KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Liberals Refuse To Acknowledge Evidence Of Oregon Medicaid Study; Politics Is Roiling Science In Emergency Contraception Decisions

The Wall Street Journal: The Oregon Trial
A familiar critique of liberal governance is that the results always matter less than its grand social ambitions. The latest evidence of this truth comes in the reaction to disappointing new findings from one of the most important public-policy experiments since the 1970s. A team of varsity health economists, mostly at Harvard and MIT, is studying the relationship between health outcomes and health insurance delivered by Medicaid (5/2). 

The New York Times: Putting Politics Ahead Of Science
The move to appeal the court ruling came just a day after the F.D.A. staked out a new position, setting the age restriction on nonprescription access to the most well-known brand of emergency contraception — Plan B One-Step — at 15 years old and telling pharmacies to stock the product on display shelves rather than behind the counter. It also said purchasers would have to prove their age by showing a driver's license, birth certificate, passport or other official form of identification. The compromise guidelines are a step in the right direction but still inadequate. There is no good reason to limit the product to those 15 and older. And the ID requirement represents a significant barrier for a time-sensitive drug. Many teenagers don't have any kind of ID (5/2). 

The Washington Post: The Legal Mess On Emergency Contraception
When U.S. District Judge Edward Korman ruled last month that the government had to allow unrestricted, over-the-counter access to the emergency contraceptive Plan B, it seemed as though the Obama administration had stumbled its way out of a political quandary. Scientists say that the drug is safe for over-the-counter sale; in fact, the judge noted, it would be among the safest of over-the-counter drugs. But many parents — President Obama included, by his own account — are queasy about children being allowed to buy emergency contraceptives without oversight. The court forced the government to act on evidence, not queasiness (5/2). 

USA Today: FDA Decision On Plan B Is Good, Still Barriers
The Obama administration's decision earlier this week to make emergency contraception more widely available is an important step forward for preventing unintended pregnancy -- a persistent problem in the United States that most people agree should be addressed more aggressively. However, access should be expanded further (Cecile Richards, 5/2).

Bloomberg: The Morning After Pill Should Be Available To All Ages
Few parents are comfortable with the thought of young teenagers using emergency contraception. That shouldn't make us insensitive to the fact that girls this age might need to. Because the drug blocks fertilization best if taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex, it is counterproductive to require the user to delay taking it in order to see a doctor first. ... The court was right to side with science, leaving parents to establish their own moral guidelines. The administration should obey his ruling and remove the age limit without delay (5/2).  

The New York Times: The Importance Of Testing For H.I.V.
An expert advisory group has recommended that Americans ages 15 to 65 be voluntarily screened for H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, and that many of those found infected receive antiviral drugs even before symptoms develop. This authoritative advice reinforces similar recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a reminder that doctors and clinics need to test and treat patients as early as possible (5/2). 

Baltimore Sun: Plan B Restrictions – Better, But Not Best
In the United States of 2013, any youngster can walk into a store and buy a bottle of aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen or some other pain reliever without showing any identification, parental consent or a doctor's order. They don't have to be 15 or 17 or even old enough to know how to make exact change if the cashier will help them out. So what's the big deal about a bottle of a common analgesic, you may ask? Well, it may be the most dangerous over-the-counter drug available. Each year, poison control centers across the nation get thousands of calls from people who have overdosed on painkillers, particularly acetaminophen, which some people deliberately take to commit suicide, as it can cause acute liver failure if consumed in sufficient quantity. About 50 people die of acetaminophen overdoses each year in this country (5/2).

Politico: Twinkie Insanity Hits The House
Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) argued in POLITICO April 17 that it should be illegal for the U.S. government's public health guardian — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — to point out to children and their parents that Twinkies and sugar-laced sodas are bad for health. In his op-ed, Schock expresses concern that federal money is being used by local health agencies to "attack … Americans' freedom of choice" when they point out that such products have little nutritional value, and contribute to the exploding rates of diabetes and other chronic disease. His solution: Muzzle the CDC and the community agencies they support. ... This bill ignores some basic realities (Marion Nestle, Larry Cohen and Rob Waters, 5/3).

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