KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Taking Aim At ‘Superbugs’; Friending Organ Donations; Ariz. And Kansas Abortion Efforts Hurt Women

Bloomberg: Squash 'Superbugs' With Fast-Track Antibiotics Approval
In the battle between humans and infectious bacteria, humans have had the advantage, at least since antibiotics were introduced into our arsenal 70 or so years ago. Now, however, our weapons appear to be turning against us as germs have found ways to outfox antibiotics…. A second challenge is to keep a steady stream of new antibiotics in the pipeline, and this is where the big pharmaceutical companies based in Europe and the U.S. come in…. The FDA is considering a high-speed pathway for some new antibiotics, which would allow for limited approval based on only a small clinical trial, rather than the two large ones usually require (5/7).

Bloomberg: Facebook's Organ Donation Success Needs Follow-Up
Facebook Inc. took a momentous action last week [with] ... the company's invitation to users to register to become organ donors…. As a result, online state donor registries experienced a remarkable 23-fold surge, according to Donate Life America, a nonprofit alliance of national donor advocate organizations…. What's needed to complement Facebook's breakthrough are rewards for living donors. These could take many forms -- perhaps a contribution to a retirement fund, an offer of lifetime health insurance, a tuition voucher or a large charitable contribution in the donor's name (Sally Satel, 5/7).

Politico: Obama Plays Politics With College Grads
To cover the cost of a temporary rate freeze [on student loans] both parties want, Democrats propose to divert $6 billion from Medicare and raise taxes on small business — damaging the very companies we’re counting on to hire young workers. Republicans have been crystal clear that this fix is no fix at all if it weakens entitlements or harms small business in the process. ... For our part, Republicans propose to cover the cost of the interest rate freeze by ending an "Obamacare" slush fund that Democrats and the president himself have already drawn from to cover expenses unrelated to health care (Sen. Mitch McConnell, 5/7).

Roll Call: Model Programs After VA’s Home-Based System
The VA's home-based primary care program — developed in 1972 as a way to serve chronically ill veterans with comprehensive, interdisciplinary care in patients' homes — has enabled the delivery of skilled, coordinated and cost-effective services in a challenging fiscal environment. This focus on providing clinically advanced care in the home setting has yielded unprecedented outcomes that should serve as a model for America's health care system. In addition to providing veterans with high-quality care in the setting most patients prefer, this system of encouraging home care for long-term chronic disease management saves money (John Rowan and Tom Berger, 5/8).

Arizona Republic: Lawmakers' Shot Misses Planned Parenthood, Hits Poor Women
Gov. Jan Brewer, along with the Tea Party contingent of the legislature and the anti-abortion Center for Arizona Policy want to put Planned Parenthood out of business. Their reasoning is simple: Planned Parenthood provides abortion services. Those services aren't close to everything that Planned Parenthood does, but it's enough for Brewer and the others to want to shut them down (E. J. Montini, 5/7).

The Kansas City Star: A Lack Of Concern
In the process of passing bills to make abortion less accessible, Kansas lawmakers have potentially restricted women's ability to access other services and undermined the University of Kansas Medical Center…. This bill is disrespectful and dangerous. The Senate must stop it from getting to Gov. Sam Brownback, who never lets offensive and even unethical provisions deter him from signing a bill limiting abortions (5/7).

The New York Times: Monitoring Care For The Disabled
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has finally come up with a comprehensive plan to monitor thousands of New York's private and public facilities. The legislative package he released this week would create a new agency to oversee homes for about a million people who are disabled or mentally ill. It is a sensible, straightforward proposal that legislators and unions should support (5/7).

The New York Times: Room For Debate: Women, Weight And Wellness
A New York Times Op-Ed by Alice Randall calls for black women to "commit to getting under 200 pounds." But in February, a Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation survey revealed that heavier black women have much higher self-esteem than average-sized white women. What's more important, a positive body image, whatever your size, or a fit physique that proportionately puts you at less risk for diabetes and other ailments? (5/7).

WBUR’s CommonHealth blog: Blue Cross Painkiller Policy Risks Hurting Patients
It is wonderful that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts is concerned about pain reliever abuse and that the company has consulted with some physicians about ways to curb it. But it is extremely likely that the policy the company is set to put in place July 1, which allows patients to fill a 15-day prescription and one additional 15-day supply, will end up doing more harm than good, becoming yet another barrier for legitimate pain patients who need opioid medications  (Judy Foreman, 5/7).

Medscape: Our Challenge In Healing Health Care
[Atul] Gwande traces the evolution of the 'good doctor' from the autonomous craftsman of the late 1930's - somebody who could set a bone, identify the cause of a lobar pneumonia and treat congestive heart failure by bleeding, providing digitalis and oxygen- to the contemporary specialized physician with 6,000 drugs and 4,000 operations to choose from. The cowboy who valued autonomy has morphed into a good leader who recognizes the need for pit crews. ... The challenge for our generation is to identify systems that work and the first step is to understand where we fail (Dr. Lidia Schapira, 5/6).

Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine: Why Feed Breast Milk From A Bottle?
One hypothesized mechanism by which breastfeeding might protect against obesity is that feeding from the breast prevents overfeeding (feeding the infant beyond satiety), suggesting that breastfeeding, rather than breast milk, protects against later obesity. ... Pediatricians should be wary of how well-intentioned encouragement of breastfeeding may be placing added pressure on mothers living in a culture that does not support paid parental leave. ... Pediatricians should deliver their expert advice with empathy, being mindful of the gap that always exists for parents between doing what is ideal for their children and doing what is possible (Drs. Robert C. Whitaker and Jeffrey A. Wright, 5/8).

Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine: Public Policy To Improve Child Nutrition And Health: Challenges and Opportunities
With passage of the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, schools are required to adhere to new standards to improve the quality of school meals. ... Beginning with the 2012-2013 school year, the USDA-reimbursable school lunch will need to include more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and reduced-fat milk. ... USDA is required to establish nutritional standards for all other foods and beverages (ie, competitive foods) served or sold in schools at any time during the day throughout the school campus, including vending machines, school stores, and à la carte in the cafeteria. ... However, as was demonstrated in developing the new nutritional standards for school lunch and breakfast, the interests of industry and advocates can influence the interpretation of science, translation into specific rules, and implementation time frames (Dr. Barbara A. Dennison, 5/8).

Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine: Who Is Minding The Virtual Alcohol Store?
Seventeen years ago, a public health colleague of mine ordered a case of beer over the Internet in his then 10-year-old daughter's name. The case duly arrived, left at the door without any requirement of signature or age verification. ... the problem my colleague identified years ago has blossomed like a hothouse flower in a long-forgotten greenhouse. [A new study looking] for Internet alcohol vendors found an industry with sales of $2.4 billion per year. ... Underage purchases at these sites were far too easy: 45 of 100 attempts were successful (David H. Jernigan, 5/8).

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