KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Santorum Pushed Romney On Health Care; GOP’s ‘Classic Male Mistake’; ACOs And The Anti-Trust Challenge

The Wall Street Journal: Santorum's Strong Run
The Pennsylvanian was also by far the most effective Republican critic of RomneyCare. When he stood on stage in a debate and took apart the Massachusetts health law as a prototype for ObamaCare, Mr. Romney realized he couldn't coast to the nomination. That's when the former Massachusetts Governor came out with his own tax cut and tax reform plan to appeal to economic conservatives (4/10).

Boston Globe: Court Women Voters With Facts, Policy
The GOP is making a classic male mistake. As they try to repair their party's rocky relationship with women, Republicans are launching a charm offensive rather than addressing the issues responsible for the tensions. ... What really matters is what a candidate and his party stand for. And that's a problem at both the presidential and the senatorial level. I'm not talking just about flashpoints like the recent controversy over insurance coverage for contraception. Or, for all the attention it gets, abortion, where there really isn't much of a gender gap (Scot Lehigh, 4/11).

The New York Times: Double Dose Of Harm
House Republicans combined two ill-conceived health care measures into a single bill and passed it on a largely party-line vote last month. One measure repealed an independent board that is one of the major cost-control measures in the health care reform law. The other imposed restrictions on medical malpractice awards that would limit the ability of patients who have been grievously harmed to receive fair compensation for their injuries (4/10).

Los Angeles Times: Healthcare: An Emergency Care Mandate Isn't Enough
In his April 8 Op-Ed article on the individual mandate, the aspect of the federal healthcare reform law that requires everyone to have coverage, William Voegeli advances a false dichotomy. He states that while it may be legitimate to require people to carry health insurance that would cover the costs of their care were they to be hit by a bus, it is illegitimate to require them to carry insurance coverage that will cover substance abuse treatment or dental care for their children (Micah Weinberg, 4/10).

San Jose Mercury News: The Path To Reducing America's Health Care Costs
President Barack Obama's health care reforms offer Americans the best chance to start getting a handle on out-of-control medical costs. If you don't believe the president, then ask the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office. The GAO reported last week that health care costs will go up considerably if the Supreme Court, as expected, rejects the reforms. It would be a shame because these initial reforms are just the first step toward attacking the problem of skyrocketing medical costs, as even the president admits (4/10).

Boston Globe: Health-Care Reform Is No Budget-Buster
The latest attack on the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, is the claim that its long-term cost has suddenly spiked from around $1 trillion to $1.7 trillion. Because the new figure is plucked from a March Congressional Budget Office estimate, opponents of the law contend that the agency's analysis shows it will be a budgetary disaster. But as with so many assertions by critics of Obamacare, this one is misleading. Or as the CBO puts it: "Some of the commentary . . . has suggested that CBO and [the Joint Committee on Taxation] have changed their estimates of the effects of the ACA to a significant degree. That's not our perspective" (4/11).

Houston Chronicle: Obama Is Wrong On Facts, Law In Health Reform Case
If the Supreme Court concludes that Obamacare similarly exceeds Congress' authority under the Commerce Clause, it won't break any new ground. Instead, the court would be taking seriously its duty to uphold the constitutional limits on Congress' authority. The high court should ignore the president's badgering and fulfill its duty to preserve the constitutional framework that has long protected all Americans against excessive encroachments by the executive and legislative branches of government (Greg Abbott, 4/10).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Health Care Law Has Already Helped Millions
Since the health care law took effect, millions of Americans already have begun to benefit. And that's especially true for seniors…. Here's the best news: Even as Medicare is getting stronger, many beneficiaries have seen their premiums fall (Kathleen Sebelius, 4/10).

Archives of Ophthalmology: Comparative Effectiveness: Insights On Treatment Options For Open-Angle Glaucoma
While the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has made comparative effectiveness research well known and establishes a framework for federal involvement, funding, and oversight, the law does not address how research results should be incorporated into medical practice. Without translation, comparative effectiveness research represents an unfulfilled promise for improving quality of care, while reducing our nation's health care expenditures, which are the highest per capita in the world. As we wrestle with the evolving changes in the health care environment during the next few years, ensuring that we have usable data including costs to help guide decision making among treatment alternatives becomes ever more important (Alan R. Morse and Dr. Paul P. Lee, 4/10).

Journal of the American Medical Association: Accountable Care Organizations And Antitrust
Accountable care organizations represent a major experiment in health care delivery and financing. Two major questions remain unanswered. How can clinical integration be encouraged while preventing excessive antitrust risk; and how can cost shifting from federal to private payers be mitigated? ... A significant challenge will be in those instances for which there is evidence of increased prices due to market power of large ACOs but also evidence of increased efficiencies in care coordination and patient experience with their care (Richard M. Scheffler, Stephen M. Shortell and Gail R. Wilensky, 4/11).

Journal of the American Medical Association: Eliminating Waste In US Health Care
The need is urgent to bring US health care costs into a sustainable range for both public and private payers. Commonly, programs to contain costs use cuts, such as reductions in payment levels, benefit structures, and eligibility. A less harmful strategy would reduce waste, not value-added care. The opportunity is immense (Dr. Donald M. Berwick and Andrew D. Hackbarth, 4/11).

Los Angeles Times: LA Moves The Needle
The first cases of HIV identified anywhere in the world are widely thought to have been in Los Angeles in 1981. Since then, 45,000 Angelenos have contracted HIV and nearly half have died due to the disease. As terrible as that statistic is, we can look back over the last 30 years with considerable pride because Los Angeles' courageous response to the epidemic also saved many lives. We now know how much worse things would have been had local elected leaders not braved controversy to support one of the most effective HIV prevention tools we have: needle exchange (Shoshanna Scholar, 4/10).

The New York Times: Room For Debate: Why Do Americans Balk At Euthanasia Laws?
Why is euthanasia more controversial in the United States than, for instance, in the Netherlands? What would need to change before the U.S. would legalize physician-assisted suicide? (4/10).

The Kansas City Star: 'Pink Slime' And Our Cheap Beef Economy
To the legion of Americans running away from a hamburger additive as fast as a startled Angus, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is here to tell you: "It's beef, dude." Technically, he’s right. … But dude, we're talking about salvaged scraps, simmered at low heat and spun at high speed to remove the fat, then spritzed with ammonia to kill bacteria. It may pass bureaucratic muster, but it's not what consumers are used to thinking of as beef (Barbara Shelly, 4/10).

The Kansas City Star: Combined Police, City Health Plan Will Save KC Millions
Give Police Chief Darryl Forté of Kansas City credit for helping push through approval of a unified health insurance plan with City Hall over the objections of some of his officers and command staff. Forté fortunately isn't a defender of the status quo in the Police Department, a world in which police consider themselves special without the obligation to cooperate with city officials. Instead, Forté said Monday that he wants his department to seek out ways to become more efficient (4/10).

The Kansas City Star: Energy Drinks Healthy? Hardly!
As a practicing dentist in Kansas City for 25-plus years, I've become increasingly alarmed by widespread decay in the under-30 set. Far too young for unnecessary dental bills, pain, infection and potential loss of teeth. … According to a study in the journal Dentistry, teeth soaked in energy drinks for 14 days fared worse than teeth soaked in fitness water, soft drinks and other beverages. Of all the drinks in the experiment, the highest acidity levels are found in energy drinks (Ellen Sheridan, 4/10).

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