KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Viewpoints: Trump Driving Premium Increases; Opioid Treatment For Prisoners

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

The New York Times: How Donald Trump Is Driving Up Health Insurance Premiums
Health insurance premiums for 2018 are on the rise for many, and for that, most of the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of President Trump. In recent days, a bevy of insurers have announced significant increases for Americans who purchase their coverage on the exchanges .... Reinforcing these developments is an analysis by Charles Gaba of, who projected that at the moment, average premium increases next year are likely to total around 29 percent. Of that, just 8 percentage points will result from medical inflation, and 2 percentage points will stem from the reinstatement of an Obamacare health insurance tax; the balance will be related to the uncertainty that Mr. Trump has created around key pieces of Obamacare. (Steven Rattner, 8/15)

Health Affairs: The ‘Tanning Tax’ Is A Public Health Success Story
When the [tanning] tax was enacted in 2010, the non-partisan Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that it would bring in $2.7 billion in revenue over 10 years, and would offset some of the costs of the ACA overall. After four years, however, the tax had only brought in about $367 million, far less than the approximate $1 billion originally projected by that time. Some detractors then declared the tax a “failure” and blamed it for the loss of tens of thousands of jobs. Yet these arguments discount the notion that the revenue was perhaps a secondary goal of the tax, behind its ability to deter people from engaging in the dangerous pursuit of indoor tanning. (Elisabeth Ryan, 8/15)

The Wall Street Journal: Medicaid’s Opioid Fix
President Trump last week declared the opioid epidemic a national emergency, which given the human toll may be an understatement. As states beg Washington for more money to treat drug abuse, one question worth asking is whether the gusher of Medicaid dollars has contributed to the crisis. (8/15)

Bloomberg: Prisoners Need Opioid-Addiction Treatment
President Donald Trump’s initial bombastic comments about North Korea last week overshadowed the event he was holding to highlight his administration’s efforts to fight opioid addiction. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to overshadow. Trump failed to mention, much less embrace, any of the recommendations contained in a new report from his Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. ... One of the most effective steps the federal government could take went unmentioned: treating addicts who end up behind bars. Each year, about one-third of heroin users spend time locked up, yet federal prisons do not offer medication-assisted addiction treatment. (8/15)

Stat: The FDA Made A ‘Grand Bargain’ On Fast Drug Approvals, But Pharma Isn’t Holding Up Its End
The FDA, in an effort to bring promising new therapies to patients as quickly as possible, has introduced a spate of shortcuts to speed up the approval process. Those programs are working as intended, new research finds, but drug companies are often loath to fulfill their obligations. The big idea behind the FDA’s accelerated drug approval program is that regulators will OK a promising drug based on clues that it will improve patient lives, so long as pharma companies later carry out larger trials to confirm those hints of efficacy. But looking at four years of data, a team of researchers found that only 50 percent of those trials actually took place within three years of approval. (Damian Garde, 8/15)

Stat: I Went To Medical School In Charlottesville. I Know White Anger Well
After watching the violence unfold in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend, after watching white supremacists descend on the city where I went to medical school, and onto the University of Virginia campus where I became a doctor, this is what I said to myself. I’ve seen this anger before. For four years, my task was to learn to treat people who were sick. Even the ones who wore their Confederate pride openly, even the ones who threatened to shoot me on home health visits. My task was to learn from experienced physicians how to help people get well. Even when they witnessed racist behavior directed toward me. Even when they glossed over that bigotry. (Jennifer Adaeze Okwerekwu, 8/14)

Los Angeles Times: Vaccination Rates Are Up In California, But Pockets Of Resistance Still Threaten Everyone
As the new school year begins, parents have reason to worry about what their kids may be exposed to in the classroom. Despite an overall increase in kindergarten vaccination rates to 95.6% since 2015, when the Legislature stopped allowing public school students to skip their shots simply because of their “personal beliefs,” a Los Angeles Times analysis found that at nearly 750 California schools, most of them charter or private schools, 90% or fewer of the kindergartners had their full course of vaccinations against diseases such as measles, polio, and whooping cough. The optimal rate for preventing a measles outbreak is 95%. (8/15)

The New York Times: 10 Things My Chronic Illness Taught My Children
My children have a mother with a chronic illness. They live with my rheumatoid arthritis just as much as I do. I was given my diagnosis when all three of them were young, and since then I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about what the daily uncertainty of my condition would mean to them, and whether it would affect their development. They are all teenagers now, one getting ready for college, and I can attest that my illness has indeed affected them. Here’s how. (Paula M. Fitzgibbons, 8/16)

Sacramento Bee: Democrats Must Stand Up For Abortion Rights
As Democratic leaders search for ways to win in 2018, some have recently suggested that women’s rights and reproductive health care are dispensable. ...Such a strategy would not only betray what it means to be a Democrat, it would also be destined to fail. (Amy Everitt, 8/15)

Arizona Republic: Arizona's Abortion Crusade Just Cost Us Another $600,000
Cathi Herrod’s crusade to make life as miserable as possible for women who seek abortions just cost us another $600,000. A U.S. District Court judge on Monday ordered the state to reimburse Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers for their costs in fighting yet another unconstitutional law passed by our leaders. (Laurie Roberts, 8/15)

Des Moines Register: How You Can Prevent Medication Errors
[T]he risk of preventable drug errors does not end when you leave the hospital. Consumers are accidentally harming themselves at home with their own medications. The rate of serious medication mix-ups has doubled since 2000, according to a new study. ... Too many Americans take the wrong medication, take drugs in the wrong dose or inadvertently take them twice. ... Among the simple suggestions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: don’t share prescriptions or take anyone else’s, read the label and warnings, dispose of drugs you’re no longer supposed to take, turn on a light to check bottles if you take medication at night and keep prescriptions away from children. (8/15)

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Glen Campbell’s Death ‘Brings Alzheimer’s Out Of The Shadows.’ Now What?
Campbell was diagnosed in 2011. He died a week ago at age 81, having helped bring “Alzheimer’s out of the shadows and into the spotlight.” He became a public face of the disease in 2014 when he allowed a film crew to shoot his final tour for the award-winning documentary “I’ll Be Me.” Alzheimer’s, a progressive disease of the brain, is best known for causing memory loss, but it also has other debilitating effects on the body, and can affect people’s ability to move and eat by themselves. There is no cure for the illness. If you’re fortunate enough to have to imagine what that’s like, count it a blessing and hope it never happens to you. Anyone left holding the memories will tell you there’s never been a more lonely or trying place. (Gracie Bonds Staples, 8/15)

JAMA: Consideration Of Dental, Vision, And Hearing Services To Be Covered Under Medicare
[T]here is public and legislative support for the recognition of dental, vision, and hearing services as an integral part of overall health and health services. The evidence points to consideration of ways to include such services in available coverage options under the Medicare program. Low-income older adults are at a greater risk of forgoing necessary services not covered by Medicare that have consequences for the rising costs of the covered services such as avoidable hospitalizations and emergency department visits. (Amber Willink, Cathy Schoen and Karen Davis, 8/15)

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