KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Elizabeth Warren On Contraception Mandate, Comparison Shopping For Drugs, ‘Dismantling’ Illinois

Kaiser Health News: Different Takes: Maryland Advances An 'Enterprising' Plan To Eliminate Health Disparities
In this Kaiser Health News Different Takes feature, The University Of Maryland's Dr. E. Albert Reece and The Heritage Foundation's Stuart Butler discuss how health enterprise zones, a new take on an old economic development idea, might be used to improve the health of the state's minority populations (2/23). Read the commentaries by Reece and Butler

Boston Globe: Denying Women Coverage Under Any Guise Is A Big Step Backward
Maybe you saw the pictures. Five middle-age men seated at a congressional hearing table to discuss freedom of religion and contraception. And not a single woman was on the panel. Unbelievable. Do you think Congress would ever have a hearing on prostate cancer and only have women speak? Of course not. Washington is so out of touch with what’s happening to families across this country that the Senate is about to vote on an amendment that would allow any insurance company or any employer to claim a vague “moral conviction’’ as an excuse to deny you health care coverage. Here’s the really astonishing news: Senator Scott Brown is not only voting for this amendment, he is fighting to get it passed (Elizabeth Warren, 2/24).

Los Angeles Times: Making It Easy To Comparison Shop For Prescription Drugs
The Internet has already changed how people shop for books, music, cars and a host of other consumer goods. Next up: prescription drugs. Or so the founders of a Santa Monica start-up called GoodRx are hoping (David Lazarus, 2/24).

Chicago Tribune: Dismantling Illinois
We realize the human costs of closing redundant institutions and offices: Dismantling Illinois affects employees, their families and citizens. We also, though, realize the need for this downsizing. Expect cuts to overhead next year and in years after. The higher income tax you pay? In the next budget, virtually every penny of that $7 billion in new revenue goes to pension obligations. Nor would Quinn's proposed cuts salvage Illinois: Pension funds still will be underfunded by more than $80 billion, retiree health care by perhaps $40 billion. On Tuesday we wrote that you would know Quinn is serious about improving Illinois' finances if he cleared five hurdles in Wednesday's address. How did he do? Pretty well, to a point (2/23).

The Washington Post: The Elderly Should Share The Burden
One hallmark of the Obama administration’s budget policy has been to exempt the elderly from major cuts, even though spending on the elderly — mainly through Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — represents 40 percent or more of the budget. The main reason is political: The elderly (it’s presumed) would vote against politicians who would cut their benefits. But to justify the policy, politicians and others often portray the elderly as financially vulnerable with scant savings. Surprise: It’s not true (Robert J. Samuelson, 2/23).

The Washington Post: Santorum’s Lightning–Fast Flip-Flop On Birth Control Funding
I was getting ready to write something nice about Rick Santorum. Then Rick Santorum talked me out of it. The nice thing was about the former Pennsylvania senator’s self-described support for Title X, the federally funded family planning program that provides contraceptive services for low-income women (Ruth Marcus, 2/23).

The Seattle Times: State Should Appeal Ruling That Pharmacists Cannot Be Compelled To Dispense Contraceptives
Failure to ensure timely access to emergency contraceptives denies critical health care to women. Yet U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton ruled this week that Washington state cannot compel pharmacies to sell emergency contraceptives. How disappointing. Pharmacies are licensed by the state, which has a compelling interest in requiring them to dispense any medication for which there is a community need. … The state should appeal (2/23).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The Doctor Is Not In
Most do not want to recognize that health care is rationed. It is done so by lack of insurance. Health reform is expected to rectify that, but it will exacerbate a new form of rationing: the doctor is not in (Steve Jacob, 2/23).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Mercer Works Hard to Fix Medical Ills
So what else is needed to address this crisis? First, continue the expansion of medical school enrollments. … Georgia also must invest in expanding medical residency training positions at both existing and new sites. Finally, Georgia must invest in incentives to attract physicians, such as more loan repayment options for those who practice in rural and underserved areas, increased scholarship funding for those who agree to practice in rural and underserved areas and additional tax credits (William F. Bina III).

Philadelphia Daily News/Philadelphia Inquirer: State Budget Cuts Will Make All Of Us Vulnerable
Testifying at a two-hour PhillyStat meeting were people on the front lines of those areas that will be affected by Corbett's proposal to consolidate seven state appropriations - including services for mental health, intellectual disabilities, county child welfare, behavioral health, homeless help, and drug and alcohol treatment - into a single block grant, while slashing the money for these by 20 percent. Also, the general assistance grant, a $205-per-month - yes, that's per month - stipend to sick and disabled adults, victims of domestic violence, and very low-income children, is being eliminated. Deputy Mayor for Health Don Schwarz calls the budget a recipe for disaster. Every state budget prompts worries that the sky will fall, especially in cities like ours, and few are better meteorologists of this phenomenon than advocates for the poor, disabled and vulnerable (2/24).

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