KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Viewpoints: More Health Law Vulnerabilities; Some Drugs Have High Costs For A Reason

A selection of opinions from around the country.

The Wall Street Journal: Obamacare Cost-Sharing Provisions And The Stakes In House V. Burwell
House v. Burwell is far from resolution, but this case’s path through the federal courts and the threat it could pose to the Affordable Care Act show continued vulnerabilities of the health-care law as well as the stakes of the 2016 election. A Commonwealth Fund report published Thursday looks at a provision in the health-care law that is at issue in the case. To soften the impact of out-of-pocket costs under Obamacare, the law requires insurers to reduce certain payments for individuals whose incomes are up to 250% of the federal poverty level if they purchase a “silver” plan through one of the insurance marketplaces. The law also says that insurers are to be repaid for the discounts. (David Blumenthal and Sara R. Collins, 3/17)

STAT: Why Some Drug Prices Should Be High
Current methods for estimating the value of new drugs fail to capture the added value of better and extended life for loved ones who care for, depend on, and interact with the individual using the drug. (Dhruv Khullar, 3/17)

Modern Healthcare: Socio-Economic Factors Impact Hospital Readmissions
Socio-economic factors such as income, race, gender and age can predict whether a patient will be readmitted within 30 days of discharge from a hospital, according to a study. Findings from an analysis published Thursday in the Journal of Healthcare Quality suggests women who had been treated for a heart attack had a 17% higher risk than men for being readmitted within 30 days, while the odds of 30-day readmission among Medicare heart attack patients was 24% higher than patients with commercial insurance. (Steven Ross Johnson, 3/17)

The Wall Street Journal: The EPA’s Flint Abdication
This week’s Congressional hearings have shown that a series of government errors—local, state and federal—caused Flint’s lead-contaminated water. The state is fessing up, but the Environmental Protection Agency is trying to pretend it had nothing to do with it. (3/17)

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Flint, Mich., Water Contamination And Anxiety Closer To Home
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Thursday about the contaminated water in Flint, Mich., and state and federal regulation of the water supply. Most Americans say they have been following the issue, and many say they are worried about drinking-water safety, polling has found. As with many issues in our country, the poorer people are, the more worried they are likely to be that the system will fail them and their family. (Drew Altman, 3/17)

The Washington Post: Lawmakers Are Finally Sobering Up To The Reality Of Opioid Addiction
Slowly but surely, like the proverbial aircraft carrier, the U.S. government is changing to a new and better course on the long-neglected issue of opioid abuse and addiction. On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took an emphatic stand against the loose prescribing norms that have fueled the growth of opioid consumption for non-cancer pain, with the terrible result that 16,000 people a year die from overdoses. Labeling the drugs “dangerous,” and noting that evidence did not support their long-term efficacy for most cases of chronic pain, CDC Director Thomas Frieden urged physicians to follow more-cautious new CDC guidelines that emphasize alternative pain management techniques. Dr. Frieden and his colleagues deserve credit for incorporating a range of views in the guidelines while resisting pressure to weaken them from interest groups that support the status quo. (3/17)

The Des Moines Register: Congress Should Address Long-Term Care Costs
The human body breaks down and wears out over time. More than two-thirds of older adults will need some personal assistance with basic activities like dressing and bathing before they die. About half will need a high level of assistance, typically for two years at an average cost of more than $100,000. (3/17)

Lexington Herald Leader: Senate Committee Wrong To Limit Needle Exchanges
Ironies abound whenever the General Assembly meets, but Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, a physician, endorsed one of the most profound and disturbing of this session. Alvarado voted to assure that more dirty hypodermic needles will be in circulation, spreading deadly blood-borne infections. He did this by supporting a noxious change in the Senate to a simple bill that had easily passed the House. (3/17)

The Des Moines Register: Pharmacists Can Boost Health Care Options In Rural Areas
The Iowa Caucuses have come and gone, but Iowans’ engagement in the issues important to our state and our people remain. Just as we are fortunate to have the opportunity to meet and ask presidential candidates questions, our elected federal officials constantly travel Iowa to meet with constituents. This lends us the opportunity to discuss the issues and challenges we encounter with the people who have the ability to help. (Andrew Wagner, 3/17)

The Des Moines Register: Iowans Support Funding For Planned Parenthood
Though attacking Planned Parenthood is a favorite pastime of some politicians, Iowans see through the antics. Nearly three-fourths want state government to continue funding non-abortion services provided by the health clinics, a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll shows. A mere 22 percent do not. (3/17)

Tampa Bay Times: New Abortion Restrictions Should Not Stand
The Florida Legislature has been brazen in its repeated attempts to restrict access to abortion. Thankfully, some of the most blatant restrictions proposed this year never made it to the full House or Senate. But a bill that would siphon money away from preventive care efforts for women who are exercising their constitutional right was approved and sent to Gov. Rick Scott. If the governor follows through with his signal that he will sign the bill into law, it should be challenged in court. (3/17)

The New York Times: The N.F.L. Comes Clean On Concussions
After years of denial by the National Football League, a ranking league official has conceded what brain dissections of nearly 100 deceased football players have revealed — a direct link between concussions on the field and degenerative brain disease. (3/18)

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