KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Finding Drug Discounts In Canada; Mo.’s Answer To Rural Doctor Shortage

Los Angeles Times: An O.C. Couple Do The Math: Same Drug Is Far Cheaper In Canada
Prescription drugs are an especially fertile source of profits. Captive markets of sick people may have no choice but to pay whatever is charged by drug companies. When [Bent] Christensen and I spoke, he was particularly incensed about prices charged for Advair, a popular asthma medication required by his 77-year-old wife. ... So Christensen did what many Americans do in the face of soaring healthcare costs: He took his business north of the border (David Lazarus, 8/7). 

Los Angeles Times: Not Enough Primary-Care Doctors? Try Missouri's Prescription.
One exceedingly controversial idea has just become law in Missouri. Missouri will allow medical school graduates to work as "assistant physicians" treating patients in underserved rural areas, even though they have not been trained in a residency program. In the U.S., at least one year of residency after medical school is usually required to practice medicine independently. Most medical school graduates spend at least three years in residency before starting to practice on their own. Under the new law, an assistant physician must have passed the first two sections of the national licensing exam for doctors but not the final one. If they want to become full-fledged physicians, they will still have to pass the last test and do a one-year residency
(Arthur L. Caplan, 8/7). 

Los Angeles Times: It's Too Soon To Give Out Ebola Drugs
Why would the United States decline to provide a serum that can cure Ebola to poor and desperate victims in several African nations where close to 1,000 people have died of the virus? Because it doesn't have such a serum. What the U.S. does have are a number of possible treatments for Ebola that are in the experimental stages. Most were developed with the help of federal financing after 9/11; drug companies previously had little financial incentive to develop drugs for an illness that affected relatively few people, all of them in developing countries. But after the 2001 attacks, the government became interested in staving off possible bioterrorism (8/7). 

The Wall Street Journal: The Battle Against Misdiagnosis
There are times when a single, unexpected death sparks a change in medical practice. In 2012 a 12-year-old boy named Rory Staunton died after being misdiagnosed in a New York City emergency room. Multiple physicians missed the symptoms, signs and lab results pointing to a streptococcal bacterial infection that led to septic shock and overwhelmed Rory's body. The tragedy prompted New York state in January 2013 to introduce "Rory's regulations," a set of stringent protocols aimed at preventing similar incidents in hospitals (Hardeep Singh, 8/7). 

The New Republic: MAP: Your State Lost Billions By Refusing To Expand Medicaid
About half the states have not expanded Medicaid, which means they didn’t make it available to all low-income people as the Affordable Care Act’s architects originally intended. ... Conservatives state officials and their supporters frequently justify the decisions by arguing that they are simply looking after their states’ finances. ... A new report from researchers at the Urban Institute, and supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, shows just how shortsighted that decision is. Yes, states have to spend money to expand Medicaid. But they get much, more back from the federal government (Jonathan Cohn, 8/7).

The New Republic: The Latest Obamacare 'Glitch' Isn't A Glitch At All—And It's Democrats' Fault
If you enrolled in a health plan through an Obamacare exchange in the past 10 months, you could be forgiven for assuming that your work was mostly done—that if your income didn't rise significantly, and you were satisfied with your plan, you were good to go until, say, your employment or marital status changed. But you actually have to re-enroll every year. And there’s no guarantee that a) your existing plan will still be available, b) its premiums won’t increase, or c) the government’s contribution to your premium won’t fall. ... beneficiaries who do the easy thing and re-enroll automatically are likely to discover at some point in 2015 that they’re on the hook for more money than they were this year (Brian Beutler, 8/7).

The New England Journal of Medicine: Time Off To Care For A Sick Child — Why Family-Leave Policies Matter
Health care providers and public health officials routinely recommend that acutely ill children stay home from school and, if necessary, see a clinician. Otherwise, their illnesses can worsen or spread to others, health care costs can increase, and small problems can become serious threats. But for many employed parents, taking time off to care for a sick child means losing income or, worse, risking their job. ... Paid sick days could help families and communities avoid such consequences. According to a 2010 national study, employees who receive paid sick days are substantially less likely than employees without such benefits to send a sick child to school. But it's not only preventable hospitalizations and contagion that are at issue: when children are sick enough to require medical attention, we need parents to be with them (Drs. Mark A. Schuster and Paul J. Chung, 8/7).

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