Viewpoints: Will Obamacare Survive Or Collapse?; DEA ‘Reefer Madness’
A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.
The New York Times:
Obamacare Will Survive Aetna’s Retreat
Die-hard opponents of the 2010 health reform law, the Affordable Care Act, have often used its real and imagined problems to argue that it is fatally flawed. Now they are seizing on an announcement by Aetna that it will reduce its participation in the health insurance marketplaces set up by the law. Donald Trump’s campaign called Aetna’s move “the latest blow to this broken law that is slowly imploding under its regulatory red tape.” This is hyperbole. The law has survived many setbacks, and it will overcome Aetna’s decision, too. (8/16)
Los Angeles Times:
Can Obamacare Be Saved? Medicare's History Shows How.
Big private insurance companies bailing out of a government-sponsored healthcare program, complaining about financial losses. Hundreds of thousands of customers lose their health plans. Terminations are especially severe in rural counties, leaving virtually no competition. Total enrollment drops. Obamacare, 2016? No, Medicare, 1998-2002. During that time, insurers canceled nearly half of their contracts to participate in the managed care program then known as Medicare+Choice and now called Medicare Advantage. Between 300,000 and 1 million customers lost their plans. Total managed care enrollments fell to 4.6 million from 6.4 million. The future of the program was very much in doubt. And yet, enrollments in Medicare Advantage today number 17.2 million. (Michael Hiltzik, 8/16)
Is It Time To Acknowledge That Obamacare Is Collapsing?
People joked for a while about how insurers were pulling out of Obamacare markets so fast we might end up with areas in which there were no insurers at all. It’s no joke anymore: with Aetna’s massive withdrawal yesterday from the Affordable Care Act marketplace, Pinal County, Arizona, the third most populated county in that state, currently has no insurers selling policies on the Exchange. (Seth Chandler, 8/16)
End Obamacare Brinkmanship: Our View
The political debate over Obamacare — boon or boondoggle? — reminds us of an old Saturday Night Live skit about New Shimmer. "It's a floor wax!" Gilda Radner marveled. "It's a dessert topping!" Dan Aykroyd insisted. Turns out they were both right. Six years after its enactment, President Obama's crowning domestic policy achievement still divides the country. Its fans focus on the 20 million people who have left the ranks of the uninsured. Its foes see only rising premiums and rigorous regulations. (8/16)
Fix The Law’s Critical Problems: Another View
Today, millions more have access to coverage — and the number of Americans without insurance is dramatically down. We’ve made real progress, but we can and should do much more. Because when consumers have access to a stable, sustainable market, every American who needs affordable coverage can get it. That starts with fixing critical problems with the Affordable Care Act. The unexpected shortfall in a key program known as “risk corridors” left hundreds of thousands with reduced coverage options. Some game the system — such as those who wait to sign up for coverage until they get sick, or provider groups that pay patients’ premiums so they can bolster their reimbursements. (Marilyn Tavenner, 8/16)
Aetna's Retreat From Obamacare Is More Than It Seems
Aetna is pulling out of 11 of the 15 states it serves on the Obamacare exchanges. Longtime readers of this column will be unsurprised at the reason: It’s losing substantial amounts of money on its exchange policies. That’s not necessarily the only reason, of course. Companies in heavily regulated industries -- and health care is now probably our most heavily regulated sector outside of nuclear power plants -- spend a lot of time engaging in n-dimensional chess games with the various government entities that have jurisdiction over their operations. (Megan McArdle, 8/16)
When It Comes To Health Care, Bigger Is Not Better
Policymakers, legislators and regulators have for decades labored under a similar bigger is better delusion, implementing policies that favor, or regulations designed to promote, large “integrated” systems at the expense of smaller, independent enterprises. In health care, large hospitals and hospital systems have convinced lawmakers that they are the best stewards of the public’s health, arguing that only they have the required collaborative ability to bring care to populations and in the process have attempted to become all of health care to all people. (Jan Vest, 8/16)
St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
DEA's Pot Designation Is Very Definition Of 'Reefer Madness'
Drug Enforcement Administration officials must be smoking something if they actually believe that heroin and marijuana deserve to be listed in the same category as controlled substances posing extreme dangers to public health. The two aren’t even in the same drug universe. For years, the DEA has designated marijuana, along with heroin, ecstasy, LSD and peyote, as Schedule I controlled substances. “Schedule I drugs are considered the most dangerous class of drugs with a high potential for abuse and potentially severe psychological and/or physical dependence,” the DEA says. That not only ignores reality and makes almost no scientific sense, but in effect ties the hands of researchers looking for ways to expand the legitimate medicinal uses of marijuana. But last week the DEA reaffirmed marijuana’s Schedule I classification, though it made it easier for research facilities to get permission to grow and study it. (8/16)
The Heartbreaking Withdrawal Of Drug-Dependent Newborns
Baby M arrived in our neonatal intensive care unit the other day. Barely 24 hours old, she was clearly in pain. Her high-pitched cry pierced the unit again and again, her tiny legs twitched uncontrollably, and she couldn’t sleep. It’s difficult to comfort her — no amount of swaddling, holding, rocking, soft humming, offering her a pacifier, or other strategies soothe her. Like the multitude of other babies in this NICU at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Baby M was born dependent on drugs that her mother took while pregnant. (Gail Bagwell and Amy Thomas, 8/16)
Vapers Wary Of FDA Deeming Rules
After an initial healthy curiosity about electronic nicotine delivery devices around 2014, a nervous pall seems to have settled over the use of e-cigarettes and vaping. Strikingly, it is members of the public health establishment that have fanned the pessimism surrounding the battery-powered devices that deliver nicotine without the carcinogenic tar. (Sally Satel, 8/16)