KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

Viewpoints: Short-Term Health Fix; Sabotage To Marketplaces; VA Hospital Director Should Go

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

The Wall Street Journal: A Short-Term ObamaCare Fix
Republicans in Congress haven’t repealed or replaced Obama Care, but the Trump Administration still has an obligation to help Americans facing higher premiums and fewer choices. One incremental improvement would be rescinding regulations on temporary health-insurance plans. (8/14)

Huffington Post: Trump’s Obamacare Tantrum Shows He’s Learned Nothing From Repeal’s Collapse
Ever since the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010, Republicans have been saying they would repeal “Obamacare.” All they needed, they insisted, was a president willing to sign their legislation. Now here they are, six months into the Trump presidency, and they’ve given him no legislation to sign. But Republicans also made another set of promises ― to provide everybody with better, cheaper health care. And they don’t have a way to do that either. What they have, instead, is a set of plans that would take health insurance away from millions of people, while forcing those with serious or ongoing medical problems to pay a lot more for their care. (Jonathan Cohn, 8/14)

The New York Times: Doctor Shortage Under Obamacare? It Didn’t Happen
As the health law sought to solve one problem, access to affordable health insurance, it risked creating another: too few primary care doctors to meet the surge in appointment requests from the newly insured. Studies published just before the 2014 coverage expansion predicted a demand for millions more annual primary care appointments, requiring thousands of new primary care providers just to keep up. But a more recent study suggests primary care appointment availability may not have suffered as much as expected. (Austin Frakt, 8/14)

The Wall Street Journal: Trump Can Save Lives By Stopping Illegal Opioids At Their Source
Donald Trump last week announced he would declare the opioid crisis a national emergency .... , as his Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis recommended late last month. ... but the commission won’t succeed in reducing opioid deaths if it doesn’t make suppressing the supply of drugs its leading priority. The report contains no recommendations for reducing the largest supplies of opioids at their sources in Mexico and Asia. Cracking down on doctors who prescribe excessive amounts of legal pain medications is already having an effect, but the surging supply of illegal drugs like heroin and fentanyl has negated a lot of the gains. (John P. Walters and David W. Murray, 8/14)

Sacramento Bee: Why Are Opioids A National Crisis, But Smoking A Personal Choice?
About 33,000 Americans died of opioid overdoses in 2015, nearly triple the number who died in 2002, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. But opioids are far from the most lethal addiction in America. Smoking results in the deaths of 480,000 Americans a year, making it the top cause of premature death, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Karin Klein, 8/14)

The Wall Street Journal: Can the VA Fire Anyone?
Congress’s big reform agenda may be a flop, but in June it did manage to pass a modest success known as the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act that allows for easier dismissal of bad employees. The case of Brian Hawkins shows why the law is needed. Mr. Hawkins was until April director of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, D.C. that serves some 100,000 vets. That was when Inspector General Michael Missal took the extraordinary step of issuing an emergency report on the D.C. facility. Mr. Missal said the hospital was so dysfunctional that he couldn’t endanger patients by waiting to complete his investigation. (8/14)

Modern Healthcare: The Switcheroo That Could Give McConnell Enough Votes To Repeal Obamacare
Just when you thought the Republican drive to repeal the Affordable Care Act was finally dead, there is a plausible new scenario being discussed on how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could resuscitate it. Some congressional Democrats think it's possible, even likely, that President Donald Trump will offer Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia the post of Department of Energy secretary. That would allow Trump to move current Energy Secretary Rick Perry to the Department of Homeland Security .... In this musical-chairs scenario, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice—who just switched from Democrat to Republican—would then appoint a Republican to fill Manchin's Senate seat. (Harris Meyer, 8/14)

Des Moines Register: Iowa's Secret Medicaid Negotiations Unacceptable
Iowa has a new governor and new human services director. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven should seize the opportunity to ditch their predecessors' Medicaid privatization experiment that funnels billions of public dollars to three private, for-profit managed care companies. The continuation of privatization cannot be justified. Neither can the ongoing government secrecy surrounding it. The intentional, irresponsible lack of transparency raises even more suspicions this entire ordeal is a taxpayer-fleecing fiasco. (8/14)

Arizona Republic: The Judge, Not The Corrections Director, Was Out Of Line
U.S. Magistrate Judge David Duncan keelhauled the director of the Arizona Department of Corrections, Charles Ryan, into court the other day to flog him for a memo he had written that offended the judge. ...Duncan is overseeing the implementation of a settlement over the health care the department provides inmates. (Robert Robb, 8/14)

JAMA Pediatrics: Communicating About Vaccines In A Fact-Resistant World
The continued success of vaccines, one of the most effective public health interventions, depends on high rates of acceptance. Vaccine refusal in the United States has increased since the late 1990s. This trend has coincided with an increase in vaccine safety concerns. Such concerns result from easy recall of adverse events, misinformation, and human tendency to poorly judge probabilities. When a significant proportion of the US population is impervious to scientific facts, such as belief in human-induced climate change, it is difficult to communicate vaccine-related information to patients. (Saad B. Omer, Avnika B. Amin and Rupali J. Limaye, 8/14)

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