KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

Viewpoints: Reactions To The Administration’s Stepped-Up War On Drugs; The Complexity Of Pending Hearing-Aids Legislation

A selection of public health opinions from around the country.

Lexington Herald-Leader: Paul Right To Reject Failed War On Drugs
The need for criminal justice reform is one of the precious few policy areas that garners widespread bipartisan agreement. Yet, Attorney General Jeff Sessions — a former U.S. attorney and longtime anti-drug crime warrior — reversed an Obama-era policy aimed at keeping non-violent drug offenders out of the federal prison system. Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to charge forward with a policy that has generated enormous human and economic pain with no quantifiable benefits. Kentuckians can be proud that our junior U.S. senator, Rand Paul, called Sessions out on his disastrous decision. (5/16)

The Baltimore Sun: Sessions' Foolish Drug Policy
The War on Drugs has been such an abject failure — the get-tough approach having served to crowd prisons with non-violent offenders who are disproportionately African-American while having little to no discernible impact on actual narcotics use — that the country's elected leaders seemed to have reached a bipartisan consensus in recent years that it was better to focus on prevention and treatment. Prosecutors should throw the book at violent, repeat criminals, but they should not pursue long mandatory, minimum sentences for suspects who don't fit that description. (5/15)

RealClear Health: Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids Legislation Not As Simple As It Seems
One attempted small fix is the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 that was introduced on March 21 by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Johnny Isakson (R-GA). This bill, which was reported out of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee on May 11 — together with a companion measure introduced in the House by Reps. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) — has the admirable intent of expanding access to hearing aids for some of the 37.5 million Americans with varying degrees of hearing loss. The bill would for the first time create an over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aid category, allowing the devices to be sold directly to the customer like cheap drug-store eyeglasses. (Andrew Yarrow, 5/17)

The New York Times: If You’re In A Wheelchair, Segregation Lives
Last year, the former chief of the Santa Fe, N.M., police department, Donald Grady II, said something that stuck with me. “There’s a thing that we call freedom of movement,” he said in an interview with The Atlantic, “which is really revered in this country — that we should have the right to move freely without impingement from the police simply because.” He was speaking as both a black man and a police officer about the ways racial discrimination can limit a basic right. But I related to this on more than one level. (Luticha Doucette, 5/17)

Boston Globe: Ambulance Firms Try To Take Insurers For A Ride 
Hope springs eternal on Beacon Hill — and unfortunately, that’s particularly true when it comes to the politically powerful ambulance companies and their desire to leverage higher rates for their services. This year, those companies and their legislative allies are once again hoping to use the budget to advance goals that have otherwise gone nowhere through the more traditional legislative process. (5/17)

Los Angeles Times: Another Way The Rich Get Richer: Study Shows A Widening Gap In Life Expectancy Between Rich And Poor
The United States can take pride in one indisputable marker of racial equality: The gap in life expectancy between the white and black populations has narrowed over time. What was a disparity of more than eight years for Americans born in 1950 has closed to just over three years for those born in 2014, according to actuarial estimates. But let’s not pat ourselves on the back. A different disparity has opened up: The gap in life expectancy between wealthy and low-income Americans is wide and growing wider. And that has implications not only for lifetime health and wealth, but for Social Security. (Michael Hiltzik, 5/16)

The New York Times: Undue Burden: Trying To Get An Abortion In Louisiana
When I set out to make this film in late 2015, the battle over restricting access to abortions in Texas was a national news story. Coverage featured graphs charting the hours women had to drive to find an abortion clinic in the state and maps tracing their paths. Experts weighed in on both sides of a gaping moral divide — politicians made pleas, doctors wrote op-eds. But amid the debate I felt a critical perspective was missing — that of the women across the country who were actually experiencing the effects of these laws. (Gina Pollack, 5/16)

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