KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Viewpoints: Contraception, Religious Freedom And The Supreme Court; How Insurers’ Networks Lead To Surprise Medical Bills

A selection of opinions from around the country.

Bloomberg: What Religious Freedom Means. (It's Complicated.)
The Supreme Court looks like it's going to split 4-4 on whether religious organizations are entitled to have even their health insurance providers exempted from providing contraceptive care under the Affordable Care Act. That much was clear from the justices comments at oral arguments on Wednesday. (Noah Feldman, 3/24)

Los Angeles Times: Surprise! You're Covered For The Hospital, Not The Doctors
After Dave Connors' teenage son broke his leg, he was rushed to an Orange County hospital that Connors knew was in his insurer's coverage network. It was only after the bills recently started arriving that he learned the doctors and anesthesiologist in the operating room were out of network, requiring him to pay thousands of dollars more. (David Lazarus, 3/25)

Modern Healthcare: Democrats, Women More Likely To Think About Healthcare This Election
Most voters say healthcare is either very or extremely important to them as they think about this year's presidential election, but what they actually mean by healthcare varies by party, a new poll shows. Most voters say healthcare is either very or extremely important to them as they think about this year's presidential election, but what they actually mean by healthcare varies by party, a new poll shows. The Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Wednesday found that 36% of registered voters surveyed said healthcare was "extremely important" and 42% said it was "very important." Voters cared most about the economy/jobs and more people said terrorism was extremely important than said the same about healthcare. (Shannon Muchmore, 3/23)

The Baltimore Sun: Warning Labels Don't Get To Root Of Our Addiction Problem
While we all acknowledge there is a persistent abuse of opiod painkillers that causes addiction and overdose in the U.S., having the FDA strengthen the warning labels on these drugs does not get to the root cause of the problem ("FDA adds boldest warning to most widely used painkillers," March 22). Many patients are in need of strong painkillers, and with an aging population we will see that need increase. While some physicians may prescribe too many painkillers, I don't believe that's the main cause of our current epidemic. (Mike Gimbel, 3/24)

The Washington Post: The Most Terrifying Part Of My Drug Addiction? That My Law Firm Would Find Out.
More than 20 years ago, I became an associate at a big New York City firm and almost simultaneously spiraled into alcoholism and drug addiction. Top law firms are filled with academic overachievers who are realizing their dreams when they start work. Upon arrival, though, instead of making a brilliant argument before a judge, these young lawyers may find themselves competing with their similarly gifted peers for the privilege of proofreading documents for a high-ranking partner. If they do a great job, they may get to proofread all weekend. That’s what success can look like. Failure can look much worse. To cope with that life, many need an outlet. Over the years, I have known lawyers with eating disorders, out-of-control shopping habits and extreme exercise addictions. (Lisa F. Smith, 3/24)

Lexington Herald Leader: Don’t Reduce Ky. Medicaid Services For Those With Brain Injuries
We were enjoying a wonderful Christmas Day when it happened eight years ago. My son, Matthew Stoney White, was at the time 23 years old and in his final semester at the University of Kentucky. He had traveled back to Pikeville to enjoy Christmas break with his family. Driving down one of our curvy Eastern Kentucky country roads, he encountered black ice. The car went sideways into a large tree and Matthew received an acquired brain injury. (Mark White, 3/24)

Wichita Eagle: Medicaid Expansion Can Save States Money
There would be some cost increases if Kansas allows a federal expansion of Medicaid, as the state eventually would be responsible for 10 percent of the cost of expansion. But a new national report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation notes that expansion also saves money, in part because the federal government would pick up some costs currently paid by states. An expansion proposal by the Kansas Hospital Association is projected to save the state $151 million each year from 2017 through 2020. KHA also estimates that by not expanding Medicaid, Kansas has forfeited more than $1 billion in federal funds since Jan. 1, 2014. (Phillip Brownlee, 3/24)

The New York Times: The Racism At The Heart Of Flint’s Crisis
An important new report makes clear the principal cause of the water crisis in Flint, Mich.: the state government’s blatant disregard for the lives and health of poor and black residents of a distressed city. The report released Wednesday by a task force appointed last year by Gov. Rick Snyder to study how Flint’s drinking water became poisoned by lead makes for chilling reading. While it avoids using the word “racism,” it clearly identifies the central role that race and poverty play in this story. “Flint residents, who are majority black or African-American and among the most impoverished of any metropolitan area in the United States, did not enjoy the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards as that provided to other communities,” the report said. (3/25)

Detroit Free Press: Time To Govern, Move Forward To Fix Flint
The abundant deficiencies of Gov. Rick Snyder's administration are laid bare in a scathing report issued Wednesday by the task force the governor himself appointed to postmortem the Flint water crisis. The appointment of this task force was the governor's response, in the days after he finally acknowledged that the water in Flint was not safe to drink, to critics demanding accountability from an administration that for too long seemed unmoved by the events unfolding in Flint. (3/24)

The Columbus Dispatch: Don't Weaken Smoking Ban
A bill that proposes to carve out exceptions in the state’s Smoke-Free Workplace Act contradicts the will of Ohioans who voted overwhelming to enact the indoor smoking ban through a 2006 ballot measure. Today roughly 1 in 5 Ohioans smoke, about the same as then. But there’s even less tolerance for secondhand smoke given what has become a mountain of medical evidence about the serious health problems it causes bystanders. Among the risks, according to the Ohio Department of Health, are stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, emphysema, pneumonia and, for babies whose moms are exposed, premature birth and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. (3/25)

The Des Moines Register: Childhood Trauma Plays Role In My Obesity
I recently wrote about a woman who is dying of lung cancer. Someone asked me if the subject of my story smoked. She didn't. The question is, in a way, a natural outgrowth of decades of anti-smoking campaigns. The link between smoking and lung cancer is scientific fact. (Daniel P. Finney, 3/25)

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