KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Bishops Find Fault With GOP Budget; Pelosi On Court’s Role In Health Law

The New York Times: The Loyal Opposition: The Church Versus The Right
In February, the Catholic Church attempted to impose its opposition to birth control on its employees, upsetting Democrats and the left. This week, the Church is criticizing Republicans, acting in the highest tradition of its social mission by speaking out against spending cuts on programs for the poor. … The House recently passed a budget, written by Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, that would cut precisely the kind of safety-net programs championed by the church, while offering tax cuts to the rich. It has been fully embraced by the Republican party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Mitt Romney (David Firestone, 4/18).

The New York Times: Birth Control And Teenage Pregnancy
An encouraging new report shows a big decline in the rate of teenage births. From 2009 to 2010, the birth rate among young women ages 15 to 19 fell 9 percent, to 34.9 per thousand, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is a record low for the 65 years that data have been available, and a remarkable 44 percent drop from the 1991 rate. This good shift is largely the result of an increase in teenagers' use of birth control — a fact that Congressional Republicans ignore as they seek to dismantle reproductive health programs (4/18).

Chicago Tribune: Respecting The Constitution And The Role Of The Supreme Court
It is with respect for the fundamental American value of judicial review that Democrats wrote and Congress passed health care reform. We believe it is constitutionally sound. On the other hand, Republicans have had a long-standing opposition to judicial review — until now (Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., 4/19).

Roll Call: Abortion Was Always Heart Of Health Care Overhaul
Through a mandate issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, nearly all private insurance plans must fully cover the abortion-inducing drug ella. But instead of listening to the people (or the Constitution) and abandoning the ill-advised mandate, the Obama administration and HHS seek to blunt the criticism, in part by claiming they are merely following the "marching orders" given by the "independent Institute of Medicine" — the organization tasked with advising HHS on what should be included as "preventive services" in the mandate. In other words, HHS is claiming the allegedly independent and unbiased IOM made it include life-ending drugs in the mandate (Anna Franzonello, 4/19).

Des Moines Register: HIV Pool Needs Lawmakers' Action
The health reform law created a temporary insurance program to immediately help uninsured Americans. These people have preexisting health problems and cannot buy traditional insurance coverage on their own. The federal government allocated $35 million to Iowa, which projected it would insure about 1,000 people in its new high-risk insurance pool. But in the most recent federal count, only 238 Iowans were enrolled. One of the reasons the number is so low: The board overseeing Iowa's high-risk pool has made it nearly impossible for HIV-positive Iowans to sign up (4/18).

Houston Chronicle: A States' Rights Compromise On Health Care
The collapse of Obamacare need not be a legislative nightmare. Here's an alternative approach that could meet constitutional requirements and potentially garner enough support to pass. Congress could set up two tracks for health care coverage. One would be facilitated, but not operated by the Federal government. States would decide whether to participate in that track or opt out and go their own way (Chris Ladd, 4/19).

WBUR's CommonHealth blog: Five Myths About Massachusetts Health Reform (By A Former Romney Executive)
Myth Number 1: Uninsured rates in Massachusetts are 2% compared to nation's 16%. ... 2: There has been no evidence of crowd-out in Massachusetts. ... 3: The individual mandate is responsible for lowering premiums in the individual market. ... 4: The 2006 reform was never about costs. ... 5: The additional State cost per year of the reform has averaged $91 million a year (Amy Lischko, 4/19).

New England Journal of Medicine: Is Medicaid Constitutional?
Although the media and the U.S. public focused primarily on the minimum-coverage requirement, or individual mandate, during the recent oral arguments in the challenges to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) before the Supreme Court, the most important issue before the Court may well be the constitutionality of the ACA's Medicaid expansion. There are potential alternatives to the minimum-coverage requirement, but a finding that the Medicaid expansion is unconstitutional could threaten all federal spending programs that set minimum participation standards (Timothy Stoltzfus Jost, 4/19).

New England Journal of Medicine: Making The Best Of Hospital Pay For Performance
Over the past decade, "pay for performance" in health care has evolved from concept to policy with remarkable speed. In October 2012, U.S. acute care hospitals will begin to be paid for performance under the Medicare Hospital Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) program. Accumulating evidence, however, raises serious doubts about whether the program will improve value in health care. How did we get to this point, and what can be done to redirect the policy as VBP is rolled out nationally? (Andrew Ryan and Dr. Jan Blustein, 4/19).

Los Angeles Times: For A Healthier Economy, Fewer Oreos, More Granola
But try passing a law that forbids anyone under 17 from buying a can of Coke. We'd sooner see a pig sprout wings and escape the pen in which it's cooped before slaughter. Perhaps there is another approach to changing this country's eating habits, one that embraces our freedoms while fattening up the economy (Alexandra Le Tellier, 4/18).

The Wall Street Journal: Why I Donated A Kidney
The truth is that once you make the decision, the transplant itself is kind of easy. There are two days in the hospital, a week or two away from work, another few weeks without exercise, and that's about it. No long-term consequences (yes, I can still drink)—except a sense of happiness I didn't expect to feel. So why did I do it? For the same reason I do a lot of things: because someone I know did it (Jim Sollisch, 4/18).

The Dallas Morning News: Untreated Mental Illness Plays Havoc, But We're Not Helpless
The daily dramas of mental illness occur mostly out of sight. But lately, the chaos keeps bursting into view…. A new training program seems so obvious that you wonder why it didn't come along much sooner. It's called Mental Health First Aid. And just as we're trained to deal with a heart attack or a bleeding wound, Mental Health First Aid teaches us how to deal with someone in mental crisis (Steve Blow, 4/18).

The Baltimore Sun: Crack Epidemic's Legacy In Baltimore
In Baltimore, where we had so much addiction and violence associated with the crack epidemic, crime has been in decline. So has crack use, according to records the government keeps. It might have been passed from parents to children, from siblings to little brothers and sisters. But generally, by most indications, the crack-using population is aging out, and the next generation hasn't picked up the pipe. If that trend continues, maybe in another 10 years we'll see the end of crack's long legacy in Baltimore (Dan Rodricks, 4/18).

The Washington Post: Jeffrey Thompson's Chartered Health Plan Had A Very Bad 2011
A recent annual filing with the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking shows that D.C. Chartered Health Plan recorded a $14.9 million operating loss in 2011, even after accounting for a $7.5 million payment from the District to settle a billing dispute. Chartered is the largest of two companies that manage health care for low-income District residents under government-funded programs (DeBonis, 4/18).

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