KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Longer Looks: Zika Virus, Privatized Medicaid, When Home Birth Goes Wrong

Each week, KHN's Shefali Luthra finds interesting reads from around the Web.

The New York Times: How The Epidemic Of Drug Overdose Deaths Ripples Across America
Deaths from drug overdoses have jumped in nearly every county across the United States, driven largely by an explosion in addiction to prescription painkillers and heroin. Some of the largest concentrations of overdose deaths were in Appalachia and the Southwest, according to new county-level estimates released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Hayeoun Park and Matthew Bloch, 1/19)

The Atlantic: What To Know About Zika Virus
Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that is similar to dengue both in form (both are flaviviruses) and in symptoms, which can include rashes, fever, headaches, pain behind the eyes, and joint pain. However, while dengue can be so painful that it is sometimes called “breakbone fever,” Zika is “usually mild,” according to the CDC, and only one in five people infected will develop symptoms. The urgency of this outbreak comes not from the severity of its symptoms, but from the fact that Zika has been linked to microcephaly—smaller-than-normal head size—in infants. (Julie Beck, 1/19)

Vox: I’m A Doctor. I Worry Every Time I Prescribe Painkillers To A Patient.
In Massachusetts where I am a physician, unintentional deaths from opioid overdoses increased from 5.3 to 10.1 per 100,000 residents between 2000 and 2013. In 2014, the number jumped to 18.6 per 100,000. These numbers include overdoses from heroin, which works the same way as opioid pills. Some people who become addicted to painkillers, unable to afford more medication or secure a prescription, then turn to heroin. But as of 2015, prescription opiates on their own account for 44 deaths each day in the United States. (Allison Bond, 1/14)

The Pitch: Gov. Sam Brownback Says Privatized Medicaid Is Working In Kansas, But Some Patients And Hospitals Don't See It
Finn Bullers spent his 52nd birthday and this past Christmas in the intensive-care unit at Shawnee Mission Medical Center. He wasn't sick — not beyond the daily ailments that accompany the Prairie Village man's muscular dystrophy and diabetes, anyway. But he had nowhere else to go. Bullers can't survive on his own. He relies on a ventilator to breathe and a wheelchair to move, and when he's alone he is imperiled by the possibility that the machine could disconnect from his throat. His coordination wracked by the degenerative muscular dystrophy, he wouldn't be able to reconnect it himself. That's what happened just prior to his arrival at Shawnee Mission Medical Center. (Bockrodt, 1/19)

Slate: Why This Attorney And 112 Others Told Their Abortion Stories To The Supreme Court.
Few women who have abortions tell their stories publicly. Janie Schulman told hers to the Supreme Court. Schulman, a partner at Morrison and Foerster, shared her experience in a recent amicus brief filed on behalf of 113 attorneys who had abortions. The brief, which features Schulman’s name on the first page, is an attempt to prove to the court that Texas’ draconian antiabortion laws violate the Constitution. (Mark Joseph Stern, 1/19)

The New Yorker: Seeing The Spectrum
The world has always been unpredictable and disorderly, and some people have always found its ways unbearable. But there hasn’t always been autism—or its related categories, Asperger’s syndrome and (the current official term) autism-spectrum disorder. Autism was discovered, and given its identity as a discrete pathological condition, by two physicians working independently of each other during the Second World War. (Steven Shapin, 1/17)

Pacific Standard: When Home Birth Goes Wrong
The C-section was so quick that she hadn't had time to remove her own clothes. Careening down the hallway toward the operating room, just minutes after her arrival at the hospital, Danielle Yeager's team of nurses had torn the clothes off of her body, flinging them on the floor behind them as they ran. Normally, Yeager is warm and giggly, with long, corkscrew hair and a smile that makes her eyes crinkle and disappear. But, on the frantic ride toward the operating room, she was grim and silent, willing her baby to just hang on. (Sarah Watts, 1/19)

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