KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Health Law’s Effect On Patient Safety; Angelina Jolie’s Surgery Is The Ultimate ‘Choice’

The New York Times: Learning From Litigation
Much of the discussion over the Affordable Care Act has focused on whether it will bring down health care costs. Less attention has been paid to another goal of the act: improving patient safety. Each year tens of thousands of people die, and hundreds of thousands more are injured, as a result of medical error (Joanna C. Schwartz, 5/16). 

The New York Times: The Murky World Of Hospital Prices
Last week, the federal government made public a vast trove of information on the list prices charged by hospitals for a large array of procedures commonly performed on hospitalized patients. It was a good start toward providing greater transparency in hospital billing, which has long been shrouded in secrecy. But it fell short of providing full information that patients need to make informed decisions about which hospitals to use and which insurance to buy (5/16).

The Washington Post: Bill Gates: 'Death Is Something We Really Understand Extremely Well'
"I always use this chart of childhood death," Bill Gates says. "In 1960, 25 percent of kids died before the age of 5. And now we're down below 6 percent of kids dying before the age of 5." We're sitting in a bare conference room at his foundation’s D.C. headquarters. Gates is in town to talk to members of Congress about his top priority this year: Global health -- and, in particular, the total eradication of polio. He wants to drive that 6 percent even lower, and he believes he can. Wiping out a disease like polio sounds impossible. But it's actually, Gates tells me, completely achievable (Ezra Klein, 5/17). 

Reuters: A Woman's Choice
We use that word so often: choice. It has become the code word for abortion, alas, and thus a lightening rod for activists on both sides of that continuing battle. But this week Angelina Jolie redeemed the word and the idea behind it -- that a woman has a right to choose what happens to her body, however tough that choice sometimes is (Anne Taylor Fleming, 5/16).

Philadelphia Inquirer: Angelina Jolie's Lesson For Obamacare
Angelina Jolie's announcement that she underwent a double mastectomy to protect against a genetic form of breast cancer inspired widespread surprise and admiration. With her op-ed revelation in the New York Times, she put herself forward as a role model for millions of women who face a similar dilemma. Such candor and forthrightness are rare among celebrities. Yet, she is extremely fortunate in one respect. She has the financial resources to afford both the testing that found her heightened risk and the consequent surgery. As she noted in her op-ed, many women do not (Robert Field, 5/17).

Tampa Bay Times: Politics And My Double Mastectomy
During the same week that Angelina Jolie announced that she had a preventive double mastectomy as a precaution against her genetic predisposition toward breast cancer, House Republicans are likely to vote for the 37th time to repeal or replace Obamacare. These two events have more in common than you think. That's because, for everyone except the mega-wealthy like a Hollywood star, having Jolie-like health care options depends on good, affordable health insurance. And having access to that kind of coverage depends on reasonable and caring leaders in Washington -- something the Republican caucus is missing, as proved by the anticipated vote (Robyn E. Blumner, 5/16).

Fox News/Washington Examiner: ObamaCare Is About Power
Members of the House of Representatives are scheduled to vote Thursday to repeal all of ObamaCare. Given that the House voted to repeal the law last year, some commentators and observers have questioned the need for another repeal vote. However, the scandals coming to light over the last week perfectly make the case for why Congress must eradicate the law from the statute books (Jim DeMint, 5/16).

New England Journal Of Medicine: Expanding The Role Of Advanced Nurse Practitioners – Risks And Rewards
As the 2014 expansion of coverage mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) looms larger, one question with no ready answer is how health care providers, policymakers, and payers will cope with an expected surge in patient demand for services. A shortage of primary care physicians to treat newly insured persons is the most immediate health workforce issue, but when added to the nation's population growth and more aging patients who require treatment, finding a practitioner may become an even more daunting challenge (John Iglehart, 5/16).

Tampa Bay Times: Hypocrisy In The House
Republican state lawmakers on Tuesday didn't want to talk about 1 million of the state's poor who don't have health insurance. Or about how Floridians and their health care system inevitably absorb the cost when the uninsured are in crisis. They tried to change the subject when asked at a Suncoast Tiger Bay meeting in St. Petersburg about news reports that juxtaposed Republican House members' generous taxpayer-covered health insurance with their votes to reject federal Medicaid expansion dollars to cover 1 million uninsured -- and pump $51 billion into the state economy. Floridians shouldn't so easily dismiss the hypocrisy (5/14).

Orlando Sentinel: Costly Expansion Wouldn't Improve Floridians' Health
The state Legislature's decision this year to reject Medicaid expansion was the correct decision for Florida. There is little evidence that growing the health care program for the poor would improve the health of state residents. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine is all the proof that Sunshine State legislators needed to reject Medicaid expansion. Those lamenting the failed implementation of this part of the federal Affordable Care Act in Florida can look to Oregon to see that Floridians won't be missing out on much (Bob Williams, 5/17).

Orlando Sentinel: Misrepresentations Blocked Care For A Million Floridians
Despite the support of Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Senate, the 2013 legislative session ended with the Florida House unilaterally blocking the extension of health coverage to more than a million low-income, uninsured Floridians. Approving "Medicaid expansion" (or a comparable Senate-backed alternative) would have provided low-wage workers, parents and patients priced out of coverage with desperately needed access to care and protection from financial ruin. It would have infused $51 billion of our tax dollars into the economy, created 120,000 private-sector jobs, saved the state more than it would cost, and enabled service-sector employers to avoid hundreds of millions in penalties. In short, a "win-win-win." The only remaining impediment was purely political (Greg Willowe, 5/17). 

Cincinnati Enquirer: Kentucky Expands Medicaid, Why Not Ohio?
By virtue of Kentucky’s Medicaid laws, Gov. Steve Beshear was able to expand that state's program without going through the Kentucky General Assembly. Good for him and good for Kentucky. ... But in Ohio, the Republican-controlled General Assembly is taking a lifetime to ponder the issue (5/16).

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