KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Drug Shortages Scare Consumers; Georgetown Was Right To Invite Sebelius; N.Y. Judge Makes Plea For Pot

USA Today: Editorial: Why Do Drug Shortages Persist?
Though the Food and Drug Administration has found better ways to alleviate [drug] shortages and some makers are providing the FDA with earlier warnings, the problem persists. This year, there have been 42 shortages. Although that's fewer than at this time last year, if you're the patient who needs an unavailable medication, the decline is of little consolation (5/16).

USA Today: Generic Pharmaceutical Association: We're Stepping Up
As the manufacturers of 80% of the prescription drugs dispensed in the U.S., the generic pharmaceutical industry is committed to providing patients with the safe and effective medicines they need at a price they can afford. This commitment has never been more evident than in our work to address shortages of critically needed medications (Ralph G. Neas, 5/16).

The Washington Post: Georgetown Gets It Right On Invitation To Kathleen Sebelius
The archbishop of Washington finds it "shocking" that Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia would defend the university's decision to have Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius participate in a commencement event in the aftermath of the furor over the Obama administration's rule on contraceptive coverage. What we find shocking is Cardinal Donald Wuerl's failure to credit the proper role of a university and the importance of vigorous, open debate, even — or perhaps especially — involving matters of intense controversy and religious disagreement (5/16).

The New York Times: A Judge's Plea For Pot
Three and a half years ago, on my 62nd birthday, doctors discovered a mass on my pancreas. It turned out to be Stage 3 pancreatic cancer. I was told I would be dead in four to six months. Today I am in that rare coterie of people who have survived this long with the disease. But I did not foresee that after having dedicated myself for 40 years to a life of the law, including more than two decades as a New York State judge, my quest for ameliorative and palliative care would lead me to marijuana (Gustin L. Reichbach, 5/16).

The New York Times: Room For Debate: How To Address Alcoholism On Indian Reservations
How can tribes, states, the federal government and local communities deal with alcoholism on and around reservations? If the beer companies and liquor stores are following the law, do they have a further responsibility to their communities? (5/16).

Boston Globe: Mass. Health Care Debate Pits Cost Vs. Quality — And Young Vs. Old
We have to rethink the balance we've struck between young and old — which means more than just investing in education. The state's much-discussed health care mandate also creates an implicit transfer from young to old. When young healthy people are forced to buy health care insurance, they pay rates that don't adjust fully for age. Even though they generally earn less, younger people subsidize older people with typically greater health care needs. Restraining health care spending will make room for other priorities, such as education, that address young people's needs more directly (Edward J. Glaeser, 5/17).

Boston Globe: Leading The Way In Accountable Care
We are as anxious as anyone to see how these ACOs begin to better coordinate care for their Medicare populations. But the truth is the real pioneers in providing coordinated care and coverage for seniors have been the Senior Care Options and Program for All Inclusive Care for the Elderly, which are thriving in Massachusetts. In fact, they are setting the example for the rest of the country (Lois Simon and Tom Reiter, 5/16).

JAMA: Tea Leaves Are For Drinking: Health Reform After The Supreme Court Ruling
Regardless of whether the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is upheld, overturned entirely, or stripped of key features, health care reform is already happening, and will continue, no matter what the Court decides. The bill is massive. Some of its features have already been altered—the long-term care program (the CLASS Act), for example—and others are sure to change in the process of implementation. But in in the midst of uncertainty about the future of the ACA, it's worth contemplating changes in the delivery system in response to spiraling costs of care, wider concerns about the Federal budget, and thus in anticipation of the ACA or something like it—something has to give (Dr. Mark D. Smith, 5/16).

The New York Times: The Power Of Nursing
In 2010, 5.9 million children were reported as abused or neglected in the United States. If you were a policy maker and you knew of a program that could cut this figure in half, what would you do? What if you could reduce the number of babies or toddlers hospitalized for accidents or poisonings by more than half? ... These and other striking results have been documented in studies of a program called the Nurse-Family Partnership, or NFP, which arranges for registered nurses to make regular home visits to first-time low-income or vulnerable mothers, starting early in their pregnancies and continuing until their child is 2 (Bornstein, 5/16).

Denver Post: Colorado Can't Fall Prey To Anti-Vaccination Nonsense
The whooping cough epidemic in Washington state offers some important public health lessons for places such as Colorado where vaccination opt-out rates are unacceptably high. Washington has about 1,280 cases reported and more expected. While it may seem a comfortable distance away in the Pacific Northwest, make no mistake: It could happen here (5/16).

MinnPost: Nursing Homes Deserve The Fees That Would-Be Heirs Often Want
According to some in the business, Minnesota's nursing-home system is in financial trouble in large part because people seem to think that no matter what their net worth, when it comes time for long-term care, they have a right to go on the dole. "Well," they say as they set up a way to hide their assets, "if we don't do something, it'll all just go to the nursing home!" Since when is it unfair to expect a person to use their assets to pay for their own care? (Eric Bergeson, 5/17).

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