KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

Viewpoints: Opioid Epidemic Demands Focus, Urgent Action And Big Spending; Paying For Organs?

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

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: A Well-Founded Call For Urgent Action, Big Spending, To Address The Opioid Crisis
Reports of presidential commissions tend to have the lifespan of a mayfly. They get attention for one day and then are quietly filed away. The nation must insist that that doesn’t happen to the work of President Donald Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. The commission, created by Trump’s executive order in March, issued its draft report last week. It called on Trump to “declare a national emergency” to force Congress to fund a multipronged, treatment-based attack on the problem and to “awaken every American to this simple fact: If this scourge has not found you or your family yet, without bold action by everyone, it soon will.” (8/6)

The Washington Post: How To Reverse A Catastrophe
There is, alas, no shortage of ways to measure the damage done by the nationwide opioid epidemic, but perhaps the most dramatic is to consider how it has reversed four decades of progress against preventable deaths in the United States. Between 1975 and 2015, hard work by government, the private sector and individuals cut the motor vehicle accident death rate by nearly half, from 20.6 per 100,000 people to 10.9. A similar all-out effort cut the homicide rate from 9.6 per 100,000 to 4.9. These figures translate into hundreds of thousands of lives saved. Yet the opioid epidemic has driven the national death rate from overdoses of these drugs to 9.3 per 100,000 in 2015, up from 0.4 in 1975, according to data assembled in a stunning new report from the congressional Joint Economic Committee’s Social Capital Project. (8/3)

The New York Times: Should I Help My Patients Die?
I practice both critical and palliative care medicine at a public hospital in Oakland. In June 2016, our state became the fourth in the nation to allow medical aid in dying for patients suffering from terminal illness. ... California’s law permits physicians to prescribe a lethal cocktail to patients who request it and meet certain criteria: They must be adults expected to die within six months who are able to self-administer the drug and retain the mental capacity to make a decision like this. ut that is where the law leaves off. The details of patient selection and protocol, even the composition of the lethal compound, are left to the individual doctor or hospital policy. Our hospital, like many others at that time, was still in the early stages of creating a policy and procedure. To me and many of my colleagues in California, it felt as if the law had passed so quickly that we weren’t fully prepared to deal with it. (Dr. Jessica Nutik Zitter, 8/5)

Chicago Tribune: Football And CTE: The Dilemma For Parents
The e names of NFL players tormented by the degenerative brain disease CTE are well-known: Dave Duerson, Mike Webster, Junior Seau, to name a few. Parents would be smart to familiarize themselves with another name linked with chronic traumatic encephalopathy: Zac Easter. Zac began playing organized football when he was 8 and didn't stop until his senior year of high school in Indianola, Iowa. Concussions marred his days as a linebacker. After he stopped playing, Zac coped with depression, headaches and slurred speech. At 24, he took a shotgun from his father's truck, drove to a state park, and blasted a hole into his chest. A postmortem examination of Zac's brain confirmed what the young man had long suspected: He suffered from CTE. (8/6)

RealClear Health: A Solution To Surprise Medical Billing
Imagine two people, with the same health insurance companies, walk into an emergency room. The patients have identical symptoms and receive the same diagnoses and subsequent procedures and treatments. Both patients should get an identical bill, right? But in reality, one patient could receive a bill where nearly everything is covered by insurance, and the other could receive a bill where little or nothing is covered. For some patients, this can be the difference between an emergency room bill that cost several hundred dollars, versus one costing tens of thousands. (Ronnie Shows, 8/7)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.