KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Opinions On Opioids: Reducing Medicaid Won’t Help; Call On Pharmacists And Dentists

A selection of of opinions from around the country on the drug abuse epidemic and other topics.

Los Angeles Times: Slashing Medicaid Is Probably The Worst Way To Fight An Opioid Addiction Epidemic
Most readers know by now that deep cuts to Medicaid over the next decade are a central feature of the healthcare reform proposal before the U.S. Senate this week — and a terrible policy that would put health coverage out of reach for millions of Americans. But here’s yet another reason why senators should think twice about voting for the Better Care Reconciliation Act: Doing so would pull the rug out from under those fighting to stop the raging opioid epidemic. (7/11)

Morning Consult: Time To Put Limits On Opioid Prescribing
Last year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain. That was definitely a step in the right direction, but those guidelines only addressed chronic pain and not short-term, acute uses for pain medication. And an individual pharmacist is not empowered to enforce these voluntary prescribing guidelines. As a leading stakeholder in pharmacy care, we believe it is time to institute limits on the quantity of opioids dispensed to patients who are receiving an opioid for the first time — and to ensure that the prescription fits the medical condition. (Larry J. Merlo, 7/11)

The New York Times: Breaking The Opioid Habit In Dentists’ Offices
Dentists and oral surgeons are by far the major prescribers of opioids for people ages 10 to 19. That’s an age when the growing brain, which doesn’t mature until 25, is particularly susceptible to being taken over by opioids — even if the dosage seems too small to produce addiction. In fact, even very short-term prescriptions have been associated with later drug misuse among teens who have not used illegal drugs before. (Tina Rosenberg, 7/10)

San Jose Mercury News: Drug Companies Opioids Experiment Backfires
Amid broad efforts to help people avoid prescription-opioid addiction, some pharmaceutical companies are taking an intriguing approach: making prescription opioids that can’t be misused. Although the tactic may at first blush seem a miracle cure, it has a decidedly mixed record of success. (Keith Humphreys, 7/10)

And on other health care topics —

The New York Times: Health Plans That Nudge Patients To Do The Right Thing
As health care costs rise, Americans are increasingly on the hook to pay more for their care. This trend is more than just annoying — asking consumers to pay more for everything deters many from getting the care they need. What would happen if, instead, health plans offered more generous coverage of high-value care, but less generous coverage of those services that provide little or no health benefit? (Austin Frakt, 7/10)

Los Angeles Times: The State Shouldn't Get To Decide If Your Baby Lives Or Dies.
Charlie Gard’s parents are doing the wrong thing — and I’d probably do it too. Charlie Gard, if you haven’t heard, is the 11-month-old baby whose plight has become a popular cause in England and, increasingly, the United States. ... A doctor in the United States reached out and suggested a treatment called nucleoside therapy. To call this treatment unproven and experimental is a bit of an understatement. (Jonah Goldberg, 7/11)

The New York Times: Doctors With Disabilities: Why They’re Important
More than 20 percent of Americans — nearly 57 million people — live with a disability, including 8 percent of children and 10 percent of nonelderly adults. And while the medical profession is devoted to caring for the ill, often it doesn’t do enough to meet the needs of the disabled. People with disabilities are less likely to receive routine medical care, including cancer screening, flu vaccines and vision and dental exams. They have higher rates of unaddressed cardiovascular risk factors like obesity, smoking and hypertension. (Dhruv Khullar, 7/11)

The Washington Post: A New Report Shows Just How Far D.C. Has Come In Fighting HIV/AIDS
D.C. officials in 2009 reported that the HIV rate in the nation’s capital was higher than that of West Africa. “On par with Uganda and some parts of Kenya” was the grim assessment of the director of the city’s HIV/AIDS Administration. Just how far the city has come in fighting the disease since that alarm was sounded eight years ago was reflected in a new report chronicling the ninth consecutive year in which the number of new HIV cases has decreased. (7/10)

Stat: Go Ahead And Hit 'Record' In The Doctor's Office
Many patients say they want to record clinical encounters. Doing this can lessen the anxiety of trying to remember and understand what was said. Most patients who are given a recording of a clinical visit share it with loved ones, suggesting that recordings can help patients better engage their support networks. ... But doctors worry that recordings could undermine trust between them and their patients. Will patients be candid about health behaviors, including sex and drug use, if the conversation is recorded and potentially discoverable by others? Doctors also worry that recordings could be used against them in malpractice suits, or made public in some way. (Tim Lahey and Glyn Elwyn, 7/10)

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