KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Viewpoints: Taking Stock Of Genetic Privacy; What About Those Medical Misfits?

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

The New England Journal Of Medicine: Undermining Genetic Privacy? Employee Wellness Programs And The Law
Genetic information is becoming ubiquitous in research and medicine. The cost of genetic analysis continues to fall, and its medical and personal value continues to grow. Anticipating this age of genetic medicine, policymakers passed laws and regulations years ago to protect Americans’ privacy and prevent misuse of their health-related information. But a bill moving through the House of Representatives, called the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act (H.R. 1313), would preempt key protections. Because the bill, which was sent to the full House by the Education and the Workforce Committee in March, would substantially change legal protections related to the collection and treatment of personal health and genetic information by workplace wellness programs, it should be on the radar screens of physicians, researchers, and the public. (Kathy L. Hudson and Karen Pollitz, 5/24)

The New York Times: Where Will The Medical Misfits Go?
People with health insurance tend to think of safety-net hospitals the way airline travelers think of the bus: as a cheaper service they would use only if they had to. But without these essential hospitals — which specialize in the care of our country’s most medically and financially vulnerable, particularly the uninsured — our entire health care system would be in danger. (Ricardo Nuila, 5/26)

The New England Journal Of Medicine: Accelerated Approval And Expensive Drugs — A Challenging Combination
For serious or life-threatening disease, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can approve drugs on the basis of surrogate end points that are “reasonably likely to predict clinical benefit,” through its accelerated approval review track. This pathway, which dates back to the early 1990s, was designed as a response to the demand for faster drug development in the context of the HIV/AIDS crisis. Since then, the accelerated-approval program has expanded to include oncology products and drugs for other diseases, now accounting for about 10% of new drug approvals. (Walid F. Gellad and Aaron S. Kesselheim, 5/25)

San Jose Mercury News: Mentally Ill Kids Shouldn’t Languish In Juvenile Halls
California’s mentally ill children need clearer laws when going through the juvenile court system... While competency laws exist for juveniles suffering from mental illness, there are no clear, prescriptive guidelines for juveniles on the delivery and duration of services like those that exist in the adult system. Because of this gap in the law, these very vulnerable children languish in juvenile halls, unable to receive the mental health treatment they desperately need. (Mark Stone and Laura Garnette, 5/25)

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Continued Federal Investment In Science Is Critical For Lake Erie And The Region
Scientific research is a critical national investment, providing strong economic and societal benefits that improve our quality of life. In Northeast Ohio, investments in scientific research and environmental protection have helped spur the growth of our local biotechnology and fuel cell industries, enhance our world-leading hospitals and universities, and revitalize the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie. Yet the White House's budget proposal seeks to walk away from these investments, threatening our nation's ability to ensure a more prosperous future, healthy people, and a healthy environment. (Anne Jefferson, 5/26)

Health Affairs Blog: The Burgeoning “Yelpification” Of Health Care: Foundations Help Consumers Hold A Scale And A Mirror To The Health Care System
From flashy tech start-ups in Silicon Valley to modernized insurers in New York, everyone wants to “disrupt” health care. In practice, this is immensely more challenging than it sounds. Electronic health records (EHRs), more than a decade ago, were expected to revolutionize how health information is stored and shared. Yet, even today, 36 percent of office-based EHRs don’t permit secure messaging between patients and physicians, and 37 percent do not even allow patients to view their records. (Paul Howard, Yevgeniy Feyman and Amy Shefrin, 5/25)

RealClear Health: Health Heart 101
For millennia the heart was thought to be the seat of emotions — the source of love, of course, but also kindness and courage. To lose heart is to lose the fight, and perhaps even one’s life. In a literal sense, a weak heart means death. Unfortunately, sudden cardiac arrest is the leading natural cause of death in the United States. (Kamal Patel, 5/25)

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