KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Komen Takes A Lashing; Is The Safety Net Really Intact?; Romney Assails HHS’ Rule On Contraception

The New York Times: A Painful Betrayal
With its roster of corporate sponsors and the pink ribbons that lend a halo to almost any kind of product you can think of, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation has a longstanding reputation as a staunch protector of women's health. That reputation suffered a grievous, perhaps mortal, wound this week from the news that Komen, the world's largest breast cancer organization, decided to betray that mission (2/2).

Los Angeles Times: Komen's Untimely 'Cure'
The Komen decision will probably prompt more attacks on Planned Parenthood, which has long provided low-cost medical care to women in need. If Komen loses a significant portion of its donor base, funding for breast cancer research and treatment will be affected, and for a long time Komen's name will be connected more with ugly politics than with pink ribbons. In the end, it's women in need of medical care who stand to lose the most (2/3).

Philadelphia Daily News: Komen Foundation Acts Poorly In Defunding Planned Parenthood
Parent Parenthood has been under fierce attack by ultra-conservatives for years now, with outrageous allegations which have been proved false repeatedly but which have gained astonishing traction because the news media failed to do their job and many supposed defenders of women's rights were timid in the face of the onslaught. … Within hours of the decision -- made in December and revealed Wednesday -- Komen's rationale was exposed as bogus and its credibility seriously damaged (2/3).

Chicago Sun-Times: Komen Stumbles Into Middle Of Abortion Flap
The Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation sure blundered into this one. … The decision to cut off funding for breast cancer screening for poor women at Planned Parenthood health centers has split loyal Komen supporters into two camps, splintering a powerful and effective organization that has done tremendous good for more than three decades. For the sake of women suffering from breast cancer, we urge Komen to do all it can to repair the damage, including reinstating these life-saving grant dollars (2/3).

Boston Globe: In Rejecting Planned Parenthood, Komen Should Explain Its Motives
When the Susan G. Komen foundation, the well-known breast cancer advocacy group, announced this week that it would stop funding breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood, the news quickly reverberated through abortion-rights and anti-abortion circles. The political motivations seemed clear: Komen has been under increasing pressure from anti-abortion groups to sever its relationship with Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest provider of abortions. The foundation’s head of public policy ran for governor of Georgia in 2010 on an antiabortion platform (2/3).

The New York Times: Romney Isn't Concerned
Also, given this whopper about how safety-net programs actually work, how credible was Mr. Romney’s assertion … that if the safety net needs a repair, "I'll fix it"? Now, the truth is that the safety net does need repair. It provides a lot of help to the poor, but not enough. Medicaid, for example, provides essential health care to millions of unlucky citizens, children especially, but many people still fall through the cracks: among Americans with annual incomes under $25,000, more than a quarter — 28.7 percent — don't have any kind of health insurance. And, no, they can't make up for that lack of coverage by going to emergency rooms. … So we do need to strengthen our safety net. Mr. Romney, however, wants to make the safety net weaker instead (Paul Krugman, 2/2). 

The Washington Post: Why The Poor Should Concern Romney
The problem with Mitt Romney’s latest boneheaded statement — "I'm not concerned about the very poor" — isn't the ammunition that it gives political opponents eager to yank the Republican candidate's words out of context. The deeper problem is that Romney's remarks betray a trio of fundamental misunderstandings: of the nature and scope of poverty in America; the state of the social safety net; and the impact of his own proposals on protections for the poorest Americans (Ruth Marcus, 2/2).

Chicago Tribune: A Matter Of Faith
There are sound financial and health reasons for insurers to provide contraceptive coverage, and many policies do. A woman is more likely to receive prenatal care and less likely to seek an abortion if she has planned her pregnancy. But the Roman Catholic Church is morally opposed to contraception, teaching that "each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life" (2/3).

The Washington Examiner: President Obama Versus Religious Liberty
The Obama administration is at it again. They are now using Obamacare to impose a secular vision on Americans who believe that they should not have their religious freedom taken away. On January 20, 2012, the Obama administration affirmed a rule that would force Roman Catholic hospitals, charities, and universities to purchase health insurance for their employees that includes coverage for contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization, in violation of their religious principles. This is wrong (Mitt Romney, 2/3).

The Wall Street Journal: A Battle The President Can't Win
But the big political news of the week isn't Mr. Romney's gaffe, or even his victory in Florida. The big story took place in Washington. That's where a bomb went off that not many in the political class heard, or understood. But President Obama just may have lost the election. The president signed off on a Health and Human Services ruling that says under ObamaCare Catholic Institutions—including its charities, hospitals and schools—will be required by law, for the first time ever, to provide and pay for insurance coverage that includes contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization procedures. If they do not, they will face ruinous fines in the millions of dollars. Or they can always go out of business. In other words, the Catholic Church was told this week that its institutions can't be Catholic anymore (Peggy Noonan, 2/3).

The Washington Post: With Abortion Measure, Republican 'Mini-Mayors' Are At It Again
Congressional interference in District business is nothing new — witness the ban on the District using its own tax dollars to pay for abortions for low-income women and the periodic attempts to eliminate needle exchange programs or overturn local gun control. But this measure (to prohibit abortions after the 20th week after fertilization) is particularly offensive in that its backers defend it as a way to prevent the unborn from feeling terrible pain. "It would address the pain and suffering of children who have done nothing wrong," (Rep. Trent) Franks said this week (2/2).

USA Today: Editorial: Disability Claims Swelling In Recession
Certain things can cause someone to become disabled — a chronic illness, for example, or an accident. One thing that should not cause people to be categorized as disabled is a recession (2/2). 

USA Today: Opposing View: Disability Benefits Remain A Vital Lifeline
Social Security Disability Insurance remains a vital lifeline for citizens who once held full-time jobs but have become too ill or injured to work. It is a time-honored expression of our nation's commitment to help care for those who must stop working due to illness or injury (Charles Martin, 2/2).

Medscape: Tired Of Being A Doctor? Choices For Opting Out Of Medicine
While the road into medicine is clearly marked, the trail leading out is tougher to discern. There are plenty of opportunities, experts say, but identifying them -- and selecting the right path -- may challenge career-changing doctors to develop some new skills. In 2010, 24% of the 2400 physicians responding to a Physician's Foundation survey said they plan to drop out of clinical practice in the next 1 to 3 years by switching jobs. Of those, half said they plan to find a nonclinical job within healthcare, while the other half plan to leave healthcare entirely (Shelly Reese, 2/2).

Denver Post: No Longer A Hidden Health Crisis
In 2003, a report was published that outlined Colorado's fragmented and underfunded systems for delivering mental health care. At the time, many were shocked to learn that one in five Coloradans needed mental health treatment, but only one-third of them received it. Flash forward nine years, and improvements have been made — including incremental increases in funding, collaboration and the availability of integrated behavioral health services in primary care settings . But there is still a lot of work to do (Don Mares and Carl Clark, 2/3).

Boston Globe: Cities Shouldn't Set Own Rates
The stubborn dispute between insurers and the state's private ambulance companies has gone on for far too long. It needs to be solved, but a solution will require credible information about the real cost of the emergency service those companies provide. Last fall, in an attempt to bridge the divide over how much insurers should pay out-of-network ambulance companies for emergency trips, Governor Patrick proposed that the health plans pay either the rate they would give in-network companies or 300 percent of the Medicare rate, whichever is less (2/3).  

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