Viewpoints: Big Hurdles Exist For Getting Across Single-Payer Ideas; Cakeshop Decision Raises Concerns About LGBT Citizens’ Health
Editorial pages look at these and other health care issues.
The New York Times:
Is Health Care Really A Winner For Democrats?
After years of struggling with the politics of Obamacare, Democrats now view health care as a winning issue. A candidate in Orange County, California, has a chance of winning a primary on Tuesday while running on explicit support for Medicare for All. Single-payer-friendly Democratic candidates are not just running in deep-blue states; they are campaigning in places like New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Illinois as well as Nebraska and Texas. Across the country, Democrats are making health care a top messaging and policy priority, with some red state Democrats running on Obamacare for the first time. (Peter Suderman, 6/5)
What The Masterpiece Cakeshop Decision Means For Public Health And The Rule Of Law
Lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) youth are nearly five times more likely to report attempting suicide in the past year relative to their heterosexual peers, and LGB adults are nearly twice as likely as heterosexual adults to report mental distress. These health disparities are not inevitable; they are closely tied to LGB rights. (Julia Raifman and Michael Ulrich, 6/5)
Price Transparency Is Sound Health-Care Policy
Americans agree on one thing: health care costs too much, both individually and to our nation. In 1960, the average U.S. health care cost per person was $146. As a nation, we expended $27.2 billion, which represented 5 percent of GDP. Fast forward to 2016 when average per capita spending on health care was $10,348, an increase of more than 7000 percent in fifty-six years. In 2016, the U.S. expended $3.4 trillion on health care, note the “tr” instead of “b,” or 18 percent of GDP. While there is consensus that we are spending more than we can afford, people disagree about what to do about it. Some tout price transparency as a method to encourage consumer shopping and thereby lower costs. The idea is gaining traction, but is it a sound concept or merely a sound bite? (Deane Waldman, 6/5)
Why Some Employers Are Giving More Health Care Help To Low-Wage Workers
It’s a practice that has not received much attention, but some employers have moved to "progressive," or wage-related, health benefits in recent years. That's where their lower wage employees pay a smaller share of insurance premiums, deductibles or health account contributions than higher-wage employees do. Why it matters: Unlike consumers in the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, lower wage workers in the far larger group market don’t get any help with premiums or cost sharing. With premiums and deductibles rising and wage growth stubbornly flat, progressive benefits are one way for employers to help their low wage employees with their health care costs. (Drew Altman, 6/6)
Reviving An Old Book To Tell A New Story About OxyContin And Purdue
Authors try to avoid writing the same book twice. I couldn’t. My book “Pain Killer” first came out in 2003. It was the first one to tell the story of OxyContin; its maker, Purdue Pharma; and the company’s wealthy and secretive owners, the Sackler family. The book appeared at the dawn of the opioid epidemic and the sun quickly set on it. A year after publication, it went out of print. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. I thought “Pain Killer” told an important story about the chaos unleashed when the best intentions of doctors to solve a problem — in this case, pain — get hijacked by the drug industry. The book’s account alone of Raymond Sackler, a little-known but pivotal figure who transformed drug marketing and compromised medical practice in the process, struck me as worth the price of admission. (Barry Meier, 6/6)
Veterans Deserve Cannabis Freedom To Combat PTSD
As a former Navy SEAL officer turned veterans advocate, I hope our lawmakers who professed their gratitude and condolences during last week’s Memorial Day ceremonies to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation will be inspired to redouble their support of those who have been fortunate to come home. While VA physicians are quick to prescribe powerful drug cocktails (opiates and benzodiazepines) in response to these and other service-related conditions, the federal government continues to deny veterans legal access to a demonstrably safer alternative treatment option — medical cannabis. (Nick Etten, 6/6)
The Washington Post:
There’s A Miraculous Chance To Cure Cancer. But We’ll Have To Pay For It.
In 1971, when Richard M. Nixon declared war on cancer, “conquering this dread disease” must have seemed like an ambitious but reasonable goal. Within his lifetime, man had split the atom and walked on the moon; now it was time to turn our wealth and our growing knowledge inward, to expand our control over our bodies. But 40 years later, we were still pinned down by a wily enemy, advancing by millimeters through hostile terrain. In 1975, the U.S. mortality rate for all cancers stood at 199 per 100,000 people. In 2015, after decades of money and human effort had been poured into research, that figure stood at 159. (Megan McArdle, 6/5)
Remember Hurricane-Ravaged Puerto Rico
Hurricane season is descending once again on the Caribbean, while Puerto Rico is still struggling to recover. Thousands on the island remain without power, a testament to Maria’s long-lasting effects and the island’s poverty.Members of Congress must focus on directing aid to Puerto Rico to prepare it for another potentially damaging season of storms. Congress should also hold hearings on the adequacy of the federal response and whether more could have been done to prevent unnecessary deaths. (6/5)
The Washington Post:
I Saw What Maria Did To Puerto Rico’s Hospitals. The Death Toll Is No Surprise.
The hospital was already showing signs of just how woefully unprepared Puerto Rico’s health-care system was to face the unfolding emergency that Hurricane Maria’s winds, rains and floods had brought. Outside the hospital, one of San Juan’s premier institutions situated in the wealthy Condado neighborhood, the tropical sun shone brightly. During the daytime, it almost looked like a nice day to sprawl out on the powdery white sands of the nearby beach. But inside it was a wholly different story. (Armando Valdés Prieto, 6/5)
30 Years Is Too Long To Wait For New Drugs. We Can Speed Up The Process
Have you heard the oft-repeated “fact” that it takes at least 10 years from initial discovery for a new drug to enter the marketplace? Take it with a grain of salt. The drug development journey is closer to 30 years. (Fred D. Ledley, 6/6)
San Francisco Should Reject Candy-Flavored E-Cigarettes
Using candy flavorings to entice young people to start vaping is a bad idea. So is putting menthol in ordinary cigarettes (it makes them more addictive). Yet in the name of preserving “adult choices,” San Francisco voters are being asked to overturn a citywide ban on selling flavored tobacco products. The campaign for repeal — bankrolled by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, maker of Newport menthol cigarettes — argues that a ban would only drive the products underground, hurting small tobacco retailers. That’s a weak argument for protecting access to “bubble pop,” “strawberry cotton candy” and countless other flavorings that clearly are meant to get youth started on nicotine. (6/5)
Red Flag Laws Are Reasonable Moves In The Fight Against Gun Violence
Four mass shootings since last October, each with double-digit death tolls, has us all searching for solutions. Although the venues were varied — two high schools, a Texas church and an open-air music festival — the common denominator to these massacres is, of course, the use of firearms and an ample supply of ammunition. In response, we hear the usual conflicting proposals: more gun restrictions or simply more guns to ward off attackers. The debate gets louder and increasingly contentious after each episode of senseless carnage. There is, however, one goal that apparently most can support, regardless of position on the gun-control/gun-rights continuum: taking firearms away from those who are considered dangerous to themselves or others. (James Alan Fox, 6/5)