KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Why Changing Doctors’ Practice Is Difficult; HHS As ‘Giant Venture Capital Investor’

The New York Times: The Trouble With 'Doctor Knows Best'
This deluge of do-less recommendations results from research into tests and procedures that have been arguably overused. You'd think these pronouncements would bring a sea change in the way patients are treated in this country. But my guess is that little will change. Many doctors, maybe most, will ignore these findings and keep doing what they have been doing all along. ... It’s the culture of doctors, and that will be very hard to change (Dr. Peter B. Bach, 6/4).

The New York Times: Asthma By The Numbers
Federal health officials recently issued a gloomy report noting that the percentage of Americans suffering from asthma reached a record high of 8.4 percent in 2010, up from 7.3 percent in 2001. An estimated 25.7 million people had asthma in 2010, including 18.7 million adults and seven million children below the age of 18. It is a frightening disease in which sufferers struggle to breathe. In severe attacks, victims can die (6/4).

The Wall Street Journal: Inside ObamaCare's Grant-Making
Early this year, I was briefly involved with one of the Affordable Care Act's bureaucracies called the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, or CMMI. Despite its lofty ideals, it is one more pork program and venue for political cronyism, as I learned firsthand (Steven E. Greer, 6/4).

The Wall Street Journal: Fannie Med
Perhaps you thought that the Affordable Care Act is all about making insurance more affordable. Too bad no one told Americans that the law also turned the Health and Human Services Department into a giant venture capital investor for health care. This won't turn out well. Awash in ObamaCare dollars, HHS has a growing investment portfolio that includes everything from new insurance companies to health-care start-ups to information technology (6/4).

CNN: Bloomberg's Visionary Move Against Obesity
Nobody seems to have a positive word for Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal to ban oversized servings of sugary drinks in New York's food-service establishments. The mayor has been decried as a nanny. ... So let's defy the trend here and say: Good for Bloomberg. ... There is little doubt about the serious health effects of sugary soda. Just one soda a day doubles a woman's risk of diabetes, according to the Harvard Journals of Public Health. Two sodas raises her risk of heart disease by 40% (David Frum, 6/4).

CNN: Forget Large Sodas, How About Banning French Fries?
Critics are crying that the move is an infringement on personal freedom. But the bigger question is: What's the rationale behind targeting a single dietary factor in the sea of unhealthy foods and drinks that barrage us every day? Is it scientifically sound? A typical 16-ounce soft drink contains about 180 calories, nearly all from sugar. It doesn't contain any fat. While Bloomberg's ban will make it illegal to sell large-sized sugary drinks, it's perfectly legal to sell plenty of other beverages (milkshakes, anyone?) and foods (how about some ice cream?) that pack far more calories per amount served as well as very high levels of fat, sodium or other laboratory-engineered chemicals (Mark A. Pereira, 6/4).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: FDA Right To Take A Look At Prescription Opioids
Some doctors are urging federal officials to make it illegal for drug companies to market (prescription opiods) to treat chronic, long-term pain, a step we believe the FDA should consider….. Heather Pierce, who has a genetic connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, said she is worried about limiting the approval of opioids to just severe pain….. The FDA needs to consider that point. But the rising use of prescription opioids should be the bigger concern, as doctors writing in last week's New England Journal of Medicine pointed out (6/4). 

The Wall Street Journal: Illinois Blows Smoke At Taxpayers
Such a warning might be especially instructive for Illinois. There the Democratic legislature (with the help of Republicans in the state House) has just raised cigarette taxes by a dollar a pack. Gov. Pat Quinn says everyone wins: The higher tax means more revenue for Medicaid from those who continue to puff, while the higher price will encourage some to quit, lowering smoking-related health costs for the state (William McGurn, 6/4).

Arizona Republic: State Needs A Permanent Solution
It's the right thing for the right reasons. But Arizona's new version of a safety net for uninsured children raises questions about how long the state can substitute patches for long-term solutions. … Dubbed KidsCare II, the program is part of a larger plan that allows the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System to use money from the hospitals to take advantage of a federal match. This will help defray the hospitals' uncompensated costs of caring for adults and kids who have been cut from health-care coverage in Arizona in recent years (6/5).

Miami Herald: Wayward Government
At the Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee, the state's largest public facility for mental care, workers ignored a woman's cry for help as she felt the onset of birth. She eventually delivered a brain-injured child who will likely require lifelong medical care. Immediate responsibility for this appalling incident last December rests with unresponsive hospital workers. But an 88-page report issued last week by the Inspector General of the Department of Children & Families found ample reason to point the finger at the real culprits — an uncaring system and incompetent administration (6/4).

San Francisco Chronicle: Outdated CA Mental Health Law Serves No One
Many of the mentally ill end up in jail rather than in treatment. Thus, acute bed cuts billed as savings have simply shifted costs to the criminal justice system…. California needs to revise its 45-year-old Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, a civil rights law designed to extract persons with mental illness from state hospitals with the expectation that they would receive care and treatment in their home communities. This expectation failed (Fred Martin Jr., 6/5).

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