KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Viewpoints: Where Opioid Addiction Sometimes Starts; Improving End-Of-Life Care

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

Los Angeles Times: Long-Term Opioid Addiction Can Start In The ER
There’s a common thread in many accounts of opioid addiction: It all started with a single prescription after a minor injury or other medical issue. There are plenty of culprits in the opioid epidemic raging across the country, including the pharmaceutical industry, drug traffickers and economic stagnation. But there is little doubt that many thousands of opioid users got their first introduction to an opioid from a physician who wanted to treat their pain. And we’ve found unsettling evidence that whether you are prescribed an opioid, and whether a first opioid prescription turns into many, could be just a matter of chance. (Michael Barnett and Anupam B. Jena, 2/27)

Stat: Strict Limits On Opioid Prescribing Risk ‘Inhumane Treatment’ Of Pain Patients
Amid a rising toll of opioid overdoses, recommendations discouraging their use to treat pain seem to make sense. Yet the devil is in the details: how recommendations play out in real life can harm the very patients they purport to protect. A new proposal from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to enforce hard limits on opioid dosing is a dangerous case in point. (Stefan G. Kertesz and Adam J. Gordon, 2/24)

Stat: 5 Ways To Improve Care At The End Of Life
As baby boomers continue to age, swelling the ranks of the elderly and those near death, how seriously ill people approaching the end of life are cared for must be reformed. We had the honor of chairing the Aspen Health Strategy Group, composed of 23 experienced leaders in health care, technology, and the media, as it explored ways to improve care at the end of life. Here are five of the transformative ideas we included in the group’s report, “Improving Care at the End of Life.” (Kathleen G. Sebelius and Tommy G. Thompson, 2/24)

The Wall Street Journal: A National Right To Life
One job President Trump should fill as soon as possible is commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, which has for decades slowed or strangled potentially lifesaving therapies. The promising news is that Mr. Trump and Congress have noticed and are proposing to help patients secure treatment more quickly. (2/26)

The New York Times: Mental Illness, Untreated Behind Bars
President Trump has talked quite a bit about cracking down on a nonexistent crime wave. Rarely does he talk about the different kinds of support law enforcement needs or what actually keeps communities safe. So it might have come as a surprise to him when a member of the National Sheriffs’ Association at a White House meeting earlier this month brought up an urgent problem sheriffs’ offices all face — the mental health crisis that has filled jails to bursting with mentally ill people who would be more effectively dealt with through treatment. (2/27)

Modern Healthcare: The Medical Imperative For Data-Sharing
Bryan Olson, a 47-year-old prostate cancer survivor with short spiky hair, dark glasses and the pallor of someone who has spent too many hours staring at computer screens, has become an evangelist for unlocking medical records through data-sharing and interoperability. The Intel marketing executive wants to link medical records from across the U.S. and the world into a vast virtual warehouse for research. It's key, he says, to achieving research breakthroughs for cancers like his and the other diseases that are characterized by genetic mutations. (Merrill Goozner, 2/25)

The Des Moines Register: Medical Errors Rise, But Malpractice Lawsuits Fall
It seems that with every legislative session, lawmakers introduce a bill or bills that significantly seek to rein in the rights of persons injured by medical malpractice. Most recently, legislation was introduced to arbitrarily cap or limit damages for pain, suffering and disability at $250,000. This amount may seem large to those viewing this issue through the prism of big business and big insurance. To a patient and their family struggling with significant lifelong injuries resulting in unrelenting pain, discomfort, and debility, it is a pittance. (Thomas P. Slater, 2/26)

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