KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Viewpoints: Slashing The NIH Budget Is A ‘Seismic Disruption’ In Biomedical Research; Global Health Efforts At Risk

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

The Washington Post: Why Slashing The NIH Budget Is Indefensible
One of the most threatening of those policies is in President Trump’s budget blueprint: a cut of nearly $6 billion to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). As The Post reported last month, the proposal would slash roughly a fifth of NIH’s funding in fiscal year 2018, “a seismic disruption in government-funded medical and scientific research.” The administration has also proposed a separate $1.2 billion reduction in the remainder of this year’s NIH funding, along with severe cuts to the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency .... the debate over NIH funding is further evidence of what has been clear for quite some time: Science is now political. In response, scientists are becoming more political, too. (Katrina vanden Heuvel, 4/18)

Los Angeles Times: Global Health Efforts Are In Jeopardy: A Polio Survivor Reflects On Proposed Cuts To Foreign Aid
In 1988, my family traveled from America to India to visit the homeland of my birth. At age 11, I vividly remember seeing beggars crippled by polio, crawling on the ground. I remember them staring at me. I, too, have polio, but I am able to walk with leg braces and crutches. I contracted polio as a baby in India. I was adopted from an orphanage at age 3 and moved to America. (Minda Dentler, 4/18)

Stat: I Was Confident In My Patient’s Care. Then My Senior Doctor Overruled Me
Attendings have more experience than residents — sometimes decades more — but that doesn’t mean residents can’t occasionally be right when there’s a disagreement. A resident might be familiar with new research or guidelines because he or she has had more recent education on a topic. Attendings who are specialists in a field like cardiology or oncology may be less comfortable with conditions outside their expertise. Perhaps the most common reason that residents can be right is because they typically spend much more time with patients and their families than attendings. That means they may have a stronger understanding of important psychosocial factors that affect patients’ clinical care. (Alex Harding, 4/19)

The Washington Post: Incarceration Is The Wrong Way To Fight Opioid Overdoses
Just about every week now, we see a new round of headlines about the crisis in overdose deaths from opioids. This is the class of drugs that includes prescription medications such as hydrocodone and street drugs such as heroin and fentanyl. There’s no question that the United States has seen a surge in addiction and deaths from overdose, although there are a couple of important things to keep in mind when reading such reports. (Radley Balko, 4/18)

RealClear Health: Up-Grading Prostate Cancer Screening
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is changing their guidelines about prostate cancer screening. In 2012, the Task Force gave it a D grade – meaning they recommended against prostate specific antigen (PSA) screening because its harms exceeded its benefits. Earlier this week, in their draft recommendation, the Task Force upped it to a C grade for men ages 55 to 69 – meaning the decision to screen should be based on professional judgment and patient preference. (H. Gilbert Welch, 4/19)

The Charlotte Observer: N.C. Considering A Surgery Bill That Kentucky Regrets Passing
As a professor of ophthalmology and a teacher of eye surgeons, I implore North Carolina not to make the mistake my Kentucky made six years ago, blindly rushing into law a bill that let non-surgeons operate on people’s eyes – a move legislators later regretted, and which Kentucky’s citizens opposed four-to-one. (Woodford S. Van Meter, 4/17)

Miami Herald: Foundation Envisions A World Without Parkinson’s Disease
As we recognize Parkinson’s Awareness Month in April, one of our most pressing priorities at the Parkinson’s Foundation is to improve the standard of care for this disease. It affects a growing number of people of all genders, ages, races and ethnicities. Every nine minutes, someone in the United States is diagnosed with this neurodegenerative disease that often progresses slowly over decades. People with Parkinson’s disease struggle to find a way to live with their symptoms — such as tremors that make even the smallest tasks like a buttoning a shirt or tying a shoe seem impossible. (John L. Lehr, 4/17)

The Kansas City Star: Kansas Should Make It More Expensive To Smoke
Kansas lawmakers are still discussing ways to close a two-year, $1 billion budget gap. They need to come up with a plan quickly: They reconvene May 1 for what’s expected to be a long and difficult veto session. Before adjourning their regular meeting, legislators correctly rejected Gov. Sam Brownback’s half-baked budget ideas. They crushed a flat income tax, which would have disproportionately hurt the poor. (4/18)

The New York Times: Big Tobacco Attacks Sensible F.D.A. Rules On Vaping
As smokers turned to electronic cigarettes to reduce the health risks of smoking, big tobacco companies started buying e-cigarette makers and producing and selling their own. Now those companies are lobbying Congress to prevent the Food and Drug Administration from regulating electronic cigarettes and cigars, as it does conventional cigarettes. If they succeed, they will be able to sell and market addictive nicotine products to young people with few restrictions. (4/19)

Miami Herald: Voters OKd Medical Marijuana; Florida Lawmakers Should Simply Comply 
The devastation of the opiate epidemic cannot be understated, nor can the urgency of doing something — anything — to alleviate its effects. Gov. Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi understand the gravity of this crisis, working with law enforcement, the Legislature and other stakeholders to attack the insidious threat to public health and safety from multiple fronts. (Ben Pollara, 4/18)

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