KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Viewpoints: The Need For More Patient Safety Measures; The FDA And Pizza

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

The New York Times: Real Malpractice Reform: Investing In Patient Safety
Congressional Republicans have recently revived efforts to overhaul malpractice laws, including capping certain kinds of suits at $250,000. A perennial argument of supporters of such measures is that many claims are frivolous, clogging the court system and driving up health care costs for everyone. But does the evidence support this? (Aaron E. Carroll, 4/17)

The Wall Street Journal: The FDA’s Pizza Minders
The Food and Drug Administration can’t possibly fulfill all of the responsibilities it claims to have, and here’s one way the Trump Administration can set better priorities: Direct the agency to end its effort to inform Americans that pizza contains calories. (4/16)

Stat: Balancing Hope And Realism Can Be A Challenge For Doctors
Conveying the right balance of hope and realism is largely learned through experience during medical training. Young doctors patch together a framework for navigating discussions that hinge on uncertainty, often pilfering mentors’ phrases and techniques. Most of all we learn from our own missteps, and from those of our colleagues. I know that many patients prefer to hear realistic interpretations of their illness, and that these discussions are increasingly important as providers lean toward shared decision-making, which has been linked to greater patient satisfaction. Still, it’s sometimes a challenge to truthfully discuss a serious medical issue while leaving the door open to the hope that is so vital for patients and families. (Allison Bond, 4/14)

Stat: Gaps In Care For Babies With Zika Highlight A Deeper Problem In Medicine
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlights the damage that the Zika virus can do to unborn babies. It also shows that US doctors poorly follow evidence-based guidelines. According to the CDC, among pregnant women who tested positive for Zika, 1 in 10 had babies with microcephaly or another birth defect. That was the number that grabbed headlines. But there were two other numbers that worried me: Just 65 percent of babies born to mothers who tested positive for Zika were themselves tested for it, and only 25 percent received brain scans — despite recommendations that 100 percent of such babies be tested. (Amesh A. Adalja, 4/14)

Morning Consult: Ensure Medicare Access To Blood And Marrow Transplants For Seniors With Cancer
Last year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services enacted a significant policy change improving access to blood and marrow transplants for Medicare patients diagnosed with life-threatening blood cancers. The change came in the form of a Medicare rule on how outpatient blood and marrow transplants are reimbursed by the federal health care program beginning on Jan. 1, 2017. While this move a step in the right direction, this rule does not address the vast majority of transplants (97 percent) that are performed in the inpatient setting. Sadly, Medicare continues to provide inadequate reimbursement to hospitals performing inpatient transplants and this limitation threatens to limit access to seniors needing this lifesaving therapy. (Krishna Komanduri, 4/17)

Boston Globe: We Should Be Expanding Scientific Research Spending
A large majority of Americans agree that we should increase the money we spend on research. If we can’t come together as a country and make this happen — if we can’t, at the very least, double the tiny fraction of our federal budget that we invest in basic research — then what kind of future do we believe in? ... Alzheimer’s disease offers the perfect example of how foolish it is to shortchange investments in research. (Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), 4/15)

The New York Times: You Draw It: Just How Bad Is The Drug Overdose Epidemic?
How does the surge in drug overdoses compare with other causes of death in the U.S.? ... Since 1990, the number of Americans who have died every year from drug overdoses has increased by more than 500 percent. In 2015, more Americans died from drug overdoses than from car accidents and gun homicides combined. It’s the worst drug overdose epidemic in American history (Josh Katz, 4/14)

The Washington Post: 10 Years After The Virginia Tech Massacre, Virginia Still Falls Short On Mental Health Care
It is hard to believe that it has been 10 years since the horrific day at Virginia Tech when 32 students and faculty were killed and many others were injured by a young student with untreated mental illness. Ten years since countless lives and families were altered forever, including my own. ... Although progress has been good, Virginia sits in the bottom half of states in overall ranking for mental health care per person. Virginia still needs funding to establish consistent and comprehensive services in all communities; to expand intervention, treatment and transition programs for young adults, especially for those experiencing the first signs of mental illness; to attract and retain mental-health providers in the face of a critical workforce shortage; and to establish strict quality and performance outcomes to meet the needs of families and communities in our commonwealth. (Elizabeth Hilscher, 4/14)

Des Moines Register: When Iowa's Mental Health Crisis Lands Next Door
[W]hat we didn’t know, what most people don’t know or see that goes on behind closed doors when someone is mentally ill, were what relatives recounted later: Chase’s multiple suicide attempts. We didn’t see the countless appointments with doctors, psychiatrists and counselors, the rounds of various medications to find just the right cocktail and the battles to get Chase to take them. We didn’t see the self-harm, the many trips to the hospital when Chase was in crisis, only to be sent home days or hours later when there were no beds available, or Charla’s early retirement from her job as a Des Moines Public Schools teacher so she could better monitor and care for her son. And we didn’t see all the tears they likely shed, the arguments and moments of despair that no doubt occurred in their household in trying to deal with their sick son the best they could. (Kali VanBaale, 4/14)

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Why We Need Equal Access To Clean Water In Wisconsin
This week, the Senate passed SB 76, a bill that substantially unravels oversight of high-capacity wells in the state. It’s a bald-faced giveaway to large-scale farming and feedlot operations, mostly, with almost no consideration for how pulling millions of gallons of water a day out of the ground affects surrounding communities. The bill allows for drilling wells that pump large amounts of water without review by state regulators, so long as the new wells replace existing, permitted wells. (Emily Mills, 4/14)

Los Angeles Times: California's Vaccination Rates Are Up. Let's Keep It That Way
The controversial 2015 law doing away with an exemption that had allowed public school students to skip vaccinations based on their “personal beliefs” appears to have worked. California state officials reported this week that 95.6% of kindergartners are fully vaccinated. That’s the highest rate recorded at least since 1998, when a now-debunked study purported to show a link between vaccinations and autism. (4/14)

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