KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: The Country’s Deep Health Problems; Anthem’s Rx Policy In Calif. May Not Be Legal; Wis. Gov. Medicaid Decision Looming

The New York Times: America's Health Disadvantage 
It is now shockingly clear that poor health is a much broader and deeper problem than past studies have suggested. An authoritative report issued by the Institute of Medicine this week found that, on average, Americans experience higher rates of disease and injury and die sooner than people in other high-income countries. ... The panel suggested a campaign to raise public awareness of the American health disadvantage and a study of what other countries are doing that might be useful here (1/10). 

The Wall Street Journal: Team Of Liberal Loyalists
It's notable how (Jack) Lew's reputation has changed during the Obama years. As White House budget director in the Clinton era, he was viewed by Republicans as a reasonable liberal they could do business with. But as budget director and chief of staff in the Obama White House, Mr. Lew has been the President's most partisan and implacable negotiator. Our sources who have been in the room with the 57-year-old say he is now a fierce defender of entitlements in their current form, resists all but token spending restraint, and favors higher tax rates (1/9). 

Los Angeles Times: Anthem's Mail-Order Policy May Have Crossed A Legal Line
Anthem Blue Cross may be breaking California law by requiring some policyholders to buy their prescription drugs from a single mail-order pharmacy, according to the state attorney general's office. ... it shouldn't be "my way or the highway," not when people's lives are on the line. Offer a discount for shopping at the pharmacy of Anthem's choosing, but don't punish people for going to the same drugstores that all other members are free to use (David Lazarus, 1/10).

USA Today: Retirees Face Their Own 'Fiscal Cliff' 
One group with a darker financial future is older Americans. With some new twists to old-fashioned retirement saving plans, Americans can fill some gaps we can expect as Social Security, Medicare and other safety net programs get recast (Ted Fishman, 1/10). 

The Washington Post: FDA Should Revamp Nutrition Labels
Millions of health-conscious people consider nutrition labels essential when they buy food, but the labels are showing their age. Improving food labels could spur companies to market much healthier foods and encourage consumers to make smarter choices. One problem is that because of advances in nutrition research since 1993, calories and refined sugars are considered more important today, and concern has shifted from total fat to saturated and trans fats (Michael F. Jacobson, 1/10).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Walker's BadgerCare Decision
Of all the decisions Gov. Scott Walker is likely to make in 2013, none will have a bigger impact than whether Wisconsin accepts over $12 billion in federal health care reform money over the next decade to fill the holes in BadgerCare. ... It will guarantee hundreds of thousands of working Wisconsinites the freedom to control their own health care decisions, create thousands of 21st-century jobs in the health care professions and actually save the state budget hundreds of millions of dollars. It would be nothing short of public policy sabotage to turn the money down for the narrow partisan purpose of undermining the health care reform law. Yet Walker seems poised to do so (Robert Kraig, 1/9).

Reuters: How To Improve Vaccination
The cost of [the current flu epidemic] is going to be enormous, both in dollars and in lives, and there’s a limited number of things that anybody can do to slow it down. ... Vaccination isn’t perfect — as we’re discovering right now. Especially with respect to influenza, which comes in a dizzying variety of flavors, a vaccine can’t prevent an outbreak every year. But vaccination has proved itself time and time again as being the most ambitious and effective solution to public-health problems that the world has ever seen (Felix Salmon, 1/10). 

New England Journal of Medicine: Post-Hospital Syndrome — An Acquired, Transient Condition Of Generalized Risk
To promote successful recovery after a hospitalization, health care professionals often focus on issues related to the acute illness that precipitated the hospitalization. Their disproportionate attention to the hospitalization's cause, however, may be misdirected. Patients who were recently hospitalized are not only recovering from their acute illness; they also experience a period of generalized risk for a range of adverse health events. Thus, their condition may be better characterized as a post-hospital syndrome, an acquired, transient period of vulnerability (Dr. Harlan M. Krumholz, 1/10).

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