KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Supreme Court Drug Decisions; Medicaid’s Burden; Concierge Medicine Questioned

MSNBC: Court Was Wrong To Give Generic Drugs Pass On Side Effect Warnings
The image of Justice blindfolded, holding her scales, is familiar from courthouses all over the United States and the world. Sadly, in its Thursday ruling in the case of PLIVA v Mensing, the U.S. Supreme Court made a decision that makes one wonder if that blindfold made the court unable to see the right thing to do. The court ruled in a 5 to 4 decision that companies that make generic drugs, which account for close to 75 percent of all drugs dispensed in America, cannot be sued under state laws for not disclosing all the risks they know about the drugs they make (Arthur Caplan, Ph.D, 6/24).

The New York Times: An Unfair Burden
Federal stimulus funds for Medicaid - an additional $102 billion to the states over the past three years - run out at the end of June. Long-term deficit reduction will require controlling health care costs. But with the economy weak, there is no excuse for immediate cuts to the joint federal and state health program that is a lifeline for 68 million low-income Americans (6/24).

Los Angeles Times: Concierge Medicine Has A Cost For All Patients
Concierge medicine - you may have heard of it - is gaining in popularity. Patients pay a monthly fee directly to the doctor, on top of their regular health insurance premiums and co-pays, to secure better access to the physician. Donald told me that the service was promoted to him as an opportunity to improve the doctor-patient relationship. Instead of juggling more than 2,000 patients, the physician would be able to winnow that number to a very manageable 600, enabling him to devote more time to the select few who opted for premium service. ... Yet as tempting as those offers are, I don't see myself as a concierge kind of guy. If I were to join, how many of my patients would lack the resources to join me? (Steve Dudley, 6/27).

The Wall Street Journal: Planned Parenthood Takes On The States
The state of Indiana - and, by extension, 49 other states and the American taxpayer - is under siege from Planned Parenthood, the nation's abortion super-provider, and its allies in the Obama administration. Indiana is being threatened with the loss of federal funding for health care and being held up to scorn as having "declared war on women." Indiana's crime? Last month it became the first state to prohibit all health-care contracts with and grants to any "entity" that performs abortions or operates a facility where abortions are performed (Yoest and Burke, 6/27). 

The Baltimore Sun: In 'Socialized Medicine,' A Man Wouldn't Rob A Bank To Get Health Care
During the health care debate, we kept hearing that a government-run system amounted to "socialized medicine," as if Marx would be your triage nurse and Lenin your doctor. As if, by that definition, our government-run libraries, police forces, schools and garbage pickup were not also "socialized." As if it's Aetna that really has your interests at heart. If health care were "socialized," a law-abiding workingman would not have felt driven to this extreme. A great nation has a moral obligation to provide a safety net, to care for the most broken and vulnerable of its people (Leonard Pitts, 6/26).

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Still Work To Do On Benefits
Gov. Christie and the Democratic-controlled Legislature are wrapping up work on a law that purports to rein in unsustainable health care and pension costs. These costs were incurred, in part, because politicians made promises that wouldn't come due until they were safely retired, with many of them collecting government pensions and health care for life. But neither side should be patting itself on the back and saying, as Christie did, that he showed the kind of leadership that President Obama and Congress can learn from. That's because Christie and the Legislature are not making considerable strides toward controlling employee costs. Mostly, they're just sharing more of the costs with workers, who, like the government, have finite resources (6/27).

Houston Chronicle: The Move To A Single-Payer System
Who would deny that health care is big business? It is also the most personal of all human endeavors. Why then does the federal government appear to be in such a rush to depersonalize our medical care? Bending the cost curve seems to be the driving force behind the recent health care reform, especially in light of the fact that national health expenditures have doubled over the past decade from $1.3 trillion in 2000 to $2.6 trillion in 2010. And the Affordable Care Act rewards hospital systems at the expense of small and solo, personally oriented medical practices, under the mistaken theory that bigger systems are - or can be - more cost-effective (Louis Goodman and Timothy Norbeck, 6/26).

Houston Chronicle: CT Scans For Fun And Profit?
Are some Houston-area hospitals putting patients in harm's way to enhance their profits? Last week The New York Times ran a disturbing article documenting that hundreds of U.S. hospitals routinely gave patients powerful CT scans twice in one day, despite concerns about both the necessity and safety of doing so (Rick Casey, 6/26).

Denver Post: Lamm: Rationing Could Fix Health Care
Balancing a budget in public policy is like sleeping with a blanket that is too short. Your shoulders get cold, so you pull up the blanket, only to have your feet get cold. There is never enough blanket to cover all the needs. To govern is to choose, but Americans don't yet realize that they must choose. But choose we must. ... We spend almost three times as much of our GDP on health care as we do education, and more than three times the amount that we spend on defense. Yet no one wants to talk about limits or rationing in health care (Former Colo. Gov. Richard D. Lamm, 6/26).

Des Moines Register: Our Shortsighted Plan For Dealing With Medicare
On June 7, the Department of Health and Human Services launched two important health care cost-saving initiatives. First, HHS announced it would be making $42 million available to enhance coordination efforts between primary care physicians and other health care providers treating Medicare patients. ... Second, HHS launched a $40 million effort to help states combat chronic disease. … Both those initiatives have the promise to save money and lives. Unfortunately, they represent exactly the opposite approach to Medicare cost control set forth in last year's health care reform law (Peter J. Pitts, 6/25).

Chicago Sun-Times: Get Answers Before You Get Health Tests
When heart disease, cancer and other chronic illnesses kill thousands of Americans a year, it's natural for people to want every assurance that they're in peak health - or at the very least, that any problems are caught early. It's easy to see, then, how consumers could be duped into buying expensive and potentially harmful screening tests they don't need, as is alleged in a lawsuit filed against Heart Check America. … How is the average person supposed to know which tests are worth getting? The federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has a list of basic questions consumers should ask their doctor before receiving a medical test. That's a good place to start (6/26).

Forbes: Massachusetts AG Recommends Health Care Price Controls
How can health care costs be controlled in Massachusetts? According to a June 22 report from the state's Office of the Attorney General (OAG), the answer includes temporary controls on prices negotiated between payers and providers. Specifically, the report recommends "at least setting temporary statutory restrictions on how much prices may vary for comparable services" in order to "moderate price distortions, without price setting, . . . as a stop-gap until the corrective effects of tiered and limited network products can improve market function" (Harrington, 6/26).

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