KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Baker And Dingell Urge Efforts To Cut Gun Deaths; Doctors As Union Workers

The New York Times: Bipartisan Hunting Buddies
Gun violence now rivals traffic accidents as the leading cause of death by injury in the United States. Quite simply, gun violence threatens to overwhelm us. Americans are grappling for strategies to make sure that the horror that occurred in Newtown isn't repeated. ... Gun advocates will say that guns don't kill people, people kill people. And of course we must examine the long-term effects on our children of violent movies, television shows and video games. We must address gaps in our mental health system that leave potential killers unidentified and untreated, and this will require more financial resources. And we must strive to make our schools and public gathering places safer (James A. Baker III and Rep. John D. Dingell, 1/29).

USA Today: Gun Control, 5 Common-Ground Steps: Our View
But the assault-weapons fight shouldn't get in the way of other common-sense, common-ground ways to curb gun deaths. ... Virginia officials were appropriately shamed when they learned that the student gunman who killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007 had legally bought his two handguns after breezing through background checks — despite being so obviously disturbed that a judge had ordered him to get mental health treatment. ... Virginia had done such a slipshod job of passing along mental health records that the shooter's history never turned up in two background checks. Virginia has since cleaned up its act, but a shocking number of other states have not (1/29).

Los Angeles Times: How Congress Could Have Ducked The Fight Over Contraception
Then there are the challenges to the law's requirement that insurers cover contraception, as well as to the regulations the Obama administration issued to implement that requirement. This issue has been particularly troubling for employers affiliated with religious institutions or led by executives who oppose abortion; as the New York Times noted over the weekend, dozens of lawsuits have been filed against the requirement. ... Congress could have avoided these fights by embracing an alternative approach to healthcare reform that had bipartisan support but was in some ways more radical than the Affordable Care Act: ending the country's reliance on employer-provided health insurance (Jon Healey, 1/29). 

The Wall Street Journal: The Doctor's Office As Union Shop
As the country moves toward the effective start date of the Affordable Care Act in 2014, the operational and economic elements of this vast legislation are becoming clearer. Yet one likely outcome of the act that will directly affect the quality of patient care, and could affect its cost, has gone virtually unnoticed and unreported: the increasing trend for physicians to become employees, rather than self-employed. This development represents a potentially radical factor in the transformation of health care—the doctor as union worker (David J. Leffell, 1/29).

Journal of the American Medical Association: A Prescription For Washington's Mood Disorder
Protagonists struggling with bipolar disorder are all the rage in television, movies, and the theatre. From Central Intelligence Agency officer Carrie Mathison in Homeland, to former teacher Pat Solitano in Silver Linings Playbook, to suburban mother Diana Goodman in the play Next to Normal just a few years ago, we've been offered many perspectives on manic depression. In a far less artistic venue, Washington is displaying its own version of a mood disorder. One minute, we're informed we need to cut health care programs now, now, now, or the economy will implode, and the next minute, seniors are told they will always receive their entitled benefits. Clearly, an intervention is needed (David M. Cutler, 1/29).

The Wall Street Journal: Coke And The Calorie Wars 
In a two-minute ad this month addressing the obesity crisis, Coke notes that "a calorie is a calorie" and calls on people to "come together" to fight obesity. ... Critics snark that the ads only stir up more debate about Coke and obesity, but this misses the point. Coke does itself no harm by signaling that it's aware of the debate, and even by subtly jamming the signal with another message about obesity in which Coke isn't the villain. And the anti-obesity campaign, which First Lady Michelle Obama has adopted, no longer seems quite so simple itself. As a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association points out, the connection between being overweight and poor health and mortality may not be close after all (Holman W. Jenkins Jr., 1/29). 

Dallas Morning News: Meat And Potatoes From Perry
It's a given: We’ll take meat and potatoes over the indigestion of divisive issues from the governor's State of the State address any day. ... One other place that Texas isn't stronger than ever is among the 1 in 4 people without health insurance, yet Perry says he refuses to budge "one iota" on meeting Washington's dictates on expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. That would come at too high a price, he insisted. Unhealthy Texans exact an unacceptably high price, too, and treating them in hospitals is the most expensive option out there. Access to health care in Texas remains too restricted, no matter how eager we may be to crow about our economic model (1/29).

Boston Globe: How Romney Can Stay Relevant
Mitt Romney could play a pivotal role in shaping the future of the Republican Party. ... Most notably, of course, he was the architect of Massachusetts health care reform, the individual mandate-based system that became the model for Obamacare. Yes, Candidate Romney disavowed it as a national approach once conservatives decided that if Obama was for it, they were opposed. Still, it was no small accomplishment to get this left-leaning state to embrace what at the time was a credentialed conservative idea (Scot Lehigh, 1/30).

San Jose Mercury News: Public Health And Gun Safety Top Priorities For Santa Clara County
As incoming president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, I delivered the annual State of the County address Tuesday morning. ... The national Affordable Care Act will take effect one year from now. As board president, I will be devoting much time to making sure our hospital and clinics are prepared to meet the challenges of providing services to the tens of thousands of residents who will finally have medical coverage (Ken Yeager, 1/29).

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