KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Viewpoints: Questioning Obamacare Celebrations; Is The Step 2 Clinical Skills Test For Doctors Worthwhile?

A selection of opinions from around the country.

Bloomberg: Hold The Obamacare Celebrations
President Barack Obama and his allies are celebrating the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, on the sixth anniversary of its passage. They say it has provided insurance coverage to millions of Americans and come in below cost. They are right to claim that many Americans have benefited from the law. But the benefits are overstated, and the law's harms look set to rise. (Ponnuru, 3/28)

Los Angeles Times: Why Are We Wasting Future MDs' Time And Money With This Pointless Test?
Every physician who wishes to practice medicine in this country must pass a test most Americans have never heard of: Step 2 Clinical Skills. Approximately 20,000 medical students from U.S. and Canadian schools take it each year, paying hefty fees for a decidedly ineffectual exam. For anyone who wants to end waste in medical education, getting rid of Step 2 CS is a good place to start. (Christopher R. Henderson and Nathaniel P. Morris, 3/29)

The New York Times: The State Assault On Planned Parenthood
Last summer, after deceptively edited videos were used to accuse Planned Parenthood of selling fetal tissue, congressional Republicans voted to block all federal financing for the organization, and threatened to shut down the entire federal government if they didn’t get their way. The charges against Planned Parenthood were completely bogus — investigations in 12 states found no wrongdoing, and one, in Texas, resulted in the indictment in January of the video makers. (3/28)

WBUR: A Call For Protecting The Health Of Women Who Donate Their Eggs
The egg market is growing. As couples and individuals continue to rely on assisted reproductive technology to overcome infertility, to make parenthood possible for gay couples and for other reasons, the demand for eggs is increasing swiftly. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of donor eggs used for in vitro fertilization increased about 70 percent per year, from 10,801 to 18,306, according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association. (Judy Norsigian and Timothy R.B. Johnson, 3/28)

The Daily Beast: The GOP’s Anti-Abortion Crusade Is Working—And No One Cares
The word “abortion” was not mentioned once in the first seven Democratic debates. It wasn’t until Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were asked about the issue at a Fox News town hall in March that either of the candidates addressed the issue in prime time and, even then, only briefly. Finally, in the eighth Democratic debate on Univision, after a full month of social media pressure to #AskAboutAbortion, The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty mentioned that the Supreme Court is “considering the most significant abortion restrictions in a generation.” But the moderator quickly segued into a more general question about nominating new justices. (Samantha Allen, 3/29)

STAT: What Valeant's Fall From Grace Can Teach Us About The Drug Industry
As reversals of fortune go, Valeant Pharmaceuticals’ would be hard to beat. The drug maker became a Wall Street darling by purchasing products and then jacking up prices to new heights. Bankers collected fees on deals, investors profited on a soaring stock price, and Valeant successfully held itself out as a new industry growth model by pooh-poohing investments in research and development. (Ed Silverman, 3/29)

JAMA: Pharmacist-Prescribed Birth Control In Oregon And Other States
In Oregon, a new law took effect on January 1, 2016, allowing women 18 years or older to obtain hormonal contraception directly from pharmacies, without having to visit a physician or other prescribing clinician .... California will follow Oregon later in 2016 .... The new birth control laws in Oregon and California decrease barriers to contraceptive access and may reduce costs and unintended pregnancies. However, instead of providing over-the-counter, easily accessible birth control for women, the new laws shift the burden of prescribing onto the pharmacy. Even though this approach provides an excellent way to economize health care costs and free up physicians and resources, it stops short of fully alleviating the burden of prescription on women who seek to access contraceptives. (Y. Tony Yang, Katy B. Kozhimannil and Jonathan M. Snowden, 3/28)

The New York Times' Upshot: How Britain’s Soda Tax Plan Could Spur New Low-Sugar Drinks
Public health advocates who push for taxes on soda say any reduction in sugary drinks can help fight obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. Yet most soda taxes treat all sugary drinks as if they have the same amount of sugar. That’s the structure of Mexico’s soda tax, which went into effect in 2014 and is being closely watched by researchers. It’s also a feature of the soda tax in Berkeley, Calif., the first American city to pass one. Those taxes apply a surcharge on every liter or ounce of sugary drink, no matter how much sugar it has. A new soda tax in Britain, expected to become law, is different. (Margot Sanger-Katz, 3/29)

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