KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Two Views On How To Fight Obesity; Tough Choices For Big Business On Health Costs

The Washington Post: A Need For New Thinking In Attacking Our Weight Problem
Forgive us if we don't cheer at the prospect of adding 32 million to the total number of Americans who are dozens of pounds too heavy, a count that stood in 2010 at 78 million. Forty-two percent — or even 36 percent, the 2010 rate — is a public-health emergency that hurts not only the morbidly overweight — who face higher rates of diabetes, heart disease and other deadly illnesses — but everyone else who has to help pay for treating the consequences of obesity, a preventable condition (5/10).

The Wall Street Journal: The Tax Code Diet
Beware of scientists who moonlight as politicians. A case in point is this week's Institute of Medicine obesity report that endorses far more regulation of food, business, real estate, health care, transportation, the works. ... The cries for more regulation of consumer choice and picking winners and restaurants will only grow after the institute's report. But new and many more government anti-obesity programs are likely to follow the historic pattern and end up making people fatter (5/10).

CNNMoney/Fortune: If Obamacare Survives, Employers May Do It In
But if [the federal health law] survives, then employers face only a few options for controlling health care costs as they must. One response is to stop providing coverage for employees and let them buy it on the new exchanges. As Fortune wrote in 2010, major employers, including AT&T (T) and Caterpillar (CAT), have begun considering that option. ... Another option for big employers that self-insure would be to maintain coverage but tweak it by raising co-pays or limiting the number of specialists in the network, thus nudging the sickest employees toward the exchanges. If many employers were to take either of those roads, Obamacare's finances wouldn't work as intended, and the program would have to be altered (Geoff Colvin, 5/11).

The Wall Street Journal: ObamaCare's Killer Device Tax
Much of the political conversation in Washington these days concerns innovation, job creation and competitiveness. But talk is cheap, and elected officials must enact policies that enhance economic activity and job creation. The medical device industry is an example of Washington doing exactly the opposite (Henry I. Miller, 5/10).

JAMA: The Difference A Dollar Makes: Birth Control And The Presidential Race
Although Romney is clear about his intention to repeal the ACA and his position on abortion is summarized on his website, the site says nothing about his position on access to birth control. During the February uproar about Obama's mandate that all employers, including employers affiliated with religious organizations, provide insurance that covers birth control, Romney framed the issue as one of religious freedom, without addressing women's access to birth control. It didn't play well with women. ... But Obama can't take women's votes for granted. His record on women's reproductive issues is mixed (Diana J. Mason, 5/10).

Los Angeles Times: Itemized Medical Bills Should Be Standard Operating Procedure
It's tough enough to be without health insurance. But do healthcare providers have to make it even worse by treating you like a moron? Santa Monica resident Tom Wilde recently received bills from a downtown Los Angeles clinic and the L.A. County/USC Medical Center totaling almost $2,500. What exactly were the charges for? The bills didn't say (David Lazarus, 5/11).

Des Moines Register: State Disappointing On HIV Insurance
It's reasonable to assume when a serious problem can easily be fixed that someone in charge will fix it. But the board overseeing Iowa's federal high-risk insurance pool doesn't care about what is reasonable. Nor, it seems, does the Iowa Legislature. The board has had numerous opportunities to right a wrong and help HIV-positive Iowans sign up for health insurance they are entitled to. The board was created by the Legislature, but the board has refused to budge. So it's disappointing that the Legislature declined to step in and make changes to the insurance pool and its board of overseers that would made insurance coverage available to Iowans dealing with HIV (5/10). 

Denver Post: Baby Boomers And Hepatitis C In Colorado
Colorado's "baby boom" generation faces a ticking health care time bomb — and employers have the opportunity this year to help protect the health of their workers and potentially cut their company's health care costs at the same time. The challenge that employers and baby boom employees alike face is that many Americans born between 1946 and 1964 have the hepatitis C virus (HCV) and don't know it. A quick blood test and a fast diagnosis results in a far more rapid and less expensive course of treatment. These proactive steps not only save lives but in turn help reduce costs and throw a lasso on soaring insurance premiums (Nancy Steinfurth, 5/11).

San Jose Mercury News: Vote Yes On Prop. 29 To Raise Cigarette Tax By $1
Big Tobacco will spend $40 million this spring to convince Californians that Proposition 29's $1 per pack tax increase on cigarettes is a fiscal fiasco. Even some objective analysts are quibbling about how the money might be spent. Here's our view. If you took all the money from this tax, raked it into a big pile and set fire to it, Proposition 29 would still be a great deal. Raising tobacco taxes reduces smoking, and that will save California taxpayers billions of dollars in medical costs, not to mention sparing millions of people the misery of addiction or of watching loved ones destroy their health (5/10).

The Washington Post: Maintain The D.C. Healthcare Alliance
The District has been in the forefront of national efforts to provide universal health care. Indeed, it is second only to Massachusetts in the total percentage of insured residents. But progress in this area will be threatened if cuts are made to the city's program of health benefits for low-income residents — which is why the mayor and D.C. Council need to reach an agreement to maintain funding (5/9).

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