KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Sen. Sanders Says Don’t Cut Entitlements Before Making Corporations Pay Taxes; Rep. Smith Argues That If Entitlements Are Tamed, Other Priorities Will Suffer

Los Angeles Times: The Right Way To Make A Federal Budget
Instead of talking about cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, we must end the absurdity of corporations not paying a nickel in federal income taxes. A 2008 report from the Government Accountability Office found that was the case with 1 in 4 large U.S. corporations. At a time when multinational corporations and the wealthy are avoiding an estimated $100 billion a year in taxes by stashing money in tax havens like the Cayman Islands, we need to make them pay taxes just as middle-class Americans do (Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., 10/28). 

Politico: Entitlement Reform To Boost Research And Development
We must set priorities and get our nation’s spending under control. To accomplish this we must reform entitlement programs. If we don’t, experts warn, future funding for other budget priorities, including scientific research, could be in jeopardy (Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, 10/25).

Roll Call: Home Health Patients Must Be Protected From Medicare Cuts
As colleagues in the U.S. House dedicated to protecting the health care needs of our senior and disabled constituents, we agree that access to clinically appropriate care in the most cost effective setting is of utmost importance in properly caring for our nation’s growing Medicare population. Home health care is a vital solution to improving patient health while also decreasing costs. Home health allows patients to receive low-cost care in the safety of their homes, which reduces Medicare expenditures in more expensive institutional care settings. That’s why we believe Medicare should support and encourage the delivery of home health care (Reps. Doris Matsui and David B. McKinley, 10/25).

Reuters: The Most Dangerous Mistake You Can Make During Flu Season
Flu is a highly infectious disease that is caused by a virus. It spreads rapidly through droplets coughed or sneezed into the air by an infected person. It is common, unpleasant and potentially fatal. Flu vaccines provide effective, though not universal, protection against the flu. But despite public awareness campaigns in the United States and Europe, many people persist in the mistaken belief that antibacterial drugs — like amoxicillin and azithromycin — are the best treatment for flu. And many doctors simply surrender when patients demand them, ignoring the scientific and medical truth: when treating the flu, antibacterial drugs just don’t work (Jonathan Grant and Jirka Taylor, 10/25).

USA Today: Curbing Antibiotics On Farms Taking Too Long: Our View
Want to ensure that miracle drugs can no longer perform miracles? Then do what some physicians and industrial livestock farmers have done for years: Overprescribe antibiotics to people, and use them cavalierly in farm animals to promote growth or prevent infections before they even occur (10/27).

USA Today: Farming Is Not A Public Health Risk: Opposing View
Most large modern farms have a veterinarian intimately involved in the health care of these babies and mamas. They ensure that medicines are used appropriately to save the most lives possible. Sometimes, this means giving antibiotics to animals that look healthy, preventing a deadly outbreak of disease. To avoid being prey, animals have natural instincts that make them very slow to show illness. Therefore, at the first hint of a problem we may medicate an entire barn. I do not support antibiotics used for growth promotion. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is phasing out the use of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion. Antibiotics used for this purpose already represented a small percentage (less than 13%) of antibiotics used on-farm. Nevertheless, farmers and veterinarians agreed to curtail this practice (Scott Hurd, 10/27).

Bloomberg: A Prescription To End Painkiller Abuse
In proposing to strengthen the rules on prescribing opioid painkillers, the Food and Drug Administration is certainly making the right call. Tighter restrictions are needed to stem the fast-growing crisis of addiction and overdose from drugs containing the narcotic hydrocodone. ... These drugs are too big a problem, however, to be solved by this one change. ... What’s also needed is better monitoring of all prescriptions through electronic databases, so that doctors and pharmacists can tell whether a patient is looking to fill prescriptions for hydrocodone-combination drugs from more than one doctor (10/25).

Journal of the American Medical Association: Can Mobile Health Technologies Transform Health Care?
[Mobile health] technologies have the potential to change every aspect of the health care environment and to do so while delivering better outcomes and substantially lowering costs. For consumers, mHealth offers the promise of improved convenience, more active engagement in their care, and greater personalization. For clinicians, mHealth could lead to reduced demands on their time and permit them to instead refocus on the art of medicine. Much remains to be done to drive this transformation. Most critically needed is real-world clinical trial evidence to provide a roadmap for implementation that confirms its benefits to consumers, clinicians, and payers alike (Drs. Steven R. Steinhubl, Evan D. Muse and Eric J. Topol, 10/24).

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