KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

Viewpoints: Is Sanders’ Single-Payer Plan The Cure All?; The Problem With Deductibles

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

The Washington Post: The False Charms Of Bernie Sanders’s Single-Payer Plan
Could Bernie Sanders’s “Medicare for all” proposal — national health insurance — be as good as he says? It’s doubtful. ... To hear Sanders tell it, his single-payer plan (the government pays for most health care) would cure these ailments. Everyone would have coverage. People would go to doctors, hospitals and clinics as needed. There would be no deductibles or copayments to discourage them. Workers would not be locked into jobs they dislike because they fear losing employer-provided insurance. ... It sounds too good to be true, because it is. (Robert J. Samuelson, 2/7)

The New York Times' Upshot: The Big Problem With High Health Care Deductibles
When Bernie Sanders released his long-awaited health care plan last month, it was light on the details. But it did include one major, crowd-pleasing promise: Under his Medicare-for-all proposal, no American would ever have to pay a deductible or co-payment to receive health care again. Deductibles and other forms of cost-sharing have been creeping up in the United States since the late 1990s. A typical employer health plan now asks an individual to pay more than $1,000 out of pocket before coverage kicks in for most services. The most popular plans on the Affordable Care Act exchanges require customers to pay several times as much. Even Medicare charges deductibles. (Margot Sanger-Katz, 2/5)

Des Moines Register: A 2016 Prescription For Health Care Reform
In the campaign season thus far personalities have overshadowed policy positions in both media coverage and personal discussions of the candidates. New data on the costs of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, suggest this is one policy debate that deserves more detailed answers from the men and women who would be president. (Genevieve Wood, 2/7)

The New York Times: Give Up Your Data to Cure Disease
How far would you go to protect your health records? Your privacy matters, of course, but consider this: Mass data can inform medicine like nothing else and save countless lives, including, perhaps, your own. Over the past several years, using some $30 billion in federal stimulus money, doctors and hospitals have been installing electronic health record systems. More than 80 percent of office-based doctors, including me, use some form of E.H.R. These systems are supposed to make things better by giving people easier access to their medical information and avoiding the duplication of tests and potentially fatal errors. Yet neither doctors nor patients are happy. (David B. Agus, 2/6)

Los Angeles Times: Patients Need To Know About Doctor Malpractice
When the California Medical Board puts doctors on probation for drug use, negligence, sexual harassment or other violations, it requires them to inform the hospitals where they practice and their malpractice insurers. Yet they are not required to inform the people most likely to be harmed if their misdeeds or mistakes continue — patients. (2/6)

Des Moines Register: Wellcare's Acts Don't Deserve Constituitional Protection
You have to hand it to the folks at Wellcare: They’ve got brass. The company was recently stripped of its role as one of four managed care companies poised to take over the administration of Iowa’s $4.2 billion Medicaid program. The state ultimately terminated Wellcare's contract to handle the work partly because of improper communications company representatives had with Gov. Terry Branstad’s staff in the midst of a “blackout period.” During that time, bids from Wellcare and its competitors were being reviewed and communications with state agencies were restricted. (2/7)

Concord Monitor: Fixes Needed On Medicaid Expansion Bill
After decades of delay and failed efforts, the United States is now making real progress reducing the rolls of the uninsured and moving toward the goal of universal health care. Credit goes to the Affordable Care Act, and especially to states like New Hampshire, which saw the wisdom of accepting federal funds to expand Medicaid and insure far more of the poor. On the federal level, every Republican presidential candidate is pledged to repeal the act known as Obamacare. Most offer nebulous replacement measures that typically include health savings accounts and increased competition by insurers. Ignore them as they wander around in their free-market fantasy land. None of their Reaganomics-era proposals did or would lower health care costs and increase access. (2/7)

Louisville Courier-Journal: State’s Health Gains Are Real, Worth Defending
Last week, the Foundation for Healthy Kentucky released a quarterly update of its ongoing evaluation of the impact of Affordable Care Act in Kentucky. The data are compelling evidence that healthcare reform is working, and that we are beginning to overcome the barriers to good health that have held us back for generations. (Emily Whelan Parento, 2/5)

The New York Times: End The Tampon Tax
Though necessities like food and medical supplies are exempt from sales taxes in most states, all but a few tax sanitary pads and tampons. Now efforts are building to repeal this so-called “tampon tax” and help ensure that those who need these products can afford them. The issue gained national attention after two members of the California State Assembly, Cristina Garcia and Ling Ling Chang, introduced a bill in January to make tampons and pads exempt from sales taxes in their state. Prescription drugs, most groceries and medical equipment like walkers are already exempt. (2/8)

The New York Times: The Zika Virus And Brazilian Women’s Right To Choose
Brazil is in a state of crisis. Since October, there have been more than 4,000 suspected cases of babies born with a neurological syndrome associated with the Zika virus. The Health Ministry has suggested that women avoid pregnancy until the epidemic has passed or more is known about it. I am a Brazilian woman. My friends who are planning to have children soon are worried about Zika. But they don’t need to be too concerned. In our well-to-do neighborhood in Brasília, the capital, there has not been a single case of a baby with the birth defects associated with the Zika epidemic. As far as I know, not one woman here has even been infected by the virus. (Debora Diniz, 2/8)

Bloomberg: The Economic Cost Of Zika Virus
People are scrambling as the scary, mosquito-borne virus Zika winds its way through 26 (and counting) countries and territories in the Americas. The commotion is understandable: The virus may be linked to an alarming spike in microcephaly, a birth defect, in Brazil, and a neurological disorder elsewhere, and there's nothing like the prospect of a generation maimed to trigger panic. (Mac Margolis, 2/5)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.