KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Viewpoints: Why The Ohio A.G. Decided To Take Legal Action Against The Big 5 Opioid Manufacturers; Health Reforms Advance Without Congress

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

The Washington Post: This Is Why I’m Suing Five Opioid Manufacturers In My State
Opioid addiction has become all too familiar in my home state of Ohio. The man-made public health-care disaster has spread to every county in the state. This is why, as state attorney general, I have filed suit against five of the largest manufacturers of brand-name and generic opioids. We believe evidence will show that they flooded the market with prescription opioids, such as OxyContin and Percocet, and grossly misleading information about the risks and benefits of these drugs. And as a result, we believe countless Ohioans and other Americans have become hooked on opioid pain medications, all too often leading to the use of cheaper alternatives such as heroin and synthetic opioids. Almost 80 percent of heroin users start with prescription opioids. (Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, 8/10)

The New York Times: On Health Care, Who Needs Congress?
Regardless of whether Congress enacts health care reform, the private sector isn’t waiting. Health care for our employees is too expensive, and the employer-based system must be reformed. More Americans — 146 million people, or 57 percent of the country — get health insurance through their employers than they do through Medicare or Medicaid, each with more than 50 million enrollees. But for years, premiums and co-payments have been rising for the workers at America’s private-sector companies. (Robert Andrews, 8/11)

The New England Journal Of Medicine: Repeal, Replace, Repair, Retreat — Republicans’ Health Care Quagmire
Republicans have been bedeviled by internal party divisions, strategic miscalculations, the absence of a viable replacement plan, the resilience of the status quo, and the constraints of American political institutions. Given their slim 52–48 majority, passing health care legislation in the Senate required forging a near-consensus among GOP lawmakers. Conservative and centrist Republicans could not, however, agree on whether the party’s repeal proposals went too far or not far enough. While Speaker Paul Ryan and GOP leaders found a way to navigate such tensions in the House of Representatives, they had a larger majority to work with and could afford more defections (even then, House repeal efforts initially imploded before a remarkable turnaround led to passage of the American Health Care Act [AHCA] on May 4 by a 217–213 vote). (Jonathan Oberlander, 8/9)

The Wall Street Journal: The Trump-McConnell Spat
The damage from the GOP’s health-care debacle has only just begun, and the latest evidence is this week’s public spat between President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The big potential winner here is Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. Mr. McConnell has been getting the Kim Jong Un treatment this week, as Mr. Trump has pounded away for the Senate’s recent failure to reform ObamaCare. “Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed Repeal & Replace for 7 years, couldn’t get it done. Must Repeal & Replace ObamaCare!,” the President tweeted Thursday morning from his vacation redoubt in Bedminster, N.J. (8/10)

The Wall Street Journal: John McCain’s Defense Cut
There is no more passionate and principled advocate for greater military spending than Senator John McCain, so we wonder if the Arizona Republican appreciates that he recently voted to guarantee weaker U.S. defenses. To wit, his vote to kill health reform means that entitlements like Medicaid will continue to squeeze the Pentagon like an ever-tightening vise long after he has retired. (8/10)

Detroit News: Medicaid Bridges Care Gap For Disabled Kids
The first time services were cut for my disabled daughter, I cried in the restroom at work. ... Watching the most recent debates to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, I remembered those feelings as I watched the Senate debate massive cuts to Medicaid that would’ve potentially left millions without insurance. I wondered how many of those same senators had ever spent time with someone who relies on Medicaid, especially children with serious disabilities. There’s a perception that Medicaid is only for low-income families. It isn’t. It’s also for families like mine — two working parents trying desperately to give their daughter the life she deserves. (Maureen Feighan, 8/10)

The New England Journal Of Medicine: Small Change, Big Consequences — Partial Medicaid Expansions Under The ACA
Though congressional efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) seem to have stalled, the Trump administration retains broad executive authority to reshape the health care landscape. Perhaps the most consequential choices that the administration will make pertain to Medicaid, which today covers more than 1 in 5 Americans. Much has been made of proposals to introduce work requirements or cost sharing to the program. But another decision of arguably greater long-term significance has been overlooked: whether to allow “partial expansions” pursuant to a state Medicaid waiver. Arkansas has already submitted a waiver request for a partial expansion, and other states may well follow its lead. (Adrianna McIntyre, Allan M. Joseph and Nicholas Bagley, 8/9)

Bloomberg: Sugar Is Finally More Popular Than Corn Syrup Again
All of that decline, as is apparent from the chart, has been in corn sweeteners -- consumption of sugar made from cane or beets is actually up a bit since the 1990s. And the overall drop in sweetener use seems to have stalled over the past four years. The biggest story in the data, really, is the rise and fall of high-fructose corn syrup, which came from nowhere in the 1960s to become a ubiquitous sweetener of soft drinks and other things. Then, around the turn of the millennium, it was identified as a prime suspect in the country's obesity epidemic. (Justin Fox, 8/10)

Bloomberg: Amazon Could Probably Conquer Drugstores, Too
Can Amazon do to the pharmacy business what it’s done to … well, everything else? Rumor has it they’re thinking about doing just that. They’ve reportedly created a new general manager position to look into such an expansion. In May, when those rumors started floating, Bloomberg’s own Max Nisen explained why they might find the business attractive. (Megan McArdle, 8/10)

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