KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Looking For Hints On Health Care From Another High Court Decision; Ariz. Election Suggests Medicare May Be Potent Issue For Democrats

The New York Times: Opinonator: When Enough Is Enough
What to do while waiting for the health care decision. ... Perusing one of the tiny handful of decisions the Supreme Court has issued in the past couple of weeks ... Armour v. City of Indianapolis. ... its subject was something that happened at the most local level of government, a sewer improvement assessment in a subdivision of Indianapolis. ... But what if the majority and the dissent, while skirting a battle over "first principles," were nonetheless shadowboxing in this case over something highly significant? Something, for instance, like government regulation of the market for health care? (Linda Greenhouse, 6/13). 

Detroit Free Press: If Affordable Care Act Is Overturned, Here's What Patients Lose
Michigan hospitals are the largest health care providers and employers in the state, and we are committed to serving Michigan communities. The Affordable Care Act will have profound effects on the thousands of patients we serve daily (Paul LaCasse, 6/14).

The Wall Street Journal: Obama's Health-Care Opportunity
As the Supreme Court gets ready to announce whether President Barack Obama's heath-care reform is constitutional, some Democrats hope it strikes down the law. They believe bad news for ObamaCare is good political news for Mr. Obama (Karl Rove, 6/13).

Des Moines Register: The States, Not The Supreme Court, Will Drive U.S. Health Care Reform
Contrary to what many believe, the nine Supreme Court Justices now preparing to rule on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act will not determine the fate of health care reform. The states will do that. And that's good news for Iowa, as we have an incredible opportunity to build on the bipartisan success of the past five years in health care reform and truly become "The Healthiest State" (Iowa state Sen. Jack Hatch, 6/13).

Los Angeles Times: Arizona Shows Democrats' Strength, Weakness On Retirement Programs
If there's a less obvious takeaway from the Arizona election, it might have something to do with Social Security and Medicare. Republicans grumble that their candidate, Jesse Kelly, who lost to (Gabrielle) Giffords in a narrow contest in 2010, failed this time around only because Barber was the emotional favorite. ... but the fact remains that the district in question has a comfortable GOP majority and Barber was heavily outspent. Meanwhile, the major area of difference between the two candidates concerned Medicare and Social Security, and it would be tough to deny that Kelly's hard-line stance on privatizing these federal entitlement programs scared off many of the district's elderly voters of both parties (Dan Turner, 6/13).

Baltimore Sun: Federal Reserve Can't Help Prevent A Double-Dip
Americans still pay twice what Germans do for health care — and get inferior results. This adds about $4 to $5 an hour to the cost of worker health insurance — something Obamacare will compel — and makes adding jobs in America too expensive. Ditto the cost of education. Young folks saddled with huge loans to repay can't be consumers even when they have decent jobs. Yet American higher education seems to exist to mainly make hospitals and health insurance companies look efficient (Peter Morici, 6/13).

USA Today: Fighting Abuse Of Senior Citizens
America is aging. Every day, 10,000 people in the United States celebrate their 65th birthday. Between 2010 and 2030, the number of Americans 65 and older will nearly double, and the number of those 85 and older is on pace to grow more than 400% by 2050. Our senior citizens have contributed so much to our nation. We owe it to them to make sure they can live out their later years in peace, comfort and safety (HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, 6/13). 

Roll Call: Dental Care Model Serves Low-Income Communities
(W)e hear a great deal of discussion about keeping Medicare solvent for future generations. ... As important as this dialogue is, policymakers and other stakeholders fail to fully address an equally important population with significant access-to-care issues — the youngest and most vulnerable among us. ... According to the Pew Center’s 2011 Report on the State of Children’s Dental Health, tooth decay is one of the most common diseases of childhood — five times more common than asthma. Alarmingly, for every child without medical insurance, there are nearly three children without dental coverage (Paul O. Walker, 6/14).

JAMA: Prohibition Won't Work For Soft Drinks Any More Than It Did For Alcohol
If you want to reduce the number of calories that people are consuming without affecting the rest of their health, there are few things you can eliminate that would be as riskless as sugar-laden beverages. It's no surprise that's what Mayor Bloomberg decided to target. But good intentions aren't enough. The real question is whether the policy will lead to results. In other words, will it actually result in better health? (Dr. Aaron Carroll, 6/13).

Denver Post: For Denver Health, A Healthy Mix Of Candidates
Leaving Latinos out of the mix when considering a new chief executive to run the region's important safety net hospital, Denver Health, would have been a big mistake. Thankfully, that didn't happen. Three Latinos reportedly are among seven finalists hoping to replace retiring chief executive officer Patty Gabow, so we're puzzled about why Latino leaders are raising concerns about the selection process (6/14).

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Abortion Centers Need New Health And Safety Regulations
To deflect attention from the acts of these doctors who operate facilities in Virginia, the abortion industry, led by the $1 billion behemoth Planned Parenthood, makes wild claims opposing basic health and safety standards that are simply misleading. The industry claims the standards being voted on by medical professionals on the Virginia State Board of Health are too stringent and will force centers out of business, thereby denying other forms of "health care" to women. Yet, in a recent Washington Times report, industry representatives claimed they plan to keep at least 20 of the commonwealth's 22 known abortion centers operating (Victoria Cobb, 6/14).

Detroit Free Press: Proposed Abortion Restrictions In Michigan Put Women's Health At Risk
Planned Parenthood has one wish this political season. We wish that Michigan legislators would attack Michigan's lagging economy and stop attacking the right of women to have access to safe abortion care. The antics of the Michigan Legislature over the past week have thrust our state into the national limelight -- and not favorably. We are now compared to some of the most regressive states in the nation for proffering extreme proposals to ban abortion (which, the last time we checked, is both medically sanctioned and legal) (Lori Lamerand, 6/14).

Detroit Free Press: Abortion Legislation Helps Protect Women And The Unborn
Only three of 30 surgical abortion clinics in Michigan are licensed and inspected as outpatient surgical facilities. Some abortion clinics have operated for decades in this state without ever being inspected. HB 5711 would require abortion clinics to be inspected and licensed to the same standards as any other outpatient surgical center (Deb Shaughnessy, 6/14).

The Columbus Dispatch:  Political Backbone:  Governor's Veto Shows He Means Business About Reining In Spending
Ohio's nursing-home lobby has wielded outsized influence at the Statehouse for decades. But with the state budget he signed last June, which trimmed funding for the industry, Gov. John Kasich signaled that the industry no longer would call the shots as it did in prior administrations. Kasich stuck to that on Monday. He used his line-item veto power to nix a $30 million gift to the industry that the legislature had tucked into the mid-biennium budget-review bill. That bill was intended to continue sweeping reforms — ones that bailed out Ohio from an $8 billion budget deficit without increasing taxes — not to necessarily spend more money (6/14).

Marketplace:  SCOTUS Decision On Health Care Law May Spark More Options
Most observers of the High Court think it will strike down the provision of the act that requires almost everyone to buy health insurance -- the so called individual mandate -- as violating the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. The justices will likely leave the rest of the health care law intact.  But the individual mandate is so essential to spreading the risk and cost of health care over the whole population, including younger and healthier people, that some analysts believe a court decision that nixes the mandate will effectively spell the end of the act anyway. Yet it's possible the exact opposite could happen -- thanks to the health insurance industry (Robert Reich, 6/13). 

New England Journal of Medicine: Geographic Variation In Access To Care — The Relationship With Quality
National reforms provide support for raising the bar across the country, helping to reduce geographic variation, and giving communities new tools and resources for meeting benchmarks of top performance. These include funds to support insurance expansion and improve primary care teams, investment in information systems, and new public health resources. If such changes are well implemented, quality of care and health outcomes will improve, as we build a much stronger foundation of access throughout the country (David C. Radley and Cathy Schoen, 6/13).

New England Journal of Medicine: Escaping The EHR Trap — The Future Of Health IT
It is a widely accepted myth that medicine requires complex, highly specialized information-technology (IT) systems. This myth continues to justify soaring IT costs, burdensome physician workloads, and stagnation in innovation — while doctors become increasingly bound to documentation and communication products that are functionally decades behind those they use in their "civilian" life. ... Clinicians choosing products in order to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs should not be held hostage to EHRs that reduce their efficiency and strangle innovation (Drs. Kenneth D. Mandl and Isaac S. Kohane, 6/14).

New England Journal of Medicine: Unraveling The IT Productivity Paradox — Lessons For Health Care
Research suggests three lessons for physicians and health care leaders: invest in creating new measures of productivity that can reveal the quality and cost gains that arise from health IT, avoid impatience or overly optimistic expectations about return on investment and focus on the delivery reengineering needed to create a productivity payoff, and pay greater attention to measuring and improving IT usability. In the meantime, avoiding broad claims about overall value (Spencer S. Jones, Paul S. Heaton, Robert S. Rudin and Dr. Eric C. Schneider, 6/14).

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