KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: No Return To ‘Bad-Old Days’ Of Mental Health Commitments; Fighting Over School Lunches; Doctors’ Role In Reform

The New York Times: Guns And Mental Illness
It is difficult to read stories about Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old man who went on a murderous spree in Isla Vista, Calif., last month, without feeling some empathy for his parents. We know that his mother, alarmed by some of his misogynistic YouTube videos, made a call that resulted in the police visiting Rodger. The headline from that meeting was that Rodger, seemingly calm and collected, easily deflected the police's attention. But there was surely a subtext: How worried — how desperate, really — must a mother be to believe the police should be called on her own son? ... The mainstream sentiment among mental health professionals is that there is no going back to the bad-old days when people who were capable of living on their own were locked up for years in mental hospitals (Joe Nocera, 6/2). 

The New York Times' The Upshot: Calling An Ordinary Health Problem A Disease Leads To Bigger Problems
As any parent knows, babies spit up. It's gastroesophageal reflux, a pediatrician will explain .... The bigger problem, though, is that the vast majority of these infants weren't "sick." We just gave them an official diagnosis. This labeling of patients with a "disease" can have significant consequences, for both people's health and the nation’s health care budget. About 50 percent of healthy infants will spit up more than twice a day. About 95 percent of them completely stop doing that without treatment. When a majority of infants have (and have always had) a set of symptoms that go away on their own, it isn't a disease — it's a variation of normal (Aaron E. Carroll, 6/2). 

The Washington Post: Kids Hate School Lunches? Let Them Eat Cake.
In 2010, alarmed by the growing girth of children around the country, Congress directed the Agriculture Department to make school meals healthier. The USDA soon issued expert-recommended standards that require, for example, more vegetables and whole grains and less sodium and fat. ... Now, four years later, the [School Nutrition Association] has changed its tune and is lobbying Congress to gut the new nutritional requirements by letting districts effectively opt out of them altogether. Judging from a House Appropriations Committee vote last week, Republicans look eager to push through the lobby’s demands. Rest assured, the School Nutrition Association says this alimentary about-face has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that half its revenue now comes from industry sources, as its spokeswoman recently told The Post (Catherine Rampell, 6/2). 

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: What’s Missing From Supporters' 'Fixes' For The Health-Care Law
A front-page story in Saturday's Washington Post discussing Republican candidates’ positions on the Affordable Care Act included a curious quote from Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of House Democrats’ campaign committee, who said that Republicans are "promising fixes but won't be specific." Actually, many conservatives have outlined numerous alternatives to Obamacare. Republicans in the House have written at least 200 separate bills showing their ideas on health care, large and small. My own organization, America Next, released its blueprint for health reform earlier this year (Chris Jacobs, 6/2). 

Bloomberg: Polls On Obamacare Tell Us Instead About Politics
This isn't a law similar to Medicare, with easily identified benefits and costs. Many Obamacare benefits -- for example, those derived from regulations on insurance companies -- are practically invisible to most policy holders. So are most of the costs, such as the tax on medical devices. That tax is mostly passed along to consumers, yet consumers rarely know what specific charges their insurance pays for, or how those charges affect premiums. Moreover, since almost everyone has some interaction with health care and health insurance, it’s easy for people to attribute -- correctly or not -- personal experiences to Obamacare (Jonathan Bernstein, 6/2). 

Deseret News: Medicaid Campaign Supports Gap Coverage Initiatives By Bringing Forward Utahn Perspectives
Gov. Gary Herbert's efforts to seek flexibility in crafting a Utah-based solution for Medicaid expansion needs to be encouraged. Utahns' justifiable skepticism over the Affordable Care Act shouldn't blind policy-makers to practical solutions for the needs of more than 50,000 of the state's poorest adults (6/3). 

The Hill: Health Insurance Model Must Evolve
In 1964, only 34 percent of cancer patients were surviving five or more years beyond diagnosis. Today, 66 percent are. The reason for such progress? In large part, new medicines. Yet despite the revolution in treating many forms of cancer over the past 50 years, patients are still stuck with an insurance model from the 1960s that discourages the use of innovative medicines to treat and cure disease while encouraging more costly hospitalizations and physician services. This needs to change (John J. Castellani, 5/30).

The Wall Street Journal: An Opportunity Amid The VA Problems
The president has made a real and very personal commitment to veterans. To turn crisis to opportunity and add to that legacy, it will be important to assemble recommendations and begin to implement them while the media and the political world are paying close attention and are motivated to act (Drew Altman, 5/30).

JAMA Internal Medicine: Physicians And Politics
A new health care system that provides universal access and is affordable and efficient will be difficult to achieve. The private insurers and all the other businesses that profit from the current commercial system will resist it. Major reform will need wide public support, which in turn will rely on advocacy by the medical profession. ... Physicians have unique power to reshape the medical care system. They are what makes it work and are best qualified to use and evaluate its resources. But if they never unite to press for major reform, the future of health care in the United States will indeed be bleak (Dr. Arnold S. Relman, 6/2).

JAMA Internal Medicine: The Role Of Copy-and-Paste In The Hospital Electronic Health Record
After a slow start, hospitals in the United States have rapidly adopted electronic health records .... Yet the application of electronic health records can be a double-edged sword. Their use can increase efficiency, facilitate information sharing, standardize hospital processes, and improve patient care. But their use can also have unintended consequences and be subject to abuse, such as when data are duplicated or templates and checkboxes are used to generate standardized text without a good medical reason. ... In September 2012, federal officials warned about "the misuse of electronic health records to bill for services never provided," and that law enforcement agencies "will take action where warranted" (Ann M. Sheehy, Daniel J. Weissburg and Shannon M. Dean, 6/2). 

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