KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Viewpoints: Clinton’s Obamacare Riddle; The Affordable Care Act? Maybe Not

A selection of opinions from around the country.

Los Angeles Times: Hillary Clinton Had Trouble Explaining Obamacare To A Layperson. Here's Why.
During a CNN Town Hall appearance Sunday night, Hillary Clinton was presented with an Obamacare riddle ... Clinton did what she could to explain the pros and cons of the Affordable Care Act, which she supports and for which she has proposed several improvements. But under the circumstances her hands were mostly tied, thanks to the inherent difficulties of analyzing any family's health insurance situation in less than five minutes. (Michael Hiltzik, 3/14)

The Philadelphia Inquirer: In Pa. And N.J., Affordable Care Act Is Anything But
What good is health-insurance coverage if you can't afford to use it? That's not a rhetorical question. It's the reality facing thousands of people who are required to purchase health insurance on the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) exchanges. As if rising premiums - which increased by an average of 14.6 and 13.1 percent in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, respectively, in 2016 - weren't already hard enough, skyrocketing deductibles have rendered many plans "all but useless," according to a recent report in the New York Times. (Nathan Nascimento, 3/14)

The Cleveland Plain Dealer: Ted Cruz Is The Pro-Life Choice For President
In the last 20 years, Americans have been trending pro-life. A 2014 Gallup Poll notes that, in 1995, 56 percent described themselves as pro-choice and only 33 percent as pro-life. As of 2014, those numbers were 47 percent pro-choice and 46 percent pro-life. Other recent studies find as many as 58 percent of Americans oppose all or most abortions. (Jeff Farto, 3/13)

STAT: Obama's Medicare Drug Payment Overhaul Is Unproven. But It's Worth A Shot.
Imagine going to your doctor for an injection, but instead of administering a medicine that costs $500, the physician chooses a $3,000 alternative. In an era of growing angst over the cost of medicines, this might seem counterintuitive. But doctors often have an incentive for choosing pricier drugs: a higher reimbursement from the government. (Ed Silverman, 3/15)

Bloomberg: Pharma's Price Fears Get Real
The drug pricing debate in the United States has created plenty of smoke. Now for the fire.The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services (CMS) this week proposed a pilot pricing model to cut spending on expensive drugs. The rules apply to Medicare Part B, which covers infused or injected drugs administered to older Americans in doctors' offices and hospitals. It would reduce payments to doctors for more-expensive drugs while boosting reimbursements for cheaper options. The industry and some doctors are, unsurprisingly, unthrilled. (Max Nisen, 3/11)

The Tampa Bay Tribune: Federal Government Can’t Replicate Private Drug Development
Cancer mortality is at an all-time low. That’s the good news. The bad news is that cancer still kills one in five Americans. We want better cancer treatments — and cures — for our loved ones and ourselves. Ideally, the innovation responsible for the past and future progress against cancer and other diseases would come cheap. In reality, however, it is expensive — and necessarily so. Unfortunately, politicians such as Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton have pounced on that fact to call for government price controls on drugs produced by private pharmaceutical companies. (Thomas P. Stossel, 3/14)

The New York Times' Upshot: Ban Drug Ads On TV? Some Positive Outcomes Would Be Lost
If you’ve watched any television, you’ve seen drug ads — a lot of them. Drug companies spend several billion dollars a year on direct-to-consumer advertising. Count them and there are 80 drug ads an hour. Do drug ads provide useful information, as the pharmaceutical industry maintains? Or do ads just promote wasteful use of expensive new drugs, justifying regulation to rein them in? Those questions have taken on new importance as spending on drug ads has grown. Gilead Sciences, for example, spent $100 million on an ad campaign for its hepatitis C drug, Harvoni — the one that costs as much as $1,100 a pill. (Austin Frakt, 3/14)

The New York Times: Congress Should Allocate Money To Fight Zika
Republicans in Congress are refusing to allocate emergency funding to fight the Zika virus because, they say, the Obama administration could transfer money that was previously budgeted for the response to Ebola. This is a senseless and dangerous idea. Last month, President Obama asked Congress to provide $1.8 billion to help research the Zika virus, develop a vaccine, give assistance to countries like Brazil that are on the front lines of the outbreak and prevent cases in the United States. This is a modest sum and there is no good reason for Congress to refuse to allocate the money. A delay could put many thousands of people at risk. There have already been Zika cases in Puerto Rico and other territories and the virus has been observed in people in Texas, Florida and other states after they traveled to affected countries. (3/15)

The Des Moines Register: Informed Consent Misinforms About Abortion
In the never-ending quest to single out women seeking abortions, lawmakers in many states adopted “informed consent” statutes. These require health providers to give patients a state-authored informational packet before a pregnancy can be terminated. A new study by researchers at Rutgers University found the information distributed to women is medically inaccurate about one-third of the time. (3/14)

The Washington Post: Michigan Evaded The EPA On Flint. We Can’t Let That Happen Elsewhere.
This week, I will testify along with Gov. Rick Snyder and others from Michigan and Flint about the health crisis in the city. This conversation is needed because what happened in Flint should not have happened. The crisis is the result of a state-appointed emergency manager deciding that, to save money, Flint would stop purchasing treated drinking water from a source it relied on for 50 years and instead switch to an untreated source. The state of Michigan approved that decision, and it did so without requiring corrosion control. These decisions resulted in Flint residents being exposed to dangerously high levels of lead. (Gina McCarthy, 3/14)

The Des Moines Register: Iowans Should Trust Science In Marijuana Debate
Iowans may be deceived by the controversy surrounding claims of marijuana's miracle cures. This is not about possible medicines for children. The deception is that Iowa must rush to market without heed to the overwhelming advice of medical professionals warning that we should not bypass the Food and Drug Administration and good science in developing medicines. (Peter Komendowski, 3/14)

The Washington Post: The Day I Helped My Autistic Son Register To Vote
A while back, someone at a conference told me that intellectually disabled people with guardians could not vote. I believed it and stuffed away thoughts about taking my severely autistic son, Nat, to get registered. It was one more stinging “no” in his life. I should be used to it by now, but I’m not. Recently, however, I noticed the Twitter hashtag #CripTheVote, which is a rallying call to political candidates to take note of this huge constituency. As a disability rights advocate, I retweeted dutifully. The shadow of sadness for Nat never quite cleared, though, and one day I found myself angry about it: Why couldn’t Nat vote? Who was to say that he couldn’t make such decisions for himself? (Susan Senator, 3/14)

STAT: Is Do-It-Yourself CRISPR As Scary As It Sounds?
Media reports about the gene-editing technique called CRISPR-Cas9 have generated some doomsday scenarios that the technology would be used, as Wired magazine wrote, to create “designer babies, invasive mutants, species-specific bioweapons, and a dozen other apocalyptic sci-fi tropes.” So hearing the term “do-it-yourself CRISPR” might really conjure up visions of biohackers creating new disease-causing organisms that escape into the environment and kick off pandemics. (Patrick Skerrett, 3/14)

The Arizona Republic: Wait ... We Pay Health Care Costs For Killers?
Yes, we pay for the health care coverage of killers. And rapists. And child molesters. Armed robbers. Drug dealers. Spousal abusers. Thieves. Con men. And so on. We pay it for anyone in prison. We give them a place to live. We feed them. And when they get sick, we take care of them. At least we’re supposed to. (E.J. Montini, 3/14)

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