KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Health Care And The ‘Crushing Federal Debt;’ Optimism About ‘Grand Bargain;’ Iowa’s Premium Increase Request

Fortune: 2013: The Year We Become The Health Care Nation
The largest issue America will face in 2013 is health care. And it will only get larger. As the national conversation changes, we'll find that by year-end we're talking about it all the time, whether the ostensible topic is politics, government, the economy, our jobs, or our families. Health care will be the unavoidable topic. Medicare and Medicaid are the biggest element of our most serious national problem: crushing federal debt (Geoff Colvin, 1/5).

Los Angeles Times: The Coming Fight Over The Debt Ceiling: An Optimistic Take 
The Obama-Boehner argument over defining our fiscal problem obscures a basic issue on which both parties agree: spending on healthcare, including Medicare and Medicaid, must come down. Obama has already taken modest steps toward cutting spending on Medicare, and even entertained the idea of raising the health plan's eligibility age from 65 to 67 until he was shouted down by members of his own party. Is a bargain -- grand or otherwise -- possible? (Doyle McManus, 1/7).

Journal of the American Medical Association: Curbing Gun Violence
Gun violence arises from sociocultural, educational, behavioral, and product safety issues that transcend gun ownership alone. Addressing this crisis will require a comprehensive, multidimensional strategy. Toward that end, much can be learned from prior public health successes in changing the prevalence, social norms, and cultures of harmful behaviors. These major achievements—in the realms of tobacco, unintentional poisoning, and motor vehicle safety—provide a set of evidence-based, successful tactics for immediate application to gun violence (Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, David Hemenway and Dr. David S. Ludwig, 1/7).

Forbes: If Insurance Companies Can't Utilize Pre-Existing Conditions, Then They're Not In The Insurance Business
When both Republicans and Democrats agree on something, it is not a cause for celebration but a reason to heighten scrutiny over the measure in question. One such initiative that has garnered a bipartisan seal of approval is the Affordable Care Act’s provision that forbids insurance companies from utilizing pre-existing conditions to determine who they wish to insure. This position—which is pure populist demagoguery—is designed not to improve the functioning of the health care industry but to destroy it. The health insurance industry, by allowing individuals to purchase security against serious incident health conditions, provides a crucial and heroic role as evidenced by its continued success and profitability (Amesh Adalja, 1/8).

Des Moines Register: Voss Needs To Reduce Wellmark Increase
It seems not long ago that Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield increased its premiums. Now, the insurer is asking Iowa Insurance Commissioner Susan Voss to again allow it to begin collecting another increase. The company wants approval for a 12 to 13 percent increase on policies for about 150,000 Iowans. ... These Iowans are at the mercy of Wellmark, which sells 89 percent of the individual policies in Iowa. ... Voss should stand up for these desperate Iowans who have seen their premiums rise at least 8.5 percent each year since 2008 (1/7). 

Los Angeles Times: Addressing An Epidemic Of Rx Deaths
Prescription drug overdoses killed more than 37,000 Americans in 2009, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control; that death rate has tripled since 1990. The increase is not surprising, considering these additional CDC statistics: The number of prescriptions for painkillers has more than quadrupled since 1999 ... It's a terrible and hideously expensive toll, made even sadder in California by the fact that the state has the data in its hands to help stave off some of the injury and death but isn't using the information effectively (1/7).

Kansas City Star: War On Abortion Targets Reproductive Health Care For Poor Women
For those who believe that the "war on women" amounts to nothing more than a campaign slogan, behold Texas. ... Gov. Perry’s cloaks his crusade against Planned Parenthood in Christian concern for unborn babies. Yet he actually might be increasing abortions by limiting access to family planning. His patriarchal attitude is also more than a little offensive. It tells women, we know what is best for you, which doctors are morally fit to provide healthcare. Never mind that we’re also making it more difficult for you to find that care. Holier than thou, and wholly unconcerned about your welfare. That’s Rick Perry and the faith-n-values party (Mary Sanchez, 1/4).

Boston Globe: Medical Promised Land
From the moment their son was born, Mohammad and Alia Alhazmi knew something was wrong. ... Doctors in Saudi Arabia, the Alhazmis’ native land, suspected that the infant had Diamond Blackfan Anemia, a rare genetic condition that prevents the body from making red blood cells. ... Mohammad and Alia vowed to do whatever it took to cure their son. They learned that Diamond Blackfan Anemia was discovered in 1938, at Boston Children’s Hospital, one of the world’s premier research centers on the disease. ... Why were they so optimistic that America could save their son? “Everything is possible for the American people,” Mohammad told me (Farah Stockman, 1/8).

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