KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Viewpoints: The Supreme Court And The Fate Of Abortion Rights; Rubio, Sanders And Health Policy Proposals

A selection of opinions from around the country.

The New York Times: Showdown On Abortion At The Supreme Court
The decades-long crusade to end legal abortion in America after Roe v. Wade has again reached the Supreme Court. On Wednesday, the eight justices will hear a case challenging a 2013 Texas law that has already shut down more than half of the state’s 41 health clinics that perform abortions. Since Roe was decided in 1973, there have been countless efforts by anti-abortion activists to enact state laws that restrict abortion rights, often in the guise of protecting women’s health. But few laws have gone as far as the Texas statute, which places so heavy a burden on hundreds of thousands of women across the state — particularly those in poorer rural areas — that it has effectively destroyed their constitutional right to an abortion. (2/27)

Los Angeles Times: Sandra Day O'Connor And The Fate Of Abortion Rights
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Whole Women’s Health vs. Hellerstedt, a case that could reinforce or all but overturn the right to abortion. What's at issue is a Texas law that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and to build expensive surgical facilities. Most analysts believe the law will end almost all abortion services in Texas – in fact, before the Supreme Court issued a stay, half the abortion clinics in Texas had closed because of it. Now the court must decide if the Texas regulations present an “undue burden” on a woman's right to choose. (Linda Hirshman, 2/28)

The New York Times: Why Courts Shouldn’t Ignore The Facts About Abortion Rights
At the core of the most important Supreme Court abortion case in a generation is a series of questions about facts. In deciding the constitutionality of a law that would shut down most abortion clinics in a state in the name of protecting women’s health, which facts about the law’s rationale and its impact may a court consider? Which facts must a court consider? Are there facts a court must ignore entirely? (Linda Greenhouse, 2/27)

Modern Healthcare: Abortion Safety As Subterfuge Sets A Dangerous Precedent
The death of Justice Antonin Scalia makes it less likely the U.S. Supreme Court will rule outright in favor of Texas in its efforts to restrict abortion providers in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, which will be heard this week.However, a 4-4 split leaving the law intact is possible. (Merrill Goozner, 2/27)

Bloomberg: Rubio's Responsible Rebuttal To Trumpcare
None of the remaining Republican presidential candidates has a detailed health-care plan. The one who has done the most to outline an agenda, Senator Marco Rubio, is still a bit lighter on those details even than Barack Obama was when he ran in 2008. But Rubio is at least on the right track, while the other candidates are wandering aimlessly, refusing to say where they would go, or headed in the wrong direction. (Ramesh Ponnuru, 2/28)

The Washington Post: Bernie Sanders’s Health-Care Plan Could Actually Hurt The Poor
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a Democratic candidate for president, asks his audiences to think big, insisting that only fundamental reform, not incrementalism, will do. He has shown that this approach can attract a passionate following. He has also shown that big thinking quickly turns to wishful thinking without solid details behind it. Nowhere is this clearer than in Mr. Sanders’s health-care plan, which he promises would be a tremendous deal for nearly everyone. A new analysis from Kenneth Thorpe, an Emory University health-care expert who worked in the Bill Clinton White House, finds that Mr. Sanders’s proposal would actually harm many working beneficiaries of Medicaid, the state-federal health-care plan for the poor and the near-poor. (2/28)

The Los Angeles Times: Lands' End Promotes Gloria Steinem In Catalog, Provokes Anti-Abortion Freakout Then Bails
Clothing retailer Lands' End, desperate to refurbish its image into something relevant and chic, featured an interview with legendary feminist Gloria Steinem in its spring catalog ... Faced with an explosion of outrage from anti-abortion groups and customers, Lands' End has pulled the feature from its website and even appears to have canceled an arrangement to donate $3 to the ERA Coalition/Fund for Women's Equality every time a customer ordered the group's monogram stitched into an item. (Michael Hiltzik, 2/26)

The Health Care Blog: Readmissions, Observation, And Improving Hospital Care
Because hospitals are expensive and often cause harm, there has been a big focus on reducing hospital use. This focus has been the underpinning for numerous policy interventions, most notable of which is the Affordable Care Act’s Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP), which penalizes hospitals for higher than expected readmission rates. The motivation behind HRRP is simple: the readmission rate, the proportion of discharged patients who return to the hospital within 30 days, had been more or less flat for years and reducing this rate would save money and potentially improve care. So it was big news when, as the HRRP penalties kicked in, government officials started reporting that the national readmission rate for Medicare patients was declining. (Ashish Jha, 2/26)

The Concord Monitor: My Turn: Medicaid Expansion Is No Way To Run A State
Right now, the New Hampshire House is considering reauthorizing Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. Doing so would be a big mistake that our state simply cannot afford to make. In 2014, New Hampshire expanded its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act. Previously, to qualify for Medicaid a person needed to be both poor and medically needy (pregnant women, children or disabled). Under Medicaid expansion, a person needs only to be below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. That means that able-bodied adults, even above the poverty line, would have taxpayers buy health insurance for them. (State Rep. Frank Edelblut, 2/27)

The Concord Monitor: The Trouble With New Hampshire's Secure Psychiatric Unit
Earlier this month, a hearing was held debating HB 1541 before the House Committee on Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs. The bill, introduced by Rep. Renny Cushing, would prohibit the placement of non-adjudicated civilly committed individuals in the Secure Psychiatric Unit (or SPU) at the New Hampshire Prison for Men. I attended the hearing. I also testified. I am a registered nurse with extensive experience working with acute psychiatric populations. (Beatrice Coulter, 2/27)

The Washington Post: Five Myths About Lead In Water
For months, the citizens of Flint, Mich., were on their own in trying to bring attention to their city’s polluted water. In August, one of us, Marc, brought his research team to Flint at the request of Flint resident LeeAnne Walters, who couldn’t get the government’s help in dealing with the orange dreck coming from her tap. The team found that Flint’s water supply contained very high levels of lead, a toxin linked to health problems ranging from tooth decay to neurological disorders. It took decades, but Americans eventually got smart and banned lead paint. Yet when it comes to lead in water, even with the political and media spotlight on Flint, misconceptions persist. (Yanna Lambrinidou and Marc Edwards, 2/26)

The New York Times: H.I.V.’s Toll On Black And Latino Men
There is encouraging news in the fight against H.I.V in the United States: Over all, fewer people are contracting the virus, which causes AIDS. But H.I.V. continues to take a devastating toll on men who have sex with men, particularly among African-Americans and Latinos. If current rates persist, one in every six men who has sex with men will become infected with H.I.V., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week in its first lifetime risk analysis. One out of every two black men and one out of every four Latino men in this segment of the population is projected to become infected. (2/29)

STAT: Reject The Pseudoscience Of Homeopathy
Homeopathy is alive and well in the United States, according to new research from Massachusetts General Hospital, and it is thriving elsewhere. A health practice with no scientific underpinning and unconvincing clinical evidence that is used by millions of people around the world amounts to a mockery of evidence-based medicine. I am part of a group of experts who want to counterbalance the misinformation on this topic. (Edzard Ernst, 2/26)

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