KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Viewpoints: ‘Artificial Intelligence’ And The Practice Of Medicine; Exploring The Nation’s Opioid Emergency

A selection of opinions on public health issues from around the country.

Stat: Artificial Intelligence Is Coming To Medicine — Don't Be Afraid
Across all industries, an estimated 60 percent of jobs will have 30 percent of their activities automated; about 5 percent of jobs will be 100 percent automated. What this means for health care is murky right now. Does that 5 percent include doctors? After all, medicine is a series of data points of a knowable nature with clear treatment pathways that could be automated. That premise, though, fantastically overstates and misjudges the capabilities of AI and dangerously oversimplifies the complexity underpinning what physicians do. Realistically, AI will perform many discrete tasks better than humans can which, in turn, will free physicians to focus on accomplishing higher-order tasks. (Jack Stockert, 8/18)

The New York Times: The Real Opioid Emergency
On Aug. 10, driven largely by public perception that many white Americans are experiencing problems and even dying from opioid use, Donald Trump proclaimed the opioid problem a national emergency. The president’s announcement appeared to consolidate a shift in the way we view certain drug users. They are now patients in need of our help and understanding, rather than criminals deserving scorn and incarceration. ... What looks like a radical shift to a more enlightened drug policy — one that favors treatment over incarceration — has encouraged many to hope that there will be far fewer drug-related arrests than there were in previous decades. I don’t count myself among the optimists. (Carl L. Hart, 8/18)

Los Angeles Times: How Many Nurses Does It Take To Change A Patient's Blood?
The rising demand for dialysis has led to a boom in outpatient clinics that specialize in it. Two companies in particular — DaVita, which operates 286 dialysis centers in California, and Fresenius Medical Care, which operates 127 — have captured 70% of the market nationally, turning the decline in kidney health into billions of dollars in annual profits. Those centers and their profits are now the subject of a pitched battle in Sacramento over proposals to supplement federal regulations on the centers with new state requirements. Unfortunately, the proposals would raise the cost of dialysis without necessarily improving it. (8/21)

Chicago Tribune: A Chance For A Do-Over On Cook County's Soda Tax
The Illinois Department of Revenue has settled the question of whether the tax can be applied to purchases made with food stamps. The answer is no. That means 872,000 people are exempt from the tax. That’s 872,000 people whose consumption of sugary beverages is beyond your overreaching grasp; 872,000 people who won’t be contributing to the $224 million you were counting on collecting next year. When you voted for the tax, you thought you could hide it from consumers by instructing retailers to include it in the shelf price of the drinks. But the Department of Revenue says you can’t do that, either. It would require merchants to charge sales tax on top of the soda tax — an illegal double taxation. The tax has to be added at the point of sale. (8/18)

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