KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

Viewpoints: President Obama On Curbing Opioid Abuse; Is This The End Of Entitlement Reform?

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

The Des Moines Register: Let's Stop The Opioid Overdose Epidemic
Last fall, I listened as a mother named Cary Dixon told her family’s story at a forum I convened in West Virginia. It was heartbreaking. Cary’s adult son has struggled with a substance use disorder for years, and she described the pain that families like hers have gone through. “We dread the next phone call,” she said. “We don’t take vacations for fear of the next crisis. We come back from vacations because there’s a crisis.” (President Barack Obama, 2/2)

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Change In Medicare Can Help Stem Abuse Of Opioids
In a political climate in which the two major parties don't always see eye to eye, one issue is bringing them together: Republicans and Democrats agree that we must address the tragedy of prescription drug abuse. With 44 people dying every day from overdoses of oxycodone, hydrocodone, and similar opioid pain relievers, there is growing awareness that misuse of these drugs can affect almost anyone. (Cynthia Reilly, 2/3)

The Wall Street Journal: A Farewell To Entitlement Reform
Which brings us to the meaning of Trumpism. One of his consistent bits of wisdom, voiced last April even before he launched his presidential campaign, goes like this: “I am actually disappointed with a lot of the Republican politicians. I am a conservative Republican. . . . Every Republican wants to do a big number on Social Security, they want to do it on Medicare, they want to do it on Medicaid. And we can’t do that. And it’s not fair to the people that have been paying in for years and now all of the sudden they want [it] to be cut.” Mr. Trump is a political harbinger here of a new strand of populist Republicanism, largely empowered by ObamaCare, in which the “conservative” position is to defend the existing entitlement programs from a perceived threat posed by a new-style Obama coalition of handout seekers that includes the chronically unemployed, students, immigrants, minorities and women. (Holman W. Jenkins Jr., 2/2)

Bloomberg: A Bad Feeling About Inequality
The hot topic in economic policy discussions is inequality. Lots of kinds of inequality have been increasing in the U.S. -- income, wealth, housing, longevity and almost everything else. New data has caused economists and the public to become more alarmed about the extent of the rise, and has allowed people to start having a productive discussion about causes and solutions. People on the political right, especially libertarians, are always asking why we should even care about inequality in the first place. That might sound insensitive, but it’s actually a very good question. We might worry about inequality because an unequal society grows more slowly, or is more politically unfair or corrupt, or even is less healthy. But one big reason is simply that we care about our fellow citizens, and about other human beings in general. When one person has much more than another, it just feels wrong to many people. (Smith, 2/2)

The Wall Street Journal: More Must Be Done To Expose Bad Doctors
A study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that 1% of physicians accounted for 32% of paid malpractice claims over the past 10 years. Some may spin this as good news, since almost all doctors can be trusted to meet at least the lowest acceptable standard of care. But the ugly truth is that little is being done to hold the dangerous doctors accountable. (Lawrence B. Schlachter, 2/2)

The Wall Street Journal: Why I’m Becoming A Psychiatrist
We’ve made great strides against mental-health stigma, largely due to the work of organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), as well as political efforts for mental-health parity. But too much stigma persists. And as I’ve learned in medical school, this stigma doesn’t just affect patients. It also affects providers. During my interviews for psychiatry residency, its pervasiveness has astonished me. Residency programs assure applicants that psychiatry is “respected” at their hospitals. It’s “just like any other department.” Yet the need to even say this speaks volumes. Do orthopedic surgery applicants worry about being “respected”? Do ophthalmologists’ friends and family suggest they do something else? (Nathaniel P. Morris, 2/1)

The New York Times' Opinionator: Hospitals Focus On Doing No Harm
Last week, I reported on the problem of preventable harm in hospitals. It has been estimated that each year between 98,000 and 440,000 people die as a result of preventable errors in hospital. Many readers wrote in with comments about family members who were victims of flawed care. They revealed a sense of betrayal and hurt. How could hospitals — institutions we turn to for comfort when we are most vulnerable — so often increase pain and suffering? (David Bornstein, 2/2)

The Wall Street Journal's Bankruptcy Beat: Put The ‘Community’ Back Into Community Hospital Bankruptcies
When a community hospital closes or is sold to a for-profit operator, there is a loss to the community. Despite protestations by for-profit operators, a community loses something of value by the conversion of a nonprofit hospital to a for-profit hospital. The mission statements are different. The question is how the loss gets valued and whether the community is compensated for the loss. Societal benefit played a role in the development of bankruptcy law in the U.S. And it should play a role in the allocation of proceeds from the sale of a nonprofit hospital. (Kenneth A. Rosen, 2/1)

Los Angeles Times: California's New Vaccine Law Is Already A Success
California's new, more stringent law on childhood vaccinations, SB 277, doesn't fully kick in until July 1. But it started protecting the public months ago when parents heard from schools and doctors that they would no longer be able to claim a "personal belief exemption" from immunizations if they wanted to enroll their children. (2/2)

The Des Moines Register: Lawmakers Should Pay For Own Health Insurance
Like every legislative session, Iowa lawmakers will again this year engage in debates over the state budget. Some will want to cut programs or refuse to provide adequate funding for education and natural resources. They’ll talk about the need for government to be more efficient and use tax dollars wisely. Amid all this, here is a nugget Iowans should remember: In 2016, health insurance coverage for each lawmaker will cost taxpayers between $7,400 and $10,300, depending on the plan he or she selected. (2/2)

The New York Times: Fighting The Zika Virus
The World Health Organization and its director general, Dr. Margaret Chan, were right to declare the Zika virus an international public health emergency, even if its suspected link to severe birth defects has not been proved. The mosquito-borne disease is a serious threat: It is usually so mild as to be undetectable in adults, yet as it has exploded across South and Central America it has been followed by a surge in babies born with underdeveloped heads, a condition called microcephaly. (2/3)

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