KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Mental Health Issues Take Pole Position In Gun Violence Debate

Agreement appears to exist that mental health is central to this debate, with the Obama administration eyeing the related provisions of the health law as one of the answers.

Politico: Mental Health Push Meets Politics
Here's one thing President Barack Obama and Republicans actually agree on: Mental health has to be a big part of the gun violence debate in Obama's second term — because people with serious mental illness shouldn't have guns. Obama thinks he has the perfect solution: the mental health provisions in Obamacare (Nather, 1/17).

Stateline: Easiest Path to Mental Health Funding May Be Medicaid Expansion
The recent mass killings in Tucson, Aurora and Newtown have sparked public conversations about the deficiencies in state-run mental health systems across the United States. But few states are poised to spend their own money to reverse as much as a decade of budget cutbacks in those areas. Instead, many of them are counting on an infusion of federal mental-health dollars. Because Medicaid includes mental-health benefits, those states that opt into the Medicaid expansion included in President Obama's Affordable Care Act will be able to make mental health coverage available to thousands of their citizens who do not now have it (Ollove, 1/18).

Fox News: Does White House Plan Enlist Doctors In Gun Control Fight?
A few lines in President Obama's sprawling gun control plan are stirring accusations from conservatives that the administration is trying to enlist doctors in a national campaign against owning firearms.  The easy-to-miss language was part of Obama's package of executive actions and legislative proposals that includes a new assault-weapons ban and universal background checks. The provision on doctors, though, has begun to generate just as much controversy.  "The idea that your doctor would ask you if you have firearms in your house as part of an examination of your health is repugnant," National Rifle Association President David Keene told Fox News on Thursday, accusing the administration of trying to "demonize firearms" by implying that owning them is a "health problem." One of the 23 executive actions Obama approved Wednesday was to "clarify" that the federal health care overhaul "does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about gun in their homes" (1/17). 

Related KHN coverage: The Gun Lobby’s Favorite Part Of The Health Law (Hancock, 12/20) and Medical Questions About Gun Ownership Come Under Scrutiny (Andrews, 11/26). 

PBS Newshour: In Preventing Violence, 'Very Hard To Identify' Individuals Who Need Help Most (Video)
Ray Suarez looks at responses by lawmakers and the NRA to President Obama's gun violence proposals. Jeffrey Brown hones in on the topic of mental health with Barry Rosenfeld, a clinical forensic psychologist at Fordham University, and Dr. Paramjit Joshi of the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. (1/17).

In related news --

California Healthline: Should Calif. Be Model For National Mental Health System?
In the California Legislature, Sen. Ted Gaines (R-Roseville) and Assembly member Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) have said they plan to introduce legislation dealing with mental health and firearms. We asked experts and lawmakers how policymakers in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., should respond to the public debate triggered by the killing of 26 people at an elementary school (1/17).

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