Viewpoints: New Health, Poverty Data Deserve Attention; Switching Tactics On Zika
A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.
The Washington Post:
Heads Up! Important Poverty, Median Income And Health Insurance Data Out Tomorrow
Like the man said, important numbers are coming out tomorrow. But, I can hear you thinking, if they’re out tomorrow, why do we have to talk about them today? Fair question. It’s because these data tend, IMHO, to not get enough attention. That’s because they’re for last year (2015) and, thus, don’t move markets. Also, this Census Bureau report is not like the monthly jobs report we all know and love, where you can look at the unemployment rate and the payroll jobs number and call it a day (not that I’d ever do so!). These data provide tons of results — e.g., the three variables listed in the title by age, race, gender, region, and much more — so the report can be a bit overwhelming. There are also some tricky methodological issues to consider. (Jared Bernstein, 9/12)
‘Franken-Bugs’ May Be Our Best Weapon Against Zika
On Nov 8, the residents of a suburb of Key West will vote on whether to allow scientists to release genetically-modified mosquitoes into their backyards. Inserted into the mosquito's genetic makeup would be an artificial stretch of DNA that renders them unable to reproduce. As the “transgenic” mosquitoes mate with wild ones, the plan goes, their offspring would die, bringing the local population of skeeters down significantly — by as much as 90 percent, according to Oxitec, the for-profit firm that wants to release the modified mosquitoes. That would potentially reduce the risk to local residents of catching mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue and Zika. ... The controversy Oxitec’s mosquito project has caused in Florida is a microcosm of a broader debate over the new biotechnology. (Fred Guterl, 9/12)
Zika Is An STD: Why Are We Not Calling It One?
But while mosquitoes are a key menace when it comes to Zika, the media and public officials are too focused on them. They also need to pay attention to sex: If we are going to stop the spread of this disease, we are going to need better access to Zika testing for anyone who is sexually active in a Zika zone. (Kelly McBride Folkers, Arthur L. Caplan and Lee Igel, 9/11)
The Reality Of The Health Insurance Marketplace
Twenty million people have health insurance today thanks to the ACA, and the uninsured rate in this country is the lowest on record. Plus, more than 10 million Americans now have coverage through the ACA's Marketplace. These consumers report that they're pleased with their coverage and can now access and afford the care they need. But we do expect 2017 to be a transition year for the Marketplace. (Sylvia Burwell, 9/9)
Why Obamacare Failed
Come November, the grim trudge across the increasingly barren Obamacare landscape begins anew. Illinois consumers likely face staggering price hikes for individual insurance policies. Some types of plans could cost an average of 43 percent to 55 percent more. Ditto across the country: A first tranche of states approved 2017 rates with similarly cardiac-arrest-inducing premium increases. ... We can deny the current system's failings, or we can parlay our evolving knowledge into something much better. Put another way: The next president and Congress either reckon with Obamacare's failures or ... wait for the thud. (9/9)
The Coming Transformation
No matter what the outcome of the election or its impact on the Affordable Care Act, there's one thing neither party disputes. The national imperative to promote systematic change of the healthcare delivery system, the focus of half that legislation, will remain intact. That means the shift from volume to value will not only endure, it will accelerate. The great transformation in how the U.S. pays for and delivers healthcare has become a permanent feature of the industry's landscape. (Merrill Goozner, 9/10)
The Washington Post:
Americans Need To Know More About Clinton’s Health — And Trump’s
Eight years ago, I wrote a medical report on the health of then-presidential candidate Barack Obama, whose personal physician I had been for 22 years. That report was 276 words and described Obama’s health as excellent. I was derided for issuing such a brief report, but there was nothing of significance in the medical history of this healthy, 47-year-old male. Meanwhile, Republican John McCain — a 71-year-old with a history of skin cancer — made nearly 1,200 pages of records available for a group of reporters to review. (Dr. David L. Scheiner, 9/9)
The New York Times:
Before You Spend $26,000 On Weight-Loss Surgery, Do This
Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new weight-loss procedure in which a thin tube, implanted in the stomach, ejects food from the body before all the calories can be absorbed. Some have called it “medically sanctioned bulimia,” and it is the latest in a desperate search for new ways to stem the rising tides of obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Roughly one-third of adult Americans are now obese; two-thirds are overweight; and diabetes afflicts some 29 million. Another 86 million Americans have a condition called pre-diabetes. None of the proposed solutions have made a dent in these epidemics. (Sarah Hallberg and Osama Hamdy, 9/10)
The Three Most Important Words? 'I Don't Know'
I don’t know what is going on at Theranos. I never had a clue. I may be one of the few willing to admit it. This is a problem in both the technology and investment communities -- the simple inability to say “I don’t know.” There is plenty of evidence that many folks who claimed to understand the company and its founder -- putting lots of money at risk while giving the company a multibillion-dollar valuation -- didn’t have a clue either. The venture capitalists who funded this unicorn were unable to admit this. That blind spot is the focus of our attention today. (Barry Ritholtz, 9/9)
Are 'Right-To-Try' Laws Good Medicine Or Partisan Politics?
Although more than half of states have passed right-to-try laws, some have resisted the trend, saying they make false claims, conflict with existing federal regulations, and have the potential to exploit patients. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) of California vetoed a right-to-try bill last October, disappointing many who had hoped for less-regulated access to unapproved therapies for the dying. Why are these kinds of laws so controversial and so politically charged? (Carolyn Long Engelhard, 9/9)
Prescription For Universal Health Care Is A Bitter Pill
The appeal of Amendment 69 for so many Coloradans is painfully obvious. The initiative for a single-payer health care system makes sense to anyone who has needed an EpiPen or a prescription for Hepatitis C, who has watched his take-home pay shrink while his insurance premiums and deductibles continue to soar, anyone whose blood boils when she hears about the outrageous salaries paid to CEOs of hospital corporations and health insurance companies, and everyone who watched the support explode for an obscure Democratic socialist presidential hopeful from Vermont who campaigned for a “Medicare-for-all single-payer” health care system. (Diane Carman, 9/10)
The Star Tribune:
MNsure Isn't The Cause Of Rising Insurance Rates
We can’t make a good decision in the state about what to do about exploding insurance premium rates for individuals if it’s MNsure that gets the blame. That’s because MNsure is nothing more than a government-run electronic marketplace and administrator that doesn’t insure anybody. Blaming it for escalating rates is a little like blaming your toaster for being overweight. (Lee Schafer, 9/10)