KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: George Will: Dems’ ‘Reservoir Of Condescension’ Focused On Women; One Disabled Voter Questions Assisted Suicide Referendum

The Washington Post: Obama's Campaign Goes Empty And Strident 
Much of the Democratic Party’s vast reservoir of condescension is currently focused on women, who are urged not to trouble their pretty little heads about actual problems but instead to worry that, 52 years after birth control pills went on the market and 47 years after access to contraception became a constitutional right, reproductive freedom is at risk. This insult may explain the shift of women toward Romney. ... [Also,] Nothing in the president’s campaign has betrayed an inkling that anything pertinent to Social Security or Medicare has changed since they were enacted 77 years and 47 years ago, respectively (George Will, 10/31).

The New York Times: Suicide By Choice? Not So Fast
Next week, voters in Massachusetts will decide whether to adopt an assisted-suicide law. ... I can’t help wondering why we’re in such a hurry to ensure the right to die before we’ve done all we can to ensure that those of us with severe, untreatable, life-threatening conditions are given the same open-hearted welcome, the same open-minded respect and the same open-ended opportunities due everyone else (Ben Mattlin, 10/31).

McClatchy: Rallying The R's As Electoral Strategy
Long before Mitt Romney, and not just for the sake of alliteration, the Republican Party could have been described as the party of the "r's." That's because its base, the core constituencies it has to energize to win elections, all begin with "r." ... First, there are the rich. ... Then there are the rural. ... One other area where Republicans see a strong role for government is in making health care decisions for women and determining who can marry. That generally gets them the support of the third "r", the religious. They buy the idea that government should dictate their brand of morality (Dennis Jett, 11/1).

Journal of the American Medical Association: The Massachusetts Health Care Reform Experiment: A Success
To some extent, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is based on the "Massachusetts experiment," the health care legislation passed by the state in 2006, leading politicians on both sides of the political aisle to claim it as a success or failure. Supporters assert that the legislation resulted in nearly universal health insurance coverage in Massachusetts. Detractors point out that the quality of coverage may be suboptimal and its costs are exorbitant. Both sides have overstated their cases (Drs. Michael J. Zinner and Edward H. Livingston, 10/31).

New England Journal of Medicine: The Insurance Value of Medicare 
Medicare should give beneficiaries not just access to medical care, but also protection from the risk of catastrophic spending. At the same time, Medicare — like any good insurance — should not cover so much care so generously that beneficiaries end up consuming too much care of questionable value and driving up costs for everyone. Thus, setting cost sharing for Medicare beneficiaries is a balancing act: too little cost sharing means patients have no incentive to spend Medicare dollars wisely; too much means Medicare fails to perform its insurance function. How well does Medicare do at this balancing act? Not very (Katherine Baicker and Helen Levy, 10/31).

New England Journal of Medicine: Medicare's Enduring Struggle to Define "Reasonable and Necessary" Care
The Medicare program, among its many functions, serves as the country's preeminent organization for the assessment of health technology. Its decisions to cover and pay for medical technology can have profound consequences for patients' access to therapies, physicians' treatment options, and the fiscal well-being of the program. ... It is unfortunate, if not unexpected, that Medicare's attempts to implement evidence-based decisions have been influenced by politics. It's ironic that as CMS launches value-based purchasing programs for providers, it is unable to apply value-based purchasing for technology (Peter J. Neumann and James D. Chambers, 10/31).

New England Journal of Medicine: Cancer Screening Campaigns — Getting Past Uninformative Persuasion
For nearly a century, public health organizations, professional associations, patient advocacy groups, academics, and clinicians largely viewed cancer screening as a simple, safe way to save lives. ... Persuasive messages stripped of useful facts might be justified if cancer screening didn't carry harms. But research has increasingly shown that it does. ... In order to get past persuasion to informed decision making, we need to make it easy for doctors and patients to see the key data about screening tests' benefits and harms in an appropriate context (Drs. Steven Woloshin, Lisa M. Schwartz, William C. Black, and Barnett S. Kramer, 11/1). 

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado Picks Top 4 Races For Women’s Health
In every race, voters will choose either to continue moving forward towards equality or to wind the clock back on women’s health. ... Women's access to affordable health care is an economic issue as well as one of equality. Because of reliable and affordable sources of contraception, women are able to pursue educational and professional goals, making it possible to continue their education and financially support their households (Cathy Alderman, 10/31).

The Miami Herald: 'Visionary Act' Benefits MDC's Nursing Program
Healthcare and jobs have been two constants in the political season. ... But there can be no debate or confusion about the critical jobs that need to be filled in our South Florida healthcare community ... Forty percent of Florida's nurses will be lost to retirement in the near future. Factor in demand from retiring baby boomers and we're staring at a deficit of 11,000 nurses in the next two years and 50,000 in ten years. ... South Florida will be vulnerable as few communities in the nation (Eduardo J. Padron, 10/31).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.