KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Drugging Soldiers; GOP Opposition To Medicaid Expansion Strays From Party Legacy; Health Law Distorts Market

The New York Times: Wars On Drugs
Last year, more active-duty soldiers committed suicide than died in battle. ... Worse, according to data not reported on until now, the military evidently responded to stress that afflicts soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan primarily by drugging soldiers on the front lines. ... The prescribing trends suggest that the military often uses medications in ways that are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration and do not comport with the usual psychiatric standards of practice (Richard A. Friedman, 4/6).

The New York Times: Insurance And Freedom
No, the real policy action at this point is in the states, where the question is, How many Americans will be denied essential health care in the name of freedom? I'm referring, of course, to the question of how many Republican governors will reject the Medicaid expansion that is a key part of Obamacare. What does that have to do with freedom? In reality, nothing. But when it comes to politics, it's a different story (Paul Krugman, 4/7). 

Des Moines Register: GOP Goes Against Party's Medicaid Heritage
Republicans should be aware that their opposition to Medicaid expansion is at odds with their party’s proud heritage. So is the tendency to blindly follow the instructions of a party leader and cast votes in "blocks" rather than as individuals representing their constituencies. Washington lawmakers crossed party lines and worked together to create Medicaid in 1965. ... President Ronald Reagan signed legislation in 1986 allowing states to extend Medicaid coverage to pregnant women and young children in households having incomes up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level. That was only the beginning. Three more times he signed bills to expand coverage to more pregnant women and older children (4/7).

Bloomberg: How Obamacare Will Distort The Health-Care Market
President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats sold many Americans on the Affordable Care Act largely by emphasizing two arguments: The law would help to reduce overall health-care costs, and it would provide health insurance to those who, for financial or health reasons, cannot get it now. Unfortunately, both of these arguments are flawed. The law creates market distortions that will significantly raise premiums and costs for many Americans -- including some middle-income families. And there are less costly, less distortionary and less intrusive ways to address the problem of the uninsured (Lanhee Chen, 4/7).

The Wall Street Journal: Reflections Of A Medical Ex-Practitioner
A fundamental principle in medicine is that if you get the diagnosis wrong, you'll probably apply the wrong therapy. A corollary is that if the therapy isn't working, increasing the dose may make things worse. That's where we are with ObamaCare. There are shortcomings aplenty in the health-care field, and changes and improvements are required. But never have I seen so many good intentions leading irreversibly to hell (Ed Marsh, 4/7).

Roll Call: Affordable Care Act Offers Opportunity To Combat Pain And Drug Abuse
There is a growing national debate about two important life and death issues: the abuse of powerful pain medications and the treatment of chronic pain. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified prescription drug abuse as a deadly epidemic and the White House Office on National Drug Policy has declared the crisis to be a top public health priority. ... To address these twin crises, it is critical that Congress fund programs within the Affordable Care Act that provide powerful opportunities to improve care of persons with pain and with substance abuse disorders (Seddon R. Savage, 4/5).

Boston Globe: Seeing Patients As More Than Their Conditions
Mr. S lay patiently in his hospital bed while several medical students took turns pressing their stethoscopes to his chest, hoping to hear his sometimes elusive heart murmur. The elderly gentleman had a long cardiac history; he had been admitted to the hospital with worsening shortness of breath several days earlier. His hospital stay had been complicated and he was quite sick. However, when I gently approached him about participating in a teaching exercise designed to help medical students improve their physical exam skills, he responded with a smile, "Anything to help the next generation" (Kiran Gupta, 4/8).

The Hill: A Way Out Of The Medicare Maze
Medicare and how we pay for it has been the most vexing issue to confront President Obama and Congress as they struggle (or in some cases saunter) toward trying to put our financial house in order. Social Security has only a few moving parts that need to be fixed to give it long-term effectiveness and affordability. But fixing Medicare so it is sustainable and does not bankrupt the country, yet still gives quality healthcare to our seniors, involves addressing a complex and constantly changing matrix (Judd Gregg, 4/8).

Bloomberg: Obama Should End Political Fight Over Morning-After Pill
If anything, age restrictions on the morning-after pill are a bigger problem than they would be for pain relievers. Many doctors have explained why. The pill is most effective if taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex; there often isn’t time for users to see a doctor before going to the pharmacy. Last November, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that its members work around the age restriction by prescribing the drug to teens in advance. (The American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also support making the morning-after pill available with no restrictions.) (4/5).

The Washington Post: Johns Hopkins's And Planned Parenthood's Troubling Extremism
We know Johns Hopkins University is devoted to diversity, because it says so. Its "Diversity and Inclusion Statement." ... Unless you are a member of Voice for Life (VFL), an antiabortion group. Hopkins’s Student Government Association has denied VFL status as a recognized student group. ... Hopkins's institutional intolerance would be boring were it simply redundant evidence of academia's commitment to diversity in everything but thought. It is, however, indicative of the increasingly extreme ambitions and tactics of those operating under the anodyne rubric of "choice" (George F. Will, 4/5). 

Kansas City Star: Strong Hospitals Are Crucial To Healthy Communities
Hospitals are where people welcome new life and say final goodbyes. They are major employers, givers and receivers of charity and mainstays of communities. It's no wonder that emotions run high when change is in the works. In recent weeks, people have packed into hearings regarding three hospitals. In the case of two — Providence Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., and St. John Hospital in Leavenworth — a formal process for sale appears to have led to a workable resolution (4/6). 

Los Angeles Times: Judge Poised To Toss Ridiculous Prime Healthcare Lawsuit
U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel of San Diego has signaled that he's prepared to dismiss a bizarre lawsuit filed by Prime Healthcare Services against the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and the Service Employees International Union. In a tentative ruling handed down Thursday, Curiel said he found no merit in Prime's claim that Kaiser and the SEIU had conspired against the Ontario hospital company (Michael Hiltzik, 4/5).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Sending Health Care Leaders Back To School
Every single balancing act described above that lies at the heart of every discussion we have about paying for value in health care echoes the challenges of measuring school performance. What can we learn from the struggle to make Colorado’s schools more accountable that can inform our efforts to measure and reward quality in health care? (Edie Sonn, 4/5).

HealthyCal: Federal Health Reform Involves A Series Of Trade-Offs
California has led the nation in implementing President Obama's health reform law, and Californians are among its biggest supporters. Will that support be sustained as voters learn more about how the law will work? That's a tough question. But the answer may help determine the ultimate fate of the law as its still-vague promises become reality. If Californians turn against the Affordable Care Act, the rest of the nation, which is already more skeptical, will likely be in full revolt (Weintraub, 4/7).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.