KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Viewpoints: Michelle Obama On Changing The Mental Health Conversation; S.C. Paper Endorses Kasich

A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.

The Huffington Post: Let's Change The Conversation Around Mental Health
Of course, it's important to remember that most of our veterans don't experience any mental health challenges at all. But the veterans and service members who do struggle are not alone - not by a long shot. In fact, roughly one in five adults - more than 40 million Americans - suffer from a diagnosable mental health condition like depression or anxiety. These conditions affect people of every age and every background: our kids and grandparents, our friends and neighbours. (Michelle Obama, 2/18)

The Columbia State: The State’s Endorsement: Kasich Is The Best Candidate To Break Through DC Gridlock
In a meeting with The State’s editorial board, he said the country’s welfare is more important than adhering to Republican Party ideology. “The party is my vehicle,” he said, “not my master.” ... When many other Republican governors, including South Carolina’s Nikki Haley, rejected extra Medicaid funding under Obamacare, Gov. Kasich accepted the money. He said it was more important to help Ohio’s poor than to stand in stubborn opposition to everything that carries the president’s name. Still, he clings to bedrock GOP positions of cutting federal regulations, reducing federal taxes and fiscal restraint. (2/17)

The New York Times: America’s Stacked Deck
It’s a little bizarre this political season to see wealthy candidates in both parties denouncing our political system for representing mostly the interests of, well, wealthy people. Bizarre, perhaps, and sometimes a tad hypocritical, but also accurate. America’s political system is rigged. The deck is stacked against ordinary people. ... In the solutions domain, a starting point should be to reduce the influence of money in politics. The pharmaceutical industry, for example, has used its lobbying heft — it spent $272,000 in campaign donations per member of Congress last year, and it has more lobbyists than there are members of Congress — to bar the government from bargaining for drug prices in Medicare. That amounts to a $50 billion annual gift to pharmaceutical companies. (Nicholas Kristof, 2/18)

Forbes: Believe It Or Not, The Republican Obamacare Replacement Plan Might Come Together
Earlier this month, Speaker Paul Ryan announced six task forces, each comprised of House Committee Chairmen, to develop a “bold, pro-growth agenda.” What was remarkable was that one of the task forces was on health care reform. Many had thought Congressional Republicans were investing too much time and energy grandstanding Obamacare repeal, and not enough developing a credible alternative. (John Graham, 2/17)

New England Journal Of Medicine: How Employers Are Responding To The ACA
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) changed employers’ role in the U.S. health care system. Employer-sponsored insurance, a long-standing system component, provides health coverage for more than 160 million Americans. While preserving the employer-based system, the ACA fundamentally altered it by making the provision of health benefits mandatory rather than voluntary for employers with more than 50 employees and establishing minimum criteria for affordability and coverage. In addition, a “play or pay” model was created, providing employers with an exit: employees would no longer become uninsured if their employers dropped benefits but could instead purchase guaranteed and potentially subsidized insurance through public exchanges. (Robert Gavin, 2/18)

The News & Observer: A Welcome Compromise On Insurance Companies Covering Autism Treatments
[T]hanks to a bill sponsored by state Sen. Tom Apodaca, a Republican from Hendersonville, insurance companies will have to cover the expense for families up to $40,000 a year. Unfortunately, the legislation can’t cover those dependent on Medicaid, the federal-state program for the poor and disabled. There are some other gaps for people with certain types of insurance. (2/17)

New England Journal Of Medicine: Asymmetric Thinking About Return On Investment
Lately, we’ve attended many conferences about providing health care to patients with high medical and social needs — people with chronic illnesses who are frequently readmitted to the hospital. It seems as if every presentation refers to “return on investment” (ROI), which is invariably presented as a constraint — as in “Our program kept people out of the hospital, but we just couldn’t get the ROI to work.” Heads nod understandingly, and then participants move on to other topics. At conferences about providing care for patients with cancer or other acute illnesses, by contrast, we almost never hear the term ROI. Instead, people talk about clinical gains, using understandable and patient-centered terms like “survival.” Though high drug prices are sometimes mentioned, no one ever says the ROI is prohibitive. No one mentions ROI at all. (David A. Asch, Mark V. Pauly, and Ralph W. Muller, 2/18)

The Wall Street Journal: Needed: A Three-Year Medical Degree
The structure of medical school has not fundamentally changed since 1910, when the seminal Flexner Report prescribed nationwide standards for educating doctors. But in the past 30 years, the required training after medical school has increased substantially. Doctors going into a subspecialty such as cardiology or orthopedic surgery now need as many as eight years of postgraduate work, up from five years in 1970. (Robert I. Grossman and Steven B. Abramson, 2/17)

The Washington Post: We Need To Resettle The Children Of Flint
As a pediatrician — and grandfather — I ask myself: What would I do if I had family members raising kids in Flint, Mich., right now? The answer is anything in my power to get them out of that toxic, distressed and struggling city. And if that’s the right answer on a personal basis, it offers a critical insight into what has to be considered on a general policy level for the health and well-being of a community where water for drinking and bathing has been contaminated with lead for almost two years. (Irwin Redlener, 2/17)

JAMA: Flint, Michigan, And The Failure Of Public Agencies
On my first day as health commissioner in Baltimore in December 2005, the chief counsel to the city gave me some advice: When you see a problem, fix it. Don’t let your first instinct be to wonder who caused the problem, or to wait for every possible detail, or to defer to others. He said that the most important question the public will ever have about any problem is whether it has been fixed. And then he added, in an unwavering, deep voice, that fixing the problem is the right thing to do. (Joshua M. Sharfstein, 2/17)

The Baltimore Sun: Another Nightmare Germ
A week after the first Zika infection was reported in Maryland, health officials are mobilizing to combat the mosquito-borne virus that is suspected of causing thousands of birth defects across Latin America and the Caribbean. Researchers have been predicting it was only a matter of time before the virus showed up in the U.S., and cases have already been reported in neighboring Virginia, Delaware and the District of Columbia. Given the urgent need to prevent the virus' spread, the response to an impending public health crisis can't come a moment too soon. (2/17)

STAT: Zika Isn't The Only Mosquito-Borne Virus That Should Worry Us
The attention on Zika may be justified. Or the threat posed to human health by Zika may turn out to have been overhyped. Either way, there are other mosquito-borne viruses that should concern us — and that have largely been overlooked. And these viruses are far more likely to affect broader populations in the United States. (Jeffrey Powell, 2/17)

The Los Angeles Times: With No Reproductive Rights, Many Latin American Women Could Be At The Mercy Of The Zika Virus
Now that researchers have identified a tangible link between the Zika virus and fetal brain deformation, pregnant women and those of childbearing age in the Latin American countries hardest hit by the mosquito-borne virus will have to make tough decisions about their reproductive future. Use birth control? Abstain? Abort if there's evidence of potentially lethal birth defects? Or at least that's how it ought to go. (2/17)

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