KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

Viewpoints: Questions About Obamacare Sustainability; The Real Costs Of Repealing The Cadillac Tax

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

The Wall Street Journal: More ObamaCare Losses
Private health insurers made a Faustian bargain with Democrats in 2010: In return for supporting passage of the Affordable Care Act, the companies would be able to grow their business with subsidized customers who were required to buy insurance. How’s that working out? Except for Dr. Faustus, not great. (2/1)

The Wall Street Journal: Gilead and Biden’s Cancer Campaign
Joe Biden is leading a White House “moonshot” to cure cancer by 2020, and good for him. Along the way maybe he can warn his fellow politicians to stop undermining medical advances with price controls. The latest offender is Maura Healey, who is threatening to sue Gilead Sciences for having all but cured Hepatitis C. The Democratic Attorney General of Massachusetts claims the prices of the drug maker’s medicines Sovaldi and Harvoni “may constitute an unfair trade practice in violation of Massachusetts law.” (2/1)

The Philadelphia Inquier: High Drug Prices In The Context Of A Botched Health Care System
The problem of unaffordable drugs can only be adequately addressed within a comprehensive, health care program. The Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, fails to provide even a start on achieving a health care program capable of meeting the overarching goals of access, affordability and quality. According to a poll conducted by CBS News this month, only 40 percent of the U.S. public supports the Affordable Care Act and 52 percent disapprove of it. Among Republicans, nearly 80 percent disapprove, 70 percent of them strongly. In contrast, although the majority of Democrats approve of the law, only half those who favor it express strong support for it. (Daniel R. Hoffman, 1/29)

STAT: Suing Over Drug Prices, Although A Clever Ploy, Is Unlikely To Succeed
Everyone wants to pay less for prescription medicines, and Maura Healey believes she has found a way to make it happen: by suing drug companies for violating state consumer protection laws. In a controversial maneuver, the Massachusetts attorney general is threatening to file a lawsuit against Gilead Sciences if the California drug maker doesn’t lower its prices for a pair of costly hepatitis C treatments.Legal experts are calling this a long shot. Consumer advocates believe this is a brilliant tactic. And in truth, both sides have a point. (Ed Silverman, 2/2)

The New York Times' Upshot: The Real Reason Medicare Is a Lousy Drug Negotiator: It Can’t Say No
A good negotiator needs to be able to walk away. That is a rule that, surely, Donald Trump knows. And yet in suggesting that Medicare could find big discounts by letting the government negotiate directly over drug prices, he seems to have forgotten it. Mr. Trump has joined Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in calling for a federal government program to negotiate for Medicare’s drug prices. The current system has private insurance companies each negotiating separate deals on behalf of large groups of Medicare patients. ... The real problem is that Medicare can very rarely say “No way” to a drug company. (Margot Sanger-Katz, 2/2)

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Much Debate But Few Solutions On Healthcare
If you feel like the health-care debate has grown stale, know you're not alone. Despite the many presidential candidates vying to lead this nation, we are hearing little new on the topic. Vitriol and political discord continue to bar us from identifying solutions to control costs, fuel innovation, preserve the employer-based health-care system, and take care of workers and their families. (David N. Taylor and Jay Timmons, 2/1)

Los Angeles Times: Why You Should Be Skeptical About An 'Uber For Healthcare'
The worst aspect of the "Uberization" of our economy may not be the transformation of workers who could once earn a living wage into "independent contractors" who can barely make ends meet (though that's bad enough); it may be the spreading myth that any economic function can be shoehorned into the Uber format of service-on-demand at a rock-bottom price. A case in point is the mirage of an "Uber for healthcare." The latest and most prominent promoter of this notion is the conservative healthcare analyst Avik Roy of the Manhattan Institute. In a new issue brief he poses the question directly: "Why isn’t there an Uber of health care?" he asks. "Why can’t we deploy, in health care, the same forces that are improving quality and lowering costs in virtually every other sector of the economy?" (Michael Hiltzik, 2/1)

The Chicago Tribune: Walgreens Will Keep Selling Tobacco Products
The nation’s No. 1 drugstore has no plans to stop selling tobacco products and said its main focus is trying to help people kick the habit, Walgreens executives told shareholders at Wednesday’s annual meeting. “We do deliberate this on a regular basis,” said cxecutive chairman James Skinner. “Our main focus is to try to get people to quit smoking, and we provide a lot of opportunities in stores to do that,” he said, adding, “We also provide (products) for consumers who decide they want to smoke.” (1/29)

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