KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Viewpoints: Coal Country Health Study Is ‘No Waste Of Time’; The Fight Against The Opioid Epidemic Continues

A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.

The Washington Post: Trump Says He Cares About People In Coal Country. So Why Halt A Study On Their Health?
One would imagine that the Trump administration, which swept into power claiming to support the people who live in coal country, would prioritize federal spending on those very people’s health. Instead, the Interior Department has halted a study on how so-called mountaintop-removal coal mining affects people who live around these landscape-stripping operations. Ostensibly, the halt is part of a broad budgetary review. If so, Interior should restart the study quickly. It is a worthwhile use of government research money, and it should proceed no matter which constituency the president had promised to support. (9/10)

The New York Times: A Helpful Tool To Combat The Opioid Crisis
The opioid crisis is so complex and so large — drug-related deaths now exceed those caused by cars, H.I.V. or guns — that there is no single solution. Among the partial ones: prescription drug monitoring programs, an approach highlighted in the draft report from President Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. (Austin Frakt, 9/11)

Chicago Tribune: Illinois Vs. The Opioid Epidemic
The epidemic of opioid overdose deaths has been geographically lopsided. West Virginia has the highest rate, followed by New Hampshire, Ohio and Kentucky. Illinois’ rate is one-third of West Virginia’s, but that’s only modest comfort. Last year, 1,889 people died from opioid overdoses in Illinois. ... In recent days, a report put together by a group of state agencies mapped out a comprehensive strategy to eliminate one-third of opioid overdose deaths by 2020. And Gov. Bruce Rauner appointed a task force to look for ways to implement the strategy. ... A big need is greater access to “medication-assisted treatment” (MAT), which offers methadone and buprenorphine , drugs proven useful helping those with “opioid use disorder” (addiction, in common parlance) beat the habit. (9/11)

Kansas City Star: Medicaid Is Not To Blame For The Opioid Crisis
Saying that Medicaid expansion is fueling the opioid epidemic is kind of like saying that a sump pump can cause flooding in your basement. The iffy underpinning for this argument is the fact that many of the states that expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act do have higher overdose death rates. (9/10)

Topeka Capital Journal: Time To Debate Medicaid Expansion
Considering its significance for 150,000 Kansans — as well as hospitals and businesses around the state — Medicaid should be a major issue during this campaign. We should demand robust debate, and we can’t allow candidates to obscure the facts (for example, those who oppose expansion often cite its costs and ignore the economic benefits mentioned above). Kansans support Medicaid expansion, and we need to remind our future governor of this fact. (9/9)

Stat: How Good Is A Doctor At The End Of A 28-Hour Shift?
It isn’t terribly reassuring to know that doctors who might need to make life or death decisions about your health could be doing so after having been awake for so long. Would they be on top of their game at hour 16? What about hour 22? In medicine, the devil can be in the details — what if the doctor was too tired to notice something small that might not actually be that small? But according to the organization that sets the rules on how long resident physicians like me are allowed to work, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), this is OK. (Christopher Bennett, 9/8)

The Columbus Dispatch: Better Care For The Vulnerable
When it comes to caring for the most vulnerable elderly and mentally ill, Franklin County can take pride in the Guardianship Service Board. It has helped remake a system that once permitted shameful exploitation of wards into one of the state’s best. A new agreement between the board and Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center demonstrates how its impact can grow even more. (9/11)

Los Angeles Times: Trump And Sessions Are Ignoring Voters' Overwhelming Support For Medical Marijuana. Will Congress Listen?
Never mind what President Trump said on the campaign trail. His administration and GOP leaders appear determined to eliminate protections for medical marijuana growers, sellers and users. Every year since 2014, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) has inserted an amendment into a federal spending bill to prevent the Justice Department from prosecuting medical marijuana businesses that comply with their state’s laws. It’s been a temporary but necessary fix to address a fundamental contradiction: that even though 26 states have legalized medical marijuana, the drug is still prohibited under federal law. ... But last week, the House Rules Committee killed the amendment at the urging of Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, a hard-line marijuana prohibitionist. (9/9)

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