Longer Looks: Skip The Pain, Take The Epidural; What’s For Breakfast? Might As Well Be Dessert
Each week, KHN finds interesting reads from around the Web.
The New York Times:
Get The Epidural
It’s interesting that no one cares very much about women doing anything “naturally” until it involves their being in excruciating pain. No one ever asks a man if he’s having a “natural root canal.” No one ever asks if a man is having a “natural vasectomy.” This is why I generally believe, and of course I know there are exceptions, but I’m just saying, usually, you should get the epidural. (Jessi Klein, 7/9)
We Need To Call American Breakfast What It Often Is: Dessert
In America, breakfast is often nothing more than disguised dessert .... Look no further than the menu at IHOP, where dessert for breakfast reigns. You can find such items as New York cheesecake pancakes or raspberry white chocolate chip pancakes, which come with a whopping 83 grams (nearly 21 teaspoons) of sugar. Remember that the government recommends no more than 12 teaspoons of sugar per person per day (though the average American consumes 23.) ... And yogurt? The fermented dairy product has the patina of a health food, thanks to its protein and beneficial bacteria. Yet companies like Yoplait and Chobani have built yogurt empires in America by saturating their products with sugar. (Julia Belluz and Javier Zarracina, 7/11)
A Black Psychiatrist Reflects On Race In Medicine, And Being Mistaken For A Fix-It Man
Dr. Damon Tweedy was one of the first African-Americans to earn a scholarship to Duke Medical School, back in 1996, when the school was trying to encourage more diversity in its ranks. The son of a grocery store worker, Tweedy grew up in an all-black neighborhood where his older brother was the only person he knew who went to college without a sports scholarship. Now a psychiatrist at Duke, Tweedy says he has been frustrated about the quality of medical care he can provide for patients who are uninsured, many of whom are African-American. He has also written, in a New York Times best-selling book, “Black Man in a White Coat,” about the racially charged experiences he had as a student and young doctor. (Karen Weintraub, 7/12)
When My Dog Died, I Didn’t Understand Why It Felt Like A Human Had Died. Then I Read The Research.
No one ever tells you that when your dog is dying, it feels like a human is dying. At first, I tried to suppress the grief. But so many other dog owners said things like, "It felt like a family member had died." As a data person, all I could see was a growing sample size. So instead of mourning — or maybe this was my mourning — I sat next to Rainbow during her final days, and I read research papers and books about humans' relationship with dogs. As it turns out, we really are two species with an odd, symbiotic relationship. (Alvin Chang, 7/11)
Beating A Cancer Death Sentence
Several months ago, my wife, Françoise, and I attended something novel for melanoma patients: a survivors’ dinner. People said they wanted to make it an annual gathering. Planning anything that far in advance had been pointless for me. Two years ago, I was about to accept hospice care. When I was first diagnosed in 1996, early surgery was the only reliably successful treatment. Anything more advanced was essentially a death sentence. Over the past five years, a series of revolutionary drugs have given me and many other people a surprisingly hopeful prospect. Nevertheless, the drugs’ development process has often been excruciating for clinical trial participants, and their remarkably high costs limit their value. (Jonathan Friedlaender, 7/6)
National Academies Hit The Brakes On Gene Drive–Modified Organisms
Despite their potential for fighting Zika, malaria, and other public health scourges, organisms that have been engineered to quickly spread genetic modifications through a population—and possibly an entire species—are not ready for release into the wild, a committee of interdisciplinary experts concluded in a recent report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. So-called gene drive–modified organisms “require more research in laboratories and highly controlled field trials,” the committee said in a statement. (Jennifer Abbasi, 7/13)
Meanwhile, Politico takes an in-depth look at issues surrounding the health law —
Obamacare’s Sinking Safety Net
If you’re looking to find a smashing Obamacare success story—a place where the nation’s biggest and most controversial new law in a generation has truly lived up to its promise—you might stick a pin directly in North Carolina. The central pledge of the Affordable Care Act was to make insurance available to people who didn’t have it, creating a new safety net for millions nationwide. And in North Carolina that's exactly what happened. ... But if you’re looking for a quintessential Obamacare failure story, you might also stick that pin directly in North Carolina. (Paul Demko, 7/13)
Obamacare, The Secret Jobs Program
It was the first week of March 2009, and inside the White House, the grand policy aspirations of the young Obama administration were colliding with stark economic reality. On Thursday, March 5, President Barack Obama hosted a summit to kick off his health reform push. On Friday, the S&P 500 hit its lowest point in a decade. But in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next door, for all the talk of expanding health coverage and striking bipartisan deals, aides wrestled over a deeper question: Should they push harder to control America’s runaway health spending, even if it killed jobs in the short term? (Dan Diamond, 7/13)
The War Of The Charts
In 2009, Rep. Kevin Brady made the rounds at Fox TV, ABC News and The Drudge Report as a newly minted internet star. The source of the Texas Republican's fame was a stunningly impenetrable graphic created by his staff—65 boxes in six garish colors, interlinked in uncountable ways. The title: “Organizational Chart of the House Democrats' Health Plan.” Within hours, it was available for purchase on a T-shirt with the caption, “Where is MY doctor?” (Nicole Narea, 7/13)
The Wrong State To Have An Accident
In December 2014, Donnie Gene Rippy fell off a roof while shooing away ducks, breaking his back and too many bones to count. He underwent four surgeries to fix his shoulder, wrists and vocal cords. Rippy, a brick mason, had the misfortune to be uninsured. But his bad luck was compounded by where his accident happened. If he had lived about 50 miles north—that is, anywhere over the Kentucky border—he wouldn't have to rely on ibuprofen and occasional cortisone shots from a local health department for his persistent back and knee pain. Chances are good he would also have gotten treatment for the memory and mood issues that developed after the fall. And he wouldn't be mired in more than $60,000 in medical debt. (Rachana Pradhan, 7/13)
Survey: Time To Stop Fighting, Start Fixing
As Barack Obama nears the end of his presidency, the legacy and future of his health care program is very much in play. Where are the fights going break out? What should happen next? POLITICO surveyed a wide range of health care thinkers to project the law’s future and offer their suggestions. (Danny Vinik, 7/13)
Repeal. Defund. Repeat.
Ever since the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 without a single Republican vote, the GOP has mounted a steady stream of attempts to repeal it, defund it, or dismantle crucial pieces of the law—no fewer than 80 times so far in the House of Representatives alone. A few were reforms that President Barack Obama signed into law. The rest were veto bait—everything from defunding abortion services (a frequent move) to all-out nuclear attacks that would blow the entire 900-page bill to pieces. While nearly all these moves were doomed from the start, they’ve made for some impressive political theater over the past five years—and speak to the focus with which Obama’s opponents in Congress have seized on the law as a political weapon. (Nicole Narea, 7/13)
‘Affordable Care’? Not So Fast.
The word is right there in the name of the law: “Affordable.” The ACA promised to bring health insurance down to earth, letting uninsured people buy policies that didn't break the bank, and bringing the astonishing cost of medical care into reach for all Americans. What's becoming clear, three years in, is that “affordable” depends where you look. Twenty million more people are covered and tens of millions of others have broader benefits because of Obamacare. But many insurers, faced with new coverage requirements and competition on premiums, have shifted costs onto consumers. (Nancy Cook, 7/13)
How LBJ Pulled Off The Biggest Government Maneuver Since D-Day
It was the largest expansion of the American welfare state since 1935. It imposed the federal government between patients and their doctors. Conservatives hated it; liberals loved it. And no one knew whether it would work. When Medicare launched in July 1966, almost 50 years ago today, nothing like it had ever been attempted in the United States: a new national health care plan, financed by payroll taxes and voluntary contributions, offering roughly 20 million seniors automatic hospital coverage and an affordable, government-subsidized insurance program for doctors’ visits. Logistically it was an utterly unclimbed mountain. In a day when “communications technology” meant snail mail and the rotary telephone, the new Medicare administration would have to find those seniors, tell them about the program and get them to sign up. (Josh Zeitz, 7/13)