KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Viewpoints: GMO Foods; Bad Business Case For New Antibiotics; Need For More Black Doctors

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

USA Today: GMO Food Bans Pander To Ignorance: Our View
Americans love conspiracy theories: The 1969 moon landing actually occurred on a Hollywood set. Fluoride in drinking water was a communist plot. Paul McCartney is dead. Elvis is alive. Most of these kooky notions are harmless, but some are not, especially when people ignore overwhelming scientific consensus in favor of discredited theories or simple fear-mongering. For example, increasing numbers of parents refuse to vaccinate their kids, which opens the door for renewed outbreaks of dangerous diseases. ... despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, most Americans believe that food altered by genetically modified organisms — GMOs — is harmful. Based on the misinformation, companies are beginning to ban food that contains GMOs. (5/17)

USA Today: Chipotle Makes A Sound Decision: Opposing View
Since when do the mainstream news media, in a country that worships at the altar of capitalism and the free market, launch a coordinated attack against a company for selling a product consumers want? When that company dares to cross the powerful biotech industry. How else to explain the unprecedented negative coverage of Chipotle, merely because the successful restaurant chain will eliminate GMO foods? (Ronnie Cummins, 5/17)

The Wall Street Journal: Bad Drug Trip In Alameda
The pharmaceutical and biotech lobbies are asking the Court to hear PhRMA v. Alameda, which challenges a drug take-back ordinance that the county enacted in 2012. A speculative fear among California greens is that traces of unused medicines that are thrown out or flushed are contaminating the water supply. The Alameda program requires all drug makers to fund and operate a county-wide disposal program, wherever they are headquartered in the world, as long as their products find their way into Alameda through interstate commerce. (5/17)

Bloomberg View: The Antibiotic Arms Race
Antibiotics face a worthy, endlessly adaptive enemy: bacteria. The more we use each drug, the less effective it becomes. That means that we need a constant flow of new antibiotics. And we're not getting them, in part because the market for developing these vital drugs is broken. ... If a company develops an exciting new antibiotic, infectious disease specialists will hold onto it as long as possible, using older generics whenever possible and bringing out your new drug only when everything else has failed. By the time they're ready to use it more broadly, the drug will be off patent, and the company that developed it won't make any money off of it. As health policy, this is absolutely the right thing to do; it stretches out the time we get to use an effective antibiotic, and saves costs to boot. But as drug development policy, it's disastrous. (Megan McArdle, 5/14)

The New York Times: Stemming The Tide Of Fake Medicines
A flood of fraudulent medicines sold mostly in the developing world is threatening the health of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people in those nations and consumers in more advanced nations as well. International organizations, national drug regulators and the drug industry itself have been struggling for years to curb sales of phony or poorly prepared medicines. But articles in a special issue of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, published online last month, show that efforts to control this problem have had only modest success over the past decade. (5/18)

Los Angeles Times: Can The Government Reduce Poverty While Also Slashing The Budget?
important but often neglected debate broke out in Washington last week: Which political party can do more for the nation's poor? ... At least in theory, there's still room for deal-making here. A few creative Republicans have been willing to consider cutting taxes on the working poor at the cost of modestly higher taxes on some of the affluent. A few creative Democrats have been willing to consider trimming the growth of Social Security and Medicare to free up funds for the truly needy. (Doyle McManus, 5/16)

The Washington Post's Plum LIne: Republicans Brace For Glorious Victory Over Obamacare
Nancy Pelosi is now predicting that Republicans will “rue the day” that the Supreme Court guts Obamacare subsidies for millions in three dozen states. “They’re going to then go out and say we’re going to take subsidies away from people who have health care? No, I don’t think so,” says Pelosi. “It would be really bad news for them.” Meanwhile, if anything, Republicans may be moving away from their previously-stated vow to participate in providing a contingency fix to temporarily keep those millions covered. The Hill reports that GOP Rep. Tom Price, the chairman of the House budget committee and a leading conservative, has now come out against any plan to temporarily keep those subsidies going. (Greg Sargent, 5/15)

Los Angeles Times: The California Budget's Shrinking Surplus
Now subtract the money deposited automatically in the rainy day fund, and you're left with an Incredible Shrinking Surplus. Brown has proposed to spend most of what's left on a new tax credit for the poor, more aid for higher education and, potentially, health insurance for immigrants temporarily granted legal status by President Obama. These are all good ideas, yet they leave other glaring needs unmet, such as restoring cuts in Medi-Cal payments that have made it harder for the poor to obtain care. (5/15)

The Washington Post: Md. Dollars For Schools Or Pensions?
As a matter of policy, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan was absolutely right when he said that lawmakers in Annapolis are trying to “rob the pension fund” on which tens of thousands of current and retired state employees depend or will depend for their income and health coverage. His ability to stop them from doing so may be limited, but that’s not stopping him from trying. (5/17)

Toledo Blade: Medicaid For Mothers
Over the past decade, infant mortality rates in Lucas County and the rest of Ohio have remained heartbreakingly high, especially for African-Americans and poor families. Yet as they prepare to pass a new state budget, many lawmakers want to reduce support for expectant mothers who are Medicaid recipients. That shouldn’t happen. (5/18)

Albuquerque Journal: Revamped System Expands NM Behavioral Health Care
Remember when that $3 million behavioral health audit was so shocking it had to be kept secret from the public that paid for it? And when the targeted 15 agencies lost their Medicaid funding and were reportedly on the brink of shutting down and leaving their tens of thousands of vulnerable New Mexico clients adrift? What a difference a little accountability and a new, and expanded, Medicaid system make. (5/17)

The New York Times: The Case For Black Doctors
In virtually every field of medicine, black patients as a group fare the worst. This was one of my first and most painful lessons as a medical student nearly 20 years ago. The statistics that made my stomach cramp back then are largely the same today: The infant mortality rate in the black population is twice that of whites. Black men are seven times more likely than white men to receive a diagnosis of H.I.V. and more than twice as likely to die of prostate cancer. Black women have nearly double the obesity rate of white women and are 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer. Black people experience much higher rates of hypertension, diabetes and stroke. The list goes on and on. The usual explanations for these health disparities — poverty, poor access to medical care and unhealthy lifestyle choices, to name a few — are certainly valid, but the longer I’ve practiced medicine, the more I’ve come to appreciate a factor that is less obvious: the dearth of black doctors. (Damon Tweedy, 5/15)

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Does Philadelphia Have Primary Care Deserts?
Over the past two years, one of the top health care priorities in Philadelphia has been getting people signed up for health insurance. That is still a huge, unfinished task, but alongside it we need to make sure we have enough doctors in the right places to deliver care. For health care reform to deliver on its promise, people need good access to primary care. (David Grande, 5/15)

Miami Herald: Blind Man Loses Bluff On ‘Obamacare’
Luis Lang would like you to send him some money. He has taken to GoFundMe (, the crowd-funding website, trying to raise $30,000. Mr. Lang, who is 49 and lives in Fort Mills, S.C., is slowly losing his eyesight to diabetes. Without surgery, he'll go blind. Those grim facts notwithstanding, some may not find Mr. Lang the most sympathetic candidate for charity. (Leonard Pitts, 5/17)

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