Viewpoints: Burwell Urges Congress To Step Up In Zika, Ebola Fights; Will The GOP’s Health Proposal Include A Refundable Tax Credit?
A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.
Congress Must Fully Fund Battle Against Zika And Ebola
Health leaders from across the world recently gathered in Geneva for the 69th annual World Health Assembly. We met to advance the priorities we share and to tackle the challenges we face together. As part of that, we focused on our ongoing efforts to strengthen the world’s preparedness to respond to public-health emergencies and build strong health systems that we can count on when we need them most. (Sylvia Burwell, 6/20)
The Wall Street Journal:
For House Republican Health-Care Proposal, High Stakes On Tax Credits
A House Republican alternative to Obamacare is coming this week, and some reports suggest it will include a refundable tax credit to subsidize health insurance. This would present some tough political and policy choices about whether and how to pay for a new program of tax credits. Changing the tax treatment of employer-provided health insurance could provide one of the largest potential sources of financing for a new refundable credit. It also would bring hefty trade-offs. On the political side, capping the deductibility of employer-based health plans to finance refundable credits that are considered government spending would not please some Republicans. Put another way: Repealing Obamacare’s tax increases to replace them with other revenue increases is unlikely to go over well with conservative voters, as I wrote in Think Tank late in 2014. (Chris Jacobs, 6/20)
The Wall Street Journal:
Questions To Ask About The House Republican Health Reform Proposal
House Speaker Paul Ryan’s health-care task force is expected to outline its alternative to Obamacare this week. The outline reportedly will not include the level of detail that would allow much external analysis of its impact by health-care experts and the media, though Democrats are likely to attack its concepts, most of which will be familiar proposals that Republicans favor and that Democrats have opposed in the past. The outline is part of Mr. Ryan’s effort to add Republican policy ideas to the election debate, in particular to the presidential campaign, and seems aimed at helping down-ticket Republicans as a part of an agenda that can appeal to their base. Details will be needed to understand whether the plan is more progressive or regressive and how many uninsured people would be covered. Another big question is how Donald Trump will respond. (Drew Altman, 6/20)
Anthem, Cigna Must Plan For A Scary Future Apart
Investors have for months been cool to the idea that Anthem and Cigna's proposed $50 billion insurance merger will actually happen. Now things are looking downright frigid. (Max Nisen and Brooke Sutherland, 6/20)
California Greenlights Aetna Deal; Will Anthem's Get Nixed?
Aetna's acquisition of Humana is creeping toward the finish line, getting an approval Monday from one of California's health insurance regulating bodies. Aetna's approval process stands in stark contrast to Anthem's purchase of Cigna Corp., which has faced more publicized internal and external battles and could be on its way to the chopping block. (Bob Herman, 6/20)
Bill Won’t Lower Drug Prices
Health care costs are on the minds of many Californians, who see their insurance premiums and out of pocket expenses rising. Unfortunately, as state legislators consider good-faith efforts to address the issue, one measure – Senate Bill 1010, which goes before the Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday – not only fails to protect affordability and access, it threatens to make matters worse. Proponents of SB 1010 say the purpose of the bill is to lower costs driven by drug prices. (Sara Radcliffe, 6/20)
San Francisco Chronicle:
California’s ‘Death With Dignity’ Law Urges Deeper Understanding Of Life
Earlier this month, a new law went into effect in California that allows doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of drugs to terminally ill patients wishing to die on their own terms. Prompted in large part by the experience of Brittany Maynard, a former Bay Area resident diagnosed with cancer who moved with her husband to Oregon to take advantage of that state’s lenient “death with dignity” laws, the law aims to honor what State Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) considers an individual’s freedom while providing “appropriate protections to prevent any abuse.” Although the public debate surrounding this issue continues to focus largely on the right to die, perhaps now is as good a time as any to examine the much less talked about issue: the desire to die. (Eric Nelson, 6/19)
Using Social Media To Prevent Adolescent Suicide
Distraught over a poor grade that she thought would ruin her life, the honor-roll student broadcast her suicide for anyone to see. Hours later, she was in the inpatient psychiatric unit where I work, thanks to the quick thinking and action of anonymous viewers. (Kunmi Sobowale, 6/20)
The Kansas City Star:
An Inexcusable Medicaid Backlog In Kansas
Instead of being lowered to 3,480 people as recently claimed by the state, corrected reports show the backlog actually has more than quadrupled to 15,393. Of that number, 10,961 applicants have waited more than 45 days for the state to process their applications. That is inexcusable. (6/20)
The Wichita Eagle:
Wichita Shouldn’t Rush To Break EMS Agreement
Maybe there is a conversation to be had about allowing private ambulance service within Wichita for nonemergencies. But the way to start it isn’t for the City Council to break the 12-year agreement with Sedgwick County that keeps the county-run Emergency Medical Service comprehensive and strong. Sedgwick County commissioners are upset about the proposed termination, which is on Tuesday’s City Council agenda, and no wonder. As Commissioner Dave Unruh told The Eagle editorial board, ending Sedgwick County’s exclusive right to transport all patients within the city and county boundaries could have a profound effect on the county’s budget and services. (Rhonda Holman, 6/21)
Column: Primary Care Physicians Instead Of Emergency Room
It’s so easy to overact when you are home with a sick child or you feel terrible yourself. ... Rushing to a hospital’s emergency department, while one option, isn’t always the most appropriate choice. Emergency departments are designed for true medical emergencies, especially those that are life-threatening. Emergency care often can be much more costly. (Oded Zmora, 6/20)
San Francisco Chronicle:
Dr. Judith Zackson: How Do You Know It’s Time To See A Therapist?
According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), about 42.5 million American adults suffer from some form of mental illness. Only about 46-65 percent with moderate-to-severe impairment are in treatment. Are you one of them and how do you know it’s time to seek treatment? (Judith Zackson, 6/20)
Los Angeles Times:
Do Nutritional Labels Work?
The Food and Drug Administration recently unveiled significant changes to nutritional labels. After a hard-fought battle, the new labels will give consumers greater insight into how much added sugar is hidden in the food we eat. Calories will be displayed more prominently and serving sizes will better reflect actual portion sizes. Public health advocates, consumer groups and the FDA have touted these new requirements as essential to combating America’s obesity epidemic. (Elana Fagotto, 6/20)
San Francisco Chronicle:
Food Labeling Standard Needed Now
If the Senate does not pass the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, food producers across the country will face costs and pass them along to shoppers in every aisle of the grocery store. Michigan families cannot afford to pay another $1,050 per year because of inaction. This federal legislation is needed because Vermont is imposing a labeling standard on food producers that would raise their costs across America. Vermont’s law is driven by fear of genetically engineered food and it is not based on sound science. (John Moolenaar, 6/19)