KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Viewpoints: Obamacare’s Vulnerability To Fraud; GOP Health Plans On Campaign Trail And In Congress

A selection of opinions from around the country.

The Fiscal Times: Obamacare Is Wide Open To Fraud – And They’re Not Going To Fix It
As mysteries go, the responsibility for the failure of the Department of Health and Human Services’ rollout of the Affordable Care Act exchanges doesn’t exactly have the same inscrutability of an Ellery Queen novel. In fact, it doesn’t even reach the range and wit of an Encyclopedia Brown short-story whodunit for young readers. (Edward Morrissey, 2/25)

Bloomberg: Cut Health Costs Or Help Workers. You Can't Do Both.
The country seems fragmented as never before. And yet there are two things that everyone can seemingly agree upon: Something needs to be done about the parlous condition of the working class, and we need to get a handle on health-care costs. (Megan McArdle, 2/25)

Huffington Post: Big News: The GOP Has A Plan To Make A Plan To Replace Obamacare
The House Republican Health Care Task Force is holding an "ideas forum" the same day. That's fortunate for the GOP conference, since the mission statement is light on ideas. Take care not to confuse this task force with the one from last year, or any of the other House-leadership-sanctioned exercises in failure to achieve consensus on an Obamacare "replacement." So, what do Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.), Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.), Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) have to show the American people? Let's begin with the preamble: (Jeffrey Young, 2/25)

Lexington Herald Leader: We Must Protect Medicare Options For Seniors
We all know that health care has become increasingly complicated, costly, and limited — especially for our nation’s seniors, who rely on a confusing, overly strained Medicare program to receive their care. While traditional Medicare insures the majority of our nation’s seniors, the Medicare Advantage program is a growing choice within Medicare, allowing beneficiaries to choose a private plan to administer their Medicare benefits. (U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, 2/25)

STAT: The Case For Rationing: Why We Should Limit Public Spending On Cancer Drugs
Pfizer executive Erik Nordkamp ... called the United Kingdom “one of the worst countries in the world, if not the worst, for getting breakthrough drugs to those who need them.” People living in sub-Saharan Africa or India, where even basic cancer drugs are often out of reach, might not agree. Yet the comment draws attention to a problem all nations face: Deciding which medicines are worth paying for and which to ration. (Vinay Prasad, 2/25)

The Los Angeles Times: Ignore Grover Norquist: Medi-Cal Fix Is A Good Deal
After a federal ruling last year threatened to cut aid for Medi-Cal by more than $1 billion, the Brown administration and lawmakers proposed a set of tax increases and reductions that would avert the cut without forcing higher costs onto state taxpayers or consumers. That deal is being challenged, however, by conservatives opposed to new taxes — even if the net cost is zero. Lawmakers should reject this ideological rigidity and keep the federal aid flowing. (2/25)

Des Moines Register: State Must Establish Proper Medicaid Oversight
The federal government has once again delayed the plan to turn over Iowa Medicaid to out-of-state, for-profit companies. The Branstad administration believes the shift will mean better care at lower cost. Detractors think these managed care organizations (MCO) will generate profits at the expense of Iowans in need by denying care and services. Now, the plan to turn over 560,000 Iowans to MCO’s will go forward on April Fool’s Day. In ordering the first delay, federal administrators noted problems with signing up physicians, hospitals and other care providers, as well as signing up recipients. (State Rep. John Forbes, 2/26)

Des Moines Register: Abortion Bill Is Anti-Science
Polio was among the most dreaded childhood diseases of the 20th century. The virus spread from person to person, crippling, paralyzing and sometimes killing its victims. A life-saving vaccine was developed using fetal tissue. Researchers infected fetal kidney cells to produce mass quantities of the virus that were collected, purified and used for inoculations. They won a Nobel Prize for medicine in 1954. Sixty-two years later, some Iowa lawmakers desperately need a refresher on such history. House Study Bill 621 would ban “fetal body parts” from being obtained, provided, transferred or used in this state. Though clearly an anti-abortion stunt, the legislation would prevent fetal tissue from being used by researchers seeking treatments and cures for diseases. Violators — who would likely be none other than medical providers and scientists — could land in the slammer for up to 10 years. (2/25)

The Seattle Times: Hands Tied When A Teen Refuses Drug, Mental-Health Treatment
Washington is one of a small handful of states where a judge cannot order a juvenile offender to residential mental-health or substance-abuse treatment. Under current law, if a child is 13 or older, she or he must consent to treatment. This means that if you have a 15-year-old son who comes before me charged with a crime and is addicted to methamphetamine, and you want him to go to treatment and I want the same thing, I cannot order him to go as a condition of probation. He must consent. That makes no sense. (Barbara A. Mack, 2/24)

Des Moines Register: When Death Would Be Kinder, Allow The Option
To put it bluntly, bowel would ooze out uncontrollably. And because the disease is also gnawing at her bones, she would be too fragile even to walk to the bathroom. It would fall to her husband and son to deal with the consequences. “I do not want my family to remember me like this at the end,” Holm testified. “I want them to not remember me as a tortured shell of my former self. ... There are things worse than death.” There were tears in the hearing room, but Holm had not come seeking pity. What she sought was the simple right to say “no more,” when her condition becomes unbearable. Under Iowa law, you can’t legally obtain the means to end your own life, even when its quality is so gravely compromised. (Rekha Basu, 2/25)

JAMA: New Societal Approaches to Empowering Antibiotic Stewardship
[I]mproving antibiotic use will require increased accountability and transparency at the societal level. A parallel can be drawn between antibiotic stewardship and infection prevention. ... no transformative progress in reducing health care–associated infections occurred until society began requiring public reporting of infection rates and linking such rates to pay-for-performance measures. This shift toward greater accountability and transparency in health care–associated infections has led hospitals to vest infection control programs with the authority to implement critical improvements. A similar shift could substantially accelerate efforts to improve antibiotic use. (Brad Spellberg, Arjun Srinivasn and Henry F. Chambers, 2/25)

The New York Times: A Bad Effort In Congress To Thwart States On Food Labels
The Senate could soon join the House to try to make it harder for consumers to know what is in their food by prohibiting state governments from requiring the labeling of genetically modified foods. This is a bad idea that lawmakers and the Obama administration should oppose. In July, Vermont will become the first state to require the labeling of genetically modified food. Many food companies and farm groups say such laws are problematic because they could dissuade consumers from buying foods that federal regulators and many scientists say pose no risk to human health. But that is an unfounded fear and states should be free to require labels if they want to. (2/25)

The New York Times: Helping Women In Africa Avoid H.I.V.
Every day, nearly 1,000 young women around the world become infected with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. More than half of the 37 million people worldwide infected with H.I.V. are women, and most of them live in sub-Saharan Africa. These women too often lack the awareness, the financial means and the power over their own lives to protect themselves from the virus. Tragically, more women of reproductive age around the world die from AIDS than from any other cause. (2/26)

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