KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

Viewpoints: Reaching For A Cancer Cure; Another Wake-Up Call For Mental Health Reform

A selection of opinions from around the country.

Bloomberg: Curing Cancer Is Within Reach
One of the most frightening words a patient can hear from a doctor is “cancer.” We know it from the experience of our families and friends, and the millions of Americans who hear it directly from their doctors each year. In President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address, he compared the effort required to eradicate cancer to a “moonshot,” summoning the American ingenuity and scientific pursuits that sent humankind to the moon. We believe that it’s time for a full and complete national commitment to rid the world of this disease, because the truth is that ending cancer as we know it is finally within our grasp. (Michael R. Bloomberg and Joe Biden, 3/30)

The Wall Street Journal: A Wake-Up Call For Congress On Mental-Health Reform
Another shooting at the U.S. Capitol. This time, in an incident on Monday, 66-year-old Larry Dawson, a Tennessee man known to U.S. Capitol Police for his erratic behavior, was shot and wounded by a police officer when he pulled out what sources later said was a pistol-like pellet gun. What is going on? One possible answer was offered earlier this month by 30-year-old Kyle Odom, who was arrested March 8 after throwing a letter to President Obama over the White House fence. The letter warned the president that there are at least 50 members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, who are Martians. Then, in a 21-page manifesto released to the media, Mr. Odom provided the names of these congressional Martians and described how they live “deep underground here and inside the moon.” Law-enforcement officials say that two days before the White House incident, Mr. Odom shot and critically wounded an Idaho minister, believing that the clergyman also was a Martian. (E. Fuller Torrey, 3/29)

New York Magazine: 6 Years After Obamacare’s Passage, Haters Refuse To Accept Reality
During the Obama era, the keenest minds in the conservative movement have had to develop policy responses to the administration’s agenda. But those policies had to be crafted within bounds established by Republican politics — conservative ideas were useful only insofar as conservative politicians could plausibly advocate them. Republican politicians, in turn, had to operate within the bounds of what their voters considered acceptable. And Republican voters, as the 2016 election cycle has made abundantly clear to even those long committed to denying it, are bat-shit crazy. (Jonathan Chait, 3/29)

Forbes: Now We Are 6: How Badly Obamacare Is Performing In Its Sixth Year
President Obama seems pretty proud of his six-year-old namesake. And one can easily understand the proclivity of parents to overlook the shortcomings of their own child. But the usual suspects, such as the Center for American Progress (CAP), have weighed in with their own take on a CBO report issued last week: “more coverage, less spending.” By the time you have finished reading this post, I hope you will understand just how misleading that summary judgment about Obamacare is. (Chris Conover, 3/30)

Los Angeles Times: The Supreme Court Floats A Contraception Compromise
Washington lawyers and journalists are scratching their heads — and spinning scenarios — after a surprise order from the Supreme Court in what is popularly known as the Little Sisters of the Poor case. The case, whose official name is Zubik vs. Burwell, involves a challenge by religious nonprofit organizations to federal regulations requiring that employer-provided health insurance plans include contraception for women at no additional cost to the employee. The Little Sisters, a Roman Catholic order of nuns, operates homes for the elderly. Other plaintiffs include Catholic Charities and the Most Rev. David Zubik, the bishop of Pittsburgh. (Michael McGough, 3/29)

Louisville Courier-Journal: Govt. Goes Too Far Against Little Sisters
On March 23, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Zubik v. Burwell, consolidated cases that include the case against the Little Sisters of the Poor. Under a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate, the government wants the Little Sisters to provide all information about their employees and health insurance policies necessary to direct plan administrators to cover 17 types of contraceptives, including some that may cause early abortions. The Little Sisters do not want to authorize the government or their insurance administrators to do what their religious convictions expressly prevent them from doing themselves. (Annie MacLean, 3/29)

USA Today: Don't Let Lobbyists Kill Telemedicine
Proponents argue that the technology is unsafe, irresponsible, and hurts the business of licensed professionals. But by this logic, the home thermometer, too, is a dangerous tool in the hands of untrained people. Thermometers inserted, timed, and read by doctors or nurses are safer, more accurate, and more responsible. If you are sick enough to need to take your temperature, you are sick enough that you must see a doctor or at least a nurse. The same alarmists might worry that the more inexpensive thermometers have become, the more people have used them. This, after all, is how dangerous technologies spread. More importantly, allowing millions of people to take their own temperatures cuts into the fees that doctors could charge if only the home thermometer could be banned and the existing supply confiscated. (Newt Gingrich, 3/30)

Modern Healthcare: Senator Says GPOs Play Role In High Healthcare Costs
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a constant critic of group purchasing organizations, wants to examine whether federal provisions that allow GPOs to collect administrative fees drive up patients' healthcare costs. Although federal law prohibits hospitals from taking kickbacks from suppliers in exchange for their business, the “safe harbor” provision allows GPOs to collect an administrative fee from suppliers for their role in the negotiation process. Critics argue that the fees—which are often a percentage of the purchase price—give GPOs an incentive to negotiate higher prices instead of cutting the best possible deal for their members. (Adam Rubenfire, 3/29)

Lexington Herald Leader: Bevin Has Lot To Answer For On Benefind
The sudden widespread disruptions in Kentuckians’ access to health care and public benefits raise a host of questions. Do the unexplained Medicaid and food stamp cancellations and day-long waits to talk to a case worker arise from a conscious decision by the Bevin administration to reduce assistance rolls? Or, are they the result of “unforeseen technical issues” that accompany the rollout of any big new software program, as Health and Family Services Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson said in a press release last week? (3/29)

The Wichita Eagle: Where Is The Advocacy For Mentally Ill?
The Legislature went on spring break without doing enough to address the crises of funding, staffing and capacity at the state’s inpatient psychiatric hospitals. Where is the advocacy at the Statehouse on behalf of the most critically mentally ill? (Rhonda Holman, 3/28)

The Knoxville News Sentinel: Rural Counties In Need Of Better Health Initiatives
In East Tennessee, residents of rural counties, particularly the Upper Cumberland counties along the Kentucky border, are significantly less healthy than those living in the Knoxville metropolitan area, a national survey shows. The disparity, which mirrors poverty and education levels, shows the need for more effective health initiatives for rural counties in Tennessee. (3/28)

The Tampa Bay Times: Suspect HIV Numbers Another Case Of Rick Scott's Flori-Topia?
The numbers, as they say, do not lie. It's the people inventing those numbers for their own benefit that should make you suspicious as hell. For instance, the Florida Department of Health came up with a brand-new tally of recent HIV cases in the state, as reported by the Times' Kathleen McGrory. The original number was 6,147 new cases in 2014, which had a lot of people questioning why Florida was intent on cutting health funding and staff. Not long afterward, the department decided there were actually only 4,613 new cases, an almost 25 percent reduction. (John Romano, 3/28)

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Restructure St. Louis' Fire And EMS Services
Thinking back to the events in Ferguson in August 2014, all will agree that we are an interconnected community, and what happens in one jurisdiction affects us all and demonstrates the integrated nature of our local government services. We take great pride in our community-based firefighters who support our distinctive neighborhoods. But we also work, shop and enjoy our larger community every day. Our families rely upon the fire and ambulance services provided throughout the metro area, not just in the neighborhood where we reside. We would all benefit by having consistent, reliable fire and ambulance service across our region. (Garry Earls, 3/30)

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