will be the focus of a partisan showdown on Monday in the U.S. Senate, with any wider influence on voters from the charge still unclear. Congressional Republicans are trying to cut off Planned Parenthood's federal funding. The effort followed the release of videos by the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, that have reinvigorated America's abortion debate as the 2016 presidential campaign shifts into high gear. (8/3)

The Associated Press: Congress To Vote On Planned Parenthood Federal Aid
Republicans will likely lose Monday's Senate showdown over halting federal aid to Planned Parenthood. Yet the political offensive by abortion foes has just started, prompted by a batch of unsettling videos that has focused attention on the group's little-noticed practice of providing fetal tissue to researchers. Conservatives have long targeted Planned Parenthood, which provides health services, family planning and abortions in clinics across the country. The furtively recorded videos, with hair-raising close-ups of aborted fetal organs and Planned Parenthood officials dispassionately describing how "I'm not going to crush that part," have forced the group and its Democratic champions into a defensive crouch. (Fram, 8/3)

Fox News: Senate To Vote Monday To Defund Planned Parenthood, First Step In Renewed Battle
However, the effort appears to be another step in the effort by pro-life groups and others to restrict abortions and undermine Planned Parenthood, which provides health services, family planning and abortions in clinics across the country. ... Paul and other Republicans want the millions that go to Planned Parenthood given instead to community health centers across the country that provide similar services with the exception of abortions. (8/3)

Politico: Defund Planned Parenthood? Not So Easy
Republicans may find that defunding Planned Parenthood is harder than it looks. Even if they manage to overcome the political obstacles — big ones like a Democratic filibuster, a presidential veto, or a battle royale over shutting down the government —they may still collide with Medicaid law. The fight could leap from Congress to the courts. (Pradhan, 8/3)

The latest face-off in the Senate is part of a long-standing battle in Congress over federal funding for Planned Parenthood. In addition, fetal tissue research has also been a flash point  -

Kaiser Health News: Fetal Tissue Attack Is Latest Tactic In Long GOP Fight Against Planned Parenthood
Republican calls to defund Planned Parenthood over its alleged handling of fetal tissue for research are louder than ever. But they are just the latest in a decades-long drive to halt federal support for the group. This round of attacks aims squarely at the collection of fetal tissue, an issue that had been mostly settled — with broad bipartisan support — in the early 1990s. Among those who voted to allow federal funding for fetal tissue research was now-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky." (Rovner, 8/3)

Reuters: Fetal Tissue Research Declining, Still Important
A political battle over the use of fetal tissue in medical research has been reinvigorated by the release of undercover videos targeting Planned Parenthood officials. But the controversy comes just as interest in the use of fetal tissue is dwindling, scientists said. Newer, less-controversial technologies, including the “reprogramming” of adult skin cells to create specific types of stem cells, have rendered fetal tissue less central — though still important — to medical research, they said. Dr. Robert Lanza, chief scientific officer of Advanced Cell Technology, said that much of the tissue needed for research "can now be generated in the laboratory." (Steenhuysen, 8/1)

In related news, a judge issued a temporary restraining order to block the release of secret videos recorded at meetings of abortion providers by the same anti-abortion activists responsible for other covert Planned Parenthood videos -

The Associated Press: Judge Blocks Release Of Recording By Anti-Abortion Group
A federal judge has blocked the release of any recordings made at meetings of abortion providers by an anti-abortion group that previously revealed secretly recorded videos of a Planned Parenthood leader. Judge William Orrick in San Francisco issued a temporary restraining order Friday against the Center for Medical Progress hours after the order was requested by the National Abortion Federation. (Thanawala, 7/31)

The Hill: Abortion Providers Sue To Stop Release Of More Undercover Videos
The National Abortion Federation is asking a California court to block the release of secretly recorded footage that anti-abortion activists could use in their campaign against Planned Parenthood. The organization — which represents abortion providers nationwide, including those at Planned Parenthood clinics — filed suit Friday for a temporary restraining order against the Center for Medical Progress, which it said deceptively attended meetings where highly sensitive topics were discussed. (Ferris, 7/31)

Intraparty Divisions On Health Law Repeal Tactics Impact Republicans' Budget Roadmap

In other Capitol Hill news, a provision of the House's VA legislation offers stronger protections for whistleblowers. And MinnPost profiles the family of the young woman whose death helped inspire a bill to combat eating disorders.

The Hill: Signs Of Division In The GOP On Obamacare Repeal
Senate Republican leaders this week narrowly averted an intra-party battle over ObamaCare by again promising to get a repeal bill to the president’s desk through budget reconciliation. But the use of reconciliation — a budget tool that allows bills to bypass the Senate’s 60-vote threshold — is still a matter of debate among Republicans in Congress. (Ferris, 8/3)

The Washington Post: In Controversial VA Bill, A Little-Noticed Boon For Whistleblowers
The House’s passage of a measure last week that would give the government more power to fire poor performers at the Department of Veterans Affairs was poisonous for federal employee unions and Democrats. But the bill contains a little-noticed change that lawmakers in both parties have clamored for, particularly after last year’s coverup of long wait times for veterans needing medical care. The measure would give whistleblowers some of the strongest protections in history — and make sure that supervisors who punish them for reporting wrongdoing are themselves punished. (Rein, 8/3)

MinnPost: Kitty Westin, Sen. Klobuchar Hope Eating Disorders Bill Named For Anna Westin Will Help Others
Kitty Westin’s activism is fueled by grief, so for 15 years, since the death of her oldest daughter, Anna, she’s worked tirelessly as an advocate for people struggling with eating disorders. “Anna died from an eating disorder,” Westin said. “One of the issues we faced near the end of her life was getting our insurance company to authorize the treatment she needed. Eating disorders are a serious mental illness, but they are treatable if people struggling with them have access to high-quality care. Our insurance company denied Anna that coverage, and lack of education about her disease only added to her suffering.” On Tuesday, when the Anna Westin Act, a bill designed to help combat eating disorders through education and enhanced insurance coverage, was introduced in the U.S. Senate, Westin felt a mix of emotions. (Steiner, 7/31)

Health Law Issues And Implementation

Wisconsin Rejects $360M In Federal Health Law Money

Gov. Scott Walker, who is running for president, and other Republican lawmakers argue that the state needs to be able to pay for its own health care costs, but those who support accepting the funds say politics are at the heart of the decision.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: With Millions Of Dollars At Stake, Wisconsin Leaders Hold Fast In Opposition To Obamacare
With its new two-year budget in place, Wisconsin now has passed up more than $550 million in federal money available under the Affordable Care Act. The state previously rejected roughly $200 million in federal money available starting in January 2014, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. The new budget turned away another $360 million — far more than the $250 million in cuts the same budget made to the University of Wisconsin System. (Boulton, 8/1)

In other health law implementation news, Arizona's governor has asked federal officials to approve changes to the state's Medicaid plan that would require co-pays, or other financial contributions, of some adult beneficiaries; and New York announces that 2.1 million are enrolled on its exchange while Colorado says that only 6.4 percent of residents are uninsured -

The Associated Press: Ducey To Ask Feds To OK Co-Pays, Other Medicaid Changes
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey plans to ask the federal government to approve major changes to the state's Medicaid insurance plan that are designed to encourage recipients to work, better utilize services and possibly cut state costs. The plan would apply only to able-bodied adults, about a quarter of the state's 1.7 million Medicaid recipients, and won't affect children, the elderly or disabled. (Christie, 8/2)

The Associated Press: NY Health Exchange Says 2.1M Enrolled for Coverage
New York's health exchange reports connecting 2.1 million residents to health coverage following its second open enrollment period, including 89 percent who said they were uninsured when they applied. Exchange Executive Director Donna Frescatore says the second year's enrollment built on the first year's base. Totals include 415,352 enrollees through commercial plans, 159,716 in the state's Child Health Plus program and 1,568,345 in government-funded Medicaid. (8/2)

The Denver Post: Colorado A Top State For Uninsured Gaining Health Coverage
When it comes to covering the uninsured since implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Colorado has the sixth-best record among U.S. states, according to an analysis from 24/7 Wall Street. The investment news and commentary site estimates that 14.7 percent of Colorado residents lacked health insurance in 2012, before the act took effect. As of March, it estimates only 6.4 percent of state residents still lacked coverage. (Svaldi, 7/31)


Wariness Surrounds Wave Of Insurer Mergers

Consumer advocates, past regulators and health policy observers are raising concerns about how the marketplace changes may impact consumers.

The New York Times: Bigger May Be Better For Health Insurers, But Doubts Remain For Consumers
Deals among the nation’s largest health insurers in recent weeks have been almost head-spinning. But whatever the details, if the combinations are finalized, the result will be an industry dominated by three colossal insurers. Consumer advocates, policy experts and former regulators say that what may be good for the insurers may not be good for consumers, especially in the wake of a similar frenzy of deal-making among hospitals and doctors’ groups. (Abelson, 8/2)

Campaign 2016

Emails Highlight Hillary Clinton's Role In Obamacare Passage

Fox News reports on a new batch of Clinton's emails that reference efforts the current Democratic presidential hopeful made to reach out to members of Congress in support of the health law. Meanwhile, news outlets also report on this week's GOP primary debate.

The Associated Press: GOP Hopefuls Prep For First 2016 Debate - And Donald Trump
Anticipating Trump's debate strategy has become a constant conversation for campaign aides who worry the other candidates' messages will be lost in a flood of rhetoric and provocative attacks. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry signaled he'll focus on questioning Trump's Republican credentials, if he makes it onto the debate stage. Trump previously backed a single-payer health care system and abortion rights, in addition to praising President Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton in public remarks. (Lerer, 8/2)

Fox News: GOP’s Kasich, Perry Battle For Final Spot In First GOP Presidential Debate
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican presidential candidate, on Sunday defended his support of Medicaid under ObamaCare, arguing the decision was “morally” right. The issue and Kasich’s explanation was a likely prelude to Thursday's first 2016 Republican presidential primary debate, hosted by Fox News and Facebook, should he qualify for one of the final spots. (8/2)


Obama Marks Medicare, Medicaid Anniversary With Vigorous Defense Of Programs

In his weekly Saturday address, the president derided critics who want to cut the programs. Meanwhile, some Medicare beneficiaries face a stiff increase in premiums.

CBS News: Obama: Medicare Crisis Is Only "Political Excuse"
As Medicare and Medicaid celebrate their 50th anniversary this week, President Obama is knocking critics who say the programs need drastic cuts to survive, accusing them of making a "political excuse." "Today, we're often told that Medicare and Medicaid are in crisis," Mr. Obama said Saturday in a video. "But that's usually a political excuse to cut their funding, privatize them, or phase them out entirely -- all of which would undermine their core guarantee." (Flores, 8/1)

The Wall Street Journal: An Unexpected Spike For Medicare Premiums?
Unless the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services intervenes, some Medicare beneficiaries will face a steep increase in their 2016 premiums, even as the vast majority of Medicare recipients pay no increase at all. Medicare’s trustees projected in a recent report that for about 30% of the program’s beneficiaries, 2016 premiums would rise by 52% for Part B, which covers doctor visits and other types of outpatient care. The projected increases result from a little-noticed intersection between the rules governing Medicare and Social Security. (Tergesen, 7/31)

Public Health And Education

When Insurers Deny Long-Term Mental Care Treatment, The Results Can Be Dangerous

CBS 60 Minutes investigates the battles that parents fight for psychiatric care for their kids. And KHN looks into the practice and enforcement of a landmark federal "parity" law that requires insurance providers to cover mental illness as they would any other disease.

CBS 60 Minutes: Denied
Two years and a half years ago, we were reeling from the shock of the murders of 20 first graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Since then, we've learned that the killer suffered profound mental illness. His parents sought treatment but, at least once, their health insurance provider denied payment. Because of recurring tragedies and an epidemic of suicides, we've been investigating the battles that parents fight for psychiatric care. As we first reported in December, we found that the vast majority of claims are routine but the insurance industry aggressively reviews the cost of chronic cases. Long-term care is often denied by insurance company doctors who never see the patient. As a result, some seriously ill patients are discharged from hospitals over the objections of psychiatrists who warn that someone may die. (Pelley, Rey and Zill-de Granados, 8/2)

Kaiser Health News: Advocates Say Mental Health ‘Parity’ Law Is Not Fulfilling Its Promise
When Michael Kamins opened the letter from his insurer, he was enraged. His 20-year old son recently had been hospitalized twice with bipolar disorder and rescued from the brink of suicide, he said. Now, the insurer said he had improved and it was no longer medically necessary for the young man to see his psychiatrist two times a week. The company would pay for two visits per month. "There was steam coming out of my ears," Kamins recalled, his face reddening at the memory of that day in June 2012. "This is my kid’s life!" (Gold, 8/3)

Contaminated Scopes Pose Risk Of Bacterial Infection Despite Cleaning

Several recent outbreaks are among dozens of reports in a federal database that detail serious infection caused by these medical devices. In other news, the development of opioids that are less prone to abuse could be a boon for pharmaceutical companies. And those who experience side effects from vaccines can seek compensation from a government fund.

Los Angeles Times: Variety Of Medical Scopes Pose The Risk Of Serious Infection
A doctor reported in December that a medical scope commonly used to examine patients' lungs had infected 14 people with a superbug that kills half its victims. Yet another type of scope, used to see inside the bladder, sickened three patients with a different bacteria in March, according to a nurse. The device was sent to the manufacturer, which found "foreign substances" inside despite cleaning. (Petersen, 8/2)

The San Jose Mercury News: Vaccine-Injured Children, Adults Can Seek Compensation From Federal Government
Vaccines remain one of the greatest success stories in public health. But for some Americans, rare side effects of inoculations have led to hardship, serious injury, even death. For almost three decades, the federal government has quietly acknowledged as much: It has paid out more than $3.2 billion to 4,150 individuals and families for injuries caused by everything from flu, diphtheria and tetanus shots to whooping cough vaccines. (Seipel, 8/2)

State Watch

New Orleans Hospital Replacement Opens At Full-Scale Level

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on New Orleans' Charity Hospital, a new facility opened up with hopes of preserving the former hospital's mission. Meanwhile, new outlets report on other hospital developments in North Carolina, Alabama, California, West Virginia and Arizona.

The New York Times: New Orleans Hospital Is Replaced, With Hope Of Preserving Its Mission
After Hurricane Katrina, the shrunken medical staff of the state-owned Charity Hospital worked out of tents, an abandoned Lord & Taylor department store and eventually a cramped interim hospital with scaled-back services. As best they could, they continued Charity’s centuries-old mission of caring for poor and uninsured residents, mostly black, whom other hospitals typically turned away. Nearly a decade after the storm, the staff made one last move on Saturday, into a $1.1 billion replacement hospital with a pointedly different name, University Medical Center New Orleans. Built largely with federal disaster funds, and run by a private operator under contract with the state, the hospital is being held up as the centerpiece of a much-improved health care system for the poor here. (Goodnough, 8/1)

The Associated Press: Charity Hospital Replacement Opens Saturday In New Orleans
Ten years after the levees and floodwalls broke during Hurricane Katrina and flooded New Orleans, the Big Easy finally has a full-scale hospital again — a new Charity hospital. At 6 a.m. Saturday, the new 2.3 million-square-foot University Medical Center New Orleans, built with $1.1 billion of federal, state and private rebuilding money, ambulances and medical staff began the transfer of 131 patients into the new hospital for its first day of operations. Orchestrating the move required closing down streets as ambulances take patients into the facility. (Burdeau, 8/1)

North Carolina Health News: Re-Envisioning The Rural Hospital
The old model no longer worked. Since 1954, the 52-bed hospital at 500 Morven Rd., on the edge of downtown Wadesboro, county seat of Anson County, had served the community well. But the model no longer worked for a rural community with a stagnant population. For a variety of reasons, the number of people admitted to small, rural hospitals is declining. All those inpatient beds aren’t needed. The financial model was no longer viable in Anson. What was needed was something entirely new. But the solution wasn’t immediately apparent. Some reimagining was in order. (Sisk, 7/31)

The Associated Press: Alabama Hospitals In Critical Condition
An ambulance carrying a person with stroke symptoms backs up the emergency room on summer morning at Wedowee Hospital. The tiny, red brick hospital is the closest hospital for about 45 miles in this rural stretch of east Alabama. "We have had people who would not have survived if we hadn't been here," said emergency room physician Dr. Jose Oblena. The hospital could also be the next hospital to be shuttered as rural hospitals struggle to survive. Eight rural Alabama hospitals have closed over the last 15 years, according to the Alabama Hospital Association. Nationwide, 54 rural hospitals have closed since 2010, according to the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program. (Chandler, 8/1)

Los Angeles Times: Providence And St. Joseph Hospital Chains Are In Talks To Merge
Two major Catholic hospital systems with a big presence across the Southland — Providence Health & Services and St. Joseph Health — want to join forces amid an industrywide consolidation drive. The two health systems said Friday that they had signed a letter of intent to merge into a single organization. But they cautioned that discussions are in the "very early stages" and details about a partnership might not be finalized for several months. (Shively and Terhune, 7/31)

The Associated Press: Antitrust Agreement In West Virginia Hospital Takeover
Mary's Medical Center in Huntington would operate as a stand-alone facility after its takeover by Cabell Huntington Hospital under an antitrust agreement announced Friday by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. Morrisey said the agreement filed Friday in Cabell County Circuit Court sets conditions to ensure the acquisition complies with state and federal law. The acquisition is still under review by the Federal Trade Commission. In November, Cabell Huntington Hospital Inc. agreed to assume control of St. Mary's after the Pallottine Missionary Sisters ended their sponsorship of the hospital after 90 years. (7/31)

The Associated Press: Arizona Border Hospital Closes After Medicare Payments Stop
Residents of two rural communities in the Southwest face limited options to obtain convenient medical care after services were completely or partially shuttered. The Cochise Regional Hospital, the only one serving the Arizona border city of Douglas, closed Friday after losing Medicare funding weeks ago. The Crownpoint Health Care Facility in northwestern New Mexico recently reopened its emergency room but has been without labor and delivery services for months. (Fonseca, 8/1)

State Highlights: Fla. Officials Say Medicaid HMOs Must Keep Providing Home Health Care; Ohio Pushes Inmate Medicaid Sign-Ups

Health care stories are reported from Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, New York, Colorado, Alabama and Texas.

The Miami Herald: State Says Medicaid HMOs Must Keep Providing Home Health Services After Contractor's Collapse
Private insurers managing the healthcare needs of low-income, disabled and elderly Floridians with Medicaid will continue to fill prescriptions for home-based health therapists, medical equipment and infusion drugs after a Miramar-based company lost the contracts to coordinate and provide those services for patients statewide. 01U0nivita Health, a home health care company, lost all of its accounts this week with the HMOs contracted to manage the healthcare needs of Florida’s Medicaid population, according to state healthcare officials. (Chang, 8/2)

The Columbus Dispatch: State Pushes Medicaid Sign-Ups For Inmates
In the old days, inmates got $75 and a one-way bus ticket when they got out of an Ohio prison. Now, they can get something more valuable — a Medicaid card. Three state agencies are aggressively pushing to get the majority of the roughly 21,000 people who are released from prison every year enrolled in Medicaid up to 90 days before they walk out the door. Services don't' begin until they are released, unless they are hospitalized. (Johnson, 7/31)

The New York Times: Puerto Ricans Brace For Crisis In Health Care
The first visible sign that the health care system in Puerto Rico was seriously in trouble was when a steady stream of doctors — more than 3,000 in five years — began to leave the island for more lucrative, less stressful jobs on the mainland. Now, as Puerto Rico faces another hefty cut to a popular Medicare program and grapples with an alarming shortage of Medicaid funds, its health care system is headed for an all-out crisis, which could further undermine the island’s gutted economy. (Alvarez and Goodnough, 8/2)

The Denver Post: With Less Money, Colorado's Birth Control Program Feels The Pain
JoAnna Hibberd reaches for the inside of her left bicep and kneads the skin until she finds it. The birth control implant is impossible to see, and the insertion mark is less visible than a freckle. But she calls it a godsend. Hibberd, 21, received the device through a state program that provides long-acting reversible contraceptives to low-income and uninsured teenagers and women at little to no cost. If she has a complaint, it's not knowing about the program sooner. (Frank, 8/3)

ProPublica: Alabama's Meth Law, Abortion Rights And The Strange Case Of Jane Doe
In 2006, Alabama lawmakers passed a bill aimed at punishing parents who turned their kitchens and garages into do-it-yourself meth labs, exposing their children to toxic chemicals and noxious fumes. Support was bipartisan, the vote was unanimous, and the bill was quickly signed into law. Nine years later, authorities in Lauderdale County in northern Alabama have sought to use that same law to deny a 29-year-old pregnant inmate in the local jail — accused of exposing her fetus to drugs — the right to have an abortion. In doing so, they have pushed the abortion wars into uncharted territory and highlighted just how central the issue of drug use in pregnancy has become to the battle over Roe v. Wade. The case of the woman, identified only as Jane Doe, is extraordinary in many ways, including how abruptly it seems to have ended — or maybe hasn't. Earlier this month, after the woman told jail officials she was in her first trimester and wanted an abortion, the Lauderdale district attorney took the unprecedented step of petitioning a juvenile court to strip her of parental rights to her unborn child. Doe's fetus was given a court-appointed lawyer. The proceedings, like most everything that happens in juvenile court, were secret. (Martin, 7/31)

North Carolina Health News: Audit Finds Blind Services Lacked Oversight, Wasted Money
The state Division of Services for the Blind spent $29 million over more than a decade with little or no oversight or evaluation of whether what they were spending was attaining division goals. That’s according to a new report from State Auditor Beth Wood. In an audit released Thursday, Wood outlined how, since 2000, the Business Enterprise Program, run by the Department of Health and Human Services, “has spent more than $29 million without establishing Program goals and measures,” the report said. (Hoban, 7/31)

The Associated Press: Former Texas Surgeon So Derelict He Left 2 Dead
A former Dallas neurosurgeon has been described by state regulators as so derelict during operations that his actions led to the deaths of two patients and left others with disabling injuries in what’s seen as one of the worst recent cases of malpractice in Texas. Dr. Christopher Duntsch, who lost his medical license in 2013, now faces potential prison time after being indicted on multiple assault charges relating to his treatment of patients. He was being held Friday at the Dallas County Jail on bond exceeding $600,000. “You don’t see a doctor charged with this,” said Dallas County prosecutor Kevin Brooks, adding that doctors who run afoul of the law usually are accused of insurance or prescription fraud. “It’s fairly rare.” (8/2)

The Associated Press: Doctor Pleads Guilty In Colorado Painkiller Case
Authorities say a former Western Slope physician prescribed "unprecedented levels" of powerful prescription drugs to people who did not need them, contributing to a drug-abuse problem in Montrose and surrounding communities. According to plea documents, Eric Peper was indicted on dozens of counts related to health care fraud, Controlled Substance Act violations and money laundering, along with his former employer, Sam Jahani. On Wednesday, Peper pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge that can bring between two and four years in federal prison, plus three years of supervised release and up to $250,000 in fines. (8/1)

The New York Times: New York City Starts Moving Tenants From ‘Three-Quarter’ Homes, But Others Are Left Behind
The Sleep Inn in Brooklyn is newly built, featuring rooms with tasteful flower pictures, mini-refrigerators and fresh towels. Many of its first patrons have never stayed in such a nice place. One said he felt as if he was in the sitcom “The Jeffersons,” “movin’ on up,” as the show’s theme song says. Another said it felt like the Trump Plaza. They are hardly typical hotel guests. On public assistance or federal disability, many struggle with addiction to drugs or alcohol. Some are mentally ill; others, simply homeless. The city moved them to the hotel to relieve overcrowding at so-called three-quarter homes, as part of its response to an investigation by The New York Times published in May. (Barker, 8/2)

The Charlotte Observer: A Year Later: Was Mecklenburg Response To Ebola Threat Appropriate?
Last August, only days after learning the first two Americans had contracted Ebola infection in West Africa, Mecklenburg County health officials faced a challenge: How to respond to the arrival of three healthy missionaries who had helped care for these and other Ebola patients in Liberia. In consultation with state and federal counterparts, Mecklenburg health officials chose to “err on the side of caution” by ordering quarantines – a tool they had not used for two decades. (Garloch, 8/1)

Editorials And Opinions

Viewpoints: Health Law's Record; Debate On Funding Planned Parenthood; An Ebola Vaccine

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

The Washington Post: Obamacare’s Solid Progression
To many critics, the Affordable Care Act is perhaps the most ironically named law ever passed, saddling the country with dysfunctional markets that drive up insurance costs. The situation is so bad, some say, that even a disruptive repeal of the law, as the Senate attempted this week, would be better. In the first two years of the law’s phase-in, the facts didn’t support this view. Notwithstanding some sensational news reports, neither do they now. (8/1)

The Chicago Sun-Times: Obamacare Works When States Don't Get In Way
The Affordable Care Act suffers from a condition that afflicts all controversial legislative achievements: its failures are closely scrutinized and widely covered, while its successes go largely unnoticed. This imbalance is understandable in some ways – “Law Functions As Planned” isn’t as exciting a story as “Law Flops In Embarrassing Faceplant.” And so the media spotlight over the years has been aimed at the act’s hiccups and snafus: the crashing website, the conservative legal challenges, the endless repeal votes in Congress, the dire (usually unsubstantiated) warnings of skyrocketing premiums, etc. Meanwhile, the Affordable Care Act has been racking up some significant accomplishments. (Simon Maloy, 7/31)

The Wall Street Journal: ObamaCare Undercover
The people running ObamaCare set low expectations and then consistently fail to meet them, but could the expectations at least stop plunging? Witness the recent “secret shopper” audit that unmasked the entitlement’s wide-open exposure to fraud and the lack of any plan to prevent it. (7/31)

Bloomberg: Spending More on Health Care Is Actually Sort of Good
In recent years, the growth of health-care costs has slowed down. This is great news for the federal budget, and for those of us who, you know, get health care occasionally. Unfortunately, researchers from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services project that the good news may be over. With the population aging, the economy recovering, and the federal health-care plan expanding coverage, they expect health care cost growth to average almost 6 percent over the next decade. That's not all bad news. The population is aging because people are living longer. And economic recovery will give us more income to pay our higher health care costs. The newly insured are presumably pretty happy about it too. So there's no reason to go into paroxysms of mourning over this news. But it does cast light on a debate that has been going on for some time: why growth in health expenditures has gone down. (Megan McArdle, 7/31)

The Wall Street Journal: How Single-Payer Health Care Failed In Progressive Paradise
The gruff, unkempt Vermonter is knocking them dead. Campaigning for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, Bernie Sanders is packing houses, making headlines and putting a scare into Hillary Clinton supporters. ... So as Mr. Sanders makes his case for taking the progressive agenda nationwide, it is interesting to consider how that agenda is doing in Vermont. The answer is . . . not so well. Let’s start with the catastrophic collapse of Vermont’s promises of single-payer health care, which continues to roil state politics. (Geoffrey Norman, 7/31)

The Wall Street Journal: The Connection Between Health Coverage And Income Security
Discussions of expanding health coverage and improving economic security for working Americans don’t overlap much–but they are connected. ... when lower- and moderate-income people gain health coverage, the burden of paying health-care bills is eased and they are able to focus on other pocketbook issues. That’s one conclusion from a recently released panel survey of Californians uninsured before the Affordable Care Act took effect. (Drew Altman, 8/3)

The New York Times: A Health Care Safety Net The Public Loves
Recent public surveys show that Americans strongly support Medicare and Medicaid, the twin pillars of the health care safety net, and that approval of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s health care reform law, is steadily rising. The popularity of these three government programs is a stiff warning to critics, mostly Republicans, who seek to radically change or demolish them. (8/3)

Alaska Dispatch News: Walker Is Out Of Line On Medicaid Expansion; Lawsuit Right And Likely
Gov. Bill Walker’s dogged effort to unilaterally expand Alaska’s Cadillac-class Medicaid program -- despite the Legislature’s reluctance -- is being peddled to Alaskans with a massive propaganda campaign replete with misleading information and outright fibs. Worse, he plans to pull it off -- to join 29 other states and the District of Columbia in expanding Medicaid -- while wading in legal quicksand; by pretending he can accept federal money and tell lawmakers to butt out because he simply would be expanding an existing program. It is malarkey. (Paul Jenkins, 8/1)

Los Angeles Times: Senate Maneuvering Spares Planned Parenthood -- For Now
A series of hidden-camera videos by anti-abortion activists capturing Planned Parenthood executives discussing tissue harvesting from aborted fetuses has renewed calls by Republicans to eliminate all federal support for the organization. But as bad as it's been lately in Washington for Planned Parenthood, the group can actually thank Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for preventing things from getting even worse. Granted, McConnell would not see it that way. But some pro-life conservatives do. (Jon Healey, 7/31)

USA Today: Debate Planned Parenthood Honestly: Our View
Undercover videos of top Planned Parenthood doctors callously discussing how best to collect fetal tissue and organs for research are enough to make most people, regardless of their views on abortion, squeamish if not horrified. The videos raise troubling questions about how far Planned Parenthood doctors are willing to go to collect intact specimens, how broadly collection is conducted, why the cost would differ among affiliates, and whether the century-old group is treating this work with the respect and sensitivity it deserves. ... Yet for all the effort to smear Planned Parenthood — a militant anti-abortion group set up a phony business and used actors and hidden cameras — no smoking gun has emerged to prove that Planned Parenthood illegally profited from selling fetal tissues and organs. (8/2)

USA Today: Sen. Lankford: Defund Organ Harvesting
If you haven’t seen the videos about Planned Parenthood’s operation to harvest human body parts from abortions, I suggest you view them. It might change your mind about whether taxpayers should help fund Planned Parenthood. While our nation is divided on abortion, we shouldn’t force the taxes of Americans who strongly oppose organ harvesting or abortion to continue to fund an organization that carries out these inhumane practices. About 40% of Planned Parenthood’s funding comes from hardworking taxpayers, which leaves its other resources available to perform these barbaric procedures. (Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., 8/2)

The Washington Post: Stop The Vendetta Against Planned Parenthood
The sting videos targeting Planned Parenthood are hard to watch. Doctors talk clinically, some say callously, about harvesting fetal tissue. Technicians identify and isolate tiny organs. References are made to “it’s a baby” or “it’s another boy.” The videos were taken surreptitiously and were artfully edited to produce maximum discomfort about complicated issues that, for many, are inherently uncomfortable. That truths were distorted to paint an inaccurate and unfair picture of a health organization that provides valuable services to women — as well as to demonize research that leads to important medical advances — doesn’t matter to antiabortion activists. Or, sadly, to the politicians who pander to them. (7/31)

The New York Times: Our Sex-Crazed Congress
To appreciate the dumbing down of American politics, consider this: Conservative Republicans, indignant about abortion, are trying to destroy a government program that helps prevent 345,000 abortions a year. Inevitably in politics there are good ideas and bad ideas. But occasionally there are also moronic ideas — such as the House Republican proposal to kill America’s main family planning program, Title X. (Nicholas Kristof, 8/1)

The Washington Post: A Solution To Teen Pregnancy In Virginia?
A privately funded initiative in Colorado that drastically reduced teen pregnancy and abortion rates has recently been lauded by public health officials, policymakers and editorial boards alike. As a physician, I’ve been closely following the outcomes and results of this public health initiative. As Virginia’s lieutenant governor, I genuinely believe that Democrats and Republicans should be able to agree that reducing unintended pregnancies, decreasing abortion rates and improving the health of mothers and infants are important public health goals that should be carefully considered and debated. (Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, 7/31)

Los Angeles Times: Will Trans-Pacific Partnership Hold Back New Generic Drugs?
So what should the public be looking for if and when the [the Trans-Pacific Partnership] deal is completed? (Be patient -- a deal that once seemed imminent doesn't appear to be so close now, and the text may not become public until weeks after the talks conclude.) One possibility is a combination of U.S. and foreign requirements that winds up changing the competitive balance. That's what generic drug makers, among others, fear when it comes to a new class of medicines called biosimilars, which are less-expensive versions of biologically produced drugs. Under U.S. law, biologic drug makers have a 12-year exclusive right to the research they conduct on the safety and effectiveness of their products. Within that 12-year period, all other drug makers would have to submit data from their own safety and efficacy studies to win approval of a biosimilar version. That's a pretty effective barrier to competing versions entering the market. (Jon Healey, 8/1)

The New York Times: Ebola Vaccine: The Need To Act Now
One year ago West Africa was descending into chaos. As the Ebola death toll approached 1,000 for the first time ever and Liberia closed its borders, the World Health Organization declared the situation an international health emergency. Experimental drugs were cautiously put to use to try to treat those infected, but what was urgently needed to stop the spread was a vaccine. Now, 12 months on, it looks very much like we have one. ... While more research may be needed to establish the long-term protection and safety, use of this vaccine needs to be immediately extended beyond the trials in Guinea and made available to ring vaccinate people in Sierra Leone and wherever else outbreaks occur. Similarly health care workers in affected regions should be offered access to this vaccine now, as they are often the first exposed to any new cases. (Seth Berkley, 8/2)

The New York Times: Teenagers, Medication And Suicide
Is our culture of relentless achievement and success driving our young people to suicide? You would certainly think so, given the prevailing narrative in the media about the recent spate of suicides on college campuses: one high-achieving student after another succumbing to the toxic social pressure for perfection. It’s a plausible but incomplete explanation. No doubt the intense social pressure on young people, especially girls and young women, is daunting, but stress is only part of the story: We should also focus on adolescent mental illness and its treatment. (Richard A. Friedman, 8/3)

The Wall Street Journal: When A Doctor Is Always A Phone Call Away
A 39-year-old truck driver was hauling through the Midwest in the middle of the night in 2011 when he began to feel a bit of indigestion. Then a lot of indigestion. He pulled over, recalling that his company had recently signed on with Teladoc, for which I was then the chief medical officer. The service allowed him to get a doctor on the phone within 15 minutes. He called and described his symptoms: nausea, chest pain, a little numbness in his left arm. He was having a heart attack, and his GPS guided him to the nearest emergency room. Getting that doctor on the phone saved his life, and potentially the lives of whoever his 10-ton rig might have plowed into had he keeled over behind the wheel. If efficient and affordable quality treatment is the goal, telemedicine should be the future of health care. (Richard Boxer, 8/2)

The New York Times: G.O.P. Candidates And Mass Shootings
Despite the repeated horror of mass shootings in churches, movie theaters and schoolrooms, the Republican candidates running for president are remarkably quiet about how they would deal with this most pressing public health challenge. ... In contrast, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, is taking up the gun control issue once more, 15 years after the defeat of Al Gore left her party leaders swearing off the subject as a losing cause. (8/3)