KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: April 9, 2012

In today's headlines, reports about how both Democrats and Republicans are working to woo Seniors -- Medicare politices are central to this effort.

Kaiser Health News: In Kansas, No Consensus On How To End 'Dental Deserts'
Kansas Public Radio's Bryan Thompson, working in collaboration with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "In an ongoing disagreement over how to solve dental care access problems in Kansas, there is one thing no one disputes: the great need" (Thompson, 4/8).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Arizona Gets OK To Expand Health Coverage To Kids; Obama Ties Women's Economic Future To Health Law
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Phil Galewitz reports: "Nearly 22,000 poor kids in Arizona will gain health insurance coverage under a Medicaid deal the state has reached with the Obama administration, federal officials said Friday" (Galewitz, 5/6). Also on the blog, Christian Torres reports: "President Barack Obama brought together Friday two of his biggest campaign issues, health care and the economy, in an appeal to women voters, who have favored the president over GOP rivals in recent polls. During remarks at a White House forum on women and the economy, Obama described how provisions of the 2010 health law have helped break barriers for women in the workforce" (Torres, 4/6). Check out what else is on the blog.

Kaiser Health News also tracked the weekend's health policy headlines, including efforts by the Democrats to point to the health law as a means to woo women voters (4/8).

The Wall Street Journal: Both Parties Wooing Seniors
President Barack Obama and Democrats are counting on regaining support from older voters who switched to the GOP in 2008 and 2010 by attacking Republican plans to revamp Medicare. But Mitt Romney is proving to be a formidable competitor in this battle (Hook, 4/8).

Politico: Durbin To Mitt: What's Your Plan On Entitlements?
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Sunday that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has no plan to deal with the millions of seniors reaching retirement (Tau, 4/8).

The Washington Post: Health-Care Arguments Recall A Supreme Court Case That Is An Equal-Opportunity Offender
Those who are not historians or recent law school graduates might miss the reference. So it is time to brush up on Lochner v. New York, a 1905 decision reviled enough to lend its name to an era of discredited Supreme Court rulings. Some supporters of the Affordable Care Act saw an apparition in the Supreme Court’s arguments on the act, and recalled the days when the court struck down progressive economic regulations (Barnes, 4/8).

Bloomberg News/The New York Times: Letter From Washington: Weak Claims From Both Sides On Health Care
In the Supreme Court's historic argument over President Barack Obama's health care law, the Republicans claimed the high ground on principle, Democrats on the politics. Both positions are tenuous (Hunt, 4/8).

The Washington Post: The Fact Checker: Obama's Selective Memory Of Supreme Court History
President Obama made these remarks during a series of high-profile news conferences last week, taking the unusual step of commenting on a Supreme Court case — the challenge to the Affordable Care Act, in this case — while the justices are still deliberating. … Still, we don't know whether the president's factual error was a mere slip-up or a purposeful attempt to mislead, and we generally don't beat people over the head for off-the-cuff remarks. Let's take a look at the president's message in light of his clarifying remarks to see whether it holds up any better under scrutiny (Hicks, 4/9).

The Washington Post: Catholic Leaders Remain Critical Of Obama Administration
Catholic Church leaders said Sunday that the institution’s dispute with the Obama administration over contraception policy continues, with Cardinal Timothy Dolan saying, "We didn't ask for the fight, but we're not going to back away from it" (Thompson, 4/8).

The New York Times: Tightening The Lid On Pain Prescriptions
High-strength painkillers known as opioids represent the most widely prescribed class of medications in the United States. And over the last decade, the number of prescriptions for the strongest opioids has increased nearly fourfold, with only limited evidence of their long-term effectiveness or risks, federal data shows (Meier, 4/8).

The Wall Street Journal: Playing For Wellness
Your health insurer wants to play games with you—and they might involve actual prizes. As insurers try to get members to take better care of themselves, they are turning to tactics from the world of digital gaming. They're using methods including team competitions forged through online communities, virtual and real-world rewards for those who make moves to improve their health and the potential for raffle-style prizes. In addition, they're working with games for consoles such as Microsoft's Xbox Kinect that involve physical activity (Mathews, 4/7).

The Washington Post: IT Contractors Look For 'Big Data' Opportunities
Move over cloud computing. The term with the most buzz these days for information technology contractors is "big data," or large chunks of information too huge to be easily managed by typical computer programs. The Obama administration announced late last month a new big data initiative meant to help the government better analyze large collections of information. The government's big data can range from the claims filed by Medicare and Medicaid users to video footage collected by unmanned vehicles on the battlefield (Censer, 4/8).

Los Angeles Times: Task Force Seeks To Change California's Mental Health Commitment Law
California's pioneering Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, passed in 1967, gave legal rights to those who previously could have been locked up indefinitely and treated against their will. But the task force — made up of family members, mental health professionals, judges and public defenders — contends that the law has failed those unable or unwilling to seek help. They are calling for sweeping changes that would allow the involuntary commitment of those deemed incapable of making treatment decisions, expand the use of conservatorships, lengthen involuntary hospital stays and standardize the checkerboard way the law has been applied from county to county (Romney, 4/8).

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