KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Higher Costs Don’t Mean Better Health Quality; States And The Uninsured

Bloomberg: Expensive Hospitals Aren't Any Better
The good news about health care spending continues. In the first nine months of this fiscal year, Medicare spending increased only 1.2 percent in nominal terms, and for 2014, it's now projected to be $1,000 lower per beneficiary than the Congressional Budget Office said it would be as recently as 2010. Even the Medicare trustees are starting to recognize that something big may be happening. In evaluating the recent deceleration, however, a crucial question remains: Can slower cost growth continue without harming the quality of outcomes? (Peter R. Orszag, 8/5).

The New York Times' Well: Why We Should Know The Price Of Medical Tests
One of the common arguments against mandating or providing upfront prices for medical tests and procedures is that American patients are not very skilled consumers of health care and will assume high prices mean high quality. A study released Monday in the journal Health Affairs suggests we are smarter than that (Elisabeth Rosenthal, 8/5). 

The New York Times' The Upshot: States That Embraced Health Law Show Biggest Gains In Reducing Uninsured
We’ve seen a few polls now that have demonstrated a real, measurable drop in the number of Americans who lack health insurance since the Affordable Care Act’s major provisions kicked in this January. Now we finally have a picture of what’s happening at the state level (Margo Sanger-Katz, 8/5). 

Los Angeles Times: We Don't Need Underhanded Attempts To Obstruct Access To Abortion
Several states have enacted laws in recent years that require doctors who perform abortions at clinics to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. These laws, masquerading as measures to protect the health of women, are nothing more than underhanded attempts to obstruct access to abortion services. In every state where such a law has been passed, it would result in the closure of at least some abortion clinics, making it substantially more difficult for women to get the reproductive healthcare to which they are constitutionally entitled (8/5). 

Reuters: You Don't Need That Annual Pelvic Exam. So Why Is Your Doctor Giving You One?
In June, the American College of Physicians (ACP) reported what many doctors have known for years: There is little justification for the widespread practice of the annual pelvic exam. In its clinical guidelines, the physicians group recommended against performing the exams for non-pregnant women who don’t have pelvic pain or other symptoms that suggest a gynecologic problem. These guidelines do not apply to Pap smears for cervical cancer screening, for which there is strong evidence for their continued use. They apply to the pelvic exam, where the clinician first uses a speculum to perform an internal exam, and then with his or her hands, feels for pelvic organs. ... Despite these findings, an alarming number of physicians continue to conduct annual pelvic exams. That’s partly because of a position taken by the organization that establishes guidelines for gynecologists, the doctors who conduct the majority of pelvic exams in the United States (Deepthiman Gowda, 8/5).

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