KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Longer Looks: Are ‘Pods’ The Solution To Our Long-Term Care Crisis?

Every week Shefali S. Kulkarni selects interesting reading from around the Web.

The New York Times: After Dozens Of Deaths, Inquiry Into Bed Rails
In November 2006, when Clara Marshall began suffering from the effects of dementia, her family moved her into ... an assisted living home in Vancouver, Wash. ... just five months into her stay, Ms. Marshall, 81, was found dead in her room apparently strangled after getting her neck caught in side rails used to prevent her from rolling out of bed. ... [from 2003 through May 2012] 150 mostly older adults died after they became trapped in bed rails. Over nearly the same time period, 36,000 mostly older adults — about 4,000 a year — were treated in emergency rooms with bed rail injuries. ... Experts who have studied the deaths say they are avoidable. ...  but there is a technical question over which regulator is responsible for some bed rails. Are they medical devices under the purview of the F.D.A., or are they consumer products regulated by the [Consumer Product Safety Commission]? (Ron Nixon, 11/25).

Los Angeles Times: An Ethics Debate Over Embryos On The Cheap
Dr. Ernest Zeringue was looking for a niche in the cutthroat industry of fertility treatments. He seized on price, a huge obstacle for many patients, and in late 2010 began advertising a deal at his Davis, Calif., clinic unheard of anywhere else: Pregnancy for $9,800 or your money back. That's about half the price for in vitro fertilization at many other clinics, ... Zeringue sharply cuts costs by creating a single batch of embryos from one egg donor and one sperm donor, then divvying it up among several patients. The clinic, not the customer, controls the embryos, typically making babies for three or four patients while paying just once for the donors and the laboratory work (Alan Zarembo, 11/19).

The Washington Post: Pioneering The Granny Pod: Fairfax County Family Adapts To High-Tech Dwelling That Could Change Elder Care
Viola Baez wouldn't budge. Her daughter's family had just invested about $125,000 in a new kind of home for her, a high-tech cottage that might revolutionize the way Americans care for their aging relatives. But Viola wouldn't even step inside. She told her family she would rather continue living in the family’s dining room than move into the shed-size dwelling that had been lowered by crane into the backyard of their Fairfax County home. ...  As the first private inhabitant of a MedCottage, Viola is a reluctant pioneer in the search for alternatives to nursing homes for aging Americans. Her relatives agonized over the best way to care for Viola only after her ability to care for herself became questionable. ... The family is strikingly candid about the stress that comes with Viola’s daily care (Fredrick Kunkle, 11/25).

The New Republic: Pro-Life Activists Conveniently Ignore the Abortion Drop 
[A] new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has some encouraging news: the U.S. abortion rate fell 5 percent in 2009, the largest single-year drop in a decade. While abortion rights supporters may worry that the declining abortion rate is partly a result of increased abortion restrictions and access at the state level, the trend matches a similar decline in pregnancies overall. ... But many [anti-abortion activists] are shoving that headline aside to focus on what they say is the real story in the CDC report—the fact that deaths from abortions have doubled. ... That sounds alarming, and certainly even one death would be tragic. But abortion-related deaths rose from six to twelve between 2007 and 2009. ... In 2006-2007—the last period for which data are available—the CDC found 1,294 pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. (Amy Sullivan, 11/27).

American Specatator: A New Republican Agenda for the Future 
The traditional Republican issue triad of fiscal responsibility, national defense, and social regulation is broken. The electoral coalition which delivered the White House to Ronald Reagan three decades ago is headed toward civil war. The GOP should rethink what it stands for. Fiscal responsibility certainly, but in practice as well as in theory. ... As for the "entitlements" that threaten to swamp the budget, Republicans must point out that recipients have not paid for Social Security and Medicare, which is why the nation's fiscal future is so bleak. On average the latter alone pays out nearly four times as much in benefits as it collects in taxes from recipients. The starting point of reform should be to means-test, that is, kick the rich off the dole (Doug Bandow, 11/27).

The New York Times: Beating The Odds, And A Storm, To Get A Transplant
It was the best possible news, at the worst possible time. The phone call from the hospital brought the message that Dolores and Vin Dreeland had long hoped for, ever since their daughter Natalia, 4, had been put on the waiting list for a liver transplant. The time had come. They bundled her into the car for the 50-mile trip from their home in Long Valley, N.J., to New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital in Manhattan. ... [But] Hurricane Sandy, the worst storm to hit the East Coast in decades, was bearing down on New York. Airports and bridges would soon close, but the donated organ was in Nevada, five hours away (Denise Grady, 11/26).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.