KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Robin Williams’ ‘Wakeup Call’; Surprise In Medicaid Growth; Tools To Stop Ebola In U.S.

The New Republic: Robin Williams' Death Is A Wakeup Call For Mental Illness
Earlier this year, [Robin] Williams checked himself into a rehabilitation facility. And whether he needed help with addiction or mental illness—or, as is so often the case, with both—it's safe to assume he got it. He had the money to afford the best and the sad truth is that, in some cases, even the best isn't enough to save people. But Williams' access to such assistance would have been the exception. The majority of Americans struggle to get decent mental health care, or any mental health care at all. Expansions of insurance, including those in the Affordable Care Act, are enabling more people to pay for treatments. And halting investments in facilities and programs, some the result of highly publicized tragedies, have helped countless others. But the mismatch between what people need and what they can actually get remains stark (Jonathan Cohn, 8/12).

The New York Times’ The Upshot: Medicaid Rolls Are Growing Even In States That Rejected Federal Funds
Call it a side effect of the Affordable Care Act: Even in states that haven’t changed their Medicaid programs, nearly a million people signed up for Medicaid this year. ... But Medicaid enrollment has also increased this year in many states that chose not to accept federal funds. Data from Medicaid released Friday show that enrollment jumped in most states that did not expand their programs, including Georgia (16 percent), Montana (10 percent), Idaho (9 percent) and Florida (7 percent) (Margo Sanger-Katz, 8/11). 

Forbes: If Ebola Arrives In The U.S., Stopping It May Rely On Controversial Tools
Considering the nature of the Ebola virus, and the medical infrastructure we have to combat its spread, the diagnosis of some cases on American soil shouldn’t be reason to panic. We have a plethora of tools and public health practices to readily combat its spread. ... For most Americans, it may be the first time they glimpse the tools that our government has staked out over the last decade, as preparation for public health emergencies like a pandemic flu, or even bioterrorism. Some of these authorities are wholly necessary. Others will prove controversial and worthy of closer scrutiny. Chief among them are authority maintained by the Centers for Disease Control to quarantine Americans suspected of having a dangerous, communicable disease (Scott Gottlieb, 8/12).

The Wall Street Journal's The Experts: The Biggest Misconceptions People Have About The Medical Profession
Few people know what it's really like to be on the other side of the stethoscope. With this issue in mind, we asked The Experts: What is the biggest misconception the public has about the medical profession? (8/11).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: A Better Option Than Impeachment To Check Executive Overreach
With Republicans in charge of Congress, they would be able to provide a true check on executive overreach. They would be able to stop Attorney General Eric Holder's politicization of the Justice Department. They would be able to hold the president accountable to his own health-care law. They would be able to exercise the oversight power that comes with having the appropriations process controlled by the opposition party (John Feehery, 8/11). 

Reuters: What Should We Eat To Stay Healthy? Why Experts Actually Have No Idea.
Have you ever wondered why nutrition experts so often change their minds about what constitutes a healthy diet? In the last six months, a variety of experts and nutrition organizations have issued at least as many major dietary guidelines proclaiming the next set of instructions on what to eat to prevent cancer, whether processed foods are really food, whether the type of fat you eat has any effect on developing heart disease, and how to control diabetes with diet. ... These new guidelines have, like most dietary guidelines in the past, done little to solidify our understanding of the cause and effect relationship between diet and disease. Even worse, they're likely to discredit nutritional science (David Seres, 8/11). 

Journal of the American Medical Association: Hospital Relationships With Direct-To-Consumer Screening Companies
In an increasingly competitive health care environment, one [hospital] strategy to bring in new "customers" is to sponsor outreach programs that can be marketed to the general public as "lifesaving." The screening tests offered by HealthFair and other [direct to consumer] DTC screening companies, which primarily focus on the early detection of atherosclerotic disease and prevention of catastrophic vascular events, are advertised and supported by evidence of early disease detection and emotional consumer testimonials rather than quality, outcomes-based evidence demonstrating reductions in morbidity and mortality. ... Given the controversy over the values and ethics of DTC screening companies and the services they offer, hospitals should clearly and publicly explain their relationships with DTC screening companies, given the lack of evidence to support mass vascular screenings (Drs. Erik A. Wallace, John H. Schumann and Steven E. Weinberger, 8/11).

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